“WHITNESS STUDIES,” which began as a small fringe of the academic world only eight years ago, has since blossomed into the latest academic fad. The Washington Post reports that “at least 30 institutions—from Princeton University to the University of California at Los Angeles—teach courses” in the subject. WS has its own think-tank (the Center for the Study of White American Culture), its own journal (Race Traitor, “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity”), periodic national conferences, and a veritable library of books and tracts.
The essence of the discipline can be summed up in two words: Hating Whitey.
Now, we didn’t have “Whiteness Studies” back when I was in college. Then, all the rage was multiculturalism, of which I got more than I could handle when, as a freshman, a scheduling snafu forced me into a section of the mandatory freshman-English program bearing the ominous title of “Differences.” There we studied literature through—to use the most pervasive cliché in academia—the lens of “race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.”
What that meant, in application, was that in the first weeks of class, we read books by African-Americans, the theme of which, unfailingly, was hatred for white people. Next we moved on to books by Hispanics, the theme of which was hatred for white people. From there it was books by Asians and Native Americans on—you guessed it—hatred for white people. There were a few variations, including some readings on anti-Semitism and homophobia, but otherwise, the theme was constant. This was a study of oppression, and the oppressors were always white guys.
Of course, all this took place way back in the early 1990s, eons ago for the modern-day Ivory Tower. Multiculturalism, once the primary fetish of academia, is now old hat in a culture that values the avant-garde above all else. Its permutations are spent. There are no more -isms to define; no more ethnic groups to balkanize; no more victims to patronize. That leaves academics looking for the next Big Thing, and they think they’ve found it in WS.
The focus has changed from multiculturalism, but the “hating whitey” theme remains.
“Whiteness,” as its would-be studiers see it, is the underlying cause of most every conceivable social ill. As David Horowitz has observed, “Whiteness Studies” is different in kind from other ethnocentric disciplines: “Black studies celebrates blackness, Chicano studies celebrates Chicanos, women’s studies celebrates women, and white studies attacks white people as evil.”
Whiteness Studies doesn’t even pretend to be a cultural inquiry—how could it? “White culture” can scarcely be said to exist as a single entity. Even the white population of the United States alone, which includes Protestants in Appalachia and Jews in New York City, doesn’t easily lend itself to stereotype. White rural southerners, to cite but one example, have far more in common, culturally, with similarly situated blacks than say, most any white person in San Francisco.
Not that such diversity stands in the way of the WS pseudo-scholars. They have identified a common thread that unites all whites throughout most of American history—oppression. All whites are oppressors, they reason, ergo Whiteness Studies—like the seemingly disparate collection of cultures that make up any other race-based “study”—is the examination of Whitey’s unceasing subjugation of everyone else.
As Gregory Jay, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin, puts it, “‘Whiteness’ is that special property unique to ‘white people,’ the sum total of the supposed characteristics, traits, or essential qualitities [sic] of ‘white people.’” It “is a term derived from the historical practice of white supremacy.” The purpose of Whiteness Studies, Jay adds, is “to make visible the history and practices of white supremacy as found in social life, the law, literature, music, politics, and every other realm of our ‘civilization.’”
“There is plenty to blame whiteness for,” says CSWAC co-founder and executive director Jeff Hitchcock “There is no crime that whiteness has not committed against people of color. There is no crime that we have not committed even against ourselves. … We must blame whiteness for the continuing patterns today that deny the rights of those outside of whiteness and which damage and pervert the humanity of those of us within it.”
Thus the difference in name—“Whiteness Studies,” as opposed to “White Studies,” which would be consistent with “Black Studies” and the like. For the radicals specializing in this burgeoning discipline, “whiteness” isn’t a culture, nor is it even an ethnicity or a race. It’s a condition, a mental state, one of tyrannizing others, often unwittingly. It’s also inescapable, regardless of how much one flagellates himself and embraces white guilt. Echoing the Nation of Islam’s bizarre white-man-is-the-devil cosmology, the Whiteness Studies worldview holds that if you’re white, your evilness can at best be mitigated, but never expunged.
To reinforce that message, a recent WS class at the University of Massachusetts (the university that recently tried, unsuccessfully, to eradicate its white Minuteman mascot) subjected students to what the Washington Post describes as a “privilege walk”:
The exercise … had two simple rules: When the moderator read a statement that applied to you, you stepped forward; if it didn't, you stepped back. After the moderator asked if you were certain you could get a bank loan whenever you wanted, [white student Naomi] Cairns thought, “Oh my God, here we go again,” and took yet another step forward.
“You looked behind you and became really uncomfortable,” said Cairns, a 24-year-old junior who stood at the front of the classroom with other white students. Asian and black students she admired were near the back. “We all started together,” she said, “and now were so separated.”
The image is rather amusing—university students, benefiting from an expensive education heavily subsidized by their state’s taxpayers, contemplating their varying degrees of oppression. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who attends a college like UMass and makes good use of his degree will ever have trouble getting a loan, regardless of race, especially in a “white” society such as ours that has voluntarily adopted strict federal laws prohibiting discrimination in lending (and, for that matter, most every area of life). Nonetheless, the exercise served its purpose, namely, convincing students that whites are, by the mere fact of existence, purveyors of privilege.
The stated goal of Whiteness Studies enthusiasts is to make race-consciousness a permanent part of American life for white people. “Historically,” the Washington Post quotes Howard Winant, a sociology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, as saying, “it has been common to see whites as a people who don’t have a race, to see racial identity as something others have. It’s a great advance to start looking at whiteness as a group.” Winant echoes a recurring theme in the WS curriculum, that whites can happily live a “raceless” existence, while for minorities, evidence of their difference is ubiquitous.
But who’s fault is that? Ever since the triumph of the American civil-rights movement nearly four decades ago, it’s left-wing racial agitators and academics who have most bitterly resisted the transition to a color-blind society through hyphenated-Americanism, affirmative action, and—ironically—multiculturalism.
Nowhere is this more clearly the case than on modern-day college campuses, which, under the left’s design, have become thoroughly balkanized, with racial minorities confined to their own dorms, culture clubs, and academic departments. The process of segregation begins with separate but unequal orientation programs, and extends all the way to racially segregated graduation ceremonies.
Having spent decades erecting what they thought would be race-coded utopias, academics are slowly coming to realize that, instead, they’ve created racial ghettoes. When African-American students are nudged into their own campus centers, the main campus center becomes the de facto white student center—one much larger and more prominent. Ditto for the “white” orientation programs and graduation ceremonies, or the “white” fields of academic study which are, presumably, all those not designated as belonging to some other race or ethnicity. As one UMass student complained in the Washington Post, “other classes, like economics, politics and history, are about whiteness.”
For the WS literati, it’s all about whiteness—Western Civilization in general and America in particular. America’s foundations, its ideals, and its institutions are all tainted by the scourge of whiteness, and as such are irreparably damaged. True to its Marxist underpinnings, Whiteness Studies ultimately seeks solace in revolution, overthrowing or destroying “whiteness” and the whole wicked society that contains it. (Marxism, for what it’s worth, seems to be the one “white” idea the WS crowd is willing to keep around.)
The goal isn’t to move minorities out of the academic ghettoes, but to create a new ghetto for whites, and that begins—where else?—with whiteness’ own “ethnic studies” program.
The hatred for Whitey isn’t limited to just those with white skin. Anyone who chooses to succeed in American society rather than despise it gets lumped in with the pale-faced devils. “We must disrupt the historic process of assimilation,” says CSWAC’s Hitchcock, a white man who derides Asians and Hispanics who are “absorbed into the white community” as “honorary whites.” For racialist radicals, minorities who embrace American notions of free enterprise, democracy, pluralism, even integration, are Oreos, coconuts, apples, and bananas—“white on the inside” regardless of their outer appearance.
When the Whiteness Studies crowd speaks of abolishing “whiteness,” what they really mean is abolishing Americanism, most notably the American ideal of a society in which people are judged not by color of their skin, but by the content of their character.