On January 25, during the University of Notre Dame’s "Walk the Walk Week," a six-member panel convened by the Meditation Program of the university’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies hosted an event called "Confronting Whiteness at Notre Dame: Power, Identity, and Exclusion."
According to the university’s independent Catholic student newspaper, The Irish Rover, the professor who moderated the event talked about forms of "violent manifestation whiteness," listing the debunked Covington Catholic School controversy as an example.
"The illusion of whiteness as related to racial categorization disguises what is actually important … namely, white is a description of both a political condition and a mechanism for the distribution of power," Professor David Anderson Hooker, a professor of the practice of conflict transformation and peacebuilding, said. "Where it has real relation to the concept of racism, the two don’t squarely overlap."
Hooker noted that the "kind of whiteness that we’re investigating isn’t that kind of repulsive, violent manifestation of whiteness" like "the kind of Richard Spencer, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, Steve King, Charlottesville, Covington Catholic School forms," reports the Irish Rover. Hooker claimed that those types are generally, "except in the aftermath of an election ... brought to a very small corner of this university campus. ... But it’s because those forms are so easily denounced that we have a tendency to overlook the forms that actually are in operation and have a way of equally damaging the environment in which we exist."
"Professor Hooker seems completely disconnected from the circumstances of peaceful non-confrontation by students of Covington Catholic High School," Ellie Gardey, the managing editor of The Irish Rover and the author of the article told The Daily Wire. "What really matters to Professor Hooker is his narrative of white oppression, regardless of the facts."
The Notre Dame College Republicans were disappointed that Professor Hooker attacked the Covington Catholic schoolboys during the event.
"Grouping the teenage Covington Catholic School boys, who were approached by a man beating a drum, together with white supremacists and political provocateurs delegitimizes the evilness of hate-mongers while ignoring the reality that Covington does not indoctrinate its students with vitriol," the College Republicans told The Daily Wire in a statement.
As the event went on, one of the panelists, Christiana Brooks, an officer of diversity and inclusion for the City of South Bend, defined whiteness as "simply the ability to be oblivious, of being demonstrably and blamelessly oblivious about responsibility of environment, the ways in which one creates, sustains or destroys it, and the people moving in and out of it at any given moment." She added, "Contrarily, non-whiteness carries the necessity of being acutely, mindfully and intentionally aware of environment, the ways it is created, sustained or destroyed and the people moving in an out of it at any given moment."
Brooks also claimed that institutions such as Notre Dame are subject to racial bias.
"Give up the lie that most existing systems and institutions are meritoriously fair," Brooks said. "And those who fail to succeed in them always do so because of some inferior identity trait, giving us permission to remain oblivious to the truth and impact of bias, conscious and unconscious: racism, discrimination and stereotypes."
Brooks also took issue with what she believes is the general population’s view of what defines an American.
"I see the melting of the word American into whiteness as though they are synonymous. ... When people say American, what they really mean is a certain segment of the American population defined by race, defined by experience, and that becomes problematic when you try to juxtapose that against the narrative that America is a melting pot, but it’s only white chocolate," she said.
Another panelist, Jefferson Ballew IV, a member of the Potawatomi Bear Clan and indigenous culture awareness and inclusion advocate, called Americans "a virus."
"Every day I am reminded of that golden dome of the blood that was spilled here from my family. ... When this institution was created," Ballew said, "it was created on the backs and the blood of my family directly. ... Americans are a virus. Human beings are sacred. We were placed here for a very special reason. It wasn’t until the onset of Christianity and Catholicism that we were told we were evil, that we were born in sin. I can sit next to the river and I can know I am as sacred as it, and it is as sacred as I."
Panelists were then reportedly asked to give an example of how they have experienced whiteness at Notre Dame.
"Walking around campus is one experience that I’ve had. I think that people of color … probably know what I’m talking about. When you walk past somebody and you can see that their gait changes, their pupils dilate, their breathing starts to get a little more erratic. You can tell that somebody has a triggered response when you’re walking past them," said Emmanuel Cannady, a Ph.D. student of sociology.
Cannady also said that Jim Crow is gone, but there are still "structures of domination" that are "deeply entrenched in ourselves; it exists in implicit biases."
"Black folks, you know what whiteness is because it is thrown in your face," Cannady said. "All day, every day, you endure it. ... We’re confronting a system of domination."
Professor Hooker did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.