Whitney Dow, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and educator, will discuss his current initiative — the Whiteness Project — in an upcoming program at St. Bonaventure University.
The discussion will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in Dresser Auditorium of the John J. Murphy Professional Building on campus and is free and open to the public.
Dow has been producing and directing films focused on race and identity for almost two decades as a partner in Two Tone Productions. The goal of the Whiteness Project is engender debate about the role of whiteness in American society and encourage white Americans to become fully vested participants in the ongoing debate about the role of race in American society.
The story-based interactive media and research project is being produced in collaboration with Columbia University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE). The project, which will ultimately include 1,000 subjects from communities across the United States, examines how Americans who identify as “white” or “partially white” process their ethnicity, and pairs it with secondary quantitative data — attitudinal, socioeconomic and genomic — collected by a team from INCITE.
Interviews with white people in Buffalo and Dallas have been completed so far.
“I am not someone who has clear answers about the best way to challenge the structural racism that is woven through our country’s public and private institutions, nor do I have a specific agenda beyond my desire to create media that will challenge other white people to become more self reflective,” said Dow, who teaches interactive storytelling in the Integrated Media Arts Master of Fine Arts program at CUNY Hunter College and has a research scholar appointment at Columbia University.
“I simply have found that honestly examining the role my racial identity plays in my day-to-day life, and, in fact, how it has shaped my life’s entire arc, has been incredibly illuminating and enhanced the quality of all my relationships, and, I hope, made me a better person,” he said.
The media and data set from the Whiteness Project will serve as the foundation for a series of academic and media projects, as well as an interactive academic resource that will live in Columbia’s library system.
Dow’s directorial credits include a number of documentaries broadcast on public television, including “Two Towns of Jasper,” “ I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education,” “Unfinished Country,” and “When the Drum is Beating.”
His credits as a producer include “Freedom Summer” (History Channel); “Banished: How Whites Drove Blacks Out of Town in America” (Independent Lens); “The Undocumented” (Independent Lens), “Toots” (Menemsha Films/Indiepix) and “Among the Believers.” His films have premiered at festivals ranging from Sundance to Tribeca and been broadcast on networks around the world.
Dow’s work has been recognized with the George Foster Peabody Award, Alfred I. duPont Award, Anthony Radziwill Documentary Achievement Award, and the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award as well as many film festival honors.
Dow is also serving as story director for the multi-platform Public Media project “Veterans Coming Home,” a digital initiative by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Wednesday’s program is part of the university’s RaceMatters initiative, a campus dialogue on race and ethnicity that feature lectures, movies and discussions designed to drive positive communication about race issues. Those who participate in the events are encouraged to use the hashtag #RaceMatters on social media to share their thoughts. For a list of all upcoming RaceMatters programs, visit www.sbu.edu/RaceMatters.
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