Hunter College of the City University of New York[CUNY] system of public colleges and higher learning institutions has a newly added course in its Fall 2017 catalog that examines “how whiteness – and/or white supremacy and violence – is intertwined with conceptions of gender, race, sexuality, class, body ability, nationality, and age.”The Abolition of Whiteness,” taught by Prof. Jennifer Gaboury, can be taken as either a women and gender studies course or a political science class, according to the school’s online course catalog.
When you hear the course title, how does that make you feel? Black or White persons, does it sound ‘divisive to you?Why or why not? In the 21st Century, why would anyone bother to attend or even enroll in this class? Because of its provocative title alone, it invites conversation, both in and outside of the classroom. Deemed irrelevant by many, but so essential to enlightenment, is civil dialogue. It is not enough to acknowledge an ‘elephant’ in the room; we must contemplate how it got there in the first place. Then we may work together towards solution-finding.
This new college course has been designed to heighten awareness of ‘white privilege’ and way it shapes[-ed] our politics, policies, and perspectives regarding the ‘other’-race in this country. Though we purport to be an equal opportunity country that allows and encourages everyone to pull themselves up by their own ‘bootstraps’, the playing field is not and has never been level. Upward mobility is not made possible by sheer desire, hard work and determination alone. Race and ethnicity remain embedded in the accessibility to opportunity. In short, people of color have fewer opportunities to achieve legitimate school, work and life success in this country…even in the 21st Century.[that summons a different argument] Why? How?
Well, in order to ponder the answers to these questions, we must take a look at our society through a wider lens, and we must return to history. Critical thinking is borne out of an honest, more complete exploration of the original sins committed within our borders, and from without. Emphasis must be on what events and conditions led an entire national consciousness and collective conscience to create a social construct from which divisive policies were supported and implemented. Throughout our national history, a divisive legacy was inherited by the sons and daughters of the original sinners, and continues to be passed on into the 21st Century.
Courses such as this one at Hunter College recognize the aim of higher education, and draws from our personal histories to cultivate a new consciousness, by encouraging critical thinking. It is the fully inclusive information acquisition that enables us to pick apart the rhetoric and find solutions to today’s problems. Without courses that make us think differently, we will continue to pass down the legacy that all wish to forget. This past was considered necessary at that time, but today, it is perceived as it was- oppressive and inhumane. Thus, it is inexcusable and unforgivable to allow any elements from that past to persist and impact lives of a more sophisticated people. We know better, yet still governed by oppressive policies and practices in America today.
This course and certainly more to follow, is not meant to be a vehicle for increased racial tensions, bias and prejudice. Quite the opposite.
This course plants the seeds for change, positive change, and starts the necessary dialogue required of this change. It is that dialogue, this forum of reasoning, questioning, and learning, that will enable our next leaders to dedicate their life’s work to ensure the realization of democracy in its most pure form. It is within higher learning venues, that our gateways to change flourish, and learners, in pursuit of their personal excellence, are bold enough to engage in the conversations to create a new culturally-proficient legacy.
This is a forum that allows learners to release the generations-long guilt, abandon any resentment, unmask irrational fears, broaden perspectives, and participate in a collective catharsis
We speak about Mexican deportation and Muslim bans, and that represents the darkest of potential of our humanity. This represents our fear of the inherent goodness and inalienable rights of all to live, breathe and believe freely in the U.S. We are and should be stronger, a globalized model of leadership, that the whole world looks up to. Separatism, has no place here in this land and what we do here will be echoed throughout the world. Wake up children! Wake up people! We live in the United States of America!
With as many inter-racial unions as there are today, openly loving caring for and defending their rights to show that love why must we continue to oppress? Whether you are on the side of ‘white privilege’ or ‘black pride’, we must understand that this notion of defending either side is harmful ultimately to both. Whether you like it or not, approve or otherwise disapprove, it is unfair as parents, people, humans, for us to continue to adhere to beliefs that neither you nor I know from whence they originated. Let us begin to cure this amnesia, and gather in support of new realities and strengthen capacity for loving and living unburdened by the weight of racial tensions-whiteness.
Harvard Magazine recognized a new collection of writers, college courses and workshops designed to enlighten white people as to the “real benefits and the great cost of their property in whiteness”. It also noted a long tradition among the white race as a peculiar sort of social formation, one that depends on its members’ willingness to conform to the institutions and behavior patterns that reproduce it.
In addition to the notion of race as a social construct, people are drawn by the conditions of their lives in two opposite directions, one that mirrors and reproduces the present society of competition and exploitation, and another that points toward a new society based on freely associated activity. This internal antagonism plays itself out as a civil war within the white mind, between the desire of whites to wall themselves off from black Americans and their desire to overcome the boundaries that kept them apart. ‘NIMBY!’
Every group within white America has at one time or another advanced its particular and narrowly defined interests at the expense of black people as a race. That applies to labor unionists, ethnic groups, college students, schoolteachers, taxpayers, and white women.
Quite frankly, the system is truly rigged against certain groups of people, and the evidence of this has been masked under the reinforced illusions of negative stereotypes. Instead of viewing the reality that there are inherent obstacles to opportunity and upward mobility for some peoples, we prefer to cast blame, shake our fingers and attribute poverty and its correlated effects to those whose life circumstance reflect their own ‘laziness’.
So, this course is not designed to cast blame or facilitate any additional tension or divisiveness. It is the start of productive conversation, dialogue and facilitate an awareness among the next genertion of leaders who will shape policies, influence and challenge the ‘group think’ that perpetuates apathy and historic ‘Amnesia’. It is not possible to understand the reality of today or plan for brighter tomorrows, if we do not know who or where we were yesterday. Learners, equipped with the knowledge and awareness to create a more united nation, this course represents a cure for amnesia.