University of Minnesota Lecture Features 12 Step Recovery Program For Whiteness |

TBC Staff

The University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work hosted a virtual lecture recently that aimed to teach white people about their white supremacy and how to counteract it by using a “12 step” program mirrored after the one used by people in Alcoholics Anonymous.

The two-hour “Recovery from White Conditioning” lecture, hosted through the school’s Center for Practice Transformation, featured therapist Cristina Combs.

Combs is a University of Minnesota alumnus who created the white supremacy 12 step program “after years of struggling to navigate the role and presence of whiteness in her personal, academic, and professional journeys,” according to the university’s website.

Combs said her program helps people recover from their whiteness.

“I also want to hold that alongside the tension that, in this model, we are, in fact, centering whiteness, but we are centering it differently: to expose it, study its patterns, and to transform its violent legacy,”she said.

Combs asked attendees: “What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘white supremacy?’”

As an answer to the question, she displayed a slide titled “The face of white supremacy.” Under the title were pictures of Ku Klux Klan members as well as white nationalists in Charlottesville. She then took those images off and put a picture of her own face on the screen.

“When activists would use the term ‘white supremacy’ to talk about the systems that needed to change and the work that white people needed to do, my instinct was to recoil. It felt like too hard or too raw of word, and I didn’t like it. And I ultimately realized that that is my ego,” she said.

“Stepping into that tension and accepting my connection to white supremacy has been a freedom of sorts to show up in better alignment with my values and do the work for the rest of my life.”

Before diving into her 12-step model, Combs prefaced it by quoting feminist author Bell Hooks in saying that “‘imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ [is] the power structure underlying the social order.”

Nevertheless, Combs said, “It is sometimes necessary to focus singularly on race,” before beginning her summary of the 12 steps.

After she finished talking about the 12 steps, Combs revealed the outline of what a gathering of those looking for a “Recovery from White Conditioning” meeting would look like.

Meetings start with a “Call to Recovery,” a quote from author Shailja Patel: “We are here to be fully human to ourselves, fully accountable to each other.”

After house-keeping concerns like introductions and announcements, attendees will undergo a minute of silent reflection, read about “a white anti-racist, then discuss the particular step they are focusing on in that meeting,” she said.