Racism in the Classroom: I am Shannon Gibney

Cheryl Harris's "Whiteness as Property" is published in this anthology

Cheryl Harris’s “Whiteness as Property” is published in this anthology

I remember the first semester that I decided to teach Cheryl Harris’s “Whiteness as Property,” my students were completely resistant to reading it. They read the first few pages and realized that the essay was about white privilege and decided that they would read no more. Harris’s essay is complicated, but her argument is solid. They disagreed with it in its entirety, but were incapable of saying much more. They were done with the subject -matter and angry that I required them to read it. This protest to my teaching occurred in an African American literature class.

Structural racism, a topic discussed by Shannon Gibney at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, is one that could have easily been discussed in any of my classes, especially in the context of white privilege. In her Communications course, Professor Gibney was interrupted by two white males who did not want to hear about structural racism. They verbally attacked her in her own classroom and claimed that the discussion of structural racism made them feel like they were being attacked personally.

Professor Gibney’s students, a lot like my students did not take the time to read and understand the material being presented to them. Had they attempted to understand the lecture, they would understand that structural racism analyzes systems of racism, and not individual racism or how specific people are racist. That was of no matter to the students or to the college that eventually reprimanded her for the way she chose to teach her class.

People in support of the students argue that her discussion of structural racism had no place in her class. I find that a problematic assertion, considering none of them had seen her syllabus. And, that does not necessarily have to be the case, considering my white students did not want to talk about it either in an African American literature class.

The real problem is that the discussion of race and racism is an unsavory conversation in any context in America.

Da Realist 1 discussed this in “Teaching and the Power to Disrupt” in Tuesday’s post, where she states,

When you mentally wrestle with a difficult topic–whether it is calculus or philosophy–it may blow your mind at first. Once you begin to understand, you can pick up the pieces of your mind and rearrange them, but you are never quite the same again. This thinking process can be uncomfortable, but it is a necessary exercise in order to learn.

This way of thinking is acceptable in the sciences, but less so in regards to the humanities. And, to be honest, these same critical thinking strategies are deemed unacceptable by our own colleagues in liberal arts, when it comes to our courses in Ethnic and Gender Studies. The students’ and college’s response to Professor Gibney represents the country’s larger issues with engaging in productive conversations about race.

When I first heard Gibney’s story it wounded me deeply because I understand how easily it could have been me. I know what it is like to have spent more than a decade of my time on research, scholarship and teaching, to only be dismissed by students who do not believe that I deserve to be in the classroom. I wish Professor Gibney did not have to experience this and I send her positive energy, wherever she may be.

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Encouraging Yourself to Happy

Happy Face at the beach

Happy Face at the beach

On Monday, Da Realist 1 wrote a post, “Rejuvenating My Passion,” which is about her experience this past weekend attending an academic conference in IL. She spoke about it as being a “coming home” experience, one in which her attendance rejuvenated her spirit as an academic. It gave her an opportunity to go back to the people and the work that that was important to her.

Da Realist 1 was on to something in her piece. In fact, many of you, our readers, felt that she was as well, as demonstrated by the email and Facebook responses that talked about how her post was right on time for them. Personally, it reminded me of the value of doing the things that we enjoy and that we should try to do them as often as possible. Doing the work that we enjoy helps to balance the blahs that many of us experience when our professional and personal lives are not producing the type of fruit that we hoped it would.

The truth is, too often we don’t feel rewarded for our hard work, whether it be the work we do in our homes or the work that we do in the office. For me, however, I have always been thankful for is the relationship that I have had with my students. It has provided me a community of scholars with whom I could engage in conversations.

I have had students who are energized and optimistic about the research and scholarship that we do. They are also activists in their communities, volunteering to make a difference for women of domestic violence, educating young black students, campaigning in elections, and working in any other ways that they are needed. We are connected to each other on Facebook and Twitter and we continue discussing the issues that impact black people’s lives long after they have graduated. Some, I have even become friends with.

Not too long ago, I received a Facebook message from one of my students, telling me about the impact that my class has made in his life. Conversations like that make all of the academic bureaucracy worthwhile.

Wishing all our readers peace and joy!

Click here for Frankie Beverly and Maze’s song, “Happy Feelings” to help you get to happy.

Wacky Wednesday: Favorite Movie Lines

GreekWeddingDa Realist 1

From My Big Fat Greek Wedding, 2002

Toula: Ian is a vegetarian. He doesn’t eat meat.
Aunt Voula: He don’t eat no meat?
Toula: No, he doesn’t eat meat.
Aunt Voula: WHAT YOU MEAN HE DON’T EAT NO MEAT? (silence, as everyone looks shocked)
Aunt Voula: Oh that’s ok. That’s ok; I make lamb.

I love this movie because of Toula’s crazy, over-the-top family. If you replace “meat” with “pork,” a similar conversation probably happened in my family. I am from the “Dirty-Dirty,” and my mother was quite confused by my husband not eating pork. She explained that when she made collard greens, he could just pick out the hamhock if he didn’t want to eat it. Then, I had to explain that he neither ate pork nor pork-flavored foods.

Da Hype 1

Love JonesFrom Love Jones, 1997

Nina Mosley: You always want what you want when you want it. Why is everything so urgent with you?

Darrius Lovehall: Let me tell you somethin’. This here, right now, at this very moment, is all that matters to me. I love you. That’s urgent like a motherf*ck*r.

In 1997, Larenz Tate transformed himself from the dorky kid in The Inkwell to the guy that so many black women wanted to be with in Love Jones. I fell in love with his character’s poetic style, but most of all, I fell in love with Tate and Nia Long as a couple. They were convincing, charismatic, and they were characters my girlfriends and I could identify with. And, Tate was the man we all wanted to be with.

So, 2 Dope readers, what’s your favorite movie line?

*Movie lines checked via IMDb

Foto Fridays: Self-Portrait

So, 2 Dope Sistahs were on Pinterest and thought we would participate in one of the posts, “30 Day Photo Challenge,” which was originally posted on the Little Bennet blog. We decided to present our pictures on Fridays so that we can explore the power of the camera and how we see the world.

Day 1 is a Self Portrait

Da Realist 1: Cuttin’ my eyes

Cuttin' my eyes

Cuttin’ my eyes

Since I suggested “Foto Fridays,” you might think I would have been excited about the self portrait, but I was not. I was excited to finally use my tripod and learn how to set the self-timer on my camera. But I absolutely hate pictures of myself, even though I love taking pictures of everyone else. After taking many, many pictures of myself, I chose this one because it seems to capture one of my signature looks. My mother would describe it as “cuttin’ my eyes” at someone.

Da Hype 1: Salty

DSCN0536

Salty about this week in race relations

This picture represents how I feel today and practically all week . . . salty! Actually, “salty” is an understatement.

I was salty on Monday when the Supreme Court decided to punt the Fisher v. University of Texas case back down to the lower courts. I was salty on Tuesday when the same Supreme Court decided to revoke a voter rights provision. I was salty listening to the Trayvon Martin case. I was pissed off reading the ways in which the Prosecution’s witness, Rachel Jeantel, was treated as if she were on trial and not a witness.

I am just plain salty right now!!

Do you Remember the time?

Michael JacksonFour years ago today, my family and I were taking a trip to the beach. Since we had to go through the Atlanta metropolitan area to get to the Atlantic Ocean, we decided to visit with family. We were stuck in Atlanta traffic and Michael Baisden interrupted the music to say that there were reports that Michael Jackson was dead.

With no disrespect to Mr. Baisden, I did not believe him. Over the years, there had been countless rumors of Michael Jackson’s death and I assumed this was another hoax. Besides, he was the King of Pop, he couldn’t possibly be dead!!

I checked CNN on my BlackBerry and they were saying the same thing! I couldn’t believe it. When we finally arrived at my cousin’s house, the stories were all over the news and on the Internet . . . Michael Jackson was indeed dead.@

We were shocked and hurt. Our entire vacation was filled with his memories and songs.

Today is the fourth anniversary of his death. R.I.P King of Pop. May your legacy live on.

Where were you when you heard Michael Jackson had died? Tell us your stories.

2 Dope Sistahs Coming at Ya . . .

IMG_0884June 24, 2013 . . . it’s going down!

Bookmark our page, sign up for the blog . . .

Whatever you choose to do, don’t forget to come back on June 24–the inaugural week of our blog.

Da Hype 1 and the Da Realist 1 will be talking politics, writing, books, history, education, pop culture, race & gender, family, kids and more!

Stay tuned for 2 Dope Sistahs . . .