"positionalities", Amy Robertson, Arvid Haag, critical whiteness studies, dog rape, feminist animal geography, Lawrence M. Krauss, math is racist, physics is racist, unpacking whiteness, W. Tali Hairston, white supremacy
Regular readers know beyond any doubt math is racist. In Math Is Racist; Is Swimming? in October of 2020, I explained how 2+2 no longer equals 4 because RACISM!!! Since then, science has made great strides toward proving there is nothing in the universe that is not racist, including—wait for it—physics:
A recent study asserts that, among other things, the small number of physics degrees awarded to black students at all levels is due to the continuance of white supremacy.
In ‘Observing whiteness in introductory physics: A case study,’ Seattle Pacific University’s Amy Robertson and ‘noted speaker, consultant, researcher, minister, and lecturer’ W. Tali Hairston make use of critical whiteness studies and critical race theory to claim that since a mere 3 percent of black students ages 20-24 get undergraduate physics degrees (and 1.8 percent of doctorates), whiteness ‘is shaping degree granting (and all of the processes and practices therein) in physics.’
But of course! What other possible reason could there be for this unimpeachable, all-revealing statistical disparity? Personal choice and cultural pressures could not possibly be involved because WHITE SUPREMACY! And RACISM! Everyone knows all people of color, and particularly black people, have no interest as compelling as the study of physics. Why, it’s in all the rap lyrics, which are full of physics references, such as: “bustin’ a cap in yo ass,” or “smacking dah bitch.” Or maybe not:
(With this alleged omnipresence of whiteness, Caucasians in the 20-24 age group, who make up 73 percent of the country, get 72 and 75 percent of physics degrees respectively. Oddly, a rather proportionate representation.)
Yeah, well those statistics are obviously racist, so shut up you white supremacist!
According to their ‘Research Methods’ section, Robertson’s (left) and Hairston’s study goal was to ‘make whiteness visible.’ Using a six-minute interaction among students in an introductory physics course, the duo ‘draw on tools of interaction analysis, including discourse, gesture, and gaze analysis, to unpack how whiteness is being constituted locally or interactionally.’
I had no idea that when my sister used to flap her arms and squeal: “Mom, he’s looking at me!” she was engaging in “discourse, gesture, and gaze analysis,” but she’s white, so I guess that’s par for the course. And don’t you just love to “unpack how whiteness is being constituted locally or interactionally?” Being white and all, I do it all the time.
Some of the factors which ‘facilitate the reproduction of whiteness’ here include ‘a particular representation of energy, physics values […] gendered social norms, and the structure of schooling.’ Oh, and the use of whiteboards.
And ‘a particular representation of energy, physics values […] gendered social norms, and the structure of schooling” means what, exactly? I was just about to conclude Robertson and Hairston were dimwitted racists, but “whiteboards?!” Good grief, I had no idea all those years when I was writing on whiteboards I was such a racist! I’m so ashamed. I’ll give myself a good spanking when I’m done with this article.
(Note, too, due to ‘critical scholarship and activism,’ Robertson and Hairston do not capitalize ‘white,’ but do for ‘Black’ and ‘Students/People of Color.’ The only exception is the title ‘Critical Whiteness Studies.’)
Well sure. English is racist too, and no part is so racist as capitalization.
The duo state they do not care about any instances of individual racism from the participants. This is because the ‘individuals-as-racist story fuels whiteness by treating each incidence of racialized harm as an exception, recusing white people from addressing structural harm.’
Certainly, and there is no evidence of racism so compelling as any white person daring to suggest they are not racist. Obviously, there is no aspect of physics as revealing of whiteness/racism as demanding proof of something. That just recuses white people from addressing the racism that is physics. Besides, there are alternate and authentically black ways of knowing, because black academics and black allies like Robertson say there are. But just who are Robertson and Hairston? What are their positionalities?
Robertson and Hairston (right) also devote a large portion of text to their ‘positionalities,’ basically their biographies. For the former, she says she is a ‘chronically ill and disabled, physics-Ph.D.-holding, thin wealthy white woman’ who is doing her part to eradicate white supremacy — but primarily as a learner. (Primarily, but not completely; Robertson does understand oppression and marginalization, she says, because of her chronic illness.)
For his part, Hairston ‘identifies with the larger historical narrative of pre-enslavement and precolonial African rootedness.’ With regards to this study, he ‘brings forward’ equity ‘that is not centered in white normativity.’ He says his ‘way of knowing and being’ had been ‘decentered’ by whiteness while growing up.
Isn’t it fortunate Hairston is apparently no long “decentered by whiteness?” I’ll go out on a limb here in suggesting Robertson and Hairston are not exactly rising physics stars, so rather than contributing to actual physics, they’ve decided to devote their professional lives to “make whiteness visible.” Talk about making Nobel-level contributions to science! But what do actual physicists have to say about this?
Just as the College Fix is mildly suspicious the work of Robertson and Hairston is an academic hoax, I am reminded of an article I wrote in 2019: Grieving Grievance Studies: The Continuing Scam Revisited.
In that article, three academics wrote and submitted for publication in supposedly prestigious academic journals, a number of clearly insane articles, most of which were not only accepted for publication, but were praised—until they revealed their hoaxing, as they intended all along. This one was my favorite:
Title: Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity in Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon
Helen Wilson, Ph.D., Portland Ungendering Research (PUR) Initiative (fictional)
Status: Accepted & Published
Recognized for excellence. Expression of concern raised on it following journalistic interest leading us to have to conclude the project early.
Thesis: That dog parks are rape-condoning spaces and a place of rampant canine rape culture and systemic oppression against “the oppressed dog” through which human attitudes to both problems can be measured. This provides insight into training men out of the sexual violence and bigotry to which they are prone.
Purpose: To see if journals will accept arguments which should be clearly ludicrous and unethical if they provide (an unfalsifiable) way to perpetuate notions of toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, and implicit bias.
Selected Reviewer Comments:
‘This is a wonderful paper – incredibly innovative, rich in analysis, and extremely well-written and organized given the incredibly diverse literature sets and theoretical questions brought into conversation. The author’s development of the focus and contributions of the paper is particularly impressive. The fieldwork executed contributes immensely to the paper’s contribution as an innovative and valuable piece of scholarship that will engage readers from a broad cross-section of disciplines and theoretical formations. I believe this intellectually and empirically exciting paper must be published and congratulate the author on the research done and the writing.’-Reviewer 1, Gender, Place, and Culture
Every word of it, including the identity of the author, their university, and faux-methodology, was made up. The journal’s reviewers wrote back, gushing:
‘Thank you for the opportunity to review a really interesting paper. I think it will make an important contribution to feminist animal geography with some minor revisions, as described below.’-Reviewer 2, Gender, Place, and Culture
“Feminist animal geography?!” Isn’t that, whatever it is, racist? In their submission, the hoaxers claimed to have examined the genitals of 1000 dogs in dog parks while asking their owners about their sexuality. This, to sane people, might have been something of a red flag, just as pretty much every word Robertson and Hairston wrote might be a red flag, but no:
[Robertson and Hairston’s paper] did make it through the American Physical Society, which is ‘working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals.’
The three hoaxer academic’s intent was to, through shaming an increasingly non-academic and insane academic publishing industry, restore sanity and credibility to academic writing. As one might imagine, they were attacked and reviled, and as this article, also from The College Fix, will reveal, nothing has changed. If anything, it’s worse:
A college student in Sweden recently decided to take a class on critical race theory as a joke, and then added to the fun by turning in a hoax paper.
Arvid Haag signed up for ‘Critical Whiteness Perspectives on Nordic Culture’ at Stockholm University because, he said, ‘local pandemic grant rules had equipped him and other students with an unexpected financial aid windfall.’
Haag thought he’d ‘get something fun’ out of the ‘harmless’ and ‘absurd’ class, but he soon realized many of his peers took the ‘American-born ideology’ seriously.
Arvid bided his time, occasionally offering some ‘critical’ comments here and there, but saved the best for last: an essay titled ‘Black and White Drinks,’ described as ‘an account of what had happened from the early 20th century in the struggle between coffee and milk.’
“The struggle between coffee and milk.” During my teaching days, should a student have submitted such a paper, that alone would have been enough to peg my finely tuned bullshit detector. But of course, they fell for it:
The question one can ask is whether it is really a reconciliation between milk and coffee that has been implemented or whether adding milk to the coffee is a way to take away from the coffee its unique properties and instead impose the black drink white properties.
Milk in the coffee can with critical glasses be seen as a drink-based colonization. The hot and strong coffee cools and is rounded off in taste with the help of the milk, which thereby controls and domesticates the coffee.
How deeply did Haag’s teacher dive into this cup of colonialized whiteness?
Haag (left) admitted he did not read ‘most of the books or blog posts he cited,’ nor even knew what ‘critical whiteness perspectives’ meant. Nevertheless, the instructor gave him a ‘B’ for the paper, noting it was an ‘exciting topic’ with ‘creative thinking.’ He even suggested Haag expand upon his thoughts in a longer essay.
No doubt budding Scandinavian physicist Haag should collaborate with Robertson and Hairston to further expand the boundaries of non-white physics.