Remedying Perpetual Unconsciousness
“Gosh, I never really think about the fact that I’m White, let alone what being White means to me.”
It always amazes me whenever I hear White folks make comments like this because, as an African American, I can’t imagine not being aware of my race. Perhaps I’m jaded, but the incredulity with which I listen to these claims of perpetual unconsciousness about White identity is underscored by my experiences with folks who never miss an opportunity to cash in on the currency of White skin whenever such opportunities emerge.
Nevertheless, I accept that for many White people, thinking about their racial identity is an optional intellectual activity toward which they invest very little energy. As a consequence, they operate in a social and economic reality that is antithetical to mine. It is the contradictory nature of these commingling realities that explains why, when it comes to interpreting matters in which race is a factor, White people and people of color often have divergent perspectives.
By now, you’ve probably gotten over the shock of discovering that the cover story in this edition is about the study of Whiteness. Why, you may be wondering, would a magazine devoted to covering issues that effect people of color in higher education care about Whiteness studies? The answer is simple. As devoted as Black Issues is to monitoring the status of race relations and the study of racial matters in higher education, it would be negligent of us not to report about the emerging phenomenon of Whiteness studies.
Whether or not you believe that Whiteness studies should be considered a peer discipline of African American studies, Chicano studies, and the like, this story will update you about how the fledgling field is developing and the impact it is having on other disciplines.
Personally, I welcome the emergence of Whiteness studies. As it evolves, I hope it will lead to more candor among people who don’t currently acknowledge the degree to which White supremacy, White privilege, and White American culture wreak havoc in the lives of people of color. Since White guilt seems to have run its course as a motivator, perhaps education about Whiteness will awaken those who are still in denial and compel them to accept the role they must play in expunging the illness of racism from our society.
This edition also features the inspiring comeback story of a minority-serving institution that many people had considered doomed. Contrary to the pessimists’ predictions, the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development has emerged like a Phoenix from the ashes, thanks in large measure to the determination and management savvy of its newest president, Della Warrior.
For many of you the 1998-99 academic year has ended. The rest of you are winding down. As you move into your summer rhythm, I invite you to keep Black Issues close at hand. As always, we’ll keep you posted on events that occur throughout the summer, while also bringing you our annual Top 100 degree producers reports and tips on how to prepare for the coming term. Our new four-color-glossy format should make it easier for you to tote the magazine around as you enjoy your summer adventures. Of course, I’ll warn you that keeping a copy all to yourself is only going to get harder and harder. Sorry, but making this magazine indispensable is my job.
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