By Matt Crowley/The AS Review
It is the year 2010. We are over a century removed from slavery, and decades past the court cases that first dealt with segregation and the height of the civil rights movement. Our president is black. But discrimination, racism and oppression still exist and in a university, city and county where the population is overwhelmingly white, it can sometimes be difficult for students of color to find resources for dealing with these issues.
From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6 in Viking Union 565 the AS Social Issues Resource Center (SIRC) will host Antidote for a Sick Society, a workshop designed to “develop the knowledge of participants on topics of race, gender, class and its intersections,” according to the description on the SIRC Web site.
The SIRC has commissioned Antidote, a grassroots network and community-focused organization based out of Victoria, British Columbia. The organization, founded in 2002, seeks to “promote the visibility and needs of racialized minority and Indigenous girls and women,” according to its Web site. Although the organization itself focuses on women, the training is open to all students and community members.
“This is a good opportunity for people from different backgrounds to come together and learn from one another,” SIRC Coordinator Alekz Wray said. Wray added that although interested students are encouraged to stay around for the entire training, he understands that it is a long workshop for people to go to on a Saturday.
“It’s beneficial to come for the entire time,” he said. “But if it’s between not coming at all and coming for a bit, I would say come for a bit … Maybe you will be able to take something away from it.”
According to Wray, Antidote has put on many training sessions like this one. Wray also noted that Antidote is community-based and not corporate.
The training itself revolves around several multimedia presentations addressing issues regarding not only race, but gender and sexuality as well. Participation will be largely dialogue-based, allowing people to talk about subjects that don’t normally come up in everyday conversation, such as race and gender discrimination.
“The availability of these events isn’t as great as it should be … It’s important for us to hold these [events] to get dialogue outside of classrooms where people can express their concerns and experiences,” Wray said.
Wray stressed that one of the SIRC’s goals is to avoid the “guilt complex” associated with topics such as these and instead transfer that guilt into conviction and activism. Students can apply things they learn to everyday situations, avoid oppressive language and enhance their basic knowledge on sensitive issues.
“I think it’s really going to help students combat racism and oppression by informing them of the history of racism and different forms of oppression,” Wray said. “You’re not just going into it saying, ‘You shouldn’t say that because it’s bad.’ You’re being armed with the background knowledge to confront racism and sexism.”
Wray added that it’s important for students to be open at events like these in order to help people explore their own identities and privileges.
“If people show up to it, it will make them more aware of things they don’t realize,” he said.
As for students who may not necessarily be targets for racism or oppression, Wray said there are still ways to help.
“They can help by entering dialogue with people who are oppressed,” Wray added. “It’s better to ask a question in a respectful way than to not ask a question at all.” Students who attend the training can also pass on the knowledge they have gained to friends and family members.
If you can’t attend Antidote for a Sick Society, there are still resources. Wray and other SIRC employees are open to discussing issues regarding racism and oppression, as are members of other related programs, such as the Ethnic Student Center and its clubs, the Women’s Center, Students for Disability Awareness and many others. For information on future SIRC events, visit socialissues.as.wwu.edu.