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Courses involving “Critical Whiteness Studies,” an offshoot of Critical Race Theory, will be available to students at several colleges across the country during the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.
The University of New Mexico’s Department of English Language and Literature will host a “Critical Whiteness Studies” course in Fall 2023, where students “will learn about whiteness as an ideology of supremacy and domination.”
“Our goal in this course is to learn how to identify and challenge whiteness as part of an antiracist practice,” the course description says.
A course titled “Problematizing Whiteness: Educating for Racial Justice” at the University of Colorado, Denver, asserts that “Critical Whiteness Studies provides a deeper analysis of race that accounts for both sides … the plight of people of color and how white people are complicit.
The University of Oregon also hosts a class titled “Critical Whiteness Studies,” which “explores the social construction of race by investigating and historicizing ‘whiteness’ as a racial category in the U.S.” The University of Oregon also hosts courses on “Environmental Racism” and “Feminist Theories of Race.”
One course at the University of San Francisco’s School of Education, called “Whiteness, Power and Privilege,” will explore “racialization and racism through the lens of Critical Whiteness Studies.” It also offers an “examination of whiteness as the driving force behind … oppression.”
The University of Puget Sound hosted a course on “Critical Whiteness Studies” through the English Department in the 2022-2023 school year. The course “engages with ‘whiteness’ as a category of identification in order to develop a theoretically informed understanding of the history, function, and effects of racial encoding within literature.”
A now-deleted course listing from the University of Wisconsin Madison’s African Cultural Studies, which is archived here, was titled “The Problem of Whiteness.” The course description explained that “Critical Whiteness Studies aims to understand how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced in order to help dismantle white supremacy.”
It added “Our class will break away from the standard US-centric frame, and consider how whiteness is constructed globally.” The course also discussed how white people “consciously and unconsciously perpetuate institutional racism.”
Johnathan Butcher, a Will Skillman Senior Research Fellow in Education Policy for the Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Wire that “Any ‘critical studies’ are applications or extensions of critical theory, the neo-Marxist worldview developed by Max Horkheimer and the Frankfurt School in the 1930s.”
While Butcher said that there is “little to distinguish” Critical Race Theory from “Critical Whiteness Studies,” he contended that “the ‘whiteness’ studies claim that whiteness is ‘an ideology of supremacy’ and not just a skin color,” a claim that regurgitates “the same concepts from critical race theory, in a very pointed fashion.”
“The theories — critical legal theory, race theory, queer theory, etc.—are based on the idea that the world can only be explained in terms of power struggles between different identity groups and any existing laws or customs were designed by white individuals to maintain their power,” he went on to explain.
Butcher, who authored a book on Critical Race Theory, also added that these theories “reject the idea of equality under the law and individual responsibility,” instead positing that “identity groups are victims of structural oppression caused by (white) ruling authorities.”
The courses come amidst a sustained effort to embed Critical Race Theory in both K-12 education and higher education.
Hobart and Williams College’s “Perspectives on Ballet” class will focus on the overlap of race and dance. The course will examine “the ways in which ballet represents a Eurocentric perspective on dance, and how the history of ballet has centered whiteness.”
The description goes on to allege that “Ballet … has developed in connection with dominant social, artistic, and political belief systems, many of which contain racist, sexist, ableist, and discriminatory ideologies.”
A social work course at the University of Louisville called “Historical and Contemporary Abolitionism and Anti-Racism” boasted that students will learn “strategies for engaging in anti-racism and de-centering Whiteness including re-education about the history of race and racism.”
The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology offers an Anti-Racism Certificate, which includes classes based on the tenets of Critical Race Theory. Courses include “Anti-racist, Culturally Responsive Education,” “Multicultural and Social Justice Issues in Counseling,” “Critical Race Theory in Education,” and “Exploring Whiteness,” among others.
There’s also a “Black Queer Studies” course at the University of Maryland that seeks to “center Blackness to meditate upon the overlapping and interwoven categories of race, gender, and sexuality with the goal of decoupling whiteness from LGBTQ+ studies and decoupling heterosexuality from Black studies.”