College group cancels diversity 'happy hour' after excluding white staffers

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 12 at 4:58 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- An attempt to fight racism at a community college may have backfired.

A group of employees at South Puget Sound Community College sent out an invitation to all 300 staffers.

The "Staff, Faculty and Administrators of Color" encouraged employees to reply to the invitation to find out the confidential date and time of what was being called a "happy hour" to "build support and community" for people of color.

The invite made it clear white people were not invited.

The email read: "If you want to create space for white folks to meet and work on racism, white supremacy, and white privilege to better our campus community and yourselves, please feel free to do just that."

"It was obviously a mistake," said SPSCC's Dean of College Relations, Kellie Purce Braseth.
Braseth said the group that put out the email last week apologized the next day and canceled the event.

She said the college believes the best way to celebrate and discuss diversity is to include everyone.

"If you want to come you should be able to come, that just makes a richer conversation," said Braseth.

Karama Blackhorn, program coordinator for the school's Diversity and Equity Center, helped write the invitation.

She said it could have been worded differently, but she maintains the staff members of color would have a more honest discussion about race without white employees.

"When trying to explicitly talk about race it can be a really difficult conversation for a lot of people," said Blackhorn.

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