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Teaching and Race

How to Survive, Manage, and Even Encourage Race Talk


Irene Murphy Lietz

Teaching and Race: How To Survive, Manage, and Even Encourage Race Talk provides an in-depth interdisciplinary analysis of some common student talk about race, its flavor, character, rhetorical, sociological, psychological and educational development sources, and manageable tools for responding to students. The book recommends an accessible two-step, compassionate listening followed by critical challenges, to make the transformative connection between emotion and evidence. The book helps teachers embrace the moments of difficult conversation, confront student denial (as well as their own), and take advantage of the unique opportunity the classroom provides to advance the students’ anti-racist identity development. Teaching and Race narrates common, sometimes offensive, language in four student interviews that are tied to strong feelings of confusion, denial, guilt, resistance and more. The student interviews help college teachers name and analyze loaded racial discussion so that they can thoughtfully address it in the classroom, rather than feel their only choices are explosive confrontation, gloss-overs or redirection. The book empowers teachers to shift potentially confrontational race talk to open-minded race dialogues that ultimately defuse the shock, sting, alarm and confusion of race talk by well-intentioned but unpracticed voices. The book creates a compassionate but informed moment for teachers, preparing them to confidently raise a critical challenge to misinformation at the moment it arises, and providing a beginning response for the teacher.

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Thank you to the students who volunteered for the study that began as the basis of this book and particularly to the four students who participated in the interviews that anchor this book. Their eagerness to learn and their generosity of spirit in learning with me is all a teacher could ever hope for.

To my wise and talented series editor, Alice Horning, and to the staff at Peter Lang, all new friends that I am so grateful to have met: Your professionalism and care for good, important communication is laudatory. Thank you.

To the writers group from Carlow University Pittsburgh, founded by Dr. Katie Hogan, which read early versions of many of these chapters: Sigrid King, Anne Rashid, Jennifer Snyder-Duch, Linda Burns, Melissa Swauger, Sylvia Rohr, and later Judith Toure. Their friendship and encouragement, unwavering faith in my voice, clarity of mind, and patience in teaching me how to research and write qualitatively are among the great gifts of my life.

To Barbara Johnson, Anne Rashid, Addie Morrow, Terri Laws, the YWCA Pittsburgh anti-racism team (formerly the Young Women’s Christian Association), and the University of Michigan Program on Intergroup Relations, whose frank conversations about race and willingness to teach me and encourage me in anti-racism work account for both the most obvious and the hardest lessons I’ve ever learned. Thank you.

To the Brief Daily Sessions (BDS) online group, also founded by Dr. Katie Hogan and Dr. Lisa Brush, which kept...

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