A San Diego State professor has been making waves thanks to a “white-privilege checklist” she asked her students to complete for extra credit.
According to the New York Post, Professor Dae Elliott, a sociology professor, handed out the list of 20 statements to her students earlier this semester, asking them to place a check next to any statements that applied to them. The checklist does appear to center on white students out of necessity.
The College Fix posted a copy of the list, which includes the following questions:
- When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
- Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of my financial responsibility
- I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking
- I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin
But merely checking items on the list doesn’t earn extra credit. For the extra credit, students were required to respond to a series of short-answer questions, including whether the exercise was “different for white students than for students of color? For black students than for Asian, Indian, Latino/a students, or other students of color?”
We don’t know the composition of Elliott’s class, or how this checklist supplemented any additional class discussions or readings. But suffice it to say, this sort of cultural introspection is not unusual for sociology courses, which typically ask students to apply a critical eye toward social structures, systems and values. In fact, as the Post reported, a professor at the College of the Canyons reportedly engaged her students in a similar exercise.
These types of lessons have made conservative students and educators big mad, though, and right-wing blogs like Red Alert Politics have blasted such exercises, and the professors who teach them, as “stereotyping white individuals.”
At San Diego State, the president of the College Republicans, Brandon Jones, said that the lesson was “another attempt by the left, and Professor Elliot, to divide America,” according to the Post.
While it may seem counterintuitive to offer extra credit to students to reflect on their whiteness (therefore giving them an advantage, albeit minor, for doing something that comes naturally to many students of color), Professor Elliott told the College Fix that the exercise helps students begin to understand multiple perspectives.
“In a society that values fairness, our injustices that are institutionalized are often made invisible,” said Elliott, adding that the checklist “asks my students to step out of their subjectivity, extend their understanding and begin to be a conscious part of understanding and hence gaining more power and agency to effect change.”