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Has ‘whiteness studies’ run its course at colleges? (Participation) – In America – CNN.com Blogs

February 1, 2012

Beyond reading this article, please go and read at least ten comments on the CNN website as well as the following article.  What are your observations, responses and thoughts about the articles and the comments; what does it teach us about colorblindness, new racism, and racial discourse.

Has ‘whiteness studies’ run its course at colleges?

By Alex P. Kellogg, Special to CNN

Among university departments that study African-American history, Latin American or Chicano cultures and all varieties of ethnicities and nationalities, there’s a relatively obscure field of academic inquiry: whiteness studies.

While there are no standalone departments dedicated to the field, interdisciplinary courses on the subject quietly gained traction on college and university campuses nationwide in the 1990s. Today, there are dozens of colleges and universities, including American University in Washington, D.C., and University of Texas at Arlington, that have a smattering of courses on the interdisciplinary subject of whiteness studies.

The field argues that white privilege still exists, thanks largely to structural and institutional racism, and that the playing field isn’t level, and whites benefit from it. Using examples such as how white Americans tend not to be pulled over by the police as often as blacks and Latinos, or how lenders targeted blacks and Latinos for more expensive, subprime loans during the recent U.S. housing crisis, educators teach how people of different races and ethnicities often live very different lives.

Most of the instructors specialize in sociology, philosophy, political science and history, most of them are liberal or progressive, and most of them are, in fact, white. Books frequently used as textbooks in these courses include “How the Irish Became White” by Noel Ignatiev, an American history professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and “The History of White People” by Nell Irvin Painter, a professor emeritus of American history at Princeton; but the field has its roots in the writings of black intellectuals such as W.E.B. DuBois and author James Baldwin.

In the past, detractors have said the field itself demonizes people who identify as white.

But today, academics who teach the classes say they face a fresh hurdle, one that has its roots on the left instead of the right: the election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president.

“Having Obama is, in a curious way, putting us behind,” says Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a professor of sociology at Duke and visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.

Bonilla-Silva, the author of books like “Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America” and “White Supremacy & Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era,” says it is harder than ever before to convince college students that studying white privilege is a worthwhile or necessary endeavor.

Go here to continue reading article and for comments – Has ‘whiteness studies’ run its course at colleges? – In America – CNN.com Blogs.

 

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4 Comments
  1. Kyla Chappell permalink

    After reading these articles and the following comments, it came to me as very shocking the ideas being brought up in the articles and the viewpoints of the people commenting. Whiteness studies and racism against whites were two of the main topics. I don’t feel as though it is wrong to have whiteness studies, because we have many other studies of different races, nor do I think it is wrong for whites to form groups standing for the rights of their race, seeing as how every other race has their own group. I do believe whites are privileged, but this should not take away their rights to stand up for their beliefs also. As far as this new racism against whites, at this point I can not really say whether I agree or not. Valid points were made from both sides, it is a new idea, and will I’m sure be getting a lot more attention. Then, I will be able to decide what I think on this subject.

  2. Hailey Pusich permalink

    After reading this article and the comments after it, my response was that most people in the comments were angry about the article or didn’t have anything nice to say about it. While white studies was the main subject there seemed to be an underlying issue with the people commenting on the article. The article said that it is harder then ever to convince college students that studying white privilege is worthwhile or necessary. I didn’t really understand why they are pushing so hard for white studies. I don’t think its wrong to have white studies because we have studies on every other race but I don’t exactly think its right either. I think it will just cause more tension between races because other races might see white studies as a racist act and that isn’t helping us move in a positive direction if there is resentment. I agree with the comment above mine in that this subject needs to be discussed further and then I will be able to better decide how I feel about white studies.

  3. Hailey: While the article says it, they discussions isn’t really about “white studies,” but actually studying whiteness, specifically privilege. It is not about studying a “group” but studying the processes, identity, and meaning here. (2) Whites are already studied in every discipline — think about what history is central to history departments, what literature, music; who is focused on in sociology and countless other class. Whose experiences are normalized. (3) What will cause more tension? Exposing racism and inequalities in privilege? What is the source of tension and tension for whom? As Yaba Blay said, is there an example in history where silence led to change? Keep the conversation going and good work

  4. Michael Anderson permalink

    First, I think there are a few ideas of why white people are beginning to feel oppressed. Because racism is looked down upon a company, for example, may want to hire people of various races in order to not look racist. In this way, a white person would say that they are being discriminated against. Another idea is that if whites are always used to certain privileges then when on occasion these privileges are taken away, whites may feel wronged or oppressed. Second, I think many people think that racism is over because they don’t physically see it to the magnitude of what they have known it to be. There are equal rights laws now so racism is now over right? Also, everyone knows racism is bad so one may not want to talk about it. Since people don’t talk about it people think it isn’t there.

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