Not a Black, but a White American Studies Course

Participants in the Whiteness Project screenshot
Participants in the Whiteness Project screenshot

Rather than the traditional African and African-American studies programs offered in universities across the nation, there is now an analogous white American studies program that examines the cultural experiences of white Americans, the European immigrant groups they’re descended from, and how race and their ethnicities influence their lives.


The Whiteness Project now seems to be the most well-known attempt at such an undertaking. Twenty-four white Americans from Buffalo, N.Y., were interviewed in a simplistic, monochromatic video setting where each person is looking into the camera and pouring their hearts out about their innermost experiences as white Americans, especially how they compare with their perceptions of the black American experience.

“I’m not a normal-looking white woman,” one woman says as she goes on to describe how her multiple tattoos and body piercings cause her to experience discrimination and snooty behavior from prejudiced people in much the same manner, she says, that black Americans experience racial discrimination.

“I’m a tattooed woman […] so you can’t put me in the same boat,” she explains.

“I get discriminated against just as much as a minority does,” she maintains, explaining that although she isn’t a racial minority, her unique appearance makes her a minority.

Not all of the testimonies were as kumbaya-ish, however.

“A lot of white boys aren’t going to be pushed around,” a middle-aged man says, referring to how he believes young white people have become pushovers at allowing black people to make them feel guilty about race and privilege. He went on to say that black people were unfairly getting a lot of the firefighting jobs in Buffalo even though there were white candidates who scored better on the aptitude tests.


Another white man says that he doesn’t think he has any privileges or benefits from being white. He believes the civil rights movements sort of equalized the playing field between white and black Americans.

“Some black people hold on to […] the slave thing,” he complains.

Another white man describes how he doesn’t feel a common bond with other white people like the camaraderie that is frequently expressed among black people. He does, however, feel a bond with other people of the Jewish faith.


Read more at the Whiteness Project.