Bube Osaji ‘22
Over the course of last week, a handful of students and faculty at Mercersburg Academy immersed themselves in a three-day conference sponsored by The Privilege Institute. Mercersburg delegates participated alongside over 1200 others from institutions from around the world. This was Mercersburg’s first year attending the conference; however, the conference itself has been around for over 20 years.
The White Privilege Conference aims to tackle the system of advantages and disadvantages at the intersectionality of race. The conference focused specifically on the privilege of white people and other socially dominant groups, while discussing the broader issue of the oppression of people of color and other minority groups. WPC is about addressing uncomfortable subjects.
Olivia Short ’23 said, “In the conference we learned about a lot of history that was neglected to be taught in school. We were also told how to get in certain zones to keep the conversation going without chaos happening. We were taught how to better ourselves and spread awareness.” Although it was virtual, the seminar remained an engaging experience with keynote speakers, educational sessions, and caucuses, which taught participants skills to make our society not equal, but equitable.
English teacher Frank Betkowski said, “There is always more to learn and always more work to be done,” adding, “The conference will not only inform my teaching but also my day-to-day interactions with everyone in the Mercersburg community and beyond.”
Bestselling author Robin DiAngelo was one of the several notable keynote speakers at the conference. DiAngelo said, “The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic.”
History teacher Allison Stephens said, “I want to make sure that I am offering my students of color a full and enriching experience, and I still need to learn how to best do that. Additionally, my work at the conference informs my work as a member of the DEIJ planning team, allowing me to extend my growth beyond the classroom to the school as a whole as we confront systems of oppression within our institution.”
Participants gained great knowledge and awareness from WPC’s renowned keynote speakers and facilitators. Linley Hill ’23 said, “This experience will help me in the future because it taught me to learn from my mistakes and develop skills in actively being anti-racist. Along with discussing topics like racism, inequalities, and bais with loved ones.”
Participating students and faculty members will strive to help spread this knowledge throughout the Mercersburg community, as well as implement the meaningful lessons taught at the conference. Jake Kennedy, an Associate Director of Admission, said, “This conference made further obvious the fact that collective action is necessary and it’s long past time that white people pick up the mantle and finally do the heavy lifting necessary to create a more equitable world. Privilege really is power, and we have a mandate to get off the sidelines and help move the needle in the other direction.”