PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Community College’s “Whiteness History Month” is highlighting the types of controversial conversations about race that are shaping America’s next generation of leaders.
The school is hosting more than 100 planned events centered on the system of white supremacist oppression that minorities, particularly black people, are forced to endure and the conscious and unconscious “white privilege” all whites enjoy.
In a video of one event posted to YouTube, PCC history and humanities professor James Harrison delivered a lecture titled “Imagine A World Without Whiteness” in which he invokes the words of John Lennon to explain why he equates peace with abolishing “whiteness.”
“Imagine all the people living life in peace. John Lennon penned these words in 1971, and my interpretation is that he’s talking about ‘Imagine everyone living together in peace.’ That would be not necessarily a perfect world, but a good world. And how do we get to that good world is the question – a world without conflict,” Harrison said.
“And to me, my interpretation of these words, is it would be a world, for the U.S., without whiteness, in terms of the power structure,” he continued.
Progressives Today posted videos of Harrison’s lecture as part of its continuing coverage of Whiteness History Month, along with commentary of the clips.
“He went on to say that even poor white people have privilege,” the news site reports. “And even though PCC officials have been stressing that these events have nothing to do with race, … Harrison goes on to start talking about racial demographics, and says ‘whiteness is on the retreat.’”
“A lot of people cannot imagine whiteness because they don’t know it, they don’t see it, it’s invisible. But it’s there all the time, so I would like to share with you a little of my thoughts about whiteness.
“It’s a social category for one, and a social category is a group of people who share common characteristics but they may never interact with each other. But they are a social category,” he continued.
“So … white people share a whole lot of things, even if they don’t interact. And one thing that they share is whiteness, or white privilege. … A poor white person might say ‘I don’t have any privileges.’ It’s because the privilege is invisible. The privilege is that when you go into a store, someone doesn’t follow you around, literally. I’ve been followed around in stores.
“Privilege is not when you are walking and when you are close to a white woman all of a sudden she clutches her purse because the thought is you are obviously going to steal,” he continued.
“Privilege – when you go into a car dealership the person who runs out doesn’t say ‘say, you want to buy a used car?’ when you are really looking for a brand new car. Privilege is having a very low death rate for babies. That’s privilege, but it’s an invisible privilege.”
Harrison then explained the hard evidence showing that “whiteness is on the retreat.”
“It is estimated by 2040 or 2050 there will not be a white majority in terms of population. So in 2040 or 2050 … we will all be minorities in this country, and that’s frightening to some people,” he said.
The professor goes on to explain how capitalism perpetuates whiteness, and other important nuances like black people who act white, and the need to “dismantle whiteness” by taking personal action.
“It all revolves around individuals taking small steps to dismantle and demolish the whole concept” of whiteness, Harrison said. “You need to take the time to read more about whiteness, and what it does …”
Other Whiteness History Month events were held throughout the college and in local community centers, and included titles like “Stumptown: The Whitest City in America,” “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” “Honorary Whites: The Impact of Whiteness on Asian American Identity Formation and Asian American Students in Higher Education,” “The Mindful White Accomplice: How Racial Programming Hijacks the Nervous System and What to Do About It,” “It’s Not My Fault: Whites and Racism,” and others.
“The college views this project as part of a larger national conversation around race and social justice on America’s college campuses,” PCC interim President Sylbia Kelley said in a statement to Oregon Live.
The program opened with the launch of a four week class to help “white anti-racist activists to deepen understanding of whiteness and privilege and build relationships, resilience and capacity” to better serve the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the news site.