For Assistant Professor of Educational Administration and Foundations Nicholas Hartlep, there is a fog that covers not only academia, but all of the nation. It is not based on the socially contrived notions of race or gender, but this fog—known as “whiteness”—seeps into every element of our lives.
Hartlep is the co-editor of the new book Unhooking from Whiteness: Resisting the Esprit de Corps. The book is the second in a series of collected scholarly essays under the title Unhooking Whiteness edited by Hartlep and Cleveland Hayes of the University of La Verne. The 2013 book, Unhooking from Whiteness: The Key to Dismantling Racism in the United States, called on scholars to understand and “unhook” from the traditional models of hierarchy in higher education. The new book delves into the consequences of faculty who do unhook from the social conformity of academia and reject joining a silent esprit de corps.
“When we talk about ‘unhooking,’ we talk about disrupting the dampening influence of whiteness in society, especially within an academic or higher education context,” said Hartlep.
He noted “whiteness” is a term used to discuss the prevalent idea that white is “normal” in the United States, and non-white connotes “something other than the norm.” The term whiteness is supplanting “white privilege” as a means to explain inherent biases that permeate society and surface with disparities in treatment and expectation in all areas of life—from education and employment to housing and criminal justice.
“The term ‘white privilege’ brought in baggage of class or wealth, especially with low-income white people, who did not see benefits of whiteness being the norm for them,” said Hartlep, adding that whiteness goes beyond economics. “This is about all societal metrics geared toward one group holding the supremacy. In fact, some scholars do use the term ‘white supremacy’ to describe this phenomenon.”
Many of the same anti-racist scholars returned for the second book, which examines the consequences for those who do “unhook.” Chapters in Esprit de Corps include “Unhooking from Whiteness and the Assault that Follows: Lynching in the Academy,” “Just Do What We Tell You: White Rules for Well-Behaved Minorities,” and Hartlep’s own “The Paranoid Professor: Invisible Scars from Unhooking from Whiteness and Their Impact on Teaching.”
Both books utilize auto-ethnographic chapters—based on personal accounts—from faculty of color. The auto-ethnographic approach to the chapters does more than weave personal narratives into the latest anti-racial research. One contributor to both Unhooking from Whiteness books, Rosa Mazurett-Boyle, is a K-12 teacher in the fourth-poorest school district in the nation, Rochester, New York. “Rosa not only talked about how cathartic it was to write the chapters talking about her research, but also to share the work with her students, who are also predominantly Latinx [a gender-neutral term for Latina and Latino],” said Hartlep. Mazurett-Boyle’s students asked often when the latest book would be published. “It was exciting for the students to see a success story when so much in whiteness tells them they will not be successful.”
Hartlep hopes both books spark discussion by all scholars about whiteness and its toll on the higher education system. “Until people have enough courage to walk away from a broken society, it will remain broken,” he said. “Maybe the book will change nothing, but once a truth is out there, it remains there for all to see and hear.”