Saturday, January 31, 2015

In Defense of "Whiteness Courses"- At Arizona State or Fordham

Not only do I think the content of such a course is legitimate, but I address the "politics of whiteness" in my own undergraduate and graduate courses in African American History. "Whiteness studies" is a growing field in academia, and my own book "White Boy: A Memoir" has been used as a text in several such courses one of which was offered at Princeton University by the former president of the Organization of American Historians , Nell Irvin Painter. My students and I actually sponsored a "Whiteness Conference" at Fordham several years ago that attracted more than 350 people inside and outside of the University

What makes "whiteness" a legitimate field of study is that throughout American history, huge advantages were given to people who were defined as "white"- but the definitions of who was "white" changed over time, as well as the advantages attached to the designation. Not only were Jews and Italians not always classified as "white" when they first came to the US, but large numbers of light skinned African Americans moved to different parts of the country and became "white" in the years before the Civil Rights movement led to the reduction in some of the advantages of "whiteness" and the disabilities attached to being "non white."

Anyone who thinks this is not a subject worthy of study has not spent much time examining race in American history

I would love to offer a course on Whiteness at Fordham, if I could find time to fit it in my schedule. I'll bet the class will fill quickly

As for the Fox news attack, it is exactly what you would expect when anyone in the media decides to critique a college course which they are not actually attending or participating in. You cannot assess how open a class is to varying points of view unless you hear the lectures, participate in class discussions and do the readings.