The Perils of ‘Whiteness Studies’
Researching the evil white mind.
Paul R. Croll, Douglas Hartmann, Joseph Gerteis, Putting Whiteness Theory to the Test: An Empirical Assessment of Core Theoretical Propositions, Dept. of Sociology, University of Minnesota, 2006, 52 pp.
Critical whiteness studies, or just plain whiteness studies, is a new academic specialty that is supposed to advance the study of American “racism.” The main idea is that there has been enough research on the bad things whites have done to and thought about non-whites, but the question of what whites think about themselves has been neglected.
Whites, goes the argument, have had the unfair advantage of thinking of themselves as normal, or without race. Blacks, and now Hispanics, have to contend with being “other,” or different from the majority. Racial equality and harmony will come only when whites confront their own whiteness, and begin to struggle with race as manfully as everyone else.
The point of the struggle is to recognize and root out “white privilege,” which is the central problem of race relations today. Many whites don’t even believe there is such a thing, which makes it particularly hard to root out. Whiteness studies tells us that even whites who sincerely believe they are “non-racist” or “race-blind” are in fact reaping huge benefits from “white skin privilege,” because every aspect of American society is geared to funneling them to the top and everyone else to the bottom. Whites may think they deserve their rewards because of brains or hard work but this is a delusion. What really matters is white privilege.
The gurus of whiteness studies are vague about how white privilege actually gives us better grades and lower crime rates. They tell us we have the advantage of seeing people who look like us in positions of power, and that we can buy Band Aids that are more or less the color of our own skin. They tell us policemen can look at us without automatically assuming we are crooks. It is none too clear how this translates into high SAT scores, but they assure us it does. It seems to have something to do with simply having non-whites around. Their mere presence generates the “white privilege” on which we have grown fat.
This theory has painful flaws. Why, for example, in a world of “white skin privilege” do Asians do better in school, have lower crime rates, and earn more than whites? At the same time, how did white countries that until recently had no non-whites to kick around manage to get rich without “white skin privilege?” The theory suggests that the people of Iceland would benefit tremendously from a stiff dose of Africans or Hmong.
There is also the question of degree: as the United States goes increasingly non-white, do we enjoy more or less “white skin privilege?” Will the last white man in America be the most privileged man in history or are there diminishing returns? Would just a handful of non-whites do the job for us?
Clearly, “whiteness studies” is another example of the idiotic things people profess to believe when they deliberately close their eyes to racial differences. Perhaps it was inevitable that when huge group differences in achievement persisted despite a ruthless and largely victorious war on “racism,” goofy white people would come up with goofy new explanations for why there are so many black drug addicts and so few black CEOs. Old favorites like segregation, Jim Crow, and lynching no longer sufficed. There had to be more up-to-date ways to blame the white man, and that is how we got mumbo-jumbo like “institutional racism,” “unconscious racism,” and now, “white skin privilege.”
To their credit, however, the “whiteness” experts have begun to realize that what they are doing is pure speculation. The field has no facts, no empirical studies, no falsifiable hypotheses. Into this breach have stepped Paul R. Croll, Douglas Hartmann, and Joseph Gerteis, all firm believers in “white skin privilege,” and all in the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota.
In 2003, they conducted a telephone survey on a nationally representative sample of whites, blacks, and Hispanics, to try to confirm their theories, namely, that whites have no consciousness of race whereas non-whites do, and that whites are unconscious of “white-skin privilege” whereas non-whites see it clearly. The results, published in a recently-released paper called “Putting Whiteness Theory to the Test: An Empirical Assessment of Core Theoretical Propositions,” were not entirely what the authors expected.
The most interesting findings are in the following three tables. In the first table below, It is encouraging to the rest of us — and dismaying to the “whiteness” experts — that no fewer than 74 percent of whites say racial identity is “very important” or “somewhat important” to them. The figures for non-whites are higher, of course, but it is remarkable that so many whites actually opened their mouths and told a pollster race is important to them.
|Importance of Racial Identity — Current|
|Not very important||17%||5%|
|Not important at all||9%||5%|
|Importance of Racial Identity Growing up|
|Not very important||31%||13%|
|Not important at all||17%||11%|
|Feel own racial group has a culture that should be preserved?|
|Involved in any organization based on racial or ethnic identity?|
The second set of answers on this page shows that race becomes more important as whites (and non-whites) grow older. The everybody’s-beautiful propaganda works on children but not adults. And what are we to make of the fact that 77 percent of whites told a pollster they thought whites have a culture worth preserving?! Let us hope they get to work and start preserving it.
|Which factors are Important or Very Important in explaining white advantage and African-American disadvantage?||White Advantage||African-American Disadvantage|
|Prejudice and discrimination||62%||79%||66%||75%||88%||79%|
|Laws and institutions||46%||81%||54%||38%||68%||45%|
|Access to schools and social connections||83%||91%||85%||82%||88%||83%|
|Effort and hard work||89%||81%||87%||62%||77%||66%|
|Differences in family upbringing||79%||75%||78%||83%||88%||84%|
It is in the next set of answers, above, that whites show the effects of liberal brainwashing, with substantial percentages agreeing that “prejudice and discrimination” and “laws and institutions” account for their own successes. However, “effort and hard work,” get the most white votes, and even 81 percent of non-whites think that is an important reason for white success.
When it comes to black failure, non-whites are more realistic than whites, with 77 percent agreeing that backs don’t try hard enough, and 88 percent saying they don’t rear their children right. This sort of thing is deeply painful to the “whiteness” experts.
|Factors that may have helped you to get ahead in life||Whites||Non-Whites|
|Favoritism held back||5%||17%|
|Hard work and effort helped||93%||90%|
|Hard work and effort held back||1%||3%|
|Upbringing held back||3%||4%|
|Access to resources like schools and social connections helped||73%||76%|
|Access to resources like schools and social connections held back||4%||8%|
Finally, in the last table we see that nearly a quarter of non-whites say racial favoritism helped them get ahead, whereas only 17 percent of whites say so. Whites say hard work was what mattered most and, to the surprise of the “whiteness” gurus, so do the non-whites. The authors mumble something about how remarkable it is that everyone seems to have pretty much the same view of “the American dream,” but they seem to want their pets to think American society is so drenched in racism that hard work hardly matters.
This paper’s findings are so far removed from what the authors expected that they concede, “it would be easy to take these results to suggest that whiteness theory needs to be severely qualified and reworked, if not abandoned altogether.” Needless to say, they quickly recover form this spasm of clarity, and promise to carry on, as moon-calf egalitarians always do, in spite of the facts. Let us hope they continue to blunder onto data the rest of us find useful.
The full report can be requested from Nina Shepherd at Media and Public Relations, 10 Church St. S.E., 300 Bell Museum, University Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455 or by e-mailing Miss Shepherd at firstname.lastname@example.org.