Whiteness studies?

The Washington Post has an interesting article on a growing trend (about thirty campuses in the US right now) to offer so-called Whiteness Studies courses in colleges.

The idea has raised quite a bit of controversy on some campuses, due to the nature of the subject matter and the way in which it is portrayed.

Whiteness Studies is an attempt to look at "whiteness", its origin and effect on western society and, in particular, the United States.

The topics tend to be centered around the way that whites interact with people of other races, the way that the white "race" is defined, and what it race means.

Conservatives, such as David Horowitz, complain that there is a problem with the way the course are taught. He remarks that "Black studies celebrates blackness, Chicano studies celebrates Chicanos, women's studies celebrates women, and white studies attacks white people as evil."

Yet others complain that it is liberal "white guilt" that has created the "white bashing" courses.

Having not read any of the literature nor attended any of the courses, I can't give an informed opinion, but some of the examples raised in this article, and other sites I've found on the net, such as the Center for the Study of White American Culture, I find the topic interesting.

Much of the purpose of the studies seems aimed at reminding white people that they are privileged and trying to look at the origins and mechanisms of propagation of that privilege. From this standpoint, it certainly sounds like an appropriate area for study.

However, I think there is some reasonable concern as to the specific implementation of these studies and what remedies, if any, are proposed by the discussions.It is important to realize the societal problems and to work to alleviate them, but it is also important to do so without causing a backlash from those people who are most in need of change.

These study programs are creating quite a debate between the right and left wings, hopefully there is some room in the middle for a concerted effort to address privilege based on anything other than merit or basic participation in the society.