White communication in a racially charged climate


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sonya Makkanji, Opinion Writer

When presented with a course option to take COMM 454 Communication and Whiteness class as a senior at CSUSM, I was intrigued.


A whole semester on how white people communicate, what could that possibly be about? I was anxious to find out, and to see how communication would present itself.


In the first week of class, I was excited to learn, absorb and gain some insight. I expressed my excitement to a friend, who happens to be white, and they immediately asked if there was also a class that “taught a communication of Asians or black people.”


I was shocked, there was no excitement from him, no words of encouragement. The immediate response was defensive. He was not the subject of the class, I was not speaking about his whiteness, yet he jumped on the negative.


This seems to be the thread that connects white fragility to its subscribers, the ideology of “what about the other ethnicities?” This forced me to take a look at the negative reactions I was receiving and wonder, is this how racism is unearthed in our family, friends and colleagues, hovering just near the surface ready to break out at any white, fragile moment?


Thinking and/or voicing racist thoughts, does not make one a racist. We all hold biases, as humans it remains impossible to live a life free of the constraints we encounter or have been introduced to in our environments.


We have all heard the phrase “I’m not racist, I don’t even see color,” an oxymoron in and of itself. Color exists, ethnicities exist, to say one does not see that, perpetuates the issue of burying racial issues under the rug. If I do not acknowledge it, it cannot exist.


Conversations dealing with race remain one of the best ways to initiate understanding and subsequent change. The dialogue initiated in my class has allowed us to understand that race has affected us all, regardless of ethnicity.


We started class with a reflection week, a time for us to recall points in our lives had been impacted the most in terms of race. I had plenty of stories, name calling, decisions made for me based on my skin color and a few happier stories on how my ethnicity was appreciated.


I was prepared to give one of at least a 100 stories on how racism has affected me, but what I was not prepared for were the deep wounds my classmates carried. As their stories poured out, I was saddened that so many of us have been affected in some way by racism.


Racism, colorism, classism, they are all linked together so tightly. I am trying to break those threads, as I see the stereotypes that I too, perpetuate.

Dealing with racism on an institutional and systemic level is not a new story, the U.S. was founded on the backs of slaves and immigrants. However, taking this class has provided me another level of understanding revealing how ingrained cultural ideologies of racism are woven into the fabric of society.


This class has opened my eyes to seeing racism from a white point of view in discussions with my classmates, and shared stories within the safe zone of our classroom. Our coursework has not diluted the history of our country as our formative years have taught us.  


Rather, the information presented via our professor has shed a spotlight on the historical racism that so many of us still encounter today.

One person can make a difference. I firmly recommend it to any student who is unsure about its content. I can be that one person to initiate change, and so can you.