The weirdest piece of "hate mail" Lee Bebout got this spring after his Arizona State University course on the "problem of whiteness" made national news was about albinos.
"It was a letter from somebody here in Phoenix — they gave me their return address — who wrote to me to tell me I should look to the plight of albinos because that’s the real problem with whiteness," the ASU professor told TPM in a phone interview last week. "And that I should understand this because black people are really mean to albinos."
Strange letters about albinos notwithstanding, Bebout plans next semester to teach a revamped version of the course that put him at odds with Fox News and made him a target of white supremacist groups.
Campus Reform, the conservative student news website that first suggested Bebout's course was targeting white people, was quick to take note of this latest development. In an article last week, the website zeroed in on the change in the course's title in particular.
"Bebout said he had intended to call the course 'Disrupting Whiteness,' but ultimately settled on the more innocuous-sounding 'Whiteness and Critical Race Theory,' perhaps reflecting a desire to avoid a repeat of the reaction to the previous course," the article read.
TPM called up Bebout on Wednesday to talk about why he thought the "problem of whiteness" class elicited such a strong reaction and whether all that hubbub is informing his approach to the latest version of the course. Spoiler alert: he says it's not.
"I’m hoping there’s maybe less of a headache," Bebout said of next semester's class. "But I also know as somebody who’s been a scholar in critical whiteness studies for years that when you’re talking about whiteness, people get their hackles up."
Below is a transcript of TPM's conversation with Bebout that has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
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