Dr. Angela Putman has been an assistant professor of communications at Pennsylvania State University's Brandywine campus since June 2015. For information about her previous work experience, click here.
Putman, who earned a Ph.D. in Intercultural Communication from the University of New Mexico in 2014, reports that her doctoral dissertation “focused on educating people about systemic racism, intersectionality, and white privilege.” Arguing that racism and discrimination against nonwhites has long pervaded American culture, Putman claims that during her “long academic journey,” “a lot of self-reflection” enabled her to become aware not only of her “own whiteness as a privileged, white woman,” but also of the “white guilt” that she bore as a result of her “participation (whether explicit or implicit) in systems that are inherently racist.” Proceeding from the premise that it is “a privilege to be considered white” – and that “the label white has been used to include some and exclude others” – Putman avers that it is impossible for any white person to adequately understand the black American experience of “racial discrimination, subjugation, oppression, and persecution.”
When black riots erupted in response to false rumors claiming that a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri had maliciously shot and killed an unarmed, submissive, and compliant black teenager named Michael Brown in August 2014, Putman lamented that “many people (most of whom are white)” were using the riots as “a convenient reason” to characterize “people of color (specifically black people)” as “thugs,” “hoodlums,” “gang members,” “criminals,” “idiots,” and “a slew of other racial slurs.” “What many white people have forgotten,” Putman continued, “is that we [whites] pretty much invented rioting.” Asserting, for instance, that the Boston Tea Party “was a riot” carried out “by white people” in the 1700s, she added that whites historically “have rioted over the ratification of constitutional documents, over a scarcity of jobs between off-duty soldiers and civilians, over land seizures, over objections to grave robbing, over the use of the Bible in public schools, over anti-black sentiments and actions, over the price of food, and even over our sports teams.” In short, said Putman, “rioting has played a central role in the history of this nation.”
In March 2015, Putman suggested that the reason why many black people had “learn[ed] to fear police rather than seeing them as people who were there to protect and serve,” was because blacks grew up “constantly” seeing officers who “did not look like [them] in any way, and who came into [their] neighborhood to question, harass, frisk, yell at, and arrest” local residents. Too many black mothers, Putman added, had spent years fearing that an impulsive or trigger-happy white policeman might one day kill their children for no legitimate cause whatsoever.
“Expecting people of color to solve the race problem in this country,” says Putman, “is like expecting poor people to solve the problem of wealth disparity in this country. It is not the responsibility of the oppressed to relieve themselves from oppression—it is the responsibility of the oppressor. In this particular context, we are talking about systemic and institutional racism, and those who most benefit from this system in the United States are white people.” “You don’t have to be a blatant racist, attending KKK rallies and screaming racial epithets in the streets, to benefit from systemic racism,” Putman adds. “Every white person, regardless of intentions and actions, benefits from being born white in this country.”
Putman maintains that all whites are racist by definition, even those who “believe that if they don’t think racist thoughts, or say racist things, or commit racist actions, then they must not be racist.” Racism, she explains, is not an individual matter, but rather, “a system of subjugation and oppression that is pervasive throughout U.S. structures and institutions.” Because “whites are positioned within U.S. society in positions of higher status and authority,” Putman adds, they “have unearned privileges afforded to [them] simply for being white.” In an effort to help white people awaken to this harsh reality, Putman strongly encourages them “to show up to Black Lives Matter protests and rallies.”
In 2017, Putman produced an academic paper that laid out the results of research which she had conducted regarding “ideologies within college students’ discourse that are foundational to whiteness.” From her findings, Putman concluded that the notion of a “meritocracy” which rewards people for their effort and their skills, is nothing more than a “white ideology” that professors should seek to extinguish by teaching their students about “how racism and whiteness function in various contexts, the powerful influence of systems and institutions, and the pervasiveness of whiteness ideologies within the United States.” Once students are properly schooled in these matters, said Putman, they will be more inclined to not only “resist perpetuating and reifying whiteness through their own discourse and interactions,” but also to challenge systemic “manifestations of racism and whiteness.”
Putman regularly advances her views on racial matters via her website, whiteprivdoc.com, where she writes blogs and posts articles. She also markets her services as a trainer and consultant “in the areas of diversity, racism, white privilege, and culture.”
For additional information on Angela Putman, click here.