The Center for the Study of White American Culture (CSWAC) was founded in April 1995 by Jeff Hitchcock and Charley Flint, an interracial couple with a lifelong interest in matters of racial justice and equity. The founders had a clear understanding that a complete view of a culture requires the perspective of both insiders and outsiders to that culture. Thus, from the outset CSWAC has been a multiracial organization.
The founders envisioned an organization that would raise consciousness about the roles whiteness and white American culture occupy in the racial structure of United States society. In 1995 this topic was not discussed in mainstream public settings.
On February 24, 1996 CSWAC presented our first workshop, titled Learning How to Talk about Whiteness, at the Thirteenth Annual Teachers College Winter Roundtable on Cross Cultural Psychology and Education at Columbia University. Later that year, CSWAC organized the National Conference on Whiteness, the first event of its kind ever held. Also that year, CSWAC launched www.euroamerican.org, the first outpost of white-identified anti-racist advocacy on the internet which, even then, had already seen the appearance of several white supremacist sites.
In 1997 the founders set out their core analysis in a seminal paper titled Decentering Whiteness and Building Multiracial Community.
Over the years CSWAC has continued to hold workshops and training with hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations. In 2003 CSWAC entered the book publishing arena by establishing Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, Inc. The name commemorates three 19th century abolitionists. Since that time, we have published a small number of titles that continue to be relevant today.
As times have changed, CSWAC has shifted its focus. Today we are in the midst of a 2-year program of strategic review and planning, the result of which is to expand our workshop offerings, while scaling back our publishing operations (since this latter area has now been “discovered” by the book publishing trade).And our emphasis has shifted from nurturing the development of white anti-racist activism to envisioning what is needed to build multiracial community. Understanding whiteness and white American culture remain essential to that work.
Our mission is to build an equitable society in the United States by decentering white culture and centering an anti-racist multiracial culture free of white supremacy.
Charley and Jeff
Theory of Change
There are many ways in which people and organizations work for racial justice and equity. CSWAC uses an anti-racist approach. To us, the core precepts of anti-racism include acknowledgement that racism and white supremacy are systemic, that whiteness is set up as the standard for humanity, and that those who are racialized as white are empowered while people of color are disempowered.
CSWAC believes we need to move through race to achieve racial justice and equity. Colorblind approaches have failed. And we believe an approach that requires the elimination of the race construct before racial justice and equity can be achieved is utopian.
It is not enough to eliminate racism. In fact, it is not even clear what the vision of eliminating racism specifically entails. CSWAC envisions a proactive effort to build multiracial community. We envision a society based on multiracial values, where anti-racist multiracial social structures are normative, centered, and control access to power and resources. We envision this applying throughout society, from small groups, to organizations and institutions, to the prevailing culture of society at large.
Our present society is based on whiteness and white American culture is centered. This structural condition of centered whiteness is a legacy of white supremacy. We need to decenter white American culture and build a center based on anti-racist multiracial values.
Everyone needs to change. Efforts based on changing people of color (or changing the conditions that bear upon people of color) without also focusing on the operation of whiteness and white centeredness, are incomplete and likely to fall short.
Awareness and education are important. Without vision and understanding, people and organizations are flying blind. Having a shared understanding and analysis of how race operates is crucial. Paying attention to research and best practices is helpful. Intention, motivation, and leadership are key whether you are a parent or teacher of a child, or the manager of a department, or the chief executive of an organization. Many tools and tactics for personal and organizational change are available and can be applied if one has the vision and strategy in mind.
The Center for the Study of White American Culture, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation in New Jersey with IRS 501(c)3 status, and governed by a Board of Trustees. Day to day operations are managed by an Executive Director and staff. Along with staff, CSWAC works with a number of facilitators who are part of the CSWAC family. We operate on a fee for service basis, with additional support from foundations and individual donors. Our work is carried out under two organizational names.
First there is our official name, Center for the Study of White American Culture, Inc. (CSWAC), which encompasses the greater part of our activity, including our training and consulting practice for organizations and individuals, and special projects.
Second, there is Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, Inc. (CDDbooks), the name of our publishing operation. CDDbooks is a registered alternative business name with the State of New Jersey. CDDBooks was established in 2002 and continues as a current operation under CSWAC.
CSWAC is a small but powerful organization, and growing. Over the time of our existence we have seen the topics of whiteness, white privilege, and white American culture move from being taboo discussion to now being open to public examination. We continue to engage in that public discussion and promote its growth. True to our founding purpose, we believe it is necessary to do so if the US is to achieve a truly fair and just multiracial society.