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What can you learn from a college course named 'White Racism'?

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A course at the Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida has been the talk of the country.

Taught by Professor Ted Thornhill of the Department of Sociology, the course set for the spring semester of 2018 is provokingly -- and quite simply -- named “White Racism.”

What might constitute the content of the course, you ask?

“White Racism” examines racist ideologies that “maintain white racial domination” through “racist laws, policies, practices, and traditions.” Back in early November, when the course was first announced, flyers appeared throughout the university’s campus, advertising the course. “WHITE RACISM,” it read. And at least one of the flyers, according to The News-Press, was defaced.

But this was only the beginning of many reactions on campus that were soon generated over the course’s title.

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While as many as 50 students have enrolled, other students, according to a survey conducted by Eagle News, the university’s publication, were less popular. Many have demanded the course to be renamed.

An undergraduate studying marketing and economics, Max Ortengren contended with the course, saying that it brought “a biased implication that only white people tend to be racist.” Ortengren insisted that “Racism is based on the individual aspect and it’s not just white people that are capable of it.”

An online social-media firestorm ensued, as well:

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In an online statement, published by Eagle News, Prof. Thornhill explained that his course is not “anti-white,” but “anti-white racism.” He continued, “Any ‘controversy’ generated by the course title or description testifies to its urgency. Attempts to paint the course as anything other than that contained in the course description, which is self-explanatory.

A similar tension over Professor Damon Sajnani’s course, “"The Problem of Whiteness," blew over late last year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, when lawmakers had threatened to withdraw public funding from the school. The most vocal of them was Wisconsin Rep. Dave Murphy, reported by CNN. "I am extremely concerned that UW-Madison finds it appropriate to teach a course called, 'The Problem of Whiteness,' with the premise that white people are racist."

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Just as Prof. Thornhill put forward in his statement, his course is not the first to explore such hot-button topics. Going as far back as 22-years, the University of Connecticut also offered a similarly titled course, taught by Sociology professor Noël Cazenave. And because of today’s political climate, Prof. Thornhill defends, there is an ever increased need for students “to gain a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of race, white racism, racial inequality, and white supremacy” to “challenge the myths about the racial matters in the U.S.”


And the goal of his course, as Prof. Thornhill put it, is “to facilitate students’ learning toward a data-informed understanding of the social world.”

And it begins with a search for truth because “Too many Americans, especially whites, are cocooned in a “bubble of unreality” as it concerns racial matters.”

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