Professor: 'As a White American, I am by definition racist'

Professor Mary Bucholtz from the University of California-Santa Barbara spoke as a guest at the virtual lecture.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral program in second language acquisition recently held a virtual lecture on “Undoing White Supremacy in the Language Disciplines.”

Bucholtz identified herself as being “racist” because she is “a White American.”

During an online lecture focused on “Undoing White Supremacy in the Language Disciplines,” a professor from the University of California-Santa Barbara introduced herself as being “a white American” who is, therefore “by definition racist.” 

The professor encouraged audience members not to let anyone tell them they differently.

The September 11 webinar was put on by the University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral program in second language acquisition. UCSB Professor and Chair of the Department of Linguistics Mary Bucholtz was invited to “discuss the white-supremacist and colonial underpinnings of linguistics, applied linguistics, and the modern languages, both historically and in the present day.”

“I am personally committed to continuing to learn how to be less racist. As a White American, I am by definition racist. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I know there is this sort of rhetoric of White people in the United States rejecting the label of racism but I think we need to acknowledge that, and do better,” Bucholtz said during the webinar.  

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Bucholtz started her presentation by describing white supremacy and its implications by saying “when I talk about the idea of white supremacy as a pandemic or as a disease, I don’t mean that as a metaphor.” However, she later says that “white supremacy is not a disease but a choice...”

The UCSB professor also took the time to discuss whether or not she thinks the word “White” should be capitalized. This comes amid the Associated Press updating its style guide to advise journalists to capitalize “Black,” but not “White.”

“I hate seeing when people capitalize ‘White..;’ it’s not the same kind of category. Also, white supremacists love capitalizing ‘White.’ So for me, it’s a political decision not to capitalize it and to recognize it as a construct that has built itself out of the racial system or at the top of the racial system by opting out of being racialized.”

She went on to say that white supremacy “is a system that White people have built in order to oppress everyone else” and that “White people are not experts on white supremacy...We are experts in acting it.”

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At the University of Californa-Santa Barbara, Bucholtz is primarily affiliated with the Department of Linguistics, but she also works with the departments of Anthropology, Feminist Studies, Spanish and Portuguese, the Comparative Literature Program, the Latin American and Iberian Studies Program, and the Gervitz Graduate School of Education. She is the author of multiple publications, including a book titled White Kids: Language, Race, and Styles of Youth Identity and a journal titled The Public Life of White Affects.

During the virtual lecture, Bucholtz pointed out that she believes “the notion of non-racism doesn’t exist. You’re either racist or anti-racist. You can’t be neutral about racism.” She continued to talk about the deficiencies that minority students experience within the language classrooms by pointing out that “Black students in the United States are underrepresented in foreign language classrooms and when they are in those classrooms, they may not get the opportunity to learn racialized varieties that are most meaningful to them.”

Toward the end of her presentation, Bucholtz provided some questions for audience members to ask themselves and discuss amongst themselves as well.

[RELATED: U Illinois admits ‘white supremacy,’ ‘white privilege’ workshop is ‘not a debate’]

Bucholtz shared a link at the end of her lecture to a Google Drive with documents and presentations on how to be “a White ally, apprentice, and accomplice” in the linguistics department.

Campus Reform reached out to Bucholtz but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @opheliejacobson