The Color of the Race Problem is White
By Robert Jensen / The Rag Blog
“The Color of the Race Problem Is White” was a lecture by Professor Robert Jensen, recorded at the University of Texas at Austin on March 30, 2009. The lecture itself is 28 minutes and also includes 24 minutes of discussion. Jensen is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege.
In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois suggested that the question white people so often want to ask black people is, “How does it feel to be a problem?” This program turns the tables and recognizes some simple facts: Race problems have their roots in a system of white supremacy. White people invented white supremacy. Therefore, the color of the race problem is white. White people are the problem. White people have to ask ourselves: How does it feel to be a problem?
Following the ideas in his book The Heart of Whiteness, Jensen argues that — even decades after the significant achievements of the civil rights movement and with an African-American president — it is still appropriate to describe the United States as a white-supremacist society, in terms of how we think and how we live.
Through an analysis of contemporary racial ideology, Jensen presents a framework for critiquing the naturalizing of power and privilege in other arenas of our lives (gender, class, nationality, and ecology). How have we come to accept so easily systems of domination and subordination? How did we become resigned to hierarchy? How can we challenge the unjust and unsustainable nature of the systems in which we live?
[Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. Among his books is The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005) Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary filmAbe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing, which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. Jensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his articles can be found online here.]
The Rag Blog / Posted July 14, 2009