Speaking at a conference aimed at producing “radical social change” in higher education, a philosophy professor at Fairfield University says that explorations into the topics of race and racism must focus on “the problem that is whiteness.” Dr. Kris Sealey claims that whiteness is a “power apparatus.”
Per the College Fix, the professor presented her views before the diversity conference, which is aimed at employees of Jesuit colleges. She talked about ways to bring up the topic of race in classrooms and focused the issue on “whiteness.”
“So more and more, the courses that I teach on race have become courses in which I expect my students to engage in the hegemonic power of whiteness,” said Sealey, who identifies as a scholar of color. College Fix reports that Sealey taught courses such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Critical Race Theory.”
She said as someone who isn’t white, her approach towards teaching race theory was heavily influenced by her environment—Fairfield University is predominantly white, with relatively few non-white students.
“Hence, part of what makes pedagogies of racial justice particularly difficult are the stakes that they invariably include for all parties involved,” she said.
The professor cited Emory University professor George Yancy, who wrote that “any inquiry into the experience of blackness must include some genealogy or some history of the white gaze.” In her understanding of what he wrote, Sealey says that it was important “to acknowledge that any critical investigation of race should devote some time to the problem that is whiteness.”
In other words, she believes that the agency of black people is affected by how white people look at them. Sealey claims to be objective in her outlook on race theory, and cited three “objectively grounded claims”:
Whiteness means a specific power apparatus that exists at the expense of the disempowerment of black people.
To be white in the U.S. is to be a perpetuator of the power apparatus unless one actively and consistently resists.
It is possible, perhaps necessary, to acknowledge one’s personal implications in the white power apparatus.
Sealey says she has no intention of teaching her students how to evaluate themselves, but to “understand the role of the white gaze in the confiscation of the black body.”