UC Santa Cruz activism conference addresses 'weaponized whiteness'

The University of California-Santa Cruz hosted a “Practical Activism” conference earlier this month, focusing on subjects like “anti-blackness” and “de-weaponizing whiteness.”

The school has hosted the same conference since 2003, according to the Practical Activism website.

The conference got around 400 attendees, “most of whom are students,” according to UC Santa Cruz Director of Academic and CoCurricular Programs Wendy Baxter, who served as the conference’s adviser.

“Practical Activism” consisted of five sections, the first of which included registration and what the program calls “creative activist opportunities.”

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”Learn about weaponized whiteness and the serious consequences it can have on communities of color,” the description for the “De-Weaponizing Whiteness” workshop reads. “Practice being a good ally as a white person and think critically about your relationship to your own whiteness.”

Some of these other “creative activist opportunities” included “anti-blackness in POC communities” where attendees could learn about how POC communities “internalize white supremacy.”

Attendees of the UC Santa Cruz conference also got the opportunity to design a personal button that shows off their activism and a position that is important to them.

White people who attend the Practical Activism conference could learn how to be an ally and “think critically about [their] relationship to [their] own whiteness,” in the “De-weaponizing whiteness” activist opportunity.

In another workshop centered on President Donald Trump and DACA, attendees could hear from a panel, which answered questions from students and “provide[d] resources and tips on how to be an ally to the undocumented community.”

Meanwhile, “Protesting 101” taught attendees “practical tips and methods for organizing, mobilizing and participating safely in protests.” Attendees also learned about protests throughout history, comparing them to those of today. In yet another panel, guests learned how best to be allies to the transgender community and how allies can “counter and dismantle transphobic language, policies, and structures.”

When asked whether the conference produced more student activism on campus, Baxter said that the school did not “track that information, nor have I noticed any trends.”

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“Practical Activism” attendees focused “on undocumented women, indigenous women, and students of color” in a #MeToo-themed event and still more workshops will focus on “police brutality” and “gentrification” and Santa Cruz.

“Practical Activism” featured Terisa Siagatonu, an award-winning poet and organizer who received a champion of courage awarded in 2012 from President Barack Obama, as a keynote speaker. Siagatonu is a “queer Samoan Womyn” who has participated in many world events and conferences including the UN Paris Climate Change conference.

The conference ended after a session of tabling. Baxter told Campus Reform that around 30 groups were invited to table. A mixture of campus and community organizations attended. Attendees could learn about proper pronouns as well as make another button showcasing their preferred pronouns. One table featured information about “the Israeli police state, enforced apartheid, and US complicity in Palestinian oppression.”

Baxter told Campus Reform that Antifa groups have never gone to the conference.

UC Santa Cruz’s news center, the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine group, and several student groups did not respond to a request for comment. The UC Santa Cruz Students Assembly declined to provide comment to Campus Reform.

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