Mary Bucholtz
© Twitter / Mary Bucholtz
Mary Bucholtz
Linguistics professor Mary Bucholtz kicked off her presentation at a recent online conference for academics by condemning all white Americans as racists and said deniers must acknowledge their guilt and "do better."

"As a white American, I am by definition racist," Bucholtz, who chairs the linguistics department at the University of California Santa Barbara, said at a Sept. 11 webinar hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Don't let anyone tell you otherwise," she added, with a chuckle.

As a guest speaker at the lecture, Bucholtz's topic was billed as "The white-supremacist and colonial underpinnings of linguistics," but her talk centered more on the allegedly inherent racism of white people.

"I know there is this sort of rhetoric of white people in the United States rejecting the label of racism, but I think we need to acknowledge that and do better," Bucholtz said. She likened white supremacy to a pandemic or disease and argued that there is no such thing as "non-racism," as all people are either "racist" or "anti-racist," and "you can't be neutral."

The latter assertion echoed the race obsession of Ibram Kendi, a Boston University professor who directs a Center for Anti-Racist Research that was rewarded in August with a $10 million donation from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. Kendi went so far as to argue that the term "not racist" should be removed from "the human vocabulary" because a person can only be racist or anti-racist.


Bucholtz also railed against capitalizing the "W" in the word "white," even though the AP Stylebook for journalists earlier this year ruled that the "B" in "black" must be capitalized when referring to black people. "I hate seeing when people capitalize 'white,'" she said. "It's not the same kind of category. Also, white supremacists love capitalizing white, so for me, it's a political decision not to capitalize it and to recognize it as a construct that has built itself out of the racial system or at the top of the racial system by opting out of being racialized."


White people have built a system of white supremacy "to oppress everybody else," Bucholtz argued. The professor shared with her audience a link to documents from a workshop on how to be "white allies, apprentices and accomplices." Bucholtz authors a journal titled 'The Public Life of White Affects' and wrote a textbook on how white children use language to display identities that position themselves in a school's racialized social order.

Twitter users declined to share in Bucholtz's self-guilt over being white, with one saying, "Suit yourself," and another tweeting, "She can remove the 'by definition' and speak for herself." One commenter was only glad that he hadn't ended up in a linguistics class in Santa Barbara: "Thank God I went to trade school instead of college."