Whiteness Studies began as a small fringe movement in the academic world in 1995. By 2003, according to the Washington Post, “at least 30 institutions -- from Princeton University to the University of California at Los Angeles” -- were teaching courses in the subject. As David Horowitz has observed, Whiteness Studies is different in kind from other ethnocentric disciplines: “Black Studies celebrates blackness, Chicano Studies celebrates Chicanos, Women’s Studies celebrates women, and White[ness] Studies attacks white people as evil.”
According to professors and students of Whiteness Studies, all white people are by definition oppressors. English professor Gregory Jay, who also directs the Culture and Communities program at the University of Wisconsin, puts it this way: “‘Whiteness’ is that special property unique to ‘white people,’ the sum total of the supposed characteristics, traits, or essential qualities [sic] of ‘white people.’” It “is a term,” he adds, “derived from the historical practice of white supremacy.” According to Jay, the purpose of Whiteness Studies is “to make visible the history and practices of white supremacy as found in social life, the law, literature, music, politics, and every other realm of our ‘civilization.’”
Echoing the Nation of Islam’s white-man-is-the-devil cosmology, the Whiteness Studies worldview holds that if a person is white, his or her evil nature can at best be mitigated, but never expunged. The goal of Whiteness Studies enthusiasts is to make race-consciousness a permanent part of American life for white people. But “whiteness,” as they define it, is not a race or an ethnicity per se, but a mental state allegedly focused on tyrannizing nonwhites -- often unwittingly. Unlike other mental states, however, whiteness is inescapable for the person whose mind is bound by it, regardless of how much one flagellates himself and embraces white guilt.
For Whiteness Studies literati, America’s foundations, its ideals, and its institutions are all tainted by the scourge of whiteness, and as such are irreparably damaged. True to its Marxist underpinnings, Whiteness Studies ultimately advocates revolution -- the overthrow or destruction of “whiteness” and the entire wicked society that contains it.
The Center for the Study of White American Culture (CSWAC) is a think tank that seeks to promote Whiteness Studies as an academic discipline, and "to build an equitable society in the United States by decentering white culture and centering an anti-racist multiracial culture free of white supremacy." The discipline of Whiteness Studies also has its own journal -- Race Traitor, whose motto is: “Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” Central to the publication's worldview is this: “The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in U.S. society.”
“There is plenty to blame whiteness for,” says CSWAC co-founder and executive director Jeff Hitchcock, who himself is white. “There is no crime that whiteness has not committed against people of color. There is no crime that we have not committed even against ourselves. … We must blame whiteness for the continuing patterns today that deny the rights of those outside of whiteness and which damage and pervert the humanity of those of us within it.”
Hitchcock further contends that any nonwhite who chooses to pursue traditional avenues to academic, economic, or professional success in American society -- rather than to rebel against the society -- is a traitor to his or her race. “We must disrupt the historic process of assimilation,” says Hitchcock, deriding Asians and Hispanics who are “absorbed into the white community” as “honorary whites.”
In a spirit similar to that which underlies Whiteness Studies, an annual White Privilege Conference has been held every year since 2000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Typically attended by some 1,500 leftists from various walks of life, this event is "built on the premise that the U.S. was started by white people, for white people."
Adapted from "Whiteness Studies," by Chris Weinkopf (June 25, 2003).