White Parents Force Suspension of 'White Studies' High School Course
White Supremacy Will Not End Until White People Face Their History Truthfully
This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.
— James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son, 1955
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 been (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 recently 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 and studied from the vantage point of the advantaged group, i.e., white people. Whiteness studies looks at racism/white supremacy through black peoples’ eyes, and forces white people to look at themselves as just another “racial” group among many — rendering them just as “raced” as they race-label blacks (their putative “racial” polar opposites).
Whiteness studies drops all pretenses, all excuses and all rationalizations. It therefore forces white people to, finally, face, admit, acknowledge, and most importantly, account for the fact of “white privilege” in this society.
One example should do:
Andrew Hacker is Professor Emeritus in Political Science at Queens College in New York. In 1992, he wrote a book entitled Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal. There, 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 essay 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 written answer, and defended their position during class discussion, Professor Hacker said,
None of you thought it strange that you should be compensated for ‘losing’ your whiteness. That is because you have been socialized to believe and now automatically assume that whiteness, your whiteness in particular, is ‘worth’ something in material — in this case, monetary — terms. And, you further assumed that whatever amount you chose, it showed that whiteness is more ‘valuable’ than blackness.
Professor Hacker’s experiment reveals that white privilege, white racism and white supremacy are all rolled into one big system founded on the advantages, assumed worthiness, preferences and, yes, superiority that is consciously or unconsciously granted and then passed along and down to all 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, or 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 jails and prisons replacing schools in black and brown communities, even as those jails and prisons are grossly, disproportionately, filled to overflowing with black and brown people.
This also answers the question I’ve long grappled with:
How do white people live with the knowledge of such a long, documented, deep, and bloody history of dehumanization of every single so-called “non-white” group they have ever encountered?
In fact, many white folks these days consider themselves “color blind” in terms of “race.” “I don’t see race. I don’t see color,” they will tell you. As noted, this attitude, this belief, or this condition is not blindness, of course. What has happened is that blacks and other non-whites have been rendered invisible by and to whites, especially when it comes down to equal access and equal opportunities for success in this capitalist and money-driven society.
For the great bulk of white people, who have by means of all-consuming, never-ending, global violence, come to dominate everything and everybody. They have been at it for so long and so thoroughly, that for these folk “equality” has come to signal, to mean, loss — loss of privilege, loss of preference, loss of power, loss of dominance.
Perhaps “the Great Emancipator,” Abraham Lincoln himself, said it best in an 1858 debate with Stephen A. Douglas as they campaigned for a seat in the US Senate:
I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races … I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people.
Lincoln was just warming up:
And I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. [Emphasis added]
And so when teachers of whiteness studies try to pry open white peoples’ eyes and minds to their privileged position in this society, those teachers and the very notion of “whiteness” itself are rejected out of hand and denied forthwith. And, as in the case of the Wisconsin school district, the messenger is roundly vilified and sent packing.
One of the first things one learns in whiteness 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.
A Few Words After:
For those curious about the photo fronting this essay, depicted are African American flood victims lined up to get food and clothing at a Red Cross relief station. They stand in front of a billboard ironically lauding the “World’s highest standard of living. There’s no way like the American way.” They stand in stark contrast to the giant picture of a smiling, happy, gainfully employed, and well fed white family, complete with their beloved (and equally happy and well fed) pet dog. The husband-father-patriarch is driving them all to some happy destination in their shiny new or late-model automobile. The city is Louisville, Kentucky. The year is 1937.
It is no accident or coincidence, though, that all of the people standing below this picture of a happy and secure white family are black. You do not have to look very closely in order to see, to sense, the quiet desperate uncertainty in their faces, in their eyes. This photo is no overstatement or exaggeration. It (unintentionally, perhaps) graphically demonstrates a never-ending, dark, deliberate and purposeful contrast between white life and the hard reality of black life in this nation-state — beginning even before its inception and extending right straight through to this morning.
Finally, this picture brings to mind and to life an Ancient Ghetto Proverb: “When white America catches a cold, black America gets pneumonia.”
The History Of White People, Nell Irvin Painter, W.W. Norton Co., Ltd., 2011