A New York City public school is facing scrutiny after it sent students’ parents a handout asking them to identify where they land on a scale of “whiteness.”
The New York Post reported that parents of students at East Side Community High School received the document from Mark Federman, the school’s principal. The handout features a graphic depicting a color-coded meter of “The 8 White Identities,” with “white supremacist” in the red zone on the left and “white abolitionist” in green on the right.
The document was developed by Barnor Hesse, an associate professor of African American studies at Northwestern University, Illinois. “There is a regime of whiteness, and there are action-oriented white identities,” it declares. “People who identify with whiteness are one of these. It’s about time we build an ethnography of whiteness, since white people have been the ones writing about and governing Others.”
“White supremacists,” perceived to be the worst of all eight identities, believe in a “clearly marked white society that preserves, names, and values white superiority,” according to the graphic. “White voyeurism,” the second worst group of people, are described by Hesse as enjoying products of non-white culture but “wouldn’t challenge a white supremacist.”
The only two identities that fall in the green zone are “white traitors” who are willing to “subvert white authority,” and “white abolitionists” who want to “dismantle whiteness” and to “not allow whiteness to reassert itself,” according to the graphic.
In a statement to the NY Post, a spokesperson for New York City Department of Education confirmed that the handout is part of “ongoing anti-racist work” at East Side Community High.
The spokesperson added that the handout was meant to be shared among parents of students in grades six through 12. Federman then disseminated it to every parent “as part of a series of materials meant for reflection” and as “food for thought.”
The handout, which has gone viral on social media, was first shared by conservative journalist and filmmaker Christopher Rufo, who focuses on critical race theory (CRT) in America’s public education system.
“This is the new language of public education,” Rufo wrote on Twitter.
The incident came amid a heated debate over the CRT and its role in America’s social, cultural, and economic institutions. An outgrowth of the European Marxist school of critical theory, the CRT labels the very foundations of the American social and political life, such as rationalism, constitutional law, and legal reasoning, as tools of racial oppression.
Last year, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is part of the taxpayer-funded Smithsonian Institute, came under fire because of a display about “whiteness.” The museum suggested that valuing things such as “the nuclear family,” “objective, rational, linear thinking,” and “rigid time schedule” are manifestations of the alleged white culture.