‘Waking Up White’ regional read examines white privilege, uncovers unconscious biases

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – In light of violence at the US Capitol Wednesday, and a Wisconsin prosecutor’s decision earlier this week to not charge the Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake, it’s clear that the challenges we faced in 2020 did not end on December 31st – and neither did the tensions that divide our country.

But people in our area aren’t giving up hope that things can be better.

Nearly $7,000 will help launch a program to continue raising awareness about white privilege and racial inequities in our community.

The La Crosse Community Foundation gave Waking Up White Regional Community Learning Collaborative a grant Thursday to help start a ‘regional read’ that focuses on breaking down racial stereotypes and encourages self-reflection among white people.

This summer people will have the chance to read and talk about Debbie Irving’s best-selling book, “Waking Up White,” as a community.

Irving, a white author, examines white privilege and uncovers unknown and unconscious biases in her book.

The head of the Regional Read Committee said we’ve made progress but there is still a long road ahead of us.

“The events of the past couple decades, but in particular this last year or so, have really shown that this country still has a lot of work to do toward reaching some kind of racial equality, racial equity,” said Barry McKnight, head of the Regional Read Committee.

The regional read starts this summer and runs through the fall.

It will include eight theme-based public presentations, 20 “Book Chat Meet Ups” with trained facilitators, book distributions and lending, and collaborations with libraries, religious organizations, government entities, and schools and universities.

The program wraps up in November with a white privilege symposium and a chance to meet Irving.

This is the second of a three-part project that began with the 2019 anti-racism project “Creating a Healthier Multicultural Community.”

The regional read is a partnership between the La Crosse Public Library and the Waking Up White Regional Community Learning Collaborative.

To learn more, click here.