College Offers 'Problem of Whiteness' Course

By Julissa Catalan

For students and faculty at Arizona State University, the Spring semester is kicking off with a bit of controversy—because the school is offering an English course called “U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness.”

The course—which is being taught by white Assistant Professor Lee Bebout—has 18 students currently enrolled and is set to begin Jan. 12.

Five books are listed as required reading: Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Richard Delgado, Everyday Language of White Racism by Jane Hill, Alchemy of Race & Rights by Patricia Williams, and The Possessive Investment in Whiteness by George Lipsitz.

Following the backlash, the university released this statement about the class:

“This course uses literature and rhetoric to look at how stories shape people’s understandings and experiences of race. It encourages students to examine how people talk about—or avoid talking about—race in the contemporary United States. This is an interdisciplinary course, so students will draw on history, literature, speeches and cultural changes—from scholarly texts to humor. The class is designed to empower students to confront the difficult and often thorny issues that surround us today and reach thoughtful conclusions rather than display gut reactions. A university is an academic environment where we discuss and debate a wide array of viewpoints.”

ASU drew even more attention when FOX & Friends ran a segment titled “Trouble With Schools” in which co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck called the class “quite unfair, and wrong, and pointed.”

Hasselbeck interviewed ASU student Lauren Clark, who said, “All of these books have a disturbing trend and that’s pointing to white people as a root cause of social injustices for this country.” Clark added that this type of race-focused course “causes more problems than solutions.”

Hasselback then posed the question: “If the course were called ‘The Problem of Blackness,’ would ASU still offer it”

Probably not, Clark said.

Watch the FOX segment here:

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