Staff at CU’s Center for Multicultural Affairs has created a White Ally Development Program that they hope will create a more inclusive and safe campus community. Corey Wiggins, a 21 year old junior political science major and peer mentor at CMA, coordinated the program in collaboration coworkers.
“When you go to a school with thirty thousand people, it’s really easy to not feel supported, no matter how you identify,” said Wiggins. “I think that the long term goal would be that this [program] gives students a space to learn about how to support other students.”
Early planning for the program, which has its first meeting this Friday, began this past summer. Wiggins said it is geared toward students who either already consider themselves allies or have been introduced to the concept in some context but want to learn more about this identity in a safe space.
“It’s an education program to help students who have an interest in working as a white ally to the student of color population on campus and then people of color as a whole out in the world,” Wiggins said.
Jaime Duggan, a 33-year-old graduate student studying dance, is hoping the program will help her battle racism.
“I’m a white American and I do a lot of West African dance,” Duggan said. “So obviously it’s come up a lot, racial issues and my whiteness. I’m interested in being more proactive in anti-racism.”
Priscilla Carlson, a 32-year-old senior majoring in broadcast news and political science, had similar reasons for joining the program.
“I just want to do whatever I can to be part of a support system,” Carlson said. “If we can bring everybody together in a community, we will be able to attain our goals more easily.”
Though the ultimate goal is ease, Wiggins said he anticipates challenges for people who already see themselves as white allies.
“It’s really easy to say, ‘I’m an ally; I’m not racist,’ which isn’t true because of your identity as a white person,” Wiggins said. “A lot of times, for white-identified folks who consider themselves allies, it’s hard to have a conversation about how you are also racist. That’s probably the biggest hurdle.”
Though the program is just getting started, Wiggins said the future plans are very clear.
“We’re hoping to make this something systemic that will last for a long time,” Wiggins said. “I think it’s a failure if you learn in your CU bubble how to be an ally but then as soon as you go out into the workplace you let that go away. We would like for it to be a program that sticks with people for a lifetime.”
Wiggins hopes the program will develop advocates for inclusiveness that will subsequently improve the campus environment.
“Going to a university that has so few students of color in the first place, it is important that folks realize why it is important to have diverse populations and why CU needs to be working on being a more diverse campus,” Wiggins said. “This shouldn’t be a white campus. This should be a campus where everyone feels included. That can’t happen if there aren’t allies.”
Published to CUindependent.com on February 15, 2011.