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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.

“This book offers an in-depth, critical exploration of the potential of a race-themed composition curriculum to encourage racial literacy among college students and their teachers. Lietz’s examination of the attitudes, experiences, and struggles of four students, one biracial and three White women, offers key insights into how students come to identify as racialized individuals and how they acknowledge, critique, or accept the privilege that accompanies whiteness. Each chapter follows a student as she evolves or stagnates in her racial literacy development during the course of her undergraduate career, providing an important longitudinal perspective on the racialized identities and experiences of college-aged women. Rather than maintain distance as a researcher, Lietz critically reflects upon her own pedagogical practices and interrogates her positionality as a teacher and a White woman. In doing so, Lietz models the type of self-reflection integral to effective, equitable instruction and highlights the ideological, sociological, and pedagogical considerations we must all take into account to become antiracist educators. Teaching and Race: How to Survive, Manage, and Even Encourage Race Talk is an important contribution to the growing body of literature on antiracism in writing studies.”—Mara Lee Grayson, Assistant Professor of English, California State University, Dominguez Hills

Teaching and Race: How to Survive, Manage, and Even Encourage Race Talk is an important teaching tool and model of reflection on a teacher’s own racial subject position for writing teachers of various levels. It offers college and even high school teachers who are white ways to interrogate whiteness, race, and racism in their classrooms with their students. Lietz’ frames much of her insights gleaned from her teaching and the four students she highlights in the book in ways that I find humble, compassionate, and thoughtful. Her discussion throughout is a good model for how white, female teachers can do important race work both from their own subject positions in the classroom as a teacher and through their readings and activities with students. This is the kind of race work we all can do together in the literacy classroom.”—Asao B. Inoue, Professor and Associate Dean, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, Arizona State University; Author of Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing for a Socially Just Future