A white Ivy League professor has taken to the pages of the Huffington Post to condemn her own race, declaring that she chose never to reproduce because her children would simply inherit white privilege.
Ali Michael, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s (Penn) Graduate School of Education, was prompted to write by the Rachel Dolezal saga, in which the head of Spokane’s NAACP branch was revealed to be a white woman who simply identifies as black and has assimilated into black culture. Dolezal’s aspiration to forsake whiteness and embrace a new race, Michael says, is actually a routine one among whites who are repulsed by the racism and privilege they see all around them.
Michael says that, like Dolezal, she has gone through an extensive phase of trying to eradicate her whiteness (or as she calls it, Whiteness)– one so severe that she decided she didn’t want to reproduce.
“I sometimes don’t want to be white either,” Michael says. “There was a time in my 20s when everything I learned about the history of racism made me hate myself, my Whiteness, my ancestors… and my descendants. I remember deciding that I couldn’t have biological children because I didn’t want to propagate my privilege biologically.”
Michael’s describes her efforts as virtually all-consuming: She lived with a black family for a time, shaved her head, and read exclusively black authors. She also lashed out at those who dared to be white without shame.
“I disliked my Whiteness, but I disliked the Whiteness of other White people more,” she writes. “I felt like the way to really end racism was to feel guilty for it, and to make other White people feel guilty for it too.”
Michael has apparently mellowed out a little bit over time, and says she now accepts the necessity of whites accepting their racial identity rather than taking a new one, but mostly because this is the best way for whites to feel adequately guilty.
“At the end of the day, we need White people to see that we are White,” she says. “When we recognize and own our Whiteness, we can account for our own portion, our one 1/billionth of responsibility for what White people have done throughout history. We can work with other White people to begin to challenge bias, ignorance and colorblindness. We can use our privilege to confront the sources of that unfair favoring.”
Today, Michael’s work at Penn continues to have a very racial focus. Her core research interests include “how white families racially socialize their children,” and her website contains handy links to materials such as “10 Quick Ways To Analyze Children’s Books For Racism And Sexism.”
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