'Whiteness' course returns to Arizona State

An English course on the “problems of whiteness” at Arizona State University that caused a national uproar after it was reported by Campus Reform will soon be returning.

ASU English professor Lee Bebout told The Arizona Republic Monday that he plans to offer the controversial “U.S. Race Theory & the Problem of Whiteness” course again in the spring semester, though with the revised title of “Whiteness and Critical Race Theory.”

The original story led to an outpouring of outrage from students and conservative commentators, many of whom argued that the course unfairly singled out an entire race, while others pointed out that a course on the problem of “blackness” would certainly never be tolerated.

Bebout, for his part, said the reaction was actually part of the reason he decided to offer the class again so soon after the last one.

“Apart from the headache outside the classroom, inside the classroom it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taught,” he said. “I originally thought to offer the class every two or three years, but once everything happened last year, I was like, ‘Obviously, it’s a class that’s needed. Let’s offer it every year’.”

Initially, Bebout said he had intended to call the course “Disrupting Whiteness,” but ultimately settled on the more innocuous-sounding “Whiteness and Critical Race Theory,” perhaps reflecting a desire to avoid a repeat of the reaction to the previous course.

“Traditionally in the U.S., or at least in academia, when we talk about race, we talk about communities of color; we talk about African-Americans or Mexican-Americans; we talk about Asians,” he explained. “This class is focused on how White people experience race and how their notions of 'racialization' or experiences of race shape other people’s experiences of race, as well.”

In addition to the name change, enrollment in the course will also be expanded from 18 to 38 students when it begins in January.

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