The opening ceremony for White History Week was not what you would expect, even if you already knew the event’s name was misleading.
White History Week promotes understanding across racial barriers by encouraging discussion of white privilege. The opening ceremony was a Wicca ritual to “honor the spirit of the season and call in blessings for the event,” said Cedar Love, who presided over the ceremony.
The idea behind White History Week is to use artistic and therapeutic means to work towards a society without racism, said event co-organizer Jered Ebenreck.
“I would say it’s about opening up the imagination of what’s possible,” he said. “If we live in a world of racism and we don’t like it, we have to be able to imagine what’s possible.”
White History Week started Wednesday and continues through Tuesday. Most events, including an art opening on Friday and a poetry reading on Saturday, will be held at Muykind Culeros Studio on Coal Avenue.
The event started at the Out ch’Yonda performance space six years ago, said Virginia Hampton, one of the event’s founders.
“It’s just about making people aware of how white privilege has developed and kind of denied white people aspects of their culture,” she said. “(White privilege) is a new concept. It’s only a couple of hundred years old. Though it seems like white people have gained a lot, they’ve lost a lot, too.”
The event’s name is controversial on purpose, Hampton said.
“One of the things I really think is interesting is when white people become interested in it and try to tell people about it, they realize what a hot topic it is,” she said. “A lot of people have a knee-jerk reaction.”
Hampton said one goal of the event is to connect white people with parts of their culture that have been lost, such as monotheistic pagan religions. She said the Wicca ceremonies that open and close the event reconnect white people to their ancient cultures and bring good fortune to White History Week.
“I liked the idea of adding magic to it, to help with healing,” she said. “In the Middle Ages, people still had connection to the land.”
Love, who teaches religion at CNM under the name Mark Love-Williamson, said the Wiccan religion is often misunderstood in wider culture, and some people accuse practitioners of devil worship.
“We don’t have anything to do with the devil, because Christians invented him,” he said. “We have traditions that what intentions you put into the world come back to you, so to want to harm someone would be to want to harm yourself.”
Ebenreck said people are more comfortable talking about racism than white privilege. He said white privilege is the idea that white people, just because of the color of their skin, enjoy certain advantages. This differs from racism, which is denying people privileges based on skin color, he said.
“White History Week is a safe space for white people to talk about being white, and how it affects them, and a space for them to hear nonwhites talk about it,” he said. “It’s also a creative space, rather than a sociology conference.”
Many white people are reluctant to accept the idea that their skin color confers special advantages, Ebenreck said, and white people should learn to accept that their skin color does give them privileges so that they can begin working towards changing that.
“When you accept it, then you can move on to a dialogue of freedom,” he said. “White people are the people in the position where they need to say something, because they have the access to the media and the capital.”
For a full schedule of White History Week, visit NMAntiracism.blogspot.com