Race in the Classroom

Friday, October 9, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

I asked a question in my lecture class yesterday.

I asked, "Is racial prejudice disappearing?"

Let's be clear, this was an intentionally ambiguous cue. A prompt that could be interpreted as "is it lessening" or "is it going away." Race, of course, being the major filter through which the question was received.

I figured this picture would draw in a larger audience. 
Immediately, and almost as if it were a automatic response, a Black woman in the front of the class began shaking her head, "no, no, no, no, no."

I asked her if she wished to expand on her position.

Her head continued to shake.

And at that moment, when I asked her if she wanted to share her opinion, we sat on the precipice of the reality of discussing race.

This young woman had to decide whether it was worth it to risk being White Man-splaned race by your professor in a large class of her peers.  The short answer: No. Fucking. Way.

She also had decide if I, a White teacher, was asking her to explain race to my class.

And a few questions later, a White male student near the front asked another question about "the place of White people" in the discussion about race, and I decided that a fundamental truth about this subject needed to be said aloud.

"Let's be clear, it is not Black people's responsibility to explain racism to you. It is not the job of the systematically disenfranchised to educate you about the reality of the world we all inhabit together. That is your job as a human being."

The entire class exhaled.

I should have added that it was also my job as their professor, but I hoped that was self-evident.

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