Mirror of “ACADEMIA’S RACISM-INDUSTRIAL-COMPLEX”

A college education now is all about “dismantling whiteness.”

Jack Kerwick

Some recent examples from the world of Higher Education make the point that I’ve been at pains to impress upon readers, namely that for as sprawling as is the Academic-Industrial-Complex (AIC), it is essentially a function of an even more expansive Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC).

[1] There’s Brooklyn College’s Laurie Rubel, professor of math education. According to the student journalists who run the college watchdog publication Campus Reform, Rubel wrote an article for the Journal of Urban Mathematics Education in which she contends that the concepts of “meritocracy” and “color-blindness” are both “tool(s) of whiteness.”

The problem with meritocracy, Rubel asserts, is that it “ignores systemic barriers and institutional structures that prevent opportunity and success.”

As for color-blindness, Rubel remarks: “Teachers who claim color-blindness—that is, they claim not to notice the race of their students—are, in effect, refusing to acknowledge the impact of enduring racial stratification on students and their families.”

Rubel continues: “By claiming not to notice, the teacher is saying that she is dismissing one of the most salient features of the child’s identity and that she does not account for it in her curricular planning and instruction.”

So, by aspiring to know and evaluate their students independently of their racial backgrounds, teachers promote “whiteness.”

However, Rubel also contends that if teachers notice the racial backgrounds of their students, they’re guilty of promoting “whiteness.”  For example, when teachers say of their students that they “can’t relate” to them, they note differences.  But, Rubel laments, these “differences are typically cast in terms of deficit constructions about students, their places, and their families.”

In order to walk this tightrope, Rubel proposes that teachers include “social justice” issues into their math lessons.

Yet even when these issues have been incorporated, Rubel warns that “teaching for social justice” can be used as “a tool of whiteness” as long as teachers cling to the “belief that effort is always rewarded,” a belief, like the beliefs in meritocracy and color-blindness, that coincides with “various tools of whiteness[.]”

It must be observed that Rubel’s view is commonplace in the contemporary academy.  Nor is it rare in her specific field, for just a couple of months ago, another mathematics education professor, Rochelle Gutierrez, argued essentially the same exact point.  Only Gutierrez insisted that mathematics promoted “whiteness.”

And these are some of the titles featured in the most recent edition of Journal of Urban Mathematics Education:

“Beyond White Privilege: Toward White Supremacy and Settler Colonialism in Mathematics Education”;

“‘It’s Influence Taints All’: Urban Mathematics Teachers Resisting Performativity [concern with grades] through Engagements with the Past”;

“Equity-Directed Instructional Practices: Beyond the Dominant Perspective”;

“Math is More Than Numbers: Examining Beginning Bilingual Teachers’ Mathematics Teaching Practices and Their Opportunities to Learn”;

There is also included a book review with the title, “Viewing ‘Others’ as Mathematicians.”  The book reviewed is called, Inventing the Mathematician: Gender, Race, and Our Cultural Understanding of Mathematics.

[2] Over at the University of Iowa, Professors C. Kyle Rudick and Kathryn B. Golsan maintain in an academic paper that inasmuch as teachers aspire to insure civility in their classrooms, they “reproduce white racial power.”

The alleged problem with what Rudick and Golsan refer to as “whiteness-informed civility” is that it “functions to assert control of space” and “create a good white identity.”

In other words, “civility within higher education is a racialized, rather than universal, norm.”

Rudick and Golsan interviewed ten white college students and asked them the following two questions: “What do you consider to be civil behavior?” and “How do you think your racial identity may affect your understandings of civility when talking with students of color?”

As should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying any attention to today’s academia, these students were damned if they did, damned if they didn’t.

“First, participants stated that they tried to avoid talking about race or racism with students of color to minimize the chance that they would say something ‘wrong’ and be labeled a racist.” Yet they also “described how they tried to be civil when interacting with students of color” by trying “to be overly nice or polite.”

Either way, these white students, the researchers conclude, sustain “white privilege” and “white racial power.”

Color-blindness, treating everyone the same regardless of race, is a “race-evasive” approach that “functions to erase racial identity in the attempt to impose a race-evasive frame on race-talk.”

It is imperative for teachers to end this situation “by ensuring that White students and students of color engage in sustained, sensitive, and substantive conversations about race and racism.”  Faculty must “encourage White students to understand how using WIC [White Informed Civility] to downplay issues of race or racism in higher education serves to elide their own social location and reinforce the hegemony of White institutional presence.”

[3] Another University of Iowa education professor, Jodi Linley, wrote in a journal essay that her goal in the classroom is to “dismantle whiteness in my curriculum, assignments, and pedagogy.”

“For white students,” Linley says, “talking about race with an all-white group of peers facilitates their realization that they are raced beings, thus revealing their own white ignorance.”

Linley tells us that her “teaching paradigm” is informed by her “identities” as a white person, yes, but also as “a queer, able-bodied, cisgender woman.”

Professor Linley committed a few years back to “develop courses that both unveiled and rejected” the notion that “neutrality and objectivity are realistic and attainable.”  The problem with supposing that curricula can be neutral is that such a supposition facilitates “hegemonic racism, sexism, classism, ableism, cisgenderism, and heterosexism.”

Linley “challenges” her students’ “privilege” and engages in what she calls “interrupting oppression” in her classroom. She also practices racial segregation. The latter, according to Campus Reform’s report on Professor Linleysupposedly contributes to fruitful exchanges between students on the role of “privilege” in their lives.

Unless they reckon with their “white privilege,” Linley wants for her students to know, they will be “complicit” in the spread and strengthening of “white supremacy.”

As these three illustrations—drops in an endless ocean of episodes to which I could have easily alluded—prove, the Academic-Industrial-Complex is an agent of the Racism-Industrial-Complex. And these examples prove this by showing not just that college curricula have been taken over by racial politics, but by showing that the discourse has been rigged from the outset to convict whites and white men specifically of “racism,” irrespectively of how they conduct themselves.

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