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Why Is My Curriculum White? A Brief Genealogy of Resistance

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Dismantling Race in Higher Education


A critical question in this chapter is whether the Western tradition has the intellectual resources within to transform itself and come to terms with the historical effects and traces of racism that are invested in our institutions and in our knowledge traditions. The student movement ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ At University College London (UCL) propose responses to this question pointing out the lack of awareness that the curriculum is white comprised of ‘white ideas’ by ‘white authors’ and is a result of colonialism that has normalised whiteness and made blackness invisible. This is a fundamental educational challenge that has not been addressed by the educational establishment, nor by the majority of philosophers including philosophers of education. Racism rarely figures on philosophy of education conference agendas and papers discussing the ethics of education that tend to talk in general and abstract terms neglecting issues of race or gender.

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  1. 1.

    Minna Salami is the founder of the MsAfropolitan blog, which covers Africa and the diaspora from a feminist perspective. I would like to thank Tina Besley from drawing my attention to this story and for discussing the underlying issues. I would also like to acknowledge the helpful editorial comments of Heidi Mirza who reminds me of my own white privilege as a scholar and the contributions of women of colour to Black activism .

  2. 2.

    See McEachrane’s (2014) Afro-Nordic Landscapes: Equality and Race in Northern Europe. Salami also makes reference to Dirk J. Louw’s ‘Ubuntu: An African Assessment of the Religious Other’ at

  3. 3.

    The Stone features the writing of contemporary philosophers for the New York Times moderated by Simon Critchley.

  4. 4.

    See . George Yancy is himself a philosopher who works on ‘critical philosophy of race, critical whiteness studies, and philosophy of the Black experience’ as he say on his university webpage ( His latest edited collection is White Self-Criticality beyond Anti-Racism : How Does It Feel to Be a White Problem? (2014).

  5. 5.

    In this regard see James Anderson’s AERA lecture, ‘A Long Shadow: The American Pursuit of Political Justice and Education Equality’, that explores the historic and inseparable relationship between the right and freedom to vote and the pursuit of education equality. Video, transcript, and slides at

  6. 6.

    HBCU—Historical Black Colleges and Universities .

  7. 7.

    Historical Black Colleges and Universities.

  8. 8.


  9. 9.

    For primary sources of the civil rights Movement See


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Correspondence to Michael Adrian Peters .

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Peters, M.A. (2018). Why Is My Curriculum White? A Brief Genealogy of Resistance. In: Arday, J., Mirza, H. (eds) Dismantling Race in Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-60260-8

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