Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Monday, July 27, 2015

#StoweSalonsatLunch Recap: White Privilege

On Wednesday, July 22nd, participants gathered at the Stowe Center for the fourth Stowe Salon at Lunch on the topic of white privilege. Michelle McFarland, Branch Manager of the Hartford Public Library's Mark Twain Branch, facilitated the conversation which included participants both new and old to Stowe Center Salons. Pastor John Metta's I, Racist sermon served as an anchor for the conversation and Michelle led with this excerpted quote:

"Here's what I want to say to you: Racism is so deeply embedded in this country not because of the racist right-wing radicals who practice it openly, it exists because of the silence and hurt feelings of liberal America.

That's what I want to say, but really, I can't. I can't say that because I've spent my life not talking about race to White people. In a big way, it's my fault. Racism exists because I, as a Black person, don't challenge you to look at it.

Racism exists because I, not you, am silent." 

Michelle used this quote to both thank participants for engaging in a conversation about privilege and race and to remind participants that progress will never be made without the willingness to talk, listen, and learn from those with different perspectives. 

The conversation predicated on the what it means, in lived experience, to have white privilege and to lack white privilege. Participants shared stories, discussed factors of structural racism that influence individuals, and even addressed political campaigns in which issues of racial justice are not openly discussed.   

One participant expressed that there is a "toxic" nature of white supremacy in the United States, and that even though as a white person he was raised to treat others equally and to engage in movements for racial justice, he still experiences and witnesses moments of bias. The participant continued and explained that this "toxic" nature seeps into every institution in the United States- education, the media, law, and policing. 

Participants also worked to distinguish between overt and explicit acts of racism, like the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederate Flag, and less-obvious, but still profound institutional acts of racism, like red lining, mass incarceration, and education inequities. Focused was paid to fighting not just explicit racism, but institutional and systemic racism.  

The conversation concluded with a discussion on the notion of progress. Participants reflected on whether progress has been made in the last fifty years or if the United States has regressed in terms of justice and equality. The questions was posed-has progressed been made? What can we do to contribute?    

Michelle finished the conversation with a call to action and quote from Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights and gay rights activist: “The proof that one truly believes is in action.”  

What does white privilege mean to you? Have you heard the term before? Where? Have you read Metta's I, Racist? What are your thoughts? 

Join us for the next Stowe Salon at Lunch on the topic of race in popular culture. Wednesdays at 12:00 pm in the Stowe Visitor Center!       

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