The Sociology Department at LSU is adding a new class for students who want to learn about human interaction as determined by the color of skin andyour view of “whiteness.”
The “Social Construction Of Whiteness” class, taught by a Dr. Sarah Becker (bio here), is sure to be… something. Becker, who also teaches courses in Women and Gender Studies and is an “affiliate member of African and African American Studies at LSU,” received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and I am somewhat sure that her approach to the racial issues the class will touch on are going to reflect that.
Your tax dollars are subsidizing this class, and it’s a class that will ultimately end up doing little more than reinforcing beliefs and stereotypes rather than learning how to overcome them as a culture.
We can argue all day over whether or not the class really means anything in the end, and as a sociology major myself (could never pull the trigger on more than a Bachelor’s, but that’s a conversation for another day), I’m not that convinced the class is going to be that strong.
Here’s the issue: “Social Construction” is a flawed sociological theory for a few reasons. First of all, it requires you to assume, incorrectly, that we all share a common interpretation of the world from a single, constructed viewpoint.
I may be oversimplifying it a bit, but in essence, social construction is just a fancy social sciences term for the creation of ideology.
Ideology is, at most, a foundation for a person’s interpretation of the world around them. Such an interpretation can only be formed based one’s personal experiences, opinions, and interactions. For example, if you’re reading this right now, chances are your base political ideology is conservativism. However, there is very little chance that you hold the exact same feelings and opinions as another person reading this site.
Why? The events and experiences of your lifetime will cause slight changes in how you interpret your core beliefs and, therefore, your reactions to changes in the world around you.
If it is a true class on “social construction,” then Becker’s class will be focused way more on the ideology of whiteness rather than interactions with whiteness from both the white and non-white perspectives.
However, if the class were to focus on an interactionism viewpoint, I’d be way more comfortable subsidizing it, personally, because that’s where the real learning is going to come in. Interactionism, unlike constructionism, focuses a lot more on how we address the things we come into contact with, and is inherently more individualized.
Therefore, you can easily expect to see students more engaged as they listen to and discuss their own interpretations of whiteness, rather than focus on the theory of whiteness. It would be a much more student-immersive class and in turn a much more beneficial class.
A study of the social construction of whiteness would likely be focused on re-telling accounts and how those formed the basis of the modern whiteness, which would ultimately be the opposite of an interactionist class.
You’ll not ever find me to be the type who says sociology is worthless. I’m a social sciences guy by heart, and if you read political sites like this one, then you actually are, too, whether you know it or not. However, I can and will take issue when there is a class that I believe will do more to reinforce negative stereotypes and reactions than help students reach a better understanding of problems.
This is one such class that falls into the latter category. It’s a shame, too, because there is a lot of good that could come from a study of whiteness. Just not this type of study.