College offers course on ‘The Problem of Whiteness’

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Despite a GOP lawmakers’ calls for its removal, a class titled “African 405: The Problem of Whiteness” will be hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) during its Spring 2018 semester.

According to the UW website, the class is a part of the African Cultural Studies program. A description of the class asks: “Have you ever wondered what it really means to be white? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably ‘no.’ But here is your chance!”

The site quotes a Frantz Fanon book titled “Black Skin, White Masks,” which includes text that seeks the “meaning and experience of coming to know oneself as Black under the constant scrutiny of the white gaze.” According to the website, “under systemic racism, even well-meaning whites are constantly asking, in one way or another, ‘what is it like to be a problem?’” However, the class seeks to reverse the question.

From the UW site:

…[In] philosopher George Yancy’s book, “Look, a White!” (2010), turns the question around, and rightly returns “the problem of whiteness” to white people.

After all, since white supremacy was created by white people, is it not white folks who have the greatest responsibility to eradicate it?

Our class begins here.

The class participants will “come together with our socially ascribed identities of Black, white, mixed and other” to put the problem in its proper place  in order to “ask ourselves and our allies, what are we going to do with it?”

According to The Blaze, the class promises students will:

  • understand how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced so that they can begin to “dismantle white supremacy,”
  • examine how whites “consciously and unconsciously perpetuate institutional racism,”
  • examine how the perpetuation of racism “devastates communities of color” whilst it continues “the oppression of most white folks along the lines of class and gender,”
  • define what it means to be “woke,”
  • examine what an “ethical white identity” entails.

The College Fix exchanged emails with a spokesperson for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who said students have responded well to the course, which was originally introduced in Spring 2017.

“Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive — students said they found it valuable to examine majority cultures and how power imbalances are created, sustained, and challenged in societies around the world,” the spokesperson reportedly wrote.

Despite “positive” response to the class by students, Wisconsin state Rep. Dave Murphy (R) called for the class to be canceled in 2016, before it began, according to The Blaze. At the time, Murphy wrote: “I am extremely concerned that UW-Madison finds it appropriate to teach a course called, ‘The Problem of Whiteness,’ with the premise that white people are racist.”

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also disparaged the course, according to WEAU, who reported that in 2016, Walker called the course “goofy” and  felt it would be better to focus funding resources on “the broader issue of accountability and performance.” Walker reportedly stopped short of  condemning the course, saying the “governor should be telling people what classes they should or shouldn’t have.”

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