UMass invites prof to help 'disrupt the whiteness in us'

  • An event scheduled for Tuesday at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst will address the "whiteness in us."
  • The lecture will be led by University of Illinois-Chicago Assistant Professor Em Rabelais.
  • Rabelais has spoken and written extensively on "whiteness," specifically in health care.

The University of Massachusetts, Amherst will host a lecture on Tuesday in which students are asked to “disrupt the whiteness [in them]."

According to the events calendar, Dr. Em Rabelais will host a lecture titled “Listening Outside of Whiteness: Make our Bodies Matter” for the Spring 2020 College of Nursing Seminar Series.  The lecture will discuss how “...health and healthcare is a contested political state, centered within the oppressions of whiteness and, more accurately, white supremacy.” 

“...health and healthcare is a contested political state, centered within the oppressions of whiteness and, more accurately, white supremacy.”   

Rabelais argues that "whiteness" is a commanding force in politics, including the healthcare system. Health professionals and researchers only obtained their positions because they, “[complied] with whiteness.” 

Rabelais coins the phrase "whiteness-in-us" to describe this phenomenon.

[RELATED: Prof: 'I am blinded by my whiteness,' 'don’t know all of what it means to be white or male or a US citizen']

In order to combat this whiteness, Rabelais suggests that students, patients, and professionals use the spoken word to voice their opposition. According to Rabelais, the spoken word is “...an oppositional art intended for performance and frequently embodies issues such as social and racial justice, the personal as political, and responses to normative whiteness’s (mis)understandings of the body.”

The spoken word, according to Rabelais, offers a starting point to ask difficult questions about the influence of whiteness in healthcare.

This is not Dr. Rabelais’ first time addressing this topic at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Rabelais has organized multiple events and lectures centering on listening and acting outside of whiteness. Just recently, Rabelais gave a lecture on “Nursing White Supremacy: Yes, this is Ethics” to the Inaugural Badassery-in-Nursing Scholarship (BSN) Invited Lecture Series.

Additionally, Rabelais has organized "Decolonize Your Syllabus" workshops at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Rabelais’ current areas of research include the analysis of “...nursing policies and standards that value whiteness with student-led sub-projects in [ableism and racism].”

This research is aimed at“...[identifying] the manifestations of whiteness, followed by providing clear and tangible changes to eliminate whiteness from professional policy, educational priorities, ethical codes, and teaching and research methods.”

[RELATED: CU-Boulder offers class on ‘Whiteness Studies’]

Rabelais is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Women, Children and Family Health Science at the University of Illinois (UIC), Chicago. 

Rabelais sits on the Chancellor’s Committee of LGBTQ at UIC and the Ethics Committee of the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Service. 

Rabelais is also an Honors Faculty Fellow at the Honors College at UIC.

Rabelais did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment in time of publication.

The University of Massachusetts, Amherst did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment in time of publication.

Follow the author on Twitter @ClayNRobinson



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Clay Robinson
Clay Robinson | Arizona Campus Correspondent

Clay Robinson is an Arizona Campus Correspondent, reporting liberal bias and abuse on college campuses. He is a student at Arizona State University's Barrett Honors College. Clay is pursuing a B.S. in Economics and a B.S. Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. He is also the Communications Director for ASU College Republicans and the Social Media Content Coordinator and Contributor for Lone Conservative.

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