Further information on Fall 2019 courses


Dan Geslin: The Religion of Whiteness


Course text

The course will be built around the following readings: Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debbie Irving,  White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Race by sociologist Robin DiAngelo, White Rage: the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson, and “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic, June 2014).  The books are available through online sellers (check on bookfinder.com for prices, all under $15) and at Content Books; and the Coates article is available online.


Schedule of classes (subject to modification)

  1. Waking Up White, pp. 1-53

We will reflect on the author’s childhood story and share our own stories. Were there examples of white privilege in our families, schools, churches, neighborhoods? Were they hidden from our eyes? Were we taught that white is “invisible” or the norm?

  1. Waking Up White, pp. 95-142

We will review key liberal concepts such as being “colorblind” and “fixing” minorities so as to fit the white standard. We will also examine the “cult of niceness” and how it inhibits personal growth and social progress by outlawing white discomfort.

  1. Waking Up White, pp. 159-197

Moving from self-defensiveness to exploring unintended consequences of our actions.  Moving from tolerance to empathy. Getting over ourselves and accepting feedback.

  1. White Fragility, pp. 1-38

Exploring how racism affects the lives of white people. What are the cultural strategies we use to avoid, deflect and refuse responsibility? For example, choosing de facto segregation and white solidarity. Individualism: “You can’t generalize about whites; I’m different.”  Why and how is causing white discomfort about race socially forbidden?

  1. White Fragility, pp. 39-87

What are the self-justifying myths we tell ourselves? “Racists are bad, uneducated, Southern, mean-spirited, but I’m none of those things.”  What are the triggers of white fragility? How does it manifest itself in us? For example, the tears of white women; the anger of white men. Do we dare to be vulnerable? Where do we go from here?

  1. White Rage, pp. 39-66; 118-137

We are used to listing black achievements in history, but what was the white back- lash to each achievement during the Black Migration north during WWI, the Civil Rights movement in the ’60s, and Obama’s presidency? Why do we ignore the history of white resistance to racial equality? We will discuss President Obama’s 2008 speech on race, “A More Perfect Union” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWe7wTVbLUU

  1. White Rage, pp. 138-177

To better understand our present moment, we will discuss Dylan Roof’s (June 17, 2015) Charleston church massacre while the black church members were at prayer, including his white supremacy manifesto. We will also discuss President Trump’s (June 16, 2015  speech, “I’m Running for President” at www. youtube.com/watch?v=apjNfkysjbM when he came down the golden escalator. Can this be described as a “religion of whiteness”?

     8. The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, June 2014.

Our final session will review current proposals for shifting from a reconciliation paradigm to a reparations paradigm as a basis for interracial relations. Can we envision new foundations for racial justice and equality?