By Garrett Cote
A crowd of just over 50 people packed into the all too familiar Zoom gallery Thursday afternoon for a very educational event held by Springfield College students. Emory Fairchild and Abby Murdock were the hosts of “Understanding Your Privilege,” one of the many sessions of Springfield College’s first ever SEAT at the Table event, highlighting systemic racism and social inequalities.
As a host, Fairchild was extremely confident, comfortable, and informative when speaking on such topics that aren’t always easy. She encouraged each and every participant to speak out and not be afraid to make mistakes, because she understood it was a learning process for everyone.
“It’s not always easy being a white person talking about racial inequality, but I think as a white person, I am able to teach others about white privilege,” Fairchild began when asked about her motivation for this topic. “It’s not something that is a difficult conversation to have, you just have to have willing people to want to listen and be open to learn.”
White privilege is a notion that some white people refuse to believe is true, and there are many misunderstandings. For one, white privilege does not mean a white person is spoiled and gifted with an easy life because of race. As Fairchild defined it, white privilege is, “An unquestioned and unearned set of advantages…bestowed on people solely because they are white.” She continued to say that white people may encounter several hardships and unfortunate situations themselves, however those situations are not because of the color of their skin.
The “Understanding Your Privilege” session started off with Fairchild and Murdock defining several important terms when talking about race. Discrimination, white privilege, ethnicity, prejudice, white fragility, and microagression are just a sprinkle of the topics that were covered throughout the hour and a half event.
From there, the hosts split the gallery into small breakout groups of about five people. Murdock and Fairchild gave each group many questions to answer, starting off with easier and simpler questions such as, “What privileges do you think you have?”
They then went on to ask the more deep and self-reflective questions such as, “What did this conversation teach you about yourself?” and “What word best describes how you were feeling throughout this conversation?”
Numerous questions along the lines of privilege, racial experiences, and stereotypes were answered as students, faculty, and families listened and learned as the night went on.
Fairchild, a student-athlete for three years at Springfield College, noted she wanted to help be a part of the change on campus. As she wraps up the first semester of her senior year, events like SEAT at the Table provided her the perfect opportunity to use her knowledge of the topic to help educate many others.
Murdock, who also is also a senior and current member of the cross country team on campus, brought up a great point of view on white privilege. “People who don’t have a lot of knowledge of the BLM movement but are looking to educate themselves need to realize that understanding that white privilege is an actual thing is the first step, and one of the most important ones,” she said.
It was a well thought out, incredibly touching, and vastly educational event that had many willing listeners and learners. With a wide variety of topics and questions that were discussed in small groups then brought about to the 50-plus Zoom members as a whole, it is safe to say everyone that attended this event now fully understands their privilege.
Graphic Courtesy of Jack Margaros