A Utah education activist named Natalie Cline posted a concerning document, sent to her from an anonymous source, which detailed how a Brigham Young University sociology professor had her students conduct a “Revealing Whiteness Activity.”
The text of the assignment can be considered offensive and controversial because it accuses BYU of having “different aspects of Whiteness built into its physical and social environments.” Although it is true that the university’s student body is majority-white, it does not mean that the university and the student body are placing white Americans as a higher priority than the other races and ethnicities which attend the university. The assignment also called BYU a “predominantly white institution,” or PWI for short.
The assignment also cited the controversial Critical Race Theory activist author Robin DiAngelo, whose book “White Fragility” was a New York Times bestseller and the book has become the driving force of the Critical Race Theory movement. It presented DiAngelo’s work as unequivocal and accurate, citing its definitions of white privilege without providing a proper rebuttal.
BYU is commonly known to be a socially conservative private university and it is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Despite that perception, recent events such as this white privilege assignment have shown that the university is trying to appease the outspoken liberal minority in its student and faculty bodies, while remaining firm in its core religious tenets and mission.
On its face, the assignment goes against the university’s apolitical stance and its preference to remain out of hot-button social and political issues.
The Sociology 112 class is taught by associate professor of sociology Jane Lilly Lopez. Lopez, according to her biography on BYU’s website, conducts research on “Citizenship, Immigration, Law & Social Policy, Latinx Studies” and her research interests “include citizenship (as both a legal status and a lived experience/identity), immigration, integration, and the effects of law in the public and private realms of everyday life.” She received her sociology PhD from the University of California-San Diego in 2018.
Lopez teaches three sociology classes and one class from the university’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences (FHSS), which are as follows:
- SOC 112: Current Social Problems
- SOC 423: Sociology of Immigration
- SOC 604: Ethnographic Research Methods
- FHSS 351: Latino Civil Rights Seminar
Her biography lists one published book and five academic articles, which are the following:
- “Unauthorized Love: Mixed-Citizenship Couples Negotiating Intimacy, Immigration, and the State” published in November 2021 by the Stanford University Press
- “Of One Fold: How Religion, Culture, and Gender Intersect to Shape Integration for International Migrants Settling in Utah, USA” published in the journal Ethnography and Qualitative Research
- “Shades of Belonging: The Intersection of Race and Religion in Utah Immigrants’ Social Integration” published in the journal Social Sciences
- “Together and Apart: Transnational Life in the US-Mexico Border Region” in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
- “Policy Design and the Politics of City Revenue: Evidence from California Municipal Ballot Measures” published in the Urban Affairs Review.
- “Obama’s Immigration Reform: The Triumph of Executive Action” published in the Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equity