These days, it seems, all science is political science. That is to say, it’s all political.
Physics education is no exception. Hence, Seattle Pacific University Professors Amy Robertson and W. Tali Hairston are attempting to purge the pedagogy — of whiteness.
The academic duo has put together “Observing Whiteness in Introductory Physics: a Case Study.”
The writers promise to “articulate analytic markers for whiteness, and use the markers to…analyze whiteness as it shows up in an introductory physics classroom interaction.”
Horrifically, whiteness is currently “shaping degree-granting (and all of the processes and practices therein) in physics.”
A mere few years ago, we weren’t nearly so societally aware of the plague of the pale.
But great gains have been made in overcoming our obliviousness:
Report: Red State Spends Millions so Disabled Preschoolers Can ‘Deconstruct Whiteness’
School District Hosts Year-Long Anti-Whiteness Training to Fight ‘Curricular Violence’ in Math
‘Antiracist’ Mental Health Association Fights the Empathy-Strangling ‘Ghost’ of Whiteness
Major University Professor Fights Math’s ‘Harbor for Whiteness’
Extremely White College Professor Fights the Lie — and ‘Disease’ — of Whiteness
Major University Trains Its Faculty in ‘Confronting Systemic Whiteness’
Forensic Anthropologists Say ‘Cloaked’ Whiteness Soils Science
Perhaps the most egregious scientific case is that of geology. Experts claim black people won’t dare enter the discipline because they’re afraid to hold hammers.
From an article in Nature Communications:
As the geosciences strive to be more accessible, the community must recognize that BIPOC and other marginalized geoscientists are not always safe in geoscience spaces. Holding objects (e.g., a rock hammer) has been viewed as “suspicious” and, continues to be, used as a reason to call the police on Black people, which can lead to the death of Black individuals, entirely because of racial profiling and an unjustified fear of Black people.
Back to physics, Amy and W. Tali aim to “provide instructors and researchers with a tool for identifying whiteness.”
It’s all about CRT:
Critical Race Theory names that racism and white supremacy are endemic to all aspects of U.S. society, from employment to schooling to the law. We see the outcomes of this in, for example, differential incarceration rates, rates of infection and death in the era of COVID, and police brutality. We also see the outcomes of this in physics. For example, the American Physical Society reports that whereas almost 16% of the U.S. population aged 20–24 years is Black, only 3% of bachelor’s degrees in physics and 1.8% of doctorate degrees are awarded to Black students. This is in contrast to about 73% of the U.S. population aged 20–24 being white, and 72% and 75%, respectively, of bachelor’s and doctorate degrees being awarded to white students. Critical Race Theory would cite this as evidence that white supremacy, or the “systemic maintenance of the dominant position that produces [w]hite privilege,” is shaping degree granting (and all of the processes and practices therein) in physics.
In the tradition of Critical Whiteness Studies, our goal in this study has been to “make whiteness visible,” and particularly to make clearer the “ordinariness” of whiteness in introductory physics classrooms.
Amid analysis, the pair is overlooking individual acts of white racism. To do otherwise would be racist:
[T]he individuals-as-racist story fuels whiteness by treating each incidence of racialized harm as an exception, recusing white people from addressing structural harm.
Bottom line — they’re opening doors to new possibilities:
Alongside our discussion, which imagines new possibilities for physics teaching and learning, we hope our work contributes to Critical Whiteness Studies’ goal of dismantling whiteness.
Along the way, Amy and W. Tali are dotting their woke I’s and crossing their woke T’s. In fact, they refuse to use the term “colorblind”:
We use the language of race evasiveness, rather than color blindness, because color blindness, as a term, “conflates lack of eyesight with lack of knowing” and is thus “inherent[ly] ableis[t].”
Physics has come a long way since Isaac Newton. Priorities have been improved: Who cares what an apple does, when the fruit of America is white supremacy?
Hopefully, in time, we can return to studying actual science. And math. And history. But until whiteness gets wiped out, it looks as if old-school academics will continue to collide with things of greater importance. Wokeness wins — that’s simple physics.
See more content from me:
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Find all my RedState work here.
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