By Jose Olivares
On Wednesday, Feb. 18, University of Nevada, Reno students and local community members attended White Allies Training to analyze racism, learn of white privilege and make commitments to apply racial justice skills in Reno.
More than 80 students squeezed into a crowded room at the Joe Crowley Student Union. The event had been largely advertised to students and Reno activists through social media, word of mouth and university courses.
The workshop was part of the Reno Justice Coalition’s “Week of Action.” The RJC hosted and helped organize various events throughout the week of Feb. 16 regarding racism and social injustice.
“I thought it was a really good introduction into what privilege looks like and what allyship can look like,” said Elli Komito, a first year graduate student at UNR.
RJC is a new organization working to coordinate events on the UNR campus and in the Reno community. It originated after the Ferguson and #blacklivesmatter protests erupted in response to the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner late last year.
Yajaira Farga, a community member closely involved with RJC, is excited to have an activist organization in Reno that is generating discussion and promoting social justice.
“It’s a group of students that came together after the Eric Garner verdict,” Farga said. “They were mad, they organized a protest, and after that, everyone came together and said, ‘You know what? We should do this. We should do this on campus.’ I was stoked because coming from Austin to Reno there was nothing here for me, you know, in terms of activism.”
The White Allies Training was in part organized by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. PLAN’s website states that its mission is to develop democracy and achieve social justice in the state.
Bob Fulkerson, the director of PLAN, and Theresa Navarro, chair of the board of PLAN, facilitated the event and led the exercises and discussion.
“This is just a two-hour snippet of a two-day workshop that we do called ‘Dismantling Racism,’” Fulkerson said. “So we just kind of looked at the makeup of the group, where everyone was at with their analysis and pulled out some exercises that we thought might work.”
The workshop was hands-on and interactive. Almost every single person participated in active discussions on becoming a white ally to people of color.
There was also discussion of how to collectively organize to overcome racially based social problems. The training featured various exercises that brought up the participants’ personal experiences.
Some participants were motivated and in awe of the information presented at the workshop.
“I thought it was really inspiring and great to promote activism,” said junior Jordan Eglet. “Especially as a white person, I felt that it gave me more insight on what I should do and of my privilege in this society and our government.”
Fulkerson said that the training was important because he thinks that in today’s world, society has made it acceptable for brown people to be rounded up and deported and black people “to be shot down in the streets like dogs.” Fulkerson encourages white people to take a part in dismantling this mentality and creating a world that treats everyone equally.
“It’s important to educate white people because white people are the cause of racism and we’re the beneficiaries of racism,” Fulkerson said. “It wasn’t blacks that started slavery. It wasn’t the Paiute people who lived here that are responsible of the genocide of the American Indian population, that’s white people and we are living in the privileges of that today.”
Jose Olivares can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.