Born June 11, 1969, Heather W. Hackman completed her undergraduate studies in pre-med (microbiology) at Occidental College aiming to become a cardiologist, but took time off after her senior year. She subsequently attended Smith College, worked in student affairs, and got involved in the field of diversity training. Thereafter, Hackman obtained her masters (1995) and doctorate (2000) degrees in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Hackman served as an associate professor in the Department of Human Relations and Multicultural Education at St. Cloud State University from 2000-2012. In 2005 she founded the Hackman Consulting Group (HCG), a Minneapolis-based firm consisting of teachers, trainers, and experts on “deep diversity, equity, and social justice” issues. In 2012 Hackman left St. Cloud to work full-time as a consultant at HCG. Since 2012 as well, she has served as a member of the advisory council for the annual White Privilege Conference.
Hackman's chief interests include social justice education, multicultural education, sexism, class oppression, gender oppression, homophobia, and most notably, racism and white privilege. A 2012 article she co-authored for the Association of American Colleges and Universities stated that “social justice education addresses the social construction of identity groups, the creation of dominant and subordinate categories with respect to these identity groups (depending on their relationships to power and resources), the systemic power structures within each form of oppression and how these structures overlap and reinforce each other, and the various pathways to liberation.” Claiming that different “forms of oppression [based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.] in the United States … fee[d] off of each other for their maintenance and expansion,” Hackman and her co-authors argued that “attention to this interdependence is necessary to achieve the level of societal and systemic change that brings about real and substantive equity and justice.”
In March 2014, Hackman wrote an article for the gay blog, Belerico Report on LGBTQ Nation, in which she claimed that during the George W. Bush administration, Republican strategist and Bush adviser Karl Rove had tried to use “homophobic legislation” – disguised as “'protect the family' legislation” – as a prod “to drive conservatives to the polls” on Election Day. “In this way,” explained Hackman, “Rove was playing on one of the most long-standing rationales for colonization, 'Westward Expansion,' and increased militarism and U.S. imperialism throughout the world: the 'ever-increasing needs of the growing American family.' In this line of thinking the 'American family' (read: heterosexual, white, middle class, Christian, able-bodied, etc. -- think a Norman Rockwell painting) is the vessel into which all ideas of what it means to be an 'American' are poured, whereby the protection of this heteronormative 'nuclear family' is equated with the protection of America itself.”
In February 2015, Hackman's consulting firm conducted a workshop in Minneapolis entitled, “More Than Skin Deep: Uprooting White Privilege and White Supremacy One Cell at a Time.” An announcement promoting this event said: “In order to end systems of racial dominance, we have to end whiteness. Period. Ending whiteness means changing the systems of perpetuation but ending whiteness demands more than that. Individuals, families and communities that have been socialized as white have been conditioned from birth to benefit from and support racial dominance.... This work is about literally becoming a different kind of person from the cells out … without continually re-centering whiteness, white experience and white learning.”
In April 2016, Hackman facilitated a workshop at the White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia, where she attacked the “white supremacist” nature of modern education, asserted that “education is not about the mere reproduction of knowledge,” and told teachers that they had a moral duty to “becom[e] activists as well as teachers.” Moreover, Hackman exhorted the teachers in attendance to reject “the racial narrative of White” -- a narrative that, by her telling, aims to help children become “honest, hard-working, disciplined, rigorous, successful,” and capable of speaking “proper English.” These goals, said Hackman, are the racist objectives of what she terms a “Super-Whitey” mentality that disrespects the cultural values of nonwhites.
In October 2017, Hackman spoke (see video) in San Antonio before the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, on the topic of “A Deeper Solidarity: Sustainability Through a Social Justice Lens.” During her speech, she explained that racism is not “just about the way people are being treated,” but rather, that it is “a system” that doles out “access to resources, power and privilege” in a manner that is fundamentally unfair to nonwhites.
In addition to her years at St. Cloud State University, Hackman has also taught social justice issues at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Westfield State College, Springfield College, Hamline University, and the University of St Thomas. She currently resides in the Minneapolis area and travels extensively across the United States giving her presentations.
For additional information about Heather Hackman, click here.