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(Un)Common White Sense: the Whiteness Behind Digital Media

Abstract

Wielding its power through operations of invisibility and normalcy, whiteness, as a racially hegemonic ideology, acts as if white racial domination is the normal, natural order of the world, as if it is common sense. But this ‘common’ sense has another operating mechanism; it allows whiteness to go undetected, thereby masking racial inequities. That is, as folks blindly accept what is ‘common’ sense as rationale to justify their actions, they inadvertently ignore how whiteness, and thus white supremacy, is inextricably bound into that white sense making. As such, we opt for another term, (un)common white sense which deliberately makes the ‘common’ uncommon by revealing the hidden tendencies of whiteness. Take, for example, historically white (In solidarity with Critical Race Theory (CRT) scholarship, this article strategically capitalizes Black and lowercases white) institutions of higher education where curating a diverse public image of racial magnanimity generates a positive public reputation so needed by the university. Yet in this branding and imaging, whiteness is still ever-present. Though the university brochures are glittered with diverse Black and Brown faces, the university is pimping Black and Brown bodies for its own agenda, perpetuating the oft inequitable racial experiences of people of colour. In the end, those glittering, diverse university brochures are just another attempt to present a fictitious racial utopia. By exposing how universities apply (un)common white sense in their postdigital media, the maintenance and manifestations of white supremacy are revealed. Using Critical Race Theory’s method of counterstorytelling, this article illuminates how (un)common white sense embeds itself in university postdigital media. We, the authors, first explore how this face-value diversity has been used in the past, how it is presently being enforced on a historically white university (HWU) campus, and how the present problem of white ‘common’ sense can perhaps be made (un)common.

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Notes

  1. Kente cloth is typically from the Ashanti people of Ghana.

  2. In solidarity with CRT scholarship, this article strategically capitalizes Black and lowercases white.

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Correspondence to Cheryl E. Matias.

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Special Note:

To students and faculty who do not believe in nonsensical rumours both digitally and physically.

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Matias, C.E., Aldern, J. (Un)Common White Sense: the Whiteness Behind Digital Media. Postdigit Sci Educ 2, 330–347 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-019-00076-5

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Keywords

  • Whiteness
  • Digital
  • Postdigital
  • Higher education
  • Academia
  • Race
  • Critical whiteness studies
  • Critical race theory
  • Media