Confronting white privilege

Celebrated and controversial American author, Robert T. Jensen, will visit York University on Jan. 8. Jensen, a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, will give a presentation titled "Confronting White Privilege". The author of numerous books and monographs, Jensen’s most recent book The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Light Books, 2005) explores the roots of racism and what Jensen refers to as the depraved nature of whiteness in the United States. In it, he argues that any system that denies non-white people their full humanity also keeps white people from fully accessing their own.

Left: Robert Jensen, photograph courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin

Jensen is also known for a series of controversial opinion pieces he published in the Houston Chronicle shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks. According to Jensen, the United States was "just as guilty" as the hijackers in committing acts of violence. The articles drew 4,000 letters to the editor.

Jensen joined the University of Texas (UT) faculty in 1992 after completing his PhD in media ethics and law in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. Prior to his academic career, he worked as a professional journalist for a decade. At UT, Jensen teaches courses in media law, ethics and politics. He also is director of the Senior Fellows Program, the honours program of the College of Communication.

In his research, Jensen draws on a variety of critical approaches to media and power. Much of his work has focused on pornography and the radical feminist critique of sexuality and men’s violence. In more recent work, he has addressed questions of race through a critique of white privilege and institutionalized racism.

In addition to teaching and research, Jensen writes for popular media, both alternative and mainstream. His opinion and analytic pieces on such subjects as foreign policy, politics and race have appeared in papers around the country. He also is involved in a number of activist groups working against US military and economic domination of the rest of the world.

In addition to The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege, Jensen is the author of Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004) and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002); co-author with Gail Dines and Ann Russo of Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality (Routledge, 1998); and co-editor with David S. Allen of Freeing the First Amendment: Critical Perspectives on Freedom of Expression (New York University Press, 1995).

Jensen’s lecture will take place on Monday, Jan. 8, at 4:30 pm, in 109 Accolade West. His visit is sponsored by the School of Kinesiology & Health Science, the LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, Faculty of Arts and Stong College.