Jul 20

UWM prof advocates ‘abolition of whiteness’:

  • A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is calling for the complete “abolition of whiteness,” saying only then will America see an end to racism.
  • Professor Gregory Jay also suggests that Black History Month and MLK Day “ghettoize the question of race,” and that novels like To Kill A Mockingbird serve only to assuage white guilt.

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is calling for the complete “abolition of whiteness,” saying only then will America see an end to racism.

Professor Gregory Jay’s personal website is devoted almost entirely to questions of whiteness and racism, with some whole essays on topics of “whiteness studies” addressing questions like “who invented white people?”

“Studying whiteness means studying institutional and cultural racism, especially…practices that create ‘white privilege.’”   

In one instance, when discussing a popular allegory from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Jay expounds on a quotation about the “whiteness of the whale.”

“The great white whale of racism is a white invention,” he suggests. “It was white people who invented the idea of race in the first place, and it is white people who have become obsessed and consumed by it until, like Captain Ahab, they have become entangled so deeply in pursuing its nature that they self-destruct in the process.”

[RELATED: Portland Community College devotes entire month to ‘whiteness shaming’

Then, Jay puts forth the total “abolition of whiteness” as the proper solution to racism, saying “racism will end” only “when the white whale that has been the source of so many delusions is finally left to disappear beneath the sea of time forever.”

Indeed, in another of his personal blog posts, Jay accuses whites of “self deception” and “complacency,” saying their ignorance of race “has been a historical constant.”

He then, of course, cites some statistics about white people’s attitudes towards police officers, saying “even in the last decade, almost two-thirds of white Americans have said that blacks are treated fairly by the police.”

Further, white people’s belief that “black children have the same chance as white kids of getting a good education” is more proof of their racism, concluding that “in short, the history of white American’s attitudes toward race has always been one of self-deception.”

[RELATED: Seattle U. students curriculum that ‘decentralizes whiteness’]

In another essay, Jay switches the discussion to some popular celebrations of African Americans in America, such as MLK Day and Black History Month. Jay, though, thinks these holidays “once more ghettoize the question of race.”

While Campus Reform’s attempt to contact Jay about the meaning of such an argument went unanswered, it seems that he’s suggesting that special celebrations of a race only serve its further marginalization.

Additionally, Jay has some suggested teaching materials on his website, including a “Teaching about Whiteness” handout.

“Studying whiteness means studying institutional and cultural racism, especially racializing practices that create ‘white privilege,’” the handout asserts. “Since white privilege is systemic and not personal, this approach can combat the tendency to get stuck in the ‘white guilt’ syndrome (which involves both confessions and denials).”

Jay argues that the “normality” of whiteness has directly resulted in racism, saying that since whiteness “operates as the invisible regime of normality” then “making whiteness visible is a principle goal of anti-racist pedagogy.”

[RELATED: Portland state course aims to ‘make whiteness strange’]

He then links whiteness to the distribution of power and wealth, and explains that the history of whiteness “reminds us to think of ‘race’ as a verb, not a noun.”

So, in a suggested exercise, he advises professors to have students list ten activities that they engage in on a regular basis but then think about how things might change if they “woke up one day to find that their ‘race’ had changed to [fill in the blank].”

“How long can one watch television or read a newspaper or magazine without encountering anything but white people, or mostly white people?” another exercise asks.

He also advises his colleagues to have students “debate whether or not schools should offer courses with names such as ‘Major White American Authors’ or ‘The White Tradition in American Literature.’”

Finally, he questions whether what he calls “white centered ‘liberal’ books on race,” such as classics like To Kill A Mockingbird and Huckleberry Finn, are really just intended to make white people “feel good about themselves.”

As if his own work on the topic weren’t enough, Jay also links to some articles written by his esteemed colleagues in the field, one of whom proffers that “white trash” is racist because it “indirectly states that just plain ‘Trash.” [sic] is black.”

Another PowerPoint on Jay’s website seeks to provide a “short history of white supremacy” by explaining “what white people are saying” and “what white people are not saying.”

“Just because I’m white doesn’t make me a racist [sic]” and “anybody can be a racist, no matter their skin color” are apparently two statements that white people are saying.

Then, in a graph at the end of his presentation, Jay displays the median net worth of white, Hispanic, and black households, with whites earning vastly more than the other two races. The graph does not, however, say anything about the recorded net worth of other ethnicities, like Asians or Indians.

The presentation concludes that regardless of a person’s individual actions, if he or she is white then that individual still profits from “the institutional racism of the American system.”

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