Nolan Cabrera

Nolan Cabrera

Expert on Race, Whiteness, and Ethnic Studies



Dr. Nolan Cabrera is an award-winning scholar and nationally-recognized expert in the areas of racism/anti-racism on college campuses, whiteness, and ethnic studies. He is currently a Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, and was the only academic featured in the MTV documentary White People.

Dr. Cabrera's book, White Guys on Campus: Racism, White Immunity, and the Myth of "Post-Racial" Higher Education, is a critical examination of race in higher education, centering whiteness, in an effort to unveil the frequently unconscious habits of racism among white male undergraduates. It was the winner of the 2019 Outstanding Book Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).

Dr. Cabrera has given hundreds of lectures, keynote addresses, and trainings, throughout the country on challenging racism/whiteness, working through unconscious bias, creating inclusive college campuses, and the expansion of ethnic studies programs. Dr. Cabrera was an expert witness in the Tucson Unified Mexican American Studies case (Arce v. Douglas), which is the highest-profile ethnic studies case in the country’s history. In his just-released book, Whiteness in the Ivory Tower: Why Don’t We Notice the White Students Sitting Together in the Quad, Dr. Cabrera explores how racism is deeply embedded in higher education and centers the harm that whiteness causes to communities of color. And he offers a critical but concurrently hopeful view that anti-racist futures are both possible and necessary

He moves beyond the “few bad apples” frame of contemporary racism, and explores the structures, policies, ideologies, and experiences that allow racism to flourish. He calls upon institutions of higher education to be sites of social transformation instead of reinforcing systemic racism, while creating a platform to engage and challenge the public discourse of “post-racialism.”

Dr. Cabrera's numerous publications have appeared in some of the most prestigious journals in the fields of education and racial studies. He completed his graduate work at UCLA in Higher Education and Organizational Change and earned his BA from Stanford University in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (Education focus).

Unapologetically Brown in a Time of Whitelash The past three years have seen a spike in both overt racism and white racial grievance. In this presentation, Dr. Cabrera explores being “unapologetically brown” within this hostile social context. He will both critically examine the reasons that Brown peoples are continually scapegoated in politically contentious times, consider different forms of resistance, while also centering Brown joy in the process. Joy is centrally important so that Brown people are not simply responding to racist attacks but also fostering community self-determination. Collectively, Dr. Cabrera will offer his thoughts about critical areas in the community we need to address and celebrate for all of us to advance.

White Immunity: Working Through the Pedagogical Pitfalls of Privilege This presentation is Dr. Cabrera’s development over “White Privilege.” In it, he explores the historical development of whiteness, and shows how white advantage developed through systemic racism to which white people were socially inoculated. This lecture links the history of racial oppression to contemporary times, and helps work through some of the pitfalls of “privilege” such as, “How can white kids from Appalachia be ‘privileged’?”

Creating ‘Different Mirrors’: History, Theory, and Impacts of Ethnic Studies As ethnic studies is undergoing a nation-wide renaissance, it is important to remember how this very unique form of academic and educational work developed. This presentation engages the history of Ethnic Studies as well as the contemporary issues that its expansion poses. While it is important that Ethnic Studies is expanding, Dr. Cabrera cautions that it needs to expand with fidelity and attention to the history of its struggle.

Whiteness: A Primer When conversations arise regarding ‘diversity’ or ‘race,’ this usually implies a focus on People of Color. Generally absent is the subject of whiteness. This lecture explores the historical construction of whiteness. Additionally, it examines how this concept has evolved, been challenged, and continually reconstructed over the past five hundred years in the U.S. Ultimately, this lecture gives audience members insight into the “other side” of diversity.

History Is Not Destiny: Developing Servingness at Hispanic Serving Institutions(HSIs) There are always a number of growing pains associated with universities becoming Hispanic Serving Institutions(HSIs). In this talk, Dr. Cabrera utilizes the concept of servingness to examine institutional changes that need to occur - changing the culture of HSIs and the outcomes they produce - to truly support the needs of Latinx students. Of particular note, Dr. Cabrera will explore how anti-racism and decolonial education are core components of HSIs developing servingness while offering some practical considerations of how this can be developed.


Race is, Race Ain’t: Creating Racially-Engaged Campuses and Classrooms This workshop (1-4 hours) engages practitioners to critically engage race in their everyday practice. It accomplishes this by first providing an in-depth overview of what racism is and its relevance to educational space. It then engages audience members to both deconstruct how it is present in their practice while dialoging about how to structure racially-inclusive learning environments.

“I learned it by watching you”: Working through the self-inflicted wounds of masculinity. (training or keynote) The issue of ‘vanishing’ Men of Color in higher education makes headlines, including President Obama’s My Brothers Keeper initiative. Dr. Cabrera, as part of President Obama’s initiative, has a slightly different take on this issue of underrepresentation. He argues that the core of this issue is the self-harm masculinity inflicts on young Men of Color. This training engages normative scripts of masculinity and demonstrates how they are responsible for this larger social trend. Within this context, Dr. Cabrera illustrates how a feminist, anti-sexist masculinity is both a path to gender liberation and the solution to the under-representation of Men of Color in institutions of higher education.

Dr. Cabrera also lectures and offers trainings on issues of Critical Race Theory, Whiteness, systemically creating racially inclusive campus environments, and using programmatic assessment to anti-racist ends.

  Topic Areas

Race/Racial Justice/Racism
Whiteness/White Supremacy

  Related Links


"White Immunity": Working through the pitfalls of "privilege" discourse | Nolan Cabrera | TEDxUofA


White People | Official Full Documentary | MTV


Nolan Cabrera and Gina Garcia - Expanding Equity in Education Research Speaker Series

Dr. Cabrera's training was by far the most engaging outside agency training we have received. Despite the sensitive topic and the diverse crowd he was training, Dr. Cabrera was able to engage everyone while being sensitive to each person's needs and understanding. He was able to make the training meaningful to everyone and allowed our organization to have more conversations around race, culture, and racism. It is a training we intend to repeat every year.
Jansen Azarias Executive Director/Founder, Higher Ground, a Resource Center

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