Teaching to Convince, Teaching to Empower: Reflections on Student Resistance and Self-Defeat at Predominantly White vs. Racially Diverse Campuses
A key challenge of teaching racism in the so-called “post-racial” era is to get students to realize that racism does in fact exist. When faced with these challenges, it is not uncommon for professors to dedicate much of their time convincing students of the significance and persistence of racism. This is especially true when teaching at predominantly “white” institutions, where students likely do not navigate racism on an everyday basis. However, these methods may not be as effective when teaching racism at colleges, where the student body is predominantly of color, immigrant, and/or working class. Here, new challenges arise. One central challenge I have faced is teaching about the persistence of racism without disempowering students who do encounter racism in their everyday lives. In this paper, I reflect on these challenges and the strategies I developed to deal with student resistance at three different institutions. I also offer some suggestions on how our colleges and universities can create supportive environments for women and faculty of color who teach racism. This paper is intended for college faculty who teach a variety of courses in which racism is addressed centrally as well as for college administrators interested in retaining women and faculty of color.
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