Minnesota College Sparks Backlash With Anti-Racist 'Struggle Sessions' Segregated by Race

A liberal arts college in Minnesota has mandated monthly anti-racism "struggle" sessions for the school's employees, with senior administrators and professors alike saying the segregated training helps facilitate a more "inclusive environment."

Carleton College, a private liberal arts school in Northfield, Minnesota, is mandating attendance for at least one anti-racism training session this spring, which feature a theme of how white people can be better "allies" to people of color. The sessions have been promoted by both Carleton professors and Black students who say the dialogue sessions help "normalize race talk." At least one previous session instructed attendees to segregate themselves in order to better understand "what it means to be an antiracist community," as the small school's website says.

"All faculty/staff will need to either attend the live session or watch the recorded session each month," Carleton College's website states, in a post first highlighted by The College Fix, an online publication.

Administrative organizers of the March 2021 affinity group meeting on race said that employees who say there are no racial problems at Carleton are part of the racism awareness problem the sessions hope to address.

"We've been told that in some groups that after saying that there's no racial problem at Carleton some people just refuse to participate. This is uncomfortable, but totally predictable," the March anti-racism session slide reads. "After all, a refusal to acknowledge racism as real helps keep the system intact."

"Carleton aspires to be a truly supportive and inclusive learning and work environment for every student, faculty, and staff member. To help us achieve this goal, each of us, as members of the Carleton community, must be open to learning about what it means to be an antiracist community," reads the school website's description of the Antiracism Training course.

But not all faculty members at Carleton are in favor of the anti-racism initiatives on campus. Last year, one member remarked the sessions are both expensive and counterproductive.

"Well-intentioned efforts to celebrate diversity may in fact reinforce racial stereotyping," one faculty member told news outlets last summer, amid protests in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

Carleton College is a Division III school with just over 2,100 students, but it has an endowment of more than $900 million. Tuition exceeds $59,000 annually.

A Thursday post on Carleton's official website invites all staff members to attend an "anti-racism awareness & education" dialogue on Thursday, May 6, with the most recent session occurring last Thursday. The podcast episode associated with the meeting is entitled, "So You Wanna Be an Ally?"

The Spring 2021 Dialogue series has a theme of "Allyship in times of uncertainty." The school's website notes that faculty can attend one or both upcoming sessions, which were reduced in number "due to decreased attendance" last fall.

A professor at Carleton College, Anita Chikkatur, penned an opinion letter to the MinnPost last August in which she and a University of Minnesota educator encouraged white parents to "keep your children enrolled in their current or local public school" in order to express "anti-racism" sentiment.

"[W]hite America owes Black students a large educational debt, and funding public schools is one part of paying back that debt," Chikkatur and fellow academic Abby Rombalski wrote.

And a Carleton student group called the Ujamaa Collective penned a statement to the college's administrators last year with the succinct headline, "Our Demands." The 10-page document called for "swift, clear and forceful" actions to help promote the well-being of Black people.

One of the professors quoted in support of Carleton College's antiracism training is Stephen Brookfield. The longtime academic authored his 20th book, which is set to publish this spring, Becoming a White Antiracist, with co-author Mary Hess.

"For a major perspective and paradigm shift to take root, people need forums to process their struggles with moving to an antiracist orientation. We are advocating that conversations be reflective spaces be created to help people work through their grappling with what it means to develop an antiracist identity," Brookfield and another professor wrote on the Carleton website.

Newsweek reached out to Carleton College as well as the listed curator of the Antiracism Training webpages for additional remarks and context Monday afternoon.

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Students are seen wearing face masks while on campus at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, on October 6. Carleton College is mandating attendance for at least one anti-racism training session this spring, which feature a theme of how white people can be better "allies" to people of color. ROBERT CHIARITO/AFP via Getty Images