“Becoming White: Education and the Erasure of Black Suffering”

02/16/2018 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
WT Young Library Auditorium
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Shannon Sullivan (Professor of Philosophy and Health Psychology, UNC Charlotte)
Professor Shannon Sullivan’s (Professor of Philosophy and Health Psychology, UNC-Charlotte) will lecture on Friday, February 16 at 2:00 p.m. in the W.T. Young Auditorium:  
“Becoming White: Education and the Erasure of Black Suffering”. A reception will be held at the Gaines Center (Commonwealth House) at 5:00 p.m. 
How does the adult world pass down raced habits to the next generation and, in the case of whiteness, do so “invisibly” such that those habits do not even seem to exist?  This essay will tackle that question by examining a particular type of white habit, that of not perceiving the suffering of people of color.  I will focus on black suffering, providing a phenomenological account of an elementary school field trip to a historic plantation, which took place in the Charlotte, NC, area in May 2017 and which I attended as a parent escort. Through a phenomenological analysis that ranges from the regional context of Charlotte, NC, to the informational flyer describing the field trip to the lived space of the plantation itself, I will argue that (i) the erasure of black suffering is a crucial form of support for ongoing white class privilege, white priority, and other patterns of white domination of people of color, (ii) this erasure often takes the form of transforming black suffering into white enjoyment, and (iii) plantation field trips as currently practiced in the American South implicitly teach children white habits of erasing/enjoying black suffering.
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