Racism is perhaps one of the most important and prevalent issues in the Unites States, though people are still hesitant to address the sensitive matter. If anything, a recent series of incidents at Arizona State University proves how callous the general society can be towards the problem.
The university has come under fire for offering a course on “U.S. Race Theory and Problems of Whiteness.” The class offers insight on the history of racism in the country and discusses the perception of white culture in relation to the existing issue of race-relations.
Rationally, there is nothing wrong with teaching students about racism, the university and course coordinator assistant professor Lee Bebout are facing severe backlash.
It all began with Fox News targeting the course on live television few weeks ago where a news correspondent called it “quite unfair, and wrong and pointed.” Soon after, white supremacists and conservatives began sending hate filled e-mail and threats to the teacher.
The local police claim that National Youth Front – a youth organization dedicated to the preservation of all White people – also distributed fliers reading, “Arizona State University is anti-white” on the campus and in Bebout's neighborhood. Another set of fliers featured the professor’s face with “Anti-White” printed on it. Ironically, Lee Bebout is Caucasian.
“The class 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,” said Arizona State University in a statement, adding, “A university is an academic environment where we discuss and debate a wide array of viewpoints.”
Bebout has also received some positive feedback from general public and his colleagues, who praised him for his efforts. They believe that this type of reaction comes with the territory of teaching controversial subject matter.
“Precisely the reason there is such a backlash is exactly the reason why (such classes) should exist,” explained Nolan Cabrera, an assistant professor at the university whose research focuses on race and racism in higher education. “The time it will be unnecessary is when it ceases to be controversial.”
The course began in mid-January and has 18 students enrolled.