Rantz: Seattle professor claims physics is racist, white supremacy rampant in classrooms
A Seattle Pacific University professor claims that white supremacy permeates introductory physics classes. It’s research that is meant to explain why so few black people are in the field of study. But it reads like a parody.
Dr. Amy Robertson (“a chronically ill and disabled, physics-Ph.D.-holding, thin wealthy white woman”) and equity consultant Rev. W. Tali Hairston (“an African American male and lifelong learner, researcher, and educator of equity-inclusive frameworks”) use critical race theory to claim that racism and white supremacy are endemic to college- and graduate-level physics courses.
The study’s authors acknowledge that their research is instructed by their own political beliefs. And the research itself is stunningly racist. The authors capitalize “Black, Hispanic, and Students or People of Color” but “we choose not to capitalize white” because it is a “…socially constructed category that was created for the purposes of dominance and exclusion.” Oh, okay.
Robertson and Hairston argue that the physics classroom “constructs and maintains whiteness” in the field. The paper argues it’s white supremacy for a professor to call on students who raise their hands — regardless of the race of anyone involved. Remarkably, the research paper even maintains that using a whiteboard is an example of white supremacy culture. If you were to write a satire on whiteness in physics, you would not live up to this research.
The authors mind-bogglingly contorted their views to develop what was almost certainly a pre-determined outcome. They wanted to claim white supremacy in physics. It’s less a research study than an unintelligible, woke essay.
The ‘whiteness’ of physics
Robertson and Hairston focus on the whiteness of physics, but the dense, myopic research paper could apply to any discipline.
“Observing whiteness in introductory physics: A case study” was published in the March edition of the journal Physical Review Physics Education Research.
They argue that the “invisible nature of whiteness is a primary means through which white dominance goes unchallenged…” and that “making whiteness visible is one way to disrupt white dominance.” White supremacy dominance can be maintained by people regardless of their race. Indeed, whiteness “does not require actors be white in order to participate in whiteness, even if the benefits of participating may be conferred disproportionately to white or white-passing people.”
To conduct the study, Robertson and Hairston watched film recorded over four days at an unidentified, large, west coast university physics course. They provide anti-racist, woke play-by-play for each recording.
The video shows students discussing and solving physics problems for the professor. The two researchers then interviewed the professor and three racially diverse students, showing the portions of the video that Hairston believed showed “power and identity” influences in the classroom.
Everything is racist while the students answer a physics question
The analysis of the video borders on the kind of satire that is far worse than the joke that got the Babylon Bee banned from Twitter.
Drake is a middle eastern male student featured in the video. During a problem-solving exercise, he took the initiative, physically standing in the center of the workspace and using the whiteboard to jot down answers to the question. Drake refocused the problem-solving conversation of his female colleagues to what he wrote on the board. This, the researchers claimed, is an example of white supremacy guiding the classroom.
The racism was supposedly amplified when Drake raised his hand to answer a question from the professor. As bad, he was chosen by the group to be the lead, which is also white supremacy.
“Within whiteness as social organization, there is a center that has been ascribed transcendent value; all else is, in effect, marginal,” the researchers write.
There were multiple answers to the physics question that was posed. According to the researchers, the group prioritized this male student’s work on the whiteboard, which is how “whiteness masks” the other solutions.
Using a whiteboard is racist
That students are allowed to use a whiteboard is an example of white supremacy in the classroom.
Though the researchers argue a whiteboard can be a positive tool if used collaboratively, they also claim that a whiteboard can center a discussion or lesson. That centering alters the power dynamics in the classroom and will “play a role in reconstituting whiteness as social organization.” Centering is whiteness because it assigns value to the issue being centered.
“In particular, whiteboards display written information for public consumption; they draw attention to themselves and in this case support the centering of an abstract representation and the person standing next to it, presenting. They collaborate with white organizational culture, where ideas and experiences gain value (become more central) when written down,” the research argues.
They argue that since Drake was the one to use the whiteboard, the whiteboard thus “collaborates with classroom expectations and gendered social norms to facilitate Drake’s centering and whiteness as social organization, making certain discursive and spatial moves risky or nonsensical.”
Calling on students who raise their hands? Racist!
Robertson and Hairston believe meritocracy is an example of white supremacy as it centers attention on those who volunteer to answer questions. That students are rewarded when a professor calls on a student with a raised hand is a sin.
“Within whiteness as social organization, meritocratic and other frames of race-evasive ideology are used to explain or justify the creation or maintaining of the center,” they claim. ” Such frames recuse dominant actors from responsibility for the outcomes of white supremacy; narrating success solely in terms of hard work or meritorious qualities treats outcomes as natural and does not recognize the role of white supremacy in shaping who is materially and ideologically ‘successful.’ Because these frames help keep whiteness intact, the use of these frames is often rewarded, and the use of frames that point to whiteness is often punished, such that it can be difficult or nonsensical for actors (especially white or dominant actors) to understand centering as anything other than meritocratic.”
The researchers even take issue with a student who “appreciates” when a student with a raised hand answers a question correctly. The student gets academic value out of it, but that makes it even more an example of white supremacy. Whiteness, they say, has been deemed the correct answers to be valuable.
“Notably, Paris [the student] sense-makes about this pattern using a meritocratic frame: these students volunteer and are called on because they answer questions well, answer in detail, and are really smart. In fact, Paris appreciates the centering of these students, which helps her to get the right answer, the thing that has been ascribed value by whiteness, over and above other things.”
There is no value to this research
There is no real-world value to the research in this paper. It’s an attempt at woke self-love, an essay that abuses nonsensical academic concepts to signal their virtue.
Rather than argue in favor of classroom strategies that the authors believe to be more inclusive (working more collaboratively is an example they seemingly approve of), they make this about white supremacy. They do this because they are CRT evangelists and likely believe their study will earn them some progressive street cred. Maybe they’ll even land on the Reid Out so they can preach their divisive hot takes to other stupid people.
The authors say their goal was to “make whiteness visible.” All they did was make their insufferable wokeness visible and, I hope, open for condemnation and mockery, for which I will gladly participate.
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