"How to Be White" at #NAISPoCC (Flashback from #PoCC12)

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Chris Thinnes


As I was gearing up for the NAIS People of Color Conference in Tampa this week, I landed on a series of posts I wrote as a conference blogger for PoCC in 2012. I remember, at the time, that I was absolutely ecstatic that Baratunde Thurston gave me a shout-out for this series over Twitter, if only because I titled the series in tribute to his recently released How To Be Black:

The series, it may come as no surprise, was called “How To Be White (at #PoCC12).”

Although I’d say some things differently, and probably push things further still, I think some of these posts hold up to the test of time. So, as I said at the time, “Think of these as a partial draft of a covenant — a ‘Code of Conduct for White Folks at PoCC,’ if you will.”

Here’s a taste, so you can see if you want to read any further:

1. This is Not a Diversity Conference. This is Not an Educational Conference.

Cultural tourists, beware: NAIS couldn’t have made it clearer that PoCC’s “primary purpose is for people of color (and experienced allies and practitioners of all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities). We encourage you to see PoCC as different from a diversity conference for newcomers to diversity work… Its focus should be on providing a sanctuary and networking opportunity for people of color and allies in independent schools as we build and sustain inclusive school communities.” Do not come here to learn ‘about’ people of color. Do not come here to find an exciting new curriculum initiative to drop on your colleagues at school. Come here to examine your role and responsibilities to build, sustain, and support an inclusive community.

Maybe you’ve had enough already. If not, here’s an index to the 13 invitations — some unnecessarily timid, and some unnecessarily provocative — that I shared over the course of those few days three years ago:

1. This is Not a Diversity Conference. This is Not an Educational Conference.

2. Do Not Expect to Be an Honored Guest

3. Attend and Embrace Affinity Group Sessions

4. Shift Your Attention from ‘Sensitivity’ to Skills

5. Create These Kinds of Spaces at Your School

6. Don’t Pretend to Understand the Experience of People of Color. Above All, Do Not Make Jokes About It.

7. Explore Representations of White Privilege in Popular Culture 

8. When You Blow It, Own It

9. Exercise Your Interruption Skills with White People

10. Talk to White People and People of Color about Race

11. Understand Microagressions and Cop to Them

12. Take This Work Into Your Personal Life

13. Bridge Conversations about ‘Teaching & Learning” and “Diversity & Inclusion”

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You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes