"This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again." —James Baldwin, "Stranger in the Village"
In an attempt to deny the existence of systemic or institutional racism, white parents of students at a high school in Wisconsin’s Delavan-Darien School District have successfully had "American Diversity," a course on the subject, banned from the curriculum. The parents object to the teaching that minorities have (and continue to be) oppressed by white people.
One anonymous parent said the course instills “white guilt” in her child. "It’s meant to divide and victimize non-whites and condition whites to feel guilty and to be more passive," the parent said in a report published in the Daily Mail.
Another parent added, “They’re teaching white guilt. They’re dividing the students. They’re saying to non-whites, ‘You have been oppressed and you’re still being oppressed.’”
Delavan-Darien School District superintendent Robert Crist fielded a great many complaints about both the very idea of the course and its methodology, according to the Daily Mail report. For example, one assignment sent students to Walmart to count the number of black dolls versus white dolls. Crist said, “A lot of red flags go up in my mind when I look at the materials.” And indeed, Crist has flatly agreed with the parents, saying that their “concern has merit.” The class has been suspended pending Crist’s evaluation.
Young America’s Foundation, which also looked over the curriculum with the anonymous parent, went even further in its critique. It labeled the course as “race-baiting.”
“This course offers a snapshot of a larger trend that has plagued university curriculum for years and has only recent crept into high school classrooms,” wrote Brendan Pringle, a staff member at Young America’s Foundation. “Professors and teachers are increasingly telling white students that they are part of the problem of racism, and are telling black students that they are second-class citizens. This race-baiting technique is an attack on American values and can only breed bitterness and envy," the Daily Mail reported.
Course materials included a paper by University of Texas professor Robert Jensen, who argues that no one, individuals or groups, has complete control of their fate. “There is not space here to list all the ways in which white privilege plays out in our lives, but it is clear that I will carry this privilege with me until the day white supremacy is erased from society,” Jensen writes.
The anonymous parent believes Jensen’s arguments amount to “ideology” and are politically driven. “I felt it was indoctrination,” she said. “This is a radical left agenda and ideology that is now embedded in our school.”
“Whiteness Studies” have been around for some time now. It is an attempt to interrogate the reality of racism as seen from its victim’s perspective. Previously, throughout social science history, the issue of race has always been viewed from the vantage point of the advantaged group, i.e., white people. Whiteness studies forces white people to look at themselves as just as another "racial" group, just as “raced” as they label blacks (their racially polar opposites), and all other non-whites as "raced."
Whiteness studies force whites to face and account for the fact of “white privilege” in this society. One example should do.
Andrew Hacker is professor emeritus at Queens College in New York. In 1992, he wrote a book entitled "Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal." In it, he described an experiment he conducted with some of his white undergraduate students. It went like this:
On a mid-term exam he asked only one question: That if they woke up tomorrow morning, looked in the mirror and discovered that somehow they had magically been turned into a black person, how much money did they think they should be compensated therefor? They were given three choices: $1 million, $10 million, or $50 million.
After each student gave his or her answer, Hacker said, “None of you thought it strange that you should be compensated for losing your whiteness. You automatically assumed that whiteness, your whiteness in particular, is ‘worth’ something in material—monetary—terms. And you further assumed that whatever amount you chose, it showed that whiteness is more ‘valuable’ than blackness.”
Hacker’s experiment reveals that white privilege, white racism and white supremacy are all rolled into one big system or institution founded on the advantages, assumed worthiness, preferences and, indeed, superiority that is innately granted to the owners of so-called white skin.
But because whiteness is considered the norm in this society, white people do not see themselves as privileged but rather as just “normal.” Everything else, everybody else who is not white, who does not meet the “standard” of whiteness, is to a greater or lesser degree “abnormal.”
And so most white people hardly notice, and even more rarely object to, the built-in barriers to home-ownership for blacks. They are blind to the many hurdles placed before non-whites as they seek equal education and job opportunities. They do not see anything wrong with prisons replacing schools, even as those prisons are grossly disproportionately filled with black and brown people. In fact, many white folks these days consider themselves “color blind” in terms of race. This attitude, belief, or condition is not blindness, though. What has happened is that blacks and other non-whites have been rendered invisible to whites when it comes to equal opportunities for success in this capitalist and money-driven society.
And so when teachers of whiteness studies try to open whites’ eyes to their privileged position in this society, they and the very notion of "whiteness" itself are rejected out of hand and denied forthwith. The messenger is roundly vilified and sent packing.
One of the first things one learns in white or black studies is that white supremacy/white racism will not die unless and until white people face their own history truthfully. Denying that history only prolongs the agony of its inevitable death.
The History Of White People, Nell Irvin Painter, W.W. Norton Co., Ltd., 2011