- Making a Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out
For over a decade there has been a growing trend in sociology to legitimize and to do research within a sub discipline called whiteness studies. But rarely has whiteness studies spilled over onto a serious piece of research about people of color. Yet both are a natural fit.
Research in whiteness studies has prospered. Although now well established it is still felt by many to be new and thus cutting edge—scratching out a foothold. Its adherents tend to be young, white, and fresh out of grad school. Many sociologists remain ambivalent about this area of inquiry.
Many are attracted to the verve, esprit de corps or sense of advant garde-ness that seem inherent to whiteness studies. Those who have scoffed at it have done so because they have been quite reluctant to combine an analysis of people of color with an analysis of what it means to be white—perhaps there was more [End Page 483] than a strong feeling that to do so would cheapen or dilute a serious piece of research about minorities.
After reading Making a Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out, it is obvious that the two camps, research on people of color and whiteness studies, must and should be wedded together. This book is very accessible to students. The first three chapters are narratives of interviews with minority students. This is qualitative research at its best. The ideas of the students are not overly analyzed or broken up into fragments. The reader is treated to a sense of firsthand contact with the interviewee.
Lesage, Ferber, Storres, and Wong wrote the remaining seven chapters of the book. The topics include diversity in higher education, a historical look at students of color at the University of Oregon, and hate crimes. If it matters to the reader of this review, one of the authors is of Chinese descent, one is mixed race, and two are white.
Don't let the title of each chapter written by the authors fool you. They are only a gateway or portal to a treasure trove of well-documented ideas. The means are definitely justified by the ends. They have written on topics that tell the reader in very thorough and complete fashion what it means to be a student of color on the campuses of higher education in our nation.
This book is accessible but certainly it is not fluffy. The many narratives by students in the first third of the book are a wealth of ideas. The chapters written by the authors in the remaining two thirds of the book will serve as a substantial reference for scholars who wish to do research in the area of students of color's experiences and race relations on college campuses. It is an easy, good and necessary read for undergraduates, graduates, staff, and faculty and will serve as a valuable desktop reference to be used to model and build future research.
Based on conversations I have had with my colleagues throughout the 1990s, whiteness studies, although very exciting to many, failed to raise eyebrows—it might even be said that it was felt by some, including myself, to be rather cultish at times. Frankly there were occasions when I thought of whiteness studies as simply an extension of the conversation-oriented white liberalism of the 1960s—all talk but with little teeth or substance, without capacity to initiate or effect serious change or analysis for people of color.
In keeping with the mood and feelings of the Black Power Movement and the desire for self-empowerment, the fact that almost all who have been involved in whiteness studies, which is the examination of what it means to be are white, is to be applauded. Who better to study whiteness than someone who identifies as white. At the same time, it was...