In the upcoming winter quarter, Dr. Rebecca Journey planned to teach a course called “The Problem of Whiteness.” Unfortunately for her, undergraduate sophomore Daniel Schmidt posted about the class on Twitter, contending that it is racist against whites.
In his post, Schmidt included a snapshot of the course description, which blames whites for “the consolidation of wealth and property and the distribution of environmental health hazards.” His post went viral and made national news, catching the attention of the National Review, Inside Higher Education, and the Chicago Tribune.
Schmidt also added Dr. Journey’s public email to his post, leading to her receiving over eighty hostile messages (including threats). True to form, UChicago administrators released a statement highlighting their commitment to academic freedom and their willingness to let her teach freely.
Dr. Journey chose to postpone the course to spring quarter anyway, allegedly to give the University time to develop a “safety plan.” She also criticized Schmidt for his “malicious attack not just on my as a teacher but on anti-racist pedagogy writ large,” adding that she would “not let the cyberterrorists win.”
Fair enough. Nobody should be doxxed out of teaching a class. However, “The Problem of Whiteness” is still racist and nonsensical.
Its course description reads like a progressive fever dream. It details the mystical power of whiteness: a “pigment of the imagination with worldmaking (and razing) effects.” Whiteness is a stealth monster, the only “‘unmarked’ racial category.” Yet it still touches everything as the “default surround against which non-white or ‘not quite’ others appear as aberrant.”
It’s as if whiteness is the original sin. The pale are guilty, if not by transgression than by association, by the sins of their ancestors. We are fallen because we are white.
Part and Parcel of a Bigger Problem
“The Problem of Whiteness” is one instance of a general trend: college humanities departments becoming religiously woke. Fifty years ago, history departments did history and English departments did English; today, both disciplines muddle their missions by indulging in half-baked progressive politics.
In 2020, the UChicago English Department only accepted graduate students interested in black studies, supposedly to aid “the struggle of Black and Indigenous people”—as if aiding the black struggle were somehow key to teaching and researching English. In the one history class that I took as an undergraduate, race and gender filled more than fifty percent of class time.
Modern society needs the humanities. Humanities scholars focus on humans in a chaotic, technological, science-obsessed world.
That said, humanities departments would do well to remember their worth and stop diluting their core focus with woke distractions.
* The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.