Arcadia Welcomes Dr. Alison Bailey, Author of Community of Practice Text, “The Weight of Whiteness”

By Emily Horowitz | March 20, 2024

The Center for Antiracist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA) is hosting a series of lectures and discussions on March 22 to mark a visit to campus by Dr. Alison Bailey, author of “The Weight of Whiteness: A Feminist Engagement With Privilege, Race, and Ignorance.” This text was selected to be the subject of a spring 2024 community of practice led by Dr. Michelle Reale, professor and Access Services and Outreach Librarian and a 2022-24 CASAA scholar-advocate.

From 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Grey Towers Castle Rose Room, Dr. Bailey gave a lecture to the University community and the general public on white talk–which she argues “is designed, indeed scripted, for the purposes of evading, rejecting, and remaining ignorant about the injustices that flow from whiteness and its attendant privileges”–as well as on privilege and ignorance. To illustrate what is meant by “white talk,” Dr. Bailey played a “Dr. Phil” clip in which a white woman, a schoolteacher, reacts to having been asked the question “Are you a racist?” to which she responds “Of course not.” The woman proceeds to defend her assertion with phrases like, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” and with her students’ alleged comeback, “You’re the least racist person I know.” This is white talk.

Dr. Bailey went on to address the present day necessity of “replacing white talk with a discourse of vulnerability, where vulnerability is defined not as a weakness, but as a condition for potential.”

In the afternoon, Dr. Bailey will meet with members of faculty and staff participating in the community of practice, offering them an opportunity to dig deeper into some of the concepts of her work, ask questions, and get a firsthand perspective from the author.

The day will conclude with a panel discussion from 4:30 to 6 in the Rose Room titled, “The Work of Antiracism: Approaches and Barriers.” It will be facilitated by Dr. Bailey, Dr. Reale, and Dr. Christopher Varlack, director of Pan African Studies and executive director of CASAA, and provide space for much-needed dialogue about the reasons for engaging in antiracist work, the multiplicity of approaches adopted by activists in the twenty-first century, and common barriers faced in the fight for transformational change. There will be time for community conversation and a Q&A. A Zoom link is available for this discussion as well.

Dr. Alison Bailey is a professor of philosophy and director of the women’s, gender, and sexuality studies program at Illinois State University. As part of her visit, Dr. Bailey will be receiving the first-ever CASAA Award for Galvanizing Change.