- Ilsa Govan
Challenging White Supremacy Culture in 2020
When we speak boldly and challenge White supremacy, White supremacy pushes back. We’ve seen this most recently in the federal investigation into racial justice workshop in the City of Seattle. This was quickly followed by a memo from Russell Vought, Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Federal Government, instructing that, “Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions.” Such sessions include teaching about critical race theory and White privilege. Using the language of “un-American propaganda” immediately brings to mind McCarthyism and is a blatant attempt to suppress the surging anti-racist movement.
We’re familiar with backlash when we start talking about White privilege and White supremacy in our culture. In 2007, while working in Seattle Public Schools Equity and Race Department, Dr. Hollins, Ilsa, and our co-worker Ray Williams used a Federal leadership grant to send students to the White Privilege Conference. The swift response in the form of an investigation by the US Department of Education let us know we were frightening someone with power and connections. They ended up finding we had used the funds appropriately, but the message was not lost on us of how quickly people who benefit from systems of White privilege can throw up barriers to anti-racism work.
The types of anti-racism sessions this administration is currently trying to limit sound like typical Cultures Connecting workshops. We’re proud of this fact.
It is no coincidence this most recent action is being taken by the president as the Black Lives Matter movement gains momentum and popular support globally. It is no coincidence this is happening in the midst of a presidential election where racist slogans such as “Make America Great Again” and “Build a Wall” are once again a rallying cry. The racist strategy of calling for “law and order” in so-called anarchist cities (shout out to Portland and New York from Seattle) is being used to fire up a base of voters in an attempt to distract from the botched handling of COVID-19, and at the expense of the most marginalized people in the United States.
What is happening now gives us hope in many ways. If we weren’t shaking things up, they wouldn’t be trying to shut us down. Organizations need to continue to stand strong and speak boldly about why they are working to end White supremacy culture within their walls and beyond, regardless of who sits in the White House.
This is a critical moment in our history. When the November election happens, we want to know that we’ve done all we can to swing this country towards our shared vision of liberty and justice for all. Get active and connect with movements founded in the understanding and application of critical race theory. We’ll see you there.
Register to Vote by October 26th and Recruit New Voters:
Write Letters Encouraging Voting:
Connect with White Anti-Racist Organizing: