A Missouri university was planning to offer a program on campus for white students only to enlighten them about their white privilege.
Several colleges have already offered similar courses to educate whites about their unconscious racial bias at a time when some of the most egregious instance recorded on video have become fodder on social media.
Webster University was looking at the possibility of offering “Witnessing Whiteness,” in the fall semester, the Journal, Webster’s campus newspaper, reported Wednesday. The new program would encourage white students to discuss and come to terms with their own racism and white privilege.
Webster University’s new Chief Diversity Officer Vincent C. Flewellen, who is African-American, is behind the plan to bring the program to the university. He previously organized a Witnessing Whiteness program at Washington University in St. Louis where he served as director of equity and inclusion.
Flewellen said the sessions are unlikely to automatically eliminate unconscious racial bias, which requires a process, he told NBCNews in December about the program that a St. Louis-area YWCA implemented. He hoped it would at least cause white people to hesitate before calling the police on Black people “just because they’re gathering in a park.”
In recent years, a variety of attempts to teach white people about their racial privilege have seemingly popped up at several colleges.
Some schools, including the University of Oregon and the University of Vermont, experimented with “white identity retreats” that offered forums in 2016 for white students, faculty and staff to talk about white privilege.
Florida Gulf Coast University sociology professor Ted Thornhill, who is Black, sparked controversy with his “White Racism” course. The police were reportedly on standby when he began teaching the curriculum in January 2018.
Unlike Webster’s program, Thornhill’s course was open to students of all political and ideological persuasions. There was a waitlist for students who were not able to get into his first class.
Mary Ferguson, a former adjunct professor in multicultural studies, now teaches the Witnessing Whiteness program at the YWCA. She defended the idea that the program should include only white people.
“White people would not be as forthcoming if they were in a mixed group,” Ferguson said. “They would not do as deep a learning because they would be afraid of being called racist and offending someone.”