When I first reached out to her this past fall, professor Cheryl Matias was reluctant to talk with me. She had seen a lot of hate mail and resistance to her work and didn’t want to attract more vitriol. After I told her about the story I wanted to write, illuminating the dangers of unexamined whiteness, luckily she reconsidered.
At the school of education at CU Denver, Matias teaches prospective teachers about whiteness, the widely recognized social construct that confers privilege on people who act and are perceived as white—a phenomenon that essentially keeps racism in place. In her classes, Matias requires deep engagement and personal self-examination by students, a process that is often highly uncomfortable and sometimes controversial but, she finds, results in a much deeper understanding of the structure of whiteness in our world and in ourselves.
I was impressed not only by Matias’s intellect but also her courage in bringing these difficult topics to light. Read my resulting story, “How to Be a True Anti-Racist,” in the December issue of 5280 magazine by clicking here.