emily cooney headshot [temporary]

Something I noticed right away from many of my professors this semester is how they have been actively incorporating more discussions about racism and racial inequality into their lectures. Surely with literature classes consisting of discussions about society, racism is bound to come up, but from day one, I have heard my professors talk about how racism is directly related to our class topics. 

I found it refreshing to hear my professors bring attention to the current state of racial inequality in the United States and how it ties into education. For example, my professor, Nicholas Taylor, for my Communication and Technology class put an “anti-racism” section in his syllabus, which I have never seen before. 

In this part of the syllabus, it said that the course has previously been taught through a primarily European and North American lens when it came to contributions to media. He also pointed out that the course has typically been centered around the experiences, perspectives and works of white people. Furthermore, it said that “it has never been more urgent for us to acknowledge the diversity and multiplicity of media history, and the ways our media systems impact us differently depending on our background.”

Lastly, this section of the syllabus explained how my professor would incorporate material from Arabic origins, ancient China, indigenous North Americans, as well as the works and perspectives of BIPOC scholars and journalists regarding the racial politics of media. 

For example, we recently read a few articles on the history of emojis and how it was not until June 2015 that skin tone modifiers were included. We also looked at how social media platforms like Twitter have served as outlets for minorities and various communities to speak out against social injustices. 

In addition to assigning readings based on worldly views, as promised, in the first video message sent to the class, this professor reiterated the importance of anti-racism in his course, which made me happy to be in his class. 

Especially amidst the widespread racism issues and decades of police brutality that people of color in the United States are still dealing with after months of nationwide protests, I think it is immensely important to integrate anti-racism discussions at all levels of education that recognize the faults of our history and current events as a country. While this may seem small in the grand fight for racial equality, I strongly believe having awareness incorporated into curriculums can lead to progress and change in people’s views on racism.

Another example of active anti-racism I witnessed was in my American Literature II class. On day one of the course, my professor explained that, while a lot of the works we would be reading were from mostly white authors, racism and racial inequality were going to be substantial topics for discussion, therefore, if any students were uncomfortable with this, they may want to choose a different course this semester. 

Again, hearing a professor acknowledge racism directly at the start of the course made me reflect on the importance of active anti-racism in education. The act of holding open discussions about racism can allow students to form more developed views. This especially goes for students who may experience white privilege.

Anti-racism in education can be beneficial at all grade levels, but when looking at college, many students enter university with their parents’ or peers’ views on many issues. Since, for many students, college is the first place they get to lead an independent life and grow into their own unique personality, it is crucial for professors to not only initiate racial discussions and teach diverse class material, but to do so effectively. As a guide from Vanderbilt University titled “Teaching Race: Pedagogy and Practice” says, “Social justice education has implications for what we teach (curriculum) and how we teach (pedagogy).”

I am a third year studying Communication with a concentration in Media and Spanish. I started writing for Technician this summer of 2020 as a correspondent.