Paper on racism in a coffee cup scores a B
Adulterating black coffee with white milk is an act of racism, a tongue-in-cheek Swede has proclaimed in an essay – only to find his work praised by a critical race theory (CRT) teacher at Stockholm University, he claims.
Student Arvid Haag told Swedish news outlet Fria Tider on Monday that he’d enrolled in the course in “Critical whiteness perspectives on Nordic culture” during the autumn term, describing his choice as little more than a joke. Local pandemic grant rules had equipped him and other students with an unexpected financial aid windfall, he said, and he figured he could “get something fun out of it” by taking up what he thought was a harmless if absurd class. However, he claims he soon found his classmates “seriously believed in what was taught.”
“It's one thing that there is a course coordinator in Sweden who thinks this makes sense. But everyone who read the course seemed to swallow it with gusto too,” Haag said, apparently surprised to find the American-born ideology so readily embraced by his countrymen. While he told the outlet he “added some critical comments from time to time” during class discussions, he otherwise remained silent – until the time came to turn in his final paper.
His magnum opus was an essay titled ‘Black and White Drinks’, in which he outlined “an account of what had happened from the early 20th century in the struggle between coffee and milk.” He described the marketing of coffee, its reveling in “problematic” ethnic terms, and how it had been “characterized by the highlighting of black and exotic elements of the drink,” while milk, in contrast, had been marketed based on its “local and white” characteristics.
Referring to the common practice of stirring milk into coffee, he questioned whether the mix was truly “reconciling” the two liquids, or if, instead, it was actually “imposing” white properties on the black drink.
Milk in the coffee can … be seen as a drink-based colonization. The hot and strong coffee cools and is rounded off in taste with the help of the milk, which thereby controls and domesticates the coffee.
Despite admitting to not having read most of the books or blog posts he cited, nor understanding what “critical whiteness perspectives” really meant – a charge he similarly leveled at his classmates and professor – Haag said he received a B grade on the essay, equating to ‘very good.’ His professor called it an “exciting topic” that could be extended into a “longer essay.”
Haag didn’t think he got the joke, though. “[It] must have gone over his head. His only criticism was that I didn’t have the exact source references on my photos,” he said.