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Challenging White Privilege in Higher
Education: Theoretical Models
stick a six
“You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches
and then pull it out six inches and say
you’re making progress…”
(Malcolm X, 1964)
[Data from Cathy A. Trower and Richard P. Chait on “Faculty Diversity”
in Harvard Magazine, 2002)
91 % white
91 percent of the full professors at research universities
are white; 75 percent are male…
87 percent of the full-time faculty members in the
United States are white; 64 percent are male…
Only 5 percent of the full professors
in the U.S. are black, Hispanic, or
Native American…
In the U.S. in 2000, minorities earned
16 percent of the master’s degrees
and 18.6 percent of the doctorates…
The percentage increase of minority faculty between
1983 and 1993 moved from 9.3 percent to 12.2 percent
(mostly attributable to gains by Asian Americans)…
The proportion of black faculty at predominantly white
colleges and universities today is 2.3 percent
(virtually the same as in 1979)…
The proportion of tenured faculty of color increased
3 percentage points from 1989 to 1997—all minority
males. The proportion of minority females dropped
1 percentage point…
“a generational wave of faculty hiring
nationwide lies just ahead…”
(Trower and Chait, 2002)
(see Trower and Chait, Project on Faculty Appointments
at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, )
“Where there is no vision,
the people perish.”
Proverbs 29:18
The academy as a unified,
diversified,progressive institution
regarding matters of race and
Where are we now?
Where are we going?
What will it take to get there?
20th Century!!!!
21st Century????
NO HOLD 1940-1960
(“Statement on Tenure & Academic Freedom”)
TOE HOLD 1960–1980
( Initial efforts from “Affirmative Action” )
FOOT HOLD 1980--2000
( Aftermath of “Civil-Rights Era” )
( Nationwide wave of new faculty hires )
STRONGHOLD 2020--2040 (Unified, diversified Institutions)
The concept of “white skin privilege”
“white skin privilege is a corollary of
(although not synonymous with) racism…”
“skin privilege not only has disadvantaged faculty of color,
it has automatically advantaged white faculty…”
{cf. Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege:
Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and
The National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum}
“privilege can have positive and negative valence…”
“being color-blind is not a viable solution
at this historical juncture…”
“being color-blind in recruiting faculty today is
functionally similar to being racially-biased in
previous times…”
“race needs to matter now from
a strength-based perspective…”
“white skin privilege usually includes… “ ( P. McIntosh):
 invisible, unearned assets
lack of awareness of “overrewards” due to racial status
belief in the “myth of meritocracy”
power “conferred systematically”
the automatic ability to set agendas and assert preferences
resources and a “concomitant sense of social efficacy”
“white supremacy continues to shape
perspectives on reality… Nowhere is
it more evident than in university settings.”
(b. hooks)
“being white (or male) is not the problem;
perpetuating white (male) privilege is…”
“…if racial and sexual discrimination could be abated
through the good will and meritorious judgment of
those in power, affirmative action would be unnecessary.”
(C. West)
“…are accustomed to being the custodians of power” (C. West)
“bourgeois preoccupation with
white peer approval…” (C. West)
“obsession with white racism…” (C. West)
“…meaningful coalitions with white progressives.”
“Skin privilege is experienced on a daily basis
in our interactions with colleagues…”
“Not feeling outnumbered…”
“Not worried about culture…”
“Not feeling like an outsider…”
“Not subject to racial repercussions…”
“Advocating for faculty diversity is more than self-interest.
It is about self-worth and social interest.”
Race-conscious hiring practices
“The controversy over
race-based preferences
in education…”
“The anti-affirmative action concept of ‘reverse discrimination’
needs to be reframed as ‘reduced (balanced) opportunity’ ”
(F. Pincus)
“ ‘equal opportunity’ is not a viable concept
in a system characterized by white skin privilege…”
Discourse on Affirmative Action
“Reviving earlier positive emphases from
affirmative action…
• reduce continuing effects of past racism
• avoid new discrimination against white
• consider race as a factor, not the factor
“An old anti-affirmative action message:
Race-conscious hiring…
violates white rights
unfairly advantages people of color
stigmatizes people of color
ignores poor white people.”
“…white males might well face reduced opportunities because they can
no longer take advantage of the privileges they received by past race
and gender discrimination. However, this reduced opportunity has
nothing to do with what we normally call discrimination.” (F. Pincus)
“Skeptics may be more likely to accept the small
degree of reduced opportunity that results from
goals and timetables if they understand that it is a
result of increased competition rather than quotas.”
(F. Pincus)
“access discrimination…”
“treatment discrimination…”
“Issues of…
“deconstructing the status quo…”
“change agents need to recognize
various faculty profiles of white privilege…”
“faculty profiles standing in the way of change…
the naïve profile…
the gentrified profile…
the indifferent profile…
the punitive profile…
“the transforming profile…”
Organizational considerations
“changing the organizational climate within the academy…”
from a monocultural organization…
to a pluralistic organization…
to a multicultural organization…
[T. Cox]
“Force field model of change…(K. Lewin)
changing the status quo….
driving forces
~ [status quo] ~
restraining forces
“increase incentives to change…
increase the change agent’s power…
decrease the resistor’s fear of failure…
decrease the likelihood of
economic loss for the resistor…
co-opt or remove resistors…
“ unfreezing…
civil rights in the 1960s…
affirmative action into the mid 1980s…
changing the social construct of “discrimination”
to include “reverse discrimination” or shifting the
discourse of unfair hiring practices to focus on “quotas”
“the status quo? …
how much change has really occurred ?
“Resistance to change in organizations…
passive resistance…
active resistance…
Examples of passive and active resistance”
doing only what is ordered…
doing as little as possible…
deliberate sabotage…
[cf. A. Judson, Changing behavior in
organizations: Minimizing resistance to change, 1991.]
denial that there is a problem
euphemistic suggestions, as if more progress has been made
agitation, behind the scenes, in primarily white faculty coalitions
dismantling of previous advances when opportunities arise
Status Quo
ennui, to the point that no action plans are established
nastiness, to make the lives of faculty of color unpleasant
dissembling, with the color-blind ruse or myth of meritocracy
“moving from a “mono-cultural”
to a “multi-cultural” organization
“multicultural organizations will…
benefit from many culture specific ways of doing things
actively confront bias and try to remedy its re-occurrence
match policies regarding fair hiring, with actual practice
expend extra effort and resources for equal opportunity
“Changing from a traditional to a
multicultural organization requires…
(T. Cox):
leadership, to set goals, provide
bias-reduction training, minimize
intergroup conflict, etc.
internal research, with effective measurements
to identify problems, and then act on the data …
education, to make explicit the under-representation
of minorities in the work-force…
changes in management systems that reflect diversity…
follow-up regarding the goals of the change process…
“we can yield…”
“we can contend…”
“we can problem-solve…”
“what I can do on a personal level…”
“what we can do at a departmental level…”
“what we can do at an administrative level…”
“the power of one…a pyramid effect…”
1. form a work team to achieve workplace diversity…
2. conduct studies…
A. to assess the organizational climate of the
department regarding diversity…
B. to determine historical patterns within the
department in hiring and retaining faculty of
color, and in recruiting and mentoring students
of color…
C. to determine realistic “thresholds” and set
goals for developing a pluralistic, multicultural
3. develop a pipeline…
Organizational leaders invested in change need to:
1. determine who will oppose the change;
2. determine who can facilitate the changes;
3. build broad coalitions to support the change process;
4. fill key positions with competent change agents;
5. use task forces to guide the implementation of change;
6. initially, make changes on a small scale,
7. change
with symbolic
value; structures, when necessary; and
8. monitor the progress of proposed changes.
{cf. G. Yukl, Leadership in organizations, 1998.}
Requirements for progressive scholars and activists…
Delayed but not Denied