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Monday, May 16, 2005

Today: AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!

An ethnic studies course is about the experiences of people of color -- this includes, but is not limited to, how they experience the white world, white people, white privilege. There are historical, political, and educational rationales for requiring that college students take ONE ethnic studies course before they graduate.

To understand the "ethnic" experience, whiteness must be made visible. White supremacy is at the very foundation of the construction of this nation. What makes whiteness so powerful is its invisibility. Some comments from today's course evaluations:

"I am not white; I'm a human being. Don't lump me with white people."

"I feel I am not validated as a (white) person in this class." (to which another student said: you may not feel validated here, but outside of this room, everything validates you!).

"Why are we doing the same stereotyping of white people that we say we shouldn't do with people of color?"

"There is no such thing as white privilege; it's all about money."

"My son can't find a job because he is white. Tell me that is not racism."

"Too many books to read! Show movies instead."

"I question your using your friends' books for this course."

Fifteen weeks is not enough to facilitate the development of dialogic reflection via ethnic literature. While large class size (50!) makes teaching difficult, I feel students resist the texts because of the discomfort and defensiveness provoked by the texts of the Other.

Discomfort and defensiveness comes from a dualistic mindset, i.e. "if the Other expresses thoughts and feelings critical of whiteness and white privilege, then I feel judged." Whereas, in dialogic reflection one is required to listen loudly so that empathy might find a place in the encounter, dualistic thinking traps one into the either/or position.

I welcome student feedback but there are days when my capacity for large compassion falls short of the (unreasonable) demands.

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