I was bothered by the headline on the Chronicle of Higher Education article that came out, ‘We Can’t Ignore This Issue’: How to Talk With Students About Racism. Here’s the thing, in my classroom we DO talk about racism. I have to, it isn’t something you can afford to ignore when you work at a historically Black university and by the looks of the Black professors that were retweeting the link with laughter, I’m not alone.
In the last few months it has become painfully obvious how staying indoors and only having the news to watch has woken up a lot of people who aren’t Black to the realities of American life. Systemic racism is a real thing. Racism is still a problem. Black people aren’t valued as people, it is as if we are still considered property the way our lives are tossed around and disposed of in society. So when academics comment on a tweet about how to talk to students about racism and they’re so perplexed as to how to even begin, I’m left feeling hopeless but unfortunately not surprised.
Racism permeates every single aspect of modern life, so why aren’t science teachers talking about how slaves were used as test subjects for gynecological procedures? Or any of the other medical experiments blacks were subjected to that lead to the mistrust of doctors? In communications we talk about how images of blacks perpetuate stereotypes in modern day society (hello, Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben). How about in information technology courses we talk about how algorithms can create bias against black people in so many ways? We aren’t and that’s part of the problem. The education system is so white washed that many books and academics are only looking at one part of the story – we need to tell both sides and racism is a great starting point.