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Yale University teaches students ‘counternarratives around whiteness’

Course looks at ‘whiteness’ as ‘culturally constructed and economically incorporated entity’

Yale University is offering a course this semester which aims to help students understand and counteract “whiteness,” exploring such topics as “white imagination,” “white property” and “white speech.”

According to the syllabus for “Constructions of Whiteness” obtained by The College Fix, the English course is an “interdisciplinary approach to examining our understanding of whiteness.”

The class, which is apparently being offered for the first time this semester, discusses “whiteness as a culturally constructed and economically incorporated entity, which touches upon and assigns value to nearly every aspect of American life and culture.”

The goal of the class is to “create a lab for the construction of counternarratives around whiteness in any creative form: play, poem, memoir, etc.,” states the syllabus.

Taught by Professor Claudia Rankine, the class is divided into eight topics: Constructions of Whiteness, White Property, White Masculinity, White Femininity, White Speech, White Prosperity, White Spaces and White Imagination, according to the syllabus.

Students in the course are asked to read books such as Michael Kimmel’s “Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era,” Richard Dyer’s “White: Essays on Race and Culture,” and Richard Delgado’s and Jean Stefanic’s “Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror.”

Other required readings include Hazel Carby’s “White Woman, Listen!,” Juliana Spahr’s “My White Feminism” and Professor Rankine’s own work, “The White Card.”

Rankine did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The College Fix.

The Fix also reached out to the chair of the English department, Langdon Hammer, and professor of English & African American studies Jacqueline Goldsby. Neither responded.

Outside of Yale, Rankine is active in the theater community. Her play “The White Card” is being produced at Boston’s Emerson Paramount Center. The play, which centers around “a conversation at a dinner party,” focuses on the question: “Can American society progress if whiteness stays invisible?”

Classes like “Constructions of Whiteness” are not unique to Yale. A controversial course titled “The Problem of Whiteness” is currently offered this semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Meanwhile, Stanford University offered a class in the fall called “White Identity Politics,” during which students discuss the “possibilities of…abolishing whiteness.”

At the University of Michigan last December, meanwhile, a workshop taught white employees how to address the “discomfort” of being white, instructing participants how to “recognize the difficulties they face when talking about social justice issues related to their White identity, explore this discomfort, and devise ways to work through it.”

MORE: University event highlights 14 ways ‘whiteness’ oppresses society

MORE: University teaches white employees to overcome ‘discomfort’ of being white

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About the Author
Ben Decatur is a senior at the University of Michigan, studying political science and business. Ben was an intern last summer at the National Journalism Center, a program of the Young America's Foundation. He previously served as an editor for Morning Brew, a business and technology e-newsletter. Ben is passionate about foreign policy, freedom of speech, and American politics.

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