Toni Airaksinen, Campus Reform, December 14, 2017
Two University of Northern Iowa professors recently argued that practicing “civility” in college classrooms can “reproduce white racial power.”
C. Kyle Rudick and Kathryn B. Golsan assert in a recent academic article that civility, particularly “whiteness-informed civility,” allegedly “functions to assert control of space” and “create a good white identity.”
This civility can reinforce white privilege, Rudick and Goslan argue, because “civility within higher education is a racialized, rather than universal, norm,” according to the field of “critical whiteness studies.”
To study this phenomenon, Rudick and Goslan interviewed 10 white college students and asked them questions such as “What do you consider to be civil behaviour?” and “How do you think your racial identity may affect your understandings of civility when talking with students of color?”
Students who indicated that they “treat everyone the same way” were accused of trying to create a “good White identity,” according to Rudick and Goslan’s analysis.
“First, participants stated that they tried to avoid talking about race or racism with students of color to minimize the chance that they would say something ‘wrong’ and be labeled a racist,” the professors report. “Another way that participants described how they tried to be civil when interacting with students of color was to be overly nice or polite.”
White students who make an extra effort to be nice to students of color, Rudick and Goslan claim, are merely upholding “white privilege” and “white racial power.”