Why I teach a course called ‘White Racism’
The need for students to learn about racism in American society existed long before I began teaching a course called “White Racism” at Florida Gulf Coast University earlier this year.
I chose to title my course “White Racism” because I thought it was scholarly and succinct, precise and powerful.
But others saw it differently. Many white Americans (and some people of color) became upset when they learned about this course.
Thousands took to social media and far right news sites and racist blogs to attack the course and me personally.
Some 150 of these individuals sent me hateful and threatening messages.
It might be tempting to blame the hostility to my course on the current political climate in which the president of the United States routinely makes overtly racist statements and receives some of his strongest support from members of white racist hate groups. But I cannot recall a time when scholarly critiques of white supremacy in the United States have not been met with scorn.
For instance, an identically titled course taught at the University of Connecticut also ignited controversy when it made its debut in the 1990s.
‘White racism’ is nothing new
Whether a course is titled “White Racism,”or “The Problem of Whiteness,” or any other appropriate term, in no way diminishes the academic legitimacy of the course. Scholars have used the term for decades.
I’ve taught courses on racial stratification in the U.S. for nearly a decade myself. The course, and others like it, are all anchored in a damning body of historical and contemporary scholarship. That scholarship shows that Europeans and their white descendants colonized what would become the United States as well as other places around the globe. They practiced all manner of inhumanity against non-whites. This has included genocide, slavery, murder, rape, torture, theft, chicanery, segregation, discrimination, intimidation, internment, humiliation and marginalization. This is inarguable.