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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 7 Next Steps



We do very little as a profession to help each other sustain our moments of realization and honesty. While writing the previous chapter and trying to face the truth of my complicity in silencing Madeline, I, a White liberal, came across this cogent, very personal indictment of White liberals in an article entitled “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life” by a team of pscyhologists headed by Derald Wing Sue, whom I greatly respect. I awkwardly include all of their citations so that readers may experience the quote firsthand:

It appears that modern and symbolic racism are most closely associated with political conservatives, who disclaim personal bigotry by strong and rigid adherence to traditional American values (individualism, self-reliance, hard work, etc.), whereas aversive racism is more characteristic of White liberals (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1996, 2000). Aversive racists, according to these researchers, are strongly motivated by egalitarian values as well as antiminority feelings. Their egalitarian values operate on a conscious level while their antiminority feelings are less conscious and generally covert” (Devos & Banaji 2005). (272 emphasis added).

Just days earlier I had explained to my mother that my motivation for doing this work comes from my realization that I have been afraid of Black people on some deep level even though she and my dad had worked hard to teach me otherwise. I hadn’t named this aversive racism, but it is.

The fact is, the damage of my kind of racism is...

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