“Whites-only” spaces are making a comeback—not in the Jim Crow South, but at prestigious American universities. Brandeis University in Massachusetts recently created one such racially segregated program for the ironic purpose of allegedly combatting racism.
The voluntary six-week anti-racist training program is led by Brandeis’s Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. In an Orwellian paradox, the program deliberately segregates white students in order to lead them in “racial sensitivity training” such that they can “come to a deeper understanding of how whiteness moves.”
When questioned as to the wisdom of segregating students by race, Brandeis officials astonishingly declared it a matter of safety not to allow whites and blacks to converse about racial issues until the white students have been sufficiently shamed for their innate racism.
According to Joy von Steiger, a clinical psychologist who serves as a “Racial Justice Educator” at Brandeis, it is essential that white students participate in the sensitivity training so that they do not “case harm.” She added, “It doesn’t have to be kumbaya, but white folks in particular have to have done enough work” to safely exist in shared spaces with non-whites.
The segregated whites-only forum has two levels: “White Students Discussing Anti-Racism” followed by “From Ally to Accomplice: Taking Action in Your Anti-racism Journey.” The training syllabus includes readings from “Me and White Supremacy,” by Layla Saad and “How to Be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram Kendi.
According to the Brandeis campus paper, The Justice, “In the first level, students will define systemic racism, learn about Black history and the roots of mass incarceration, slavery and economic injustice, as well as the link between capitalism and racism. In the second level, students will create a more defined plan on how they can address and fight against systemic racism. Both levels will focus on broader themes as well as Brandeis-specific history and engagement.”
Having created a segregated whites-only space, Brandeis administrators are now hard at work on creating a corollary “BIPOC”-only space (BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color). Von Steiger explained to The Justice that the two segregated spaces would have different goals; the white space will be focused on education whereas the BIPOC space will be focused on healing “because there is already a shared understanding,” von Steiger said, “we don’t need to teach them about systematic racism; they live it.”
For the reviving our nation’s racially segregated past and bringing it into the future, Brandeis deserves to be known as one of the Top Ten Most Racist Universities.