OK…This guy was a rookie. What he should have said was all white people in America benefit from racism.
A high school teacher in Norman, Okla. is under fire for this assertion. But how should the conversation about race relations be framed?
One high school teacher’s bold premise – that “all white people are racist, period” – is reigniting discussion about how difficult it is to talk about race in school classrooms.
One offended student in the philosophy elective at Norman North High School in Oklahoma recorded the remark, part of a lecture about how to heal racial divides, on her cellphone last week. The student, who wished to remain anonymous, told the local NBC-affiliate KFOR that she felt the teacher was encouraging the class “to pick on people for being white.”
The controversy comes as the country is confronted with questions of institutional racism in its educational systems and police departments, police misconduct against young black men, and racial inequality. The teacher, James Coursey, appeared to try to draw his classroom into this national conversation. Some education experts applaud Mr. Coursey and others’ efforts to engage students in what can be a challenging dialogue. But they also say he could have just worded his argument differently.
“I think it was a rookie error in teaching about race,” Paul Ketchum, a professor of liberal studies at the nearby University of Oklahoma, told The Norman Transcript. “You go for the big term when the a less loaded term would be better to make it a teachable moment.”
In a statement, Joe Siano, the superintendent of the school district, agreed that the discussion could have been handled better but emphasized the subject should still be a conversation in classrooms.
“Racism is an important topic that we discuss in our schools,” said Dr. Siano. “While discussing a variety of philosophical perspectives on culture, race and ethics, a teacher was attempting to convey to students in an elective philosophy course a perspective that had been shared at a university lecture he had attended.”
In the video the student first posted to social media, Coursey starts the lecture by showing a YouTube clip about imperialism. In the video, a man uses white-out on a globe to illustrate how European influence spread across the world, as The Washington Post reported.
Coursey is heard in the recording rhetorically ask: “Am I racist? And I say yeah. I don’t want to be. It’s not like I choose to be racist, but do I do things because of the way I was raised.”
“To be white is to be racist, period,” he says.
The offended student, who said half of her family is white and half Hispanic, told KFOR along with her father they felt the teacher encouraged the “demonization” of one race over others.
More than 100 student demonstrators stood behind Coursey, organizing a walkout Tuesday. One student said the remark was taken out of context.
“We believe it is important to have serious and thoughtful discussion about institutional racism in order to change the history and promote inclusivity,” he said, according to The Norman Times.
Other educators across the country, from preschool teachers to professors, have stumbled or faced criticism about how they have tried to discuss racism. A professor at the University of Kansas was suspended last year for using the N-word in a discussion she led about instances of racism on college campuses. Some of the nine graduate students in the class filed discrimination complaints with the university against the professor, Andrea Quenette. The university dismissed the complaints, but chose not to renewMs. Quenette’s employment following the conclusion of the spring 2017 semester, according the Lawrence Journal-World.
The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., drew national media attention in 2014 by offering a “White Privilege Seminar.” Iris Outlaw, the professor of the seminar, said at the time that its purpose is to explore white privilege and other systems of oppression to help students grow. But some conservatives said it was a liberal perspective gone too far.
“This isn’t education, it’s indoctrination,” Notre Dame student and conservative campus activist Mark Gianfalla told the Daily Caller. “The problem I see with this course is that it is teaching a flawed and inherently racist sociological theory as fact.”… Not surprising, from a conservative racist. Read the rest here…