Are You ‘White Like Me’? An Exploration of White Studies

June 28, 2013  |  


Imagine if you were a college freshman and had to decide what you will study for your undergraduate degree. While others may choose Biology, English or Sociology, you have decided to take a chance and be a little controversial. Your choice will be White Studies.

In reality, no university has a Whiteness Studies undergraduate program. Though few have catered to create classes for interested students in the interdisciplinary field; CNN in America reports:

“American University in Washington, D.C., and University of Texas at Arlington, has a smattering of courses on the interdisciplinary subject of whiteness studies. The field argues that white privilege still exists, thanks largely to structural and institutional racism, and that the playing field isn’t level, and whites benefit from it. Using examples such as how white Americans tend not to be pulled over by the police as often as blacks and Latinos, or how lenders targeted blacks and Latinos for more expensive, subprime loans during the recent U.S. housing crisis, educators teach how people of different races and ethnicities often live very different lives.”

After reading the description of what White Studies entail, we may think to ourselves, “Tell me something, I do not already know”. Well actually, the creation of the discipline began through African-American discourse. To name a few, W.E.B Du Bois, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison helped unearth the need to understand white supremacy and the White race better, internationally. According to Du Bois’ The Souls Of White Folk:

“The discovery of personal whiteness among the world’s peoples is a very modern thing,—a nineteenth and twentieth century matter, indeed. The ancient world would have laughed at such a distinction. This assumption that of all the hues of God whiteness alone is inherently and obviously better than brownness or tan leads to curious acts; “But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?”

No one can deny how Whiteness has become a driving force in how other races operate, socially; code-switching linguistically and through dress can be linked to Whiteness. Although this is the case, can we answer why Whiteness is so highly regarded in American Society? Especially since the White race is becoming the new minority in the twenty-first century.

The Christian Science Monitor states via the latest census report:

“Hispanics – who are defined as an ethnicity, not a race, in the census – hold the key to the nation’s demographic identity. If large numbers of them identify themselves as white, then white society will predominate in the US (albeit with a Latino flavor) for decades to come. If Hispanics forge a separate identity, then somewhere around mid-century, the non-Hispanic white population will fall into minority status and the nation could enter a new era defined by a multicultural center.”

With celebrities creating multiracial families, Barack Obama in his second term of Presidency and the Trayvon Martin case in full swing, at often times it is overheard, we live in a post-racial society. We long for other reasoning than race to help us, raise children, navigate politics or solve a case. Though Tim Wise, an anti-racism scholar does not believe so.

Wise has written several books and orated at over 600 universities on the effects of Whiteness. His new documentary (based on his memoir), White Like Me, ignites the conversation Americans needed to have centuries ago.  Tim Wise had a goal of  $30,000 to help with the documentary’s production but thanks to KickStarter he was able to receive  $41,000 so audiences across the nation can view the film. On the KickStarter site for White Like Me,Wise stated:

“Our failure as a society to properly acknowledge and confront the psychological, social, and political effects of white privilege has perpetuated racial inequality and race-based political resentments.”

Do you agree with him?

Check out  a clip of White Like Me from Tim Wise’s site below. The documentary will be released Fall 2013.




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