The DEI Week 2021 schedule-in-progress is available at the DEI Website. Check back often for updates!
Download the latest version (as of 3/1/2021) using the link below:
Wednesday, March 10th
In partnership with the Office of the Provost and PRYSM from
the Gould School of Law, the Culture Journey is excited to welcome
Professor Ibram X. Kendi to speak to us during Diversity, Equity and
Inclusion Week 2021.
Join Provost Charles F. Zukoski and Camille Gear Rich, Associate
Provost of Diversity and Inclusion at USC for a conversation with
Professor Ibram X. Kendi, a New York Times bestselling author and
the founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist
Research. We will explore racial bias embedded in institutions, cultural
practices and will more deeply explore how each of us can live the
principles Dr. Kendi has outlined in his seminal book How to Be
Camille Gear Rich and Renee Smith-Maddox to Host the Fifth Upcoming DEI Week Conference
Diversity United: Race, Social Justice and the Future of American Equality
Please refer to the DEI Week website for more details: https://deiweek.usc.edu/
Date: February 18, 2021, 5pm – 6pm PT
U.S. Representative Karen Bass, MSW ’15, joins us for an exclusive Conversations with Dr. Smith-Maddox discussion around national events and policy affecting communities of color.
For more details and to register for this event: https://dworakpeck.usc.edu/events/conversations-dr-smith-maddox-us-representative-karen-bass
Camille Gear Rich participates in the University of Virginia Law School special symposium, The Intersectional Struggle for Equality at the UVA Law School
For recording of the event: https://twitter.com/UVALaw/status/1357777262133862403
Camille Gear Rich was invited to teach a special session of her course, Racial Ambiguity Blues, at UVA Law School
Please see here for more: https://gould.usc.edu/about/news/?id=4814
Donald Trump has made a few last-ditch overtures to suburban white women in his campaign’s final days — most notably, nominating to the Supreme Court Amy Coney Barrett, an extreme right-wing jurist wrapped in the patina of an archetypal suburban mom. But his pandering to women in wealthy suburbs ignores a key demographic of Trump supporters: Country Club Karen’s working-class counterpart, Walmart Karen.
White privilege is often associated with wealth: the “Karen” caricature is typically of a wealthy suburban mom with a signature haircut, brandishing anti-Black sentiment to further her needs. Quintessential “Karen” Amy Cooper, with her memorable rant against an African American birdwatcher, comes to mind. But a review of popular social media accounts documenting Karens Gone Wild shows that this understanding of white privilege is incomplete; Karen transcends social class. Walmart Karen exercises white privilege to harass Black Americans and safeguard white spaces. And this working-class version of white privilege is equally, if not more, dangerous to Black Americans. Only when we address the dangers of working-class white privilege can we truly overcome white supremacy.
Walmart Karen is dangerous.
Unlike wealthier whites, Walmart Karen lacks the advantages afforded by money, educational attainment, and professional prestige; whiteness is her sole source of social currency. Thus, she is incentivized to cling to her whiteness, to preserve white supremacy — perhaps even more so than whites in higher social strata, whose privilege extends into other spheres too. Walmart Karen may also rely financially on white men, granting Karen a semblance of adjacent male privilege while making her particularly susceptible to falling in line with those white men’s voting preferences. To top it off, Walmart Karen often has more contact with Black Americans than do wealthier whites, as her social class sometimes forces her to live in mixed communities.
Walmart Karen does significant racial labor for white supremacy, serving as its footsoldier. Her whiteness empowers her to eject Black Americans from white spaces, often wielding law enforcement to further her objectives. She relies on white privilege as a source of power, blinding her to her lower position on the overall social hierarchy.
Historians argue that Walmart Karen is underpaid for upholding white supremacy.
She labors for an economic order that does not serve her. As historian David Roediger explains, working-class whites gain very little economically in exchange for their work in Black subordination. Roediger notes, however, that whites are traditionally “compensated in part by a … public and psychological wage”: the Wage of Whiteness. The status of whiteness historically functioned to counterbalance exploitative class relationships; white workers accepted their lower positions on the class totem pole by “fashioning identities as ‘not slaves’ and as ‘not Blacks’.” As a result, the benefits conferred by whiteness helped poor whites swallow the pill of their class position and ignore their “practically identical interests” with the Black poor. Supporting racial equality movements would mean surrendering their main source of privilege.
Still, white privilege pays economic dividends to some working-class whites.
Today’s whites hold staggeringly more intergenerational wealth than their Black peers: as of 2016, a typical white family’s net worth was $171,000, while a Black family’s was $17,150. White privilege, even for working-class whites, manifests as real estate benefits promoting white wealth. Whites also have better employment opportunities, thanks to social networks, unconscious bias in hiring, and occupational segregation.
Roediger suggests that Walmart Karen, left unchecked, will continue to subsidize our American Apartheid — but there are signs her enthusiasm could be waning.
Apartheid is a system that intentionally discourages solidarity between designated groups within an oppressed majority. Minority rule under apartheid works because it grants different subgroups varying degrees of privilege. The subgroups are encouraged to maintain the hierarchy to protect their position above another group, even while the system as a whole oppresses them too. In the United States, working-class whites are fed a narrative that they are a rung above people of color on the ladder of opportunity — and, thus, that solidarity with racial justice movements is antithetical to their interests.
COVID-19 may be a wakeup call for Walmart Karen: the pandemic has made clear that the economic order does not serve working-class whites.
America’s stunning unemployment rates, accelerated by the pandemic, are hurting groups already struggling with joblessness wrought by deindustrialization and service industry depopulation — groups like working-class whites. The rung above Black Americans on the social ladder is not putting food on Walmart Karen’s table.
Alternatively, perhaps working-class whites simply can no longer stomach the police violence that facilitates their white currency.
Watching police kill George Floyd horrified many white Americans — quite a distinction from the sense of white safety that had accompanied lynchings past. The murders of Floyd and others have sparked a national reckoning for white Americans. White support for the Black Lives Matter movement has spiked, while white support for President Trump has eroded — though it is not yet clear what this means for our greater political fortunes.
For generations, racial justice advocates have struggled to persuade white Americans to reject whiteness’s illicit benefits in favor of racial equality. But the strategy for overcoming our current cultural impasse is becoming clear. Progressives must welcome working-class whites to anti-racism work with open arms, incorporating their economic concerns into the fight for racial equality. Working-class whites, in turn, must reject the tantalizing pill of white supremacy that Trump dangles to command their allegiance. Political operatives will traffic in the Wages of Whiteness as long as doing so will seduce Walmart Karen’s loyalty — but despite Trump’s romanticization of the past, America was never particularly great for poor whites. Walmart Karen’s awakening could be a seismic shift in the struggle for racial equality.
 There is almost certainly misogyny underlying Karen’s lack of a similarly-satirized white male counterpart, but that’s a story for another day.
 See generally Malone, Clare. “A Tale of Two Suburbs.” FiveThirtyEight, 8 Apr. 2019, fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-tale-of-two-suburbs/. (“Class means more than how much money you make or whether you went to college. It encompasses your understanding of racial identity — your own and that of others — and your perceptions of history, whether you look favorably or unfavorably on the country’s evolution.”).
 Roediger, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. Verso, 2007, p. 12.
 Id. at 13.
 Apartheid has most famously been deployed in more formally entrenched racial hierarchies, including South Africa’s apartheid. See generally Noah, Trevor. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Spiegel & Grau, 2016.
 Roediger, supra note 3, at 8. (“[W]orking class formation and the systematic development of a sense of whiteness went hand in hand for the US white working class.”).
 Dahlum, Sirianne, et al. “We Checked 100 Years of Protests in 150 Countries. Here’s What We Learned about the Working Class and Democracy.” The Washington Post, 24 Oct. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/10/24/we-checked-years-protests-countries-heres-what-we-learned-about-working-class-democracy/. (“Industrial workers have been key agents of democratization and, if anything, are even more important than the urban middle classes. When industrial workers mobilize mass opposition against a dictatorship, democratization is very likely to follow.”).
Link to Op Ed:
Article published in Journal of Social Work Education, Volume 56, 2020 , Sup 1
The Policy Advocacy and Social Change course is a specialized practice course offered in the Master of Social Work Program (MSW) at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. The course is designed to introduce MSW students to a variety of policy frameworks (i.e., Kingdon’s policy window, political model of reasoning) and analytical approaches (i.e., intersectionality and stakeholder analysis) that focus on developing their policy advocacy practice. Both the instructors and students are challenged to develop new ways to engage, distribute, and share knowledge about improving the lives of homeless individuals. Through the course assignments, which include a social issue report, policy brief, and policy advocacy campaign using social media, social work graduate students gain the skills and competencies needed to activate their agency and build capacity to become effective policy advocates.
The purpose of this article is to offer a pedagogical approach for developing a multifaceted policy advocacy practice addressing the Grand Challenge for Social Work to end homelessness. The article is also intended to add to the emerging dialogue about the ways to develop a policy advocacy practice (Hoefer, 2016; Jansson, 2016; McNutt & Hoefer, 2016) and advance the role social workers can play in preventing and eliminating homelessness (Padgett & Henwood, 2018).