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Study says whiteboards could be racist because they 'collaborate with white organizational culture'

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Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

A recent physics-related study pondered whether whiteboards are racist.

What are the details?

According to a report from Campus Reform, case study "Observing Whiteness in Introductory Physics Class" challenges the notion of whether the classroom whiteboard is a racist tool.

The study, published in March in Physical Review Physics Education Research, observed three students solving a physics problem and attempted to determine how "whiteness" could be ingrained in academia.

Whiteboards, according to the study, are tools which are predisposed to have "racist undertones" and can "perpetuate whiteness."

Study authors in their report argued that "whiteboards display written information for public consumption; they draw attention to themselves and in this case support the centering of an abstract representation and the person standing next to it, presenting."

"They collaborate with white organizational culture, where ideas and experiences gain value (become more central) when written down," the authors continued.

Further, the authors argued that the “invisible nature of whiteness is a primary means through which white dominance goes unchallenged” and noted that “making whiteness visible is one way to disrupt white dominance.”

Whiteness, according to the study, “does not require actors be white in order to participate in whiteness, even if the benefits of participating may be conferred disproportionately to white or white-passing people.”

Campus Reform added that according to the argument, "When students use a whiteboards to display work, they are drawing attention to themselves that may portray characteristics of 'whiteness.'"

What else is there to know about this?

W. Tali Hairston — director of community organizing, advocacy, and development at Seattle Presbytery and study co-author — told the outlet that while whiteboards are "not inherently racist," the "common classroom object can perpetuate racism."

"Whiteboards can be racist like how housing, employment, and the judicial systems were found to contain racist practices," Hairston insisted. "Our findings support other studies that have found the study of physics to include racism and sexism."

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