How to Teach in Trump’s America [Bringing up Race, Immigration, Sexuality and everything else in Higher Ed]
Figure 1 Image from Swedish artist, Emanu
I find that the following issues must be addressed in order to frame your future discussions so that they occur in a much more educated capacity. These three things can be broken up over weeks or accomplished in one activity. The group will dictate how much time needs to be spent on each. I’ll first state what they are and then suggest some classroom activities you can do.
1. Privilege and perception (stereotypes).
With memes infiltrating the internet demanding that one, “check their privilege” we would be remiss to not also address this in our classes. Society is calling upon the patriarchy; television shows, and viral videos are all shouting about white privilege so why aren’t we discussing it in the classroom? If you’re not familiar, privilege is the concept that if I, a female POC, have to climb twenty feet to receive the same thing that another person just has to reach their hand out for, that person has privilege-an advantage that is not rooted in skill or hard work but a birth right. It is pivotal that privilege be addressed in order to have future discussions in your class that take place from a level of understanding and compassion. There are a plethora of ways this can be accomplished. The following website is a great resource, https://humaneeducation.org/ I like to bring this up when we are covering identity. Who are we? This self-examination route allows students to question how they developed their core beliefs and in turn wonder how someone else did the same. As I introduce the ideals of self-perception I bring up how we perceive others, this inevitability leads to the introduction of stereotypes and why do we believe them and who do we stereotype? As the class begins to uncover labels, and otherizing and who they perceive themselves similar to and different from I introduce the next pivotal step.
2. The Formation of Dominant and Nondominate groups and empathy. Who do we value in our society? Who is able to define what is acceptable speaking behavior, what is “normal?” Who has that power and do they know they have that power and when did we know we didn’t have it? This is instrumental to understanding why some people are naïve while others are racist. Why someone makes a mistake or why someone purposefully blocked you from advancing because who you are married to. This introduces concepts like intersectionality but mostly empathy. This explains the psychology of what we are experiencing, it validates our perceptions while also validating those of others. It allows for a higher level of learning and deeper understanding. To do this I usually show the chart that is located in the ninth installment of this Blog Series which was developed in conjunction with, Unknown Author. (2016). Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies [PDF version]. Retrieved from https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/BookDetail.aspx?bookId=274
3. Always remember, you don’t have to be an expert of all things, just allow a safe space for the process. When you stop separating your discipline from the issues of the world, your teaching becomes elevated and more accessible for students. Why would a student, who is facing institutionalized racism want to learn about public speaking if you don’t first explain to them how public speaking helped to end many of the legal oppression's that marginalized groups have faced for centuries? Welcome your students to your class, embrace their diversity and get to work.