By Cassandra Fairbanks
Minnesota’s Concordia College held an event on Martin Luther King Day for “white students only” to “recognize and acknowledge that there is a nasty little racist inside them.”
The event was titled “How to Embrace Your Inner Racist: A Session for White People” and was organized and taught by Dr. Ahmed Afzaal, an associate professor of religion at Concordia.
The session description said that after participating “attendees will be able to recognize and acknowledge that there is a nasty little racist inside them, and to do so without becoming angry or defensive” and that they will be able to “describe the skills of psychological flexibility that they must develop in order to make authentic choices in defiance of their racist tendencies.”
The course description specifically stated that the session is “for White people only.”
“While we won’t stop people of color from attending, they should know that their presence in the room is likely to interfere with the effectiveness of the session,” the professor noted.
A student at the college told CR that the event was “well attended” and estimated there were about 70 exclusively white students.
“The room was packed with people sitting on the floor,” he said. “There was only white people there.”
Another event on the same day was aimed specifically at white women. CR reports that Concordia Professor Karla Knutson who co-directs the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, led a session designed for white women called “And You Call Yourself an Ally.” The course description says that the goal is to “encourage white women to confront and analyze their participation and/or complicity in racist systems of oppression” and “create a foundational experience of exposure to white women’s microaggressions.”
When the events started to draw criticism on social media, Concordia issued a statement defending the segregated, and arguably racist, courses.
“Concordia College hosted speakers and break-out sessions throughout the day on Monday as part of its annual recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. All the sessions were intended to engage conversation on issues for which Dr. King dedicated his life. Concordia supports an environment where people can ask tough questions. All were allowed to attend any of the breakout sessions,” the statement declared.