FULLABALOO | Tulane alum becomes first white director of Portland anti-racist institute

Apoorva Verghese, White Person

white alum fullabaloo
Emma Vaughters

Angela Saxton, a Tulane alumna, has been named executive director of Portland-based anti-racism organization, Anti-racists Against Racism. Saxton graduated from Tulane in 2016 with a degree in political science, a background that she believes will greatly benefit her in her new role. Saxton’s appointment as director is an accomplishment on its own, but it is one that is further compounded by the fact that she makes history as the first white person to hold this role. 

As a member of the organization, Saxton frequently felt like the lives and experiences of white people went ignored. In Saxton’s opinion, this is an issue that affects not just AAR, but all anti-racist and diversity efforts. 

“I’ve always felt that white people weren’t adequately represented in diversity efforts — we face prejudice like everyone else,” she said. “For example, I was attacked by an internet troll who kept calling me a ‘yt person’. At first I thought it was a harmless joke because I thought ‘yt’ meant YouTube. Later I realized it was actually an attack on my race. Another person thought it was funny to call me the K-word: ‘Karen.’ That type of language hurts.”

Prior to Saxton, the fairly new AAR was headed by two Black women who took the organization to new heights. AAR is known for their extensive efforts working with grassroots activists and fundraising for crucial civil rights organizations. 

Since her appointment, Saxton has spent her early days as director decorating her office. Saxton’s office is certainly aesthetic, with a row of succulents lining her windowsill and a wooden bookshelf holding her favorite book, “White Fragility.” The most prominent part of her office, however, are two posters of Hillary Clinton and Winston Churchill that adorn the walls. 

“I thrive in a workspace that represents my beliefs, which is why I spent so much time decorating,” Saxton said. “My Churchill and Clinton posters have actually been with me since my undergraduate years! They’re two of my biggest inspirations. Being able to see their words motivates me to really be the change I want to see in this world.”

Unlike the past two directors of AAR, Saxton has no academic or personal experience with anti-racism efforts aside from her prior, minimal involvement in the organization. Rather, Saxton believes that her perspective as a white woman will give her unique insight into anti-racist efforts that AAR has yet to explore. 

“I’ve gone through the learning process,” Saxton said. “I learned to not say racial slurs, I’ve gone from being very ignorant to being well, less ignorant. It’s about the journey right? I have an experience that many people in this organization don’t.”

At the core of Saxton’s mission as executive director is, of course, the pursuit of equality in our society. 

“I’m not going to say I’m colorblind because I’ve learned that it’s not actually a good thing to be,” Saxton said proudly. “I will say, however, that I believe there is only one race: the human race. In my role as executive director, I’m going to do everything I can to uplift us all.” 

The Fullabaloo reached out to current members of AAR to gauge their approval of Saxton. Most simply laughed.