In a scholarly article published in Teaching Education, Professor Cheryl Matias calls whiteness “a disease,” while suggesting new ways to teach urban students about “racism and whiteness.”
Dr. Matias is an assistant Professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. Her article, Why do you make me hate myself?: Re-Teaching Whiteness, Abuse, and Love in Urban Teacher Education, was published in Teaching Education this year.
In her article, Matias writes that teachers must address “normalized, oppressive Whiteness,” saying that a “colorblind” society cannot truly exist in the United States. “Despite silently acknowledging that race plays a role in” achievement gaps, writes Matias, “the study of race, racism, and exertions of Whiteness are rarely recognized as a substantive issue in teacher education and the teaching profession.”
Racism and whiteness are diseases that need to be addressed, she continues, writing, “We cannot even begin to address symptoms, such as the racial achievement gap, if we do not address the underlying diseases of racism and Whiteness.”
There isn’t even an argument that white supremacy exists, Matias writes, saying she won’t even bother to prove the concept during her paper.
“This article acknowledges White supremacy as an overarching system of white Western racial domination, which manifests globally,” she explains. “We are all operating under the system of white supremacy.”
Teachers must examine their own “whiteness,” Dr. Matias argues. “As the only person of color in the room,” she explains, “I am often left with the pain of being denied a racial reality. Thus, the cycle of abuse is a pyrrhic victory, one where the pain and tears of whites override my own pain.”
Indeed, she writes, “DiAngelo (2011) argued that white fragility plays an essential role in the maintenance of Whiteness and when unfettered, the consequences can be dire.”
Education has been biased in favor of “whites,” Dr. Matias goes on. “Teacher education – replete with a majority of white stakeholders who write the curricula, program frameworks, assessments, and standards – has permitted Whiteness to become a white enterprise.
“Worse yet, some white teachers and teacher educators co-opt and redeﬁne theories ﬁrst conceptualized by scholars of color who were resisting the hegemonic oppression of Whiteness,” she continues. “In using their white ocular to ﬁlter out the most radical parts of these theories to ﬁt within white color-blind comforts,the essence of their conception is lost.”
In the end, “Once teacher education understands how and why whites have become culturally white, it can engage in a deeper conversation of race and racism, move beyond guilt, anger, and denial needed to become whole-heartedly antiracist.”
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