Report: US Higher Education System Reinforces “White Privilege”

Glenn Ricketts

That’s evidently the conclusion of the authors of Separate and Unequal, a report by the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute. According to the Institute’s press release:

The higher education system is more and more complicit as a passive agent in the systematic reproduction of white racial privilege.

The report was the subject of admiring articles at both Inside Higher Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education see here and here),  and no critical comments appear in either one. As one comment at CHE noted caustically, the author’s intention there seemed more to “incite than inform.” But then it’s often difficult to distinguish reportage from editorializing at both sites, so no big surprise, really.

“White Privilege” of course has been a dominant academic theme for some time now, and you can’t discuss race relations or affirmative action policies in most academic venues without bumping into it. It’s a mischievously vague, catchall phrase, that covers everything, sounds profound and shoehorns complexity into a single compact formula. “Holistic” sociology, I guess you could call it.

“White Privilege” is the topic of an entire conference next spring at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  I wonder if they’ll follow suit with the UC/Boulder’s decision in April to grant 4 academic course credits to a student who registered for a similar conference there. (Look here for some thoughts from this page). Not to be outdone, the University of Wisconsin, Superior insists that it will be sticking with its “Unfair” campaign which, for participants, is literally self-effacing. (Look here, you’ll see what I mean).  It also generates lots and lots of journalistic reflections

Even so, I was encouraged by the combox discussions at both IHE and CHE, where a number of critical posters took off the gloves. I’d encourage them all to follow up and register for the nearest “White Privilege” conference. That could be interesting.

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March 23, 2011


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