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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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Chapter 3 Annabell



There are few joys in life that rival a teacher’s experience of smart, eager students. The sheer fun of teaching such students can be almost orgasmic; they make our jobs easier and often draw the best from us as educators and mentors. But they can also reward us in insularity, a certain pedagogical myopia, believing we are doing a good job because they continue to bounce in their seats with enthusiasm. Perhaps speaking for myself, although I suspect otherwise, it is tempting to just keep the “good” student happy, to prod her gently to take only a few steps out of her comfort zone, allowing her to slide back to where she feels in greater control (and has always gotten good grades before). In this chapter, I’d like to explore the experience of just such a student and, through her comments from interviews when she was a first-year student and then again as a senior, examine the dynamics of a “good” student who is asked to go further outside of her comfort zone. At the same time, I will raise questions about my role as teacher and about the role of my institution in helping me and such students embark on that journey that has implications for their lives and the part the institution may (or not) play in building a just society.

Annabell is one of the five students whose voices ground the theory of this book. I use sociologists Baxter Magolda and King’s...

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