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Teaching racial justice within racism comfort

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From USA to Europe via India,the racial justice is a sadness reality.Ones who lie in their place of privilege don’t see that situation.It’s worse than Lazarus and the rich of the Bible.The deep gulf is established between them(Luc 16,20).

Wherever you turn over this,the poor’s voice is inaudible and he has no name.He is colored, black, african… How to plead for him?Here are some answers of Daily Theology(DT).

Long-time education theorist Stephen Brookfield suggests that educators need not shy away from their own struggles with race, but instead should be honest and open with their students.

He recommends an approach in which teachers recognize their own subtle, embedded racist beliefs by addressing five key questions: 1) How have we learned racism from dominant ideology? 2) How do our racist impulses continue to manifest themselves in our actions? 3) What are the ways we can identify these? 4) How are our racist leanings interrupted by disruptive experience? 5) How do we challenge and push back against them?[3]

By beginning with narrative disclosure – instead of presenting students with a lot of information on race and racism – the professor perhaps can begin to foster a sense of community in the classroom that will create space for the hard discussions.

Courses that regularly incorporate student discussion into class time often have better success in creating a classroom environment conducive to open and honest discussions about race.

Studies on the use of the narrative modeling approach for addressing race in the college classroom suggest that one of the reasons for the success of this approach is that discussion centered approaches to learning about race allowed students to own and share their own discomfort with the topic.

Here a couple of quotes from students are helpful: “‘Seeing other students with similar struggles and how they overcome their anxieties with the issues is reassuring that I too can overcome my own anxieties.’” “‘The first step towards racial-awareness is self-awareness and I need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable so I don’t run from the discomfort.’”[4]

Finally, those of us teaching in theology courses or other religious institutions have a special obligation both to address race in our classrooms and to help students deal with their discomfort.

As theologians grounded in an understanding of an innate human dignity given to all people by virtue of their creation in God’s image, we have an obligation to identify and address those things like racism that undermine human dignity.

Furthermore, as Anna Scheid and Elizabeth Vasko point out in their very good article, “Teaching Race: Pedagogical Challenges in Predominantly White Undergraduate Theology Classroms,” if our colleges are committed to educating “the whole person,” then we must be willing to deal with our students’ emotional responses as well.

By helping students give voice to the feelings they are experiencing – anger, guilt, frustration – students can more effectively deal with these complex emotions in ways that do not shut down classroom conversation.[5]

These three approaches to addressing racism in classrooms are just starting points and suggestions, but the theme that connects them is crucial. Owning our discomfort when talking about race helps open up discussion about race and racial privilege that very much need to happen on college campuses.

By encouraging students to name and deal with their insecurities, we enable them to address racism in critical ways that avoid easy platitudes and recognize that there are no easy solutions.

In this way, perhaps colleges and universities can begin their own transformative process of truly being social forces for good.

By Krista Stevens,DT,Teaching racial justice in the classroom

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