On April 13, the Office of Identity, Equity and Engagement (IEE) at UNC Charlotte held the spring edition of its Race Consciousness Conversations for Students. The program intends to equip students of all races with the tools to be anti-racist and change how they view race and privilege.
Associate director of IEE Rachael Forester leads the program. "It was created to give students an opportunity to engage around conversations of race and racism," Forester said.
The program's mission statement is "understanding the meaning and implications of white privilege and engaging in anti-racist practice is crucial in creating racial equity."
According to Forester, topics include times the participants were racist, tools to use when discussing racism and when the participants first became aware of their own race.
"We also hope they leave with a better understanding of the history of racism," said Forester.
The program was formerly known as White Consciousness Conversations, which started in the fall of 2018. According to Forester, the name was changed in fall 2020 because the Division of Student Affairs replaced them with white accountability groups, which are cohort-based programs.
The event's description says that "This space is for all undergraduate and graduate students at UNC Charlotte who are interested in engaging in conversations to assist in their understanding of how racism is perpetuated individually, culturally, and systemically," the event description said.
"It made sense at that point to shift white consciousness to race consciousness to be more expansive after the creation of white accountability groups," Forester said.
Before the name change, there was controversy surrounding the white consciousness conversations. The event was believed to be exclusively for white students to have conversations surrounding their whiteness. According to Caleb Park of Fox News, there is a screenshot of the webpage before it was taken down that said, "this space is for white students at UNC Charlotte who are interested in engaging in conversations to assist in their conversations of whiteness."
UNC Charlotte graduate student Emma Schambach wrote a piece for the Young American's Foundation criticizing the conversations as "racial profiling."
"By 'othering' white students through programs which segregate and categorize students, and their unique challenges and privileges, based solely on the color of their skin, the University is counteracting the community that students have built," wrote Schambach.
The Race Consciousness Conversations welcomes students of all races and ethnicities.