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If you read anything today, read this! A crash course in transracial adoptive parenting, brought to you by Dr. John Raible, a scholar, transracial adoptee, adoptive parent and awesome coffee buddy.

Obtain a kid from overseas recently? Or still fantasizing about rescuing somebody’s orphan? Perhaps you are in the process of saving one of those less expensive kids from foster care?… The unabashed assumption and unapologetic bias behind this Crash Course is that the best teachers of adoptive parents are adult transracial adoptees who have lived through the experiment, especially those adoptees who are also adoptive parents. The second best teachers are experienced transracial adoptive parents who, even though they may not be adoptees or people of color, nevertheless have figured out how to become conscious anti-racist advocates and allies.

Allies, you ask, in what struggles? In the joint struggles against racism and on behalf of adoption reform.

You asked for this one too! These are the books I’m teaching in Fall 2010 in my Library Materials for Children’s course. So far, Dr. Perry Nodelman, Dr. Debbie Reese, and Dr. Thomas Crisp have agreed to give guest lectures. I welcome your feedback.

Course Overview

Selection, evaluation and use of media for children in elementary schools and public libraries. Materials in curricular areas are studied along with an examination of the relationships of materials to developmental characteristics and individual differences of the child, to curriculum and recreation, to the exceptional child and to a multicultural society. 3 credits.

We will engage in a variety of teaching/learning methods to cover the course material, including but not limited to: lecture, small/large group discussions, independent and group projects, written and oral presentations.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • To understand of the history of children’s literature;
  • To be familiar with a range of authors, works, genres and media;
  • To discuss, evaluate and promote children’s literature/resources;
  • To learn strategies for connecting young people with literature;
  • To identify and discuss literary and societal trends and issues (war, refugee, migration, class, gender, etc) affecting materials and work with youth in libraries and schools.

Reading List

Required Textbook: Nodelman, Perry, and Mavis Reimer. 2003. The Pleasures of Children’s Literature. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  1. Banerjee, Anjali.  Maya Running.  Laurel Leaf Books, ISBN 978-0553494242.
  2. Cleary, Beverly.  Ramona and Her Father. HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0380709168. 
  3. Clements, Andrew.  The Landry News. Atheneum, ISBN 978-0689828683.
  4. Curtis, Christopher Paul.  The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963. Yearling, ISBN 978-0440414124.
  5. Dahl, Roald.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Puffin, ISBN 978-0142410318.
  6. Dia, Cha.  Dia’s Story Cloth. Lee & Low Books, ISBN 978-1880000632.
  7. Engle, Margarita.  The Surrender Tree. Square Fish, ISBN 978-0312608712.
  8. Epstein, Brad M.  University Of Illinois 101: My First Text-Board-Book. Michaelson Entertainment, 2004.  ISBN 978-1932530179.
  9. Erdrich, Louise.  The Birchbark House. Hyperion Books, 2002.  ISBN 978-0786814541.
  10. Freedman, Russell.  Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Holiday House, ISBN 978-0823421954.
  11. Gaiman, Neil.  The Graveyard Book. HarperCollins, 2008.  ISBN 978-0060530921. 
  12. Gonzalez, Lucia.  The Storyteller’s Candle. Children’s Book Press, ISBN 978-0892392223.
  13. Harris, Robie.  It’s Perfectly Normal: A Book About Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health. Candlewick, ISBN 978-0763644840.  
  14. Herron, Carolivia.  Nappy Hair. Dragonfly Books, ISBN 978-0679894452.
  15. Hoffman, Mary.  Amazing Grace. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, ISBN 978-1845077495.
  16. L’Engle, Madeline.  A Wrinkle in Time. Square Fish Books,  ISBN 978-0312367541.
  17. Look, Lenore.  Alvin Ho:  Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. Yearling, ISBN 978-0375849305.
  18. Lowry, Lois.  Number the Stars. Yearling, ISBN 978-0440403272.
  19. Mochizuki, Ken.  Baseball Saved Us. Lee & Low Books, ISBN 978-1880000199.
  20. Montgomery. L.M.  Anne of Green Gables. Modern Library, ISBN 978-0812979039.
  21. Newman, Leslea.  Heather Has Two Mommies. Alyson Books, ISBN 978-1593501365.
  22. Richardson, Justin.  And Tango Makes Three. Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0689878459.
  23. Rowling, J.K.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic, ISBN 978-0590353427.
  24. Sachar, Louis.  Holes. Yearling, 2009.  ISBN 978-0440414803.
  25. Say, Allen.  Grandfather’s Journey. Sandpiper, ISBN 978-0547076805.
  26. Scieszka, Jon and Lane Smith.  The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Viking, ISBN 978-0670844876. 
  27. Shin, Sun Yung.  Cooper’s Lesson. Children’s Book Press, ISBN 978-0892391936.
  28. Sendak, Maurice.  Where the Wild Things Are. HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0064431781.
  29. Dr. Seuss.  The Cat in the Hat. Random House, ISBN 978-0717260591.
  30. Dr. Seuss.  Green Eggs and Ham. Random House, 978-0583324205.
  31. Dr. Seuss.  Horton Hear a Who. Random House, 978-0394800783.
  32. Silverstein, Shel.  Where the Sidewalk Ends. HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0060572341. 
  33. Smith, Cynthia Leitich.  Jingle Dancer. HaperCollins, ISBN 978-0688162412.
  34. Sterling, Shirley.  My Name is Seepeetza. Groundwood Books, ISBN 978-0888991652. 
  35. Stead, Rebecca.  When You Reach Me. Wendy Lamb Books, ISBN 978-0385737425.
  36. Uchida, Yoshiko.  Journey to Topaz. Heyday Books, ISBN 978-1890771911.
  37. Viorst, Judith.  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Atheneum, ISBN 978-0689711732.
  38. White, E.B.  Charlotte’s Web. HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0064410939.
  39. Wilder, Laura Ingalls.  Little House on the Prairie. HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0064400022.  
  40. Willems, Mo.  Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Hyperion, ISBN 978-0786819881.
  41. Willems, Mo.  There Is a Bird on Your Head (An Elephant and Piggie Book).  Hyperion, ISBN 978-1423106869.
  42. Williams, Karen Lynn and Khadra Mohammed.  My Name is Sangoel. Eerdmans Books, ISBN 978-0802853073.
  43. Young, Ed. Lon Po Po:  A Red-Riding Hood Story from China. Putnam, ISBN 978-0698113824.

    You asked for it! These are the books I’m teaching summer 2010 in my Social Justice in Children’s & YA Literature course. I welcome your feedback.

    Course Overview

    Students in this course will learn how to select, read, evaluate and analyze depictions and aspects of social justice and injustice in children’s and young adult literature. Through various genres of literature intended for both the child and adolescent reader, students will develop an informed awareness of the complex perspectives, uses and boundaries of literature and will learn to recognize and analyze how adolescent and children’s literature depict stories related to social justice, tolerance, equality and social change.

    We will engage in a variety of teaching/learning methods to cover the course material, including but not limited to: lecture, small/large group discussions, independent and group projects, written and oral presentations.

    Course Objectives

    • To gain an understanding of the history of social justice-related children’s literature;
    • To become familiar with a range of authors, works, genres and media depicting social justice issues for youth;
    • To gain experience in discussing, evaluating and promoting children’s literature/resources that depict social justice issues;
    • To learn strategies for connecting young people with social justice literature;
    • To identify and discuss literary and societal trends and social justice issues (war, refugee, migration, class, gender, etc) represented in materials for youth.

    By successfully finishing this course, students will be able to select, evaluate, and recommend a variety of materials depicting social justice issues for young audiences.

    Reading List

    1. Alarcon, Francisco X.  Animal Poems of the Iguazu.  Children’s Book Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0892392254
    2. Anderson, M.T.  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I:  The Pox Party.  Candlewick Press, 2006.  ISBN 978-0-7636-3679-1
    3. Barakat, Ibtisam.  Tasting the Sky:  A Palestinian Childhood.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.  ISBN 978-0374357337
    4. Bausum, Ann.  Denied, Detained, Deported:  Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration.  National Geographic Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-1426303326
    5. Bausum, Ann.  With Courage and Cloth:  Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote.  National Geographic Children’s Books, 2004.  ISBN 978-0792276470
    6. Brannen, Sarah S.  Uncle Bobby’s Wedding.  Putnam, 2008.  ISBN 978-0399247125
    7. Boyne, John.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  David Flicking Books, 2007.  ISBN 978-0385751537
    8. Bruchac, Joseph. Sacajawea.  Graphia, 2008.  ISBN 978-0152064556
    9. Burg, Ann E.  All the Broken Pieces.  Scholastic, 2009.  ISBN 978-0545080927
    10. Cali, Davide and Serge Bloch.  The Enemy.  Schwartz and Wade, 2009.  ISBN 978-0375845000
    11. Carlson, Nancy Savage.  The Family Under the Bridge.  HarperCollins, 1989.  ISBN 978-0064402507
    12. Choldenko, Gennifer.  Al Capone Does My Shirts.  Puffin, 2006.  ISBN 978-0142403709
    13. Cottin, Marena.  The Black Book of Colors.  Groundwood Books, 2008.  ISBN 978-0888998736
    14. Curtis, Christopher Paul.  Elijah of Buxton.  Scholastic, 2009.  ISBN 78-0439023450
    15. Engle, Margarita.  The Surrender Tree.  Square Fish, 2010.  ISBN 978-0312608712
    16. Gonzalez, Lucia.  The Storyteller’s Candle.  Children’s Book Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0892392223
    17. Haskins, Jim.  Delivering Justice:  W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights.  Candlewick Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-0763638801
    18. Hoose, Phillip.  Claudette Colvin:  Twice Toward Justice.  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009.  ISBN 978-0374313227
    19. Lester, Julius.  Let’s Talk About Race.  Amistad, 2008.  ISBN 978-0064462266
    20. Lester, Julius.  Sam and the Tigers.  Puffin, 2000.  ISBN 978-0140562880
    21. Lloyd, Saci.  The Carbon Diaries 2015.  Holiday House, 2009.  ISBN 978-0823421909
    22. Lord, Michelle.  A Song for Cambodia.  Lee & Low Books, 2008.  ISBN 978-1600601392
    23. Lowry, Lois.  The Giver.  Delacorte Books, 2006.  ISBN 978-0385732550
    24. Lyon, George Ella. You and Me and Home Sweet Home.  Athenuem/ Richard Jackson Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-0689875892
    25. Mahy, Margaret.  The Seven Chinese Brothers.  Scholastic, 1992.  ISBN 978-0590420570
    26. Messinger, Carla.  When the Shadbush Blooms.  Tricycle Press, 2007.  ISBN 978-1582461922
    27. Mochizuko, Ken.  Baseball Saved Us.  Lee & Low Books, 1995.  ISBN 978-1880000199
    28. Myers, Walter Dean.  Autobiography of My Dead Brother.  Amistad, 2006.  ISBN 978-0060582937
    29. Nivola, Claire A.  Planting the Trees of Kenya:  The Story of Wangari Maathai.  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008.  ISBN 978-0374399184
    30. O’Brien, Anne Sibley.  After Gandhi:  One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance.  Charlesbridge Publishing, 2009.  ISBN 978-1580891295
    31. Park, Linda Sue.  When My Name was Keoko.  Yearling, 2004.  ISBN 978-0440419440
    32. Perkins, Mitali.  Rickshaw Girl.  Charlesbridge Publishing, 2008.  ISBN 978-1580893091
    33. Pinkey, Andrea Davis.  Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride.  Hyperion, 2009.  ISBN 978-0786807673
    34. Ryan, Pam Munoz.  Esperanza Rising.  Scholastic, 2002.  ISBN 978-0439120425
    35. Sanchez, Alex.  Rainbow Boys.  Simon Pulse, 2003.  ISBN 978-0689857706
    36. Shea, Pegi Deitz.  Tangled Threads:  A Hmong Girl’s Story.  Clarion, 2003.  ISBN 978-0618247486
    37. Tingle, Tim.  Crossing Bok Chitto.  Cinco Puntos Press, 2008.  ISBN 978-19336932
    38. Tohe, Laura.  No Parole Today.  West End Press, 1999.  ISBN 978-0931122934
    39. Weatherford, Carole Boston.  Moses:  When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.  Hyperion, 2006.  ISBN 978-0786851751
    40. Woodson, Jacqueline.  From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun.  Scholastic, 1995.  ISBN 7807300599
    41. Wright, Bil.  When the Black Girl Sings.  Simon Pulse, 2009.  ISBN 978-1416940036
    42. Yep, Laurence.  The Traitor (1885):  Golden Mountain Chronicles.  HarperCollins, 2004.  ISBN 978-0060008314
    43. Yoo, Paula.  Shining Star:  The Anna May Wong Story.  Lee & Low Books, 2009.  ISBN 978-1600602597

    The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is smoking hot right now. Last month the ZBT fraternity and DDD sorority held an exchange themed “Fiesta,” during which members came dressed as pregnant mothers with brown dolls tied to their shirts, or in sombreros and ponchos, claiming to be “illegal aliens.” This past weekend a fraternity at Johns Hopkins University threw a “Halloween in the Hood” party where invitees were encouraged to dress like OJ Simpson and other black Americans. Some students came dressed as pimps, prostitutes, and slaves!!!

    As president of the Asian Pacific American Graduate Students Organization, I was invited to a meeting yesterday by the 4 Greek councils. They’re planning an educational forum onNovember 30 (100 Greg Hall, 7:00-9:00p) and wanted to partner with other culturally based student organizations. Relatedly, on December 1 (134 Temple Buell Hall)Robert Jensen, scholar of critical white studies, will be on campus. He was scheduled to come even before this event occurred, but man, what awesomet timing.

    I’m posting some documents here so you can read about the event as well as the university’s (slow) response. I also provide links at the bottom to help educate you on these issues.

    Student Affairs Communication

    October 18, 2006

    The campus is aware of a social function held on October 5, hosted by Delta Delta Delta sorority and Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, at which some members dressed in culturally insensitive attire and engaged in activities insulting to other members of the University community. Such behaviors are not only unacceptable; they are antithetical to the values of the University of Illinois.

    Staff members from Fraternity and Sorority Affairs have been working with student leaders from both chapters and with the Greek governing councils for several days regarding the event. Additionally, investigations are underway by the Office for Student Conflict Resolution for possible violations of the Code, and the Office of the Dean of Students for acts of intolerance. The Office of the Dean of Students has been in consultation with each chapter’s national and local organization, the campus Greek governing councils and educational and punitive actions have been prescribed, even while the campus review continues. Delta Delta Delta has been placed on probation by its national office while this incident is being reviewed, and no sorority events may occur during that time. All social events for the semester have been cancelled.

    Delta Delta Delta and Zeta Beta Tau have each issued a letter of apology to the United Greek Council and campus community. They will each be hosting a workshop conducted by the coordinator of the Urbana campus’ Program on Intergroup Relations in November. The staff of the Program on Intergroup Relations facilitated a dialogue for the Interfraternity Council this past week and will facilitate a similar session with the Panhellenic Council Presidents in the immediate future.

    The fraternity and sorority governing groups have been advised of the campus expectation that a mandatory workshop for all new members will be provided effective fall 2007. The Office of the Dean of Students/Fraternity and Sorority Affairs will coordinate the staffing and program development for that experience.

    To describe this incident as “unfortunate” does not appropriately capture the degree to which the campus and greater community are distressed, offended and aggrieved. But from this dismay we anticipate an opportunity to engage the students in dialogue that advances students’ understanding of and respect for diversity and social justice issues. The campus is committed to expanding structured opportunities to explore the intellectual and emotional aspects of identity and stereotypes, commonalities and difference. For fall 2007, we will be developing a mandatory educational workshop for first year students to advance their understanding of and respect and appreciation for cultural and social difference. Additionally, the campus will pursue the enhancement of the diversity module in the University 101 course taken by freshmen in most of the colleges. It is hoped that in the future all students will have the opportunity to participate in this learning experience.

    While this incident occurred within the fraternity and sorority system, the campus as a whole needs to remain committed to advancing our understanding and appreciation of differences among those coming to the University, learning about our many cultures, and benefiting by integrating that knowledge into our development as better citizens of the community.

    Bill Riley, Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students

    Renee Romano, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

    A mass email that went out on October 31, 2006 by Chancellor Richard Herman:

    I was saddened and disappointed when I learned about the recent ZBT and Tri Delta party that ended up portraying Latino/as in stereotypical and denigrating ways. Students who took part in such behavior were being insensitive, thoughtless and, quite frankly, juvenile. Although I’m not in the business of telling students how to think, I expect more of our Illinois students. They are the best and the brightest of the next generation, and such callous behavior is beneath them. The challenges of our multi-cultural society demand that each of us constantly examine our biases and work hard to put ourselves in the shoes of people who come from widely varying backgrounds, cultures and experiences. We can have strong and differing opinions about culture, politics and policy, but we must never lose touch with granting everyone the kind of respect and dignity we would like others to grant to us. Everyone of every background is welcome at Illinois, and I want them to feel welcome.

    As is so often the case with these kinds of incidents, the ensuing debate is an education in itself. The controversy has spurred a great deal of conversation about treating one another with common decency, and that is good. The process of reviewing the incident is now underway, and I believe a deeper appreciation of our cultural diversity and individual responsibility will be the result. Vice Chancellor Renee Romano has been working with the various groups involved to turn what I believe to have been poor judgment on the part of students into a learning experience. Already, the controversy has added impetus to our plans to heighten diversity education on campus.

    Yet, for the insensitivity that was shown, I apologize.

    Young people are always works in progress, and I believe this event will help remind us all to be better and more thoughtful people.

    An article by Dr. Robert Jensen, scholar of critical white studies at UT-Austin:

    “Ghetto Fabulous” Parties: the New Face of White Supremacy Racism and Cheap Thrills at the University of Texas Law School By ROBERT JENSEN CounterPunch October 16, 2006

    When one of the first-year University of Texas law students who participated in a “ghetto fabulous” party posted pictures on the web, we saw the ugly face of white privilege and the racism in which it is rooted.

    But the depth of the problem of white supremacy at the university – and in mainstream institutions more generally – is also evident in the polite way in which the university administration chastised the students.

    While the thoughtless actions of young adults acting out the racism of the culture are disturbing, the thoughtful – but depoliticized – response from the law school is distressing. The actions of both groups in this affair are a painful reminder of the depth of white society’s commitment to white supremacy.

    This controversy is not unique to UT. It seems that every year students at a prestigious university – the University of Chicago last year, Cornell in 2004, and Texas A&M in 2003 – hold one of these parties, in which white students revel in what they believe to be the appearance and behavior of the black and brown people of the “ghetto.”

    The student from the UT party who posted the photos has taken them off the web, but news reports describe a party in which the students “carried 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor and wore Afro wigs, necklaces with large medallions and name tags bearing historically black and Hispanic names.”

    No one involved has contested the characterization of the event.

    The motivations and views of participants may vary, but these parties have two consistent features:

    (1) white people mock African American and Latino people through stereotypes of the residents of low-income urban areas, while at the same time enjoying the feeling of temporarily adopting these looks and poses; and

    (2) the white folks typically do it without pausing to ponder what right they have as members of a dominant racial class to poach in this fashion on the lives of people of a subordinated racial class.

    In other words, white people find pleasure in insulting non-white people while at the same time safely “slumming” for cheap thrills in that non-white world, all the time oblivious to the moral and political implications.

    Also typical in these university controversies is a tepid reaction from administrators, who tend to avoid the contentious race politics at the core of the problem. At UT, the email that went out to all law students from Dean Larry Sager is revealing.

    Let me be clear that this critique is not focused on the dean, or any other administrator involved. Sager, who has a distinguished record as a teacher, is a widely recognized constitutional scholar who has published important work on civil liberties, especially freedom of religion. He consulted other administrators and students before communicating to the entire student body, and his commitment to equality and diversity is clear. Still, his characterization of the incident is troubling.

    The email to students doesn’t use the terms “racism” or “white supremacy.”

    The only reference to the racial politics of “ghetto fabulous” is the description of the party as being “named in a way that was easily understood to have negative racial overtones” and a reminder that being “racially insensitive” is inappropriate. While many of the students at the party may not have thought they were being racist, it’s essential that we name such activities as rooted in white people’s sense of privilege and entitlement, the result of historical and contemporary racism in a white-supremacist culture.

    This language is crucial. Even with the gains of the civil-rights movement, U.S. society is still white supremacist in material terms (there are deep, enduring racialized disparities in measures of wealth and well-being, some of which haven’t improved in the past four decades) and ideology (many white people continue to believe that the culture and politics of Europe are inherently superior). To pretend that things such as a ghetto party are not rooted in those racist realities is to ignore fundamental moral and political issues in an unjust society. It’s not about “negative racial overtones” – it’s about racism, whether conscious or not. It’s not about being “racially insensitive” – it’s about support for white supremacy, whether intended or not.

    The dean’s email to law students goes on to give three reasons the party was “thoughtless.”

    First, Sager suggests that some students “might be seriously offended by the party, and especially by the pictures taken at the event.” No doubt many people were offended, and we all should avoid unnecessary offense to others. But the key problem is not that such images are offensive but that they are part of an oppressive system of white supremacy. In a pluralist society, we all can expect to be offended by some things other people say and do. Such offense becomes an important political issue when connected to the ways in which some people are systematically devalued and discriminated against.

    Racist, sexist, and heterosexist images and words are a problem not merely because they offend but because they help keep non-white people, women, and lesbians and gays in subordinated positions. Framing the problem of oppressive systems as a question of offensiveness often leads people to argue that the solution is for the targets of the offensive speech or actions to be less sensitive, rather than changing the oppressive system.

    Sager’s email doesn’t suggest that, but it could play into that common feeling among people in the dominant classes. We live in a world in which the legitimate concerns of non-white people about racist expression and actions are often met by white people saying, “Stop whining – get over it.” In such a world, white people trying to resistracism should be careful not to do anything that could contribute to that.

    Second, the email suggests that the partygoers didn’t consider “the potential harm they were causing to UT Law” by doing something that could make some people “feel uncomfortable simply because of who they are.” Most would agree that it’s important at a public institution of higher education for all people to feel accepted as part of the university community, but the real harm is not to the institution but to the people who are targeted. By highlighting the effect of this on “UT Law,” Sager risks elevating the institution above the principles involved and may well leave people wondering if the university isn’t worried most about its image.

    Finally, and most important, the dean’s message warns the partygoers that they failed to consider “the extraordinary damage they could do to their own careers” in a society in which those who employ lawyers might not want to hire people who engage in such conduct. Sager warns that it is “genuinely foolhardy to engage in conduct (and even more foolhardy to proudly disseminate proof that you have done so) that could jeopardize your ability to practice law.” That’s certainly true, though it’s also true there are many places in Texas (and around the country) where the good old boys in power would find no problem with this kind of “harmless fun.” There are no doubt lots of practicing attorneys who enjoy similar kinds of fun themselves.

    But whatever the case, should we be stressing to students that the reason they should not be white supremacists is that it might hurt their careers?

    What does such a message convey to students and to the community?

    What’s missing in this official response is a clear statement that these law students – many of whom go on to join the ranks of the powerful who run society – have engaged in behavior that is overtly racist. Whatever their motivations in planning or attending the party, they have demonstrated that they have internalized a white-supremacist ideology.

    When these students are making future decisions in business, government, and education, how will such white supremacy manifest itself? And who will be hurt by that?

    Here’s what we should say to students: The problem with a racist “ghetto fabulous” party isn’t that it offends some people or tarnishes the image of UT or may hurt careers. The problem is that it’s racist, and when you engage in such behavior you are deepening the racism of a white-supremacist culture, and that’s wrong. It violates the moral and political principles that we all say we endorse. It supports and strengthens an unjust social system that hurts people.

    These incidents, and the universities’ responses, also raise a fundamental question about what we white people mean when we say we support “diversity.” Does that mean we are willing to invite some limited number of non-white people into our space, but with the implicit understanding that it will remain a white-defined space? Or does it mean a commitment to changing these institutions into truly multicultural places? If we’re serious about that, it has to mean not an occasional nod to other cultural practices, but an end to white-supremacist practices. It has to mean not only acknowledging other cultural practices but recognizing that the wealth of the United States and Europe is rooted in the destruction of some of those cultures over the past 500 years, and that we are living with the consequences of that destruction.

    We white people can’t simply point to the ugliest racism of the KKK as the problem and feel morally superior. We can’t issue a polite warning to a few law students about being thoughtless and think we’ve done our job. The problem is that most of us white people – myself included – are comfortable in white spaces, and we often are reflexively hesitant to surrender control of that space. Real change – the process of truly incorporating a deep multiculturalism into our schools, churches, and businesses – is a long struggle. The more I make some progress in my own classes, for example, the more I see how much I have left to do and the more aware of my mistakes I become.

    An easy place to start is by clearly marking racist actions for what they are – expressions of white people’s sense of entitlement and privilege that are rooted in a white-supremacist system. We can start by saying – unequivocally, in blunt language – that such racism is morally wrong, that white supremacy is morally wrong, and that we white people have an obligation to hold ourselves and each other accountable until we have created a truly just multiracial society.

    We’ll know we are there not when white people have stopped throwing ghetto parties, but when we have built a world in which there are no ghettos.

    We have a long way to go.

    Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of the board of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center . He is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity. He can be reached at

    Some resources to help educate people about “ghetto party” issues in particular (including links to Greek organizations for those of you unfamiliar, as I was), and racism, white privilege and intolerance in general:

    Daily Illini Feb 25, 2005- Other campuses; pledge event sparks investigation

    Daily Illini Oct 17, 2006- Greek part causes turmoil across campus

    Daily Illini Oct 17, 2006- Column: on tequilas, tacos, race and understanding

    The Examiner Oct 31, 2006 – “Johns Hopkins fraternity suspended after racially themed Halloween party

    Daily Illini Nov 1, 2006 – Quad protest targets racial stereotyping

    InterFraternity Council:

    Black Greek Council:

    United Greek Council:

    Panhellenic Council:

    ZBT apology:

    DDD apology:

    Robert Jensen

    Last Thursday the College Teaching Effectiveness Network and a few other graduate student organizations co-sponsored a workshop for graduate students on Teaching Race: Challenges & Opportunities in the Classroom. A panel of three (Latino/a Studies professor, white history doctoral student, and Black American intergroup relations specialist) discussed the opportunities and challenges to a PACKED room of white, black, Asian, and Latino/a American graduate students. It sounded like they try to teach race and/or racism without making any students (white students or students of color alike) uncomfortable, victimized, or accused. The goal, they stressed, was to understand how the state (and not individual whites or Blacks or Asians or what have you) manufactures race by constructing these falsely racialized groups and pitting them against one another in a Social Darwinism/survival of the fittest type of competition. However, towards the end of the discussion, a few graduate students of color brought up a different point: “If white students enjoy racial privilege for most of their lives here in the United States, would it be so bad to be uncomfortable about race for like two minutes during discussion section? Doesn’t tiptoeing around the ideas of race/racism privilege white students by being overly concerned with their comfort, while discounting the fact that the students of color need our classrooms to be safe spaces to discuss such issues?”

    A really interesting discussion followed; some white graduate students misunderstood and thought these TAs were purposely trying to make white students uncomfortable. No, not at all. The goal is not to makeanyone uncomfortable, but to provide a safe space where people can honestly bring their concerns and issues to the table, especially since the university environment otherwise does not provide or encourage that safe space (students have had to fight for every single ethnic studies program or student support service not only at UIUC but at all other universities – starting with the Third World Liberation Front student strike for more relevant education at San Francisco State University). Otherwise, we’re not going to have an honest discussion at all. However, if making a student of color feel safe comes at the expense of white students feeling a little uncomfortable, some TAs were willing to let that occur. One pointed out that it could be part of their learning process and experience. Not purposely, not

    maliciously, but with the hope that these moments of discomfort will help everyone be honest and work through these issues so we can move towards a radically transformed, truly democratic university environment.

    Freirean love, folks.

    I don’t know how the discussion ended because I had to leave early (and I don’t think the goal was to reach a consensus), but overall it was really good and I hope helped all of us think more critically about what andhow we teach. Personally, as a woman of color who researches and teaches two marginalized topics (Asian American Studies and children’s literature – “Aren’t you making a big deal out of nothing? They’re just children’s books!”), the workshop really helped me think about how to negotiate the challenges while examining my own positions of privilege. I had a couple of white students in my Asian American Children’s Literature course last semester, and that definitely kept me on my toes in terms of too freely expressing how I feel about white authors who write children’s stories about Asians and Asian Americans. (It’s not that white authors can’t write about Asians Americans, but too often their voices drown out the voices of Asian Americans themselves. Anyway, that’s a whole other can of worms.)

    Teaching race is never going to be easy; race is too complicated and bound up in so many other factors. But something we can do is continue to have these discussions, listen to one another, and critically think about and reflect on our own positionalities and attitudes.

    Some resources:

    Adams, M. and Bell L., & Griffith, P. (eds.) Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: a Sourcebook. 1997.

    Butler, J. (ed.) Color-Line to Borderlands: The Matrix of American Ethnic Studies. 2001.

    Chan, S. In Defense of Asian American Studies: The Politics of Teaching and Program Building. 2005.

    Gale, X. “The Stranger in Communication: Race, Class, and Conflict in a Basic Writing Class.” in JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory 17: 53-67.

    Hendrix, K. “Student Perceptions of the Influence of Race on Professor Credibility.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association, San Antonio, Texas. November 1995.

    Ladson-Billings, G. “Silences as Weapons: Challenges of a Black Professor Teaching White Students.” inTheory into Practice 35(2): 79-85. 1996.

    TuSmith, B., & Reddy, M. (eds.) Race in the College Classroom: Pedagogy and Politics. 2002.

    Vargas, L. “When the ‘Other’ is the Teacher: Implications of Teacher Diversity in Higher Education.” inUrban Review 31: 359-383. 1999.

    Vargas, L. (ed.) Women Faculty of Color in the White Classroom: Narratives on the Pedagogical Implications of Teacher Diversity. 2002.

    On another note, I haven’t been as active blogging as I anticipated, and my exam starts this Friday, so I probably won’t post much in the next month. Sorry to leave you with such a heavy topic in my last post, but here’s a little something to make up for it:

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