People say I shouldn't teach a class called 'White Racism.' Here's why they're wrong.

Students needed to learn about racism in American society long before I started teaching a course on it.

I chose to title my course "White Racism" because I thought it was scholarly and succinct, precise and powerful.

Others saw it differently.


Many white Americans (and even 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 even sent me hateful and threatening messages.

It's tempting to blame the hostility to my course on today's political climate — one in which the president of the United States can routinely make overtly racist statements and receive some of his strongest support from members of white, racist hate groups.

But the reality is that scholarly critiques of white supremacy in the U.S. have always been met with scorn. That doesn't make the topic any less true, any less important, or any less necessary to teach.

White racism isn't an opinion. It's a historical and contemporary truth, supported by evidence, that's been taught 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 evidence — evidence that 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. But that's not where the opposition to my course lies.

In reality, most Americans have a general understanding of our nation's history of abuse toward African-Americans. The transatlantic slave trade, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, housing and labor market discrimination, police brutality — these are all concepts with which most are familiar.

What many disagree with is the impact of those practices on people's lives and opportunities today. Many argue for what I (and many others) call the myth of a "colorblind society."

The myth of the colorblind society holds that the U.S. is a "post-racial" society where race no longer impacts individuals' opportunities in life.

It's a belief that erases the daily realities that demonstrate the this country is white supremacist in nature.

But the myth of a colorblind society crumbles underneath a substantial body of research that shows how race still matters in many areas of American life. Evidence shows that race still matters in the labor market and workplace, education, and even in access to clean water. Race matters in health care, the criminal justice system, and even everyday retail and dining experiences.

Still, many refuse to believe that racism persists. They point to the civil rights legislation of the 1960s or, more recently, the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States, as evidence of the "end" of racism, or at least race's "declining significance."

The point of my course is to disabuse my students of those beliefs, guiding them toward a more accurate understanding of racial matters in our country.

But wait a second. Can't anyone be racist?

The most common complaint that I’ve encountered thus far is that anybody can be racist, not just white people. They ask indignantly: What about "reverse racism"? Or what about other forms of racism they believe exist on the part of Latinos, Asian-Americans, and Native American peoples?

My answer is: Folks of color can be prejudiced and biased, but there is no such thing, for example, as "black racism."

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, president of the American Sociological Association, put it well when asked if it would be fair to have classes such as "Asian Racism" or "Latino Racism."

He said, "We can all be prejudiced, yeah? So, black people can be anti-white, but there is a big difference between having prejudiced views about other people and having a system that gives systemic privilege to some groups."

That's the bottom line: Black people did not develop and benefit from a centuries-old comprehensive system of racial oppression comprised of laws, policies, practices, traditions, and an accompanying ideology — one that promotes the biological, intellectual and cultural superiority of whites to dominate other groups. Europeans and their white descendants did.

This is systemic racism. And students in courses such as mine are introduced to the scholarship that attests to this reality, past and present.

My course may be an elective, but the effects of white racism in society are not.

A common criticism I’ve heard is that I'm teaching a course titled "White Racism" at a public university at taxpayer expense.

Not only should my course and others like it be taught at public colleges and universities, they must be taught at such institutions. It is in the public interest that students be provided with not only an opportunity to learn about the origin, logic, and consequences of white racial domination but also how to challenge and dismantle it. The public university classroom is among the best places for this to occur.

The president of Florida Gulf Coast University, Michael Martin, has strongly and publicly supported the inclusion of my "White Racism" class in the university's course offerings.

"Reviewing the course content is much more instructive than passing judgment based on a two-word title," he said in a statement. "At FGCU, as at all great universities, we teach our students critical thinking skills by challenging them to think independently and critically about important, even if controversial, issues of our times."

Hopefully someday, the rest of society will learn to do the same.

This piece was originally published by The Conversation and is reprinted here with permission.

<img src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/90093/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-advanced" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" />

True

Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Courtesy of CeraVe
True

"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

Keep Reading Show less