TUCSON, Ariz. – A new Arizona State University English class is sparking controversy because some believe it’s racist against white people, and blames them for the country’s race problems.
The class – U.S. Race Theory & the Problem of Whiteness – was criticized during a recent “Fox & Friends” show by ASU student Lauren Clark, who believes required readings like Jane Hill’s “The Everyday Language of White Racism” “have a disturbing trend, and that’s pointing to white people as the root cause of social injustices for this country,” The State Press reports.
Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck also described the English class as “quite unfair, and wrong and pointed,” AZ Central reports.
“Clearly we have a lot of work to go as a society in terms of racial tensions, but having a class that suggests an entire race is the problem is inappropriate, wrong and quite frankly, counterproductive,” Hill said on “Fox & Friends.”
ASU issued a statement that contends the course, taught by white assistant professor Lee Bebout, “uses literature and rhetoric to look at how stories shape people’s understandings and experiences of race. It encourages students to examine how people talk about – or avoid talking about – race in the contemporary United States,” AZ Central reports.
“This is an interdisciplinary course, so students will draw on history, literature, speeches and cultural changes – from scholarly texts to humor. The class is designed to empower students to confront the difficult and often thorny issues that surround us today and reach thoughtful conclusions rather than display gut reactions,” the statement read.
Bebout declined interviews last week because of “the vitriolic hate-mail that I have received,” he told AZ Central in an email.
Other educators, however, have been quick to support the course.
“The title of this class is provocative because people are saying ‘Problem? There is no problem. We have a black president.’ But the reality is that there’s this long and rich sociological – not only history – but contemporary study of racial inequality,” La Salle University sociology professor Charles Gallagher told the State Press.
“(Most whites) believe they’re color blind now. Most whites align with this idea of ‘I’m not racist. I voted for Barack Obama. I have a black friend. I like black music.’ A lot of whites have convinced themselves that they are no longer racist. … They don’t see themselves as a problem,” he said.
Texas A&M sociology professor Joe Feagin has written dozens of books on white racism. He told the State Press there’s a long history of higher education courses focused on the issue.
“Our history is rooted in white supremacy. Eighty-three percent (of history) was ruled by slavery and Jim Crow. We’ve only theoretically been a free country since 1969, when the Civil Rights Act went into effect,” he said.
University of Connecticut sociology professor Noel Cazenave added that most sociology courses focus too heavily on minorities as the problem, while “a course on white racism … locates people of Eropean-American descent at the center of America’s race problem.”