CU-Boulder offers class on ‘Whiteness Studies’

The University of Colorado-Boulder offers a course for students who wish to explore the “consequences” of whiteness.

Offered through the Sociology department, “Whiteness Studies” is a three-credit hour class that historically has been among the department’s most popular classes. When the class was offered last Fall, for example, 52 students enrolled, and others were waitlisted. 

[RELATED: Course critiques ‘superficiality’ of ‘dominant white culture’]

Professor Amy Wilkins—who was previously assigned to teach the class—suggested that the course title is misleading during an interview with Boulder News

”It really should be called ‘Critical Whiteness Studies.’ People think it’s just some celebration of white people or something, which is not what the class is about,” she asserted, later calling whiteness a “neutral category.” 

“It’s kind of interesting being at a university that’s (majority) white and having such a radical critique of whiteness in the classroom,” remarked Josh Kirby, a student in the class who described himself as Chicano. “I really didn’t expect that coming to this school.”

[RELATED: Students earn credit for attending White Privilege Conference]

However, one student who took “Whiteness Studies” last year, Vidushi Goyal, uploaded 12 weeks of course notes to the site CourseHero. The notes appear to be summaries of readings assigned by Wilkins, but may alternatively have been taken during class. 

During the third week of class, Goyal’s notes touch on the dangers of colorblindness. 

“Colorblindness allows for white people to know that racism exists but then allows them to not have to take action on their white privilege,” Goyal writes, apparently summarizing the assigned readings for that week of class. 

“The problem with colorblind racism is that it ‘aids in the maintenance of white privilege without fanfare, without naming those who it subjects and those who it rewards,” the notes add.

Colorblindness is therefore “dangerous because it allows for ignorance,” the student writes. 

[RELATED: Prof claims Hispanic students perpetuate ‘colorblind racism’]

“Whiteness Studies” is one of many classes offered through the University of Colorado system that take a critical approach to whiteness. 

As Campus Reform previously reported, the system also offers a “Witnessing Whiteness” course that coaches students to critique the “superficiality of white culture” and explains that remarks such as “My Culture is American Culture” is problematic because the speaker may “assume that everyone in the U.S. has or should experience similar cultural traditions.” 

In May 2018, the school scrapped a similar course called “Unmasking Whiteness” after Campus Reform revealed that only white students were able to enroll. 

During the “Whiteness Studies” course, students will use the “conceptual framework of the sociology of race and ethnic relations to explore whiteness as a racial category that is centered and privileged in American society.” 

Students will also investigate “the development of whiteness from...current colorblindness, to possible future multiculturalism…[and] the consequences of whiteness as a racial identity and a social structure.” 

UPDATE: CU-Boulder News Director Julie Poppen told Campus Reform that “Whiteness Studies” is not being offered during the fall semester, saying the decision was made in May.

”Whether a course is offered has to do with various factors, such as the faculty member’s schedule, enrollment, etc.,” Poppen explained.

”The University of Colorado Boulder is committed to the principle of academic freedom, which we define as the freedom to seek and teach truth as the individual understands it, subject to the rational methods by which knowledge is established in the field,” she added. “The upper division sociology course uses the conceptual framework of the sociology of race and ethnic relations to explore whiteness as a racial category that is centered and privileged in American society, according to the course catalog. It also analyzes the consequences of whiteness as a racial identity and a social structure.

”While a course such as this may provoke a strong reaction, we remain committed to fostering an environment for civil and respectful discussions of all viewpoints and thoughtful analysis of challenging subjects.,” Poppen concluded.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen