White Faculty’s Commitment to Racial Consciousness in STEM Classrooms
Edited By Nicole M. Joseph, Chayla Haynes and Floyd Cobb
1. Learning to Work While White to Challenge Racism in Higher Education
CHRISTINE E. SLEETER
At age 24, I knew I was White. I had known my racial classification for as long as I could remember, although I do not remember how I learned it. Racial classification permeates the U.S. social environment so thoroughly that most of us take up categories as if they were natural rather than the social constructions that they are. Learning what Whiteness means, however, having spent the great bulk of my life by age 24 in all-White or predominantly White contexts—well, that was a different matter. It wasn’t until then that I heard the challenge to consider how my life was continually shaped by Whiteness—the system of racialized privileges that benefit White people, coupled with White people’s ignorance that such a system exists.
I had always found it easy to find an apartment, no matter where I happened to be looking. I would browse newspaper ads, circle a few places that looked affordable, hop in my car, and go take a look. Normally by the end of the day, I had signed a rental agreement. So, on an autumn day in Seattle, I couldn’t understand why my African American boyfriend was having such a hard time with the same task. He had been at it for weeks. Maybe he was just picky. Finally I asked him what the problem was.
“I’m Black. As soon as they see me coming, most landlords have suddenly...
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