On White Fragility and Race in the Classroom!

This morning’s breaking news: As I was about to open my office door this morning, a student quickly stopped by and looked at the office sign that reads, “Dr. Celucien L. Joseph, Associate Professor of English,” and stared at me for a moment. He asked, “What do you teach,” and I responded, “English.” He stated, “Is it English for Spanish People.”

Last week in class as we were discussing the relationship between feminist criticism and patriarchal society, a young white male student got very offended at another student, who is from the Dominican Republic, because she said to him “as a male, you have male privilege; in fact, as a white male, you have white male privilege.” Both were going back and forth, as the white male student was insisting that “I have no ‘male privilege’ and no ‘white male privilege.'”

As the oldest adult in the classroom, I intervened in the conversation by attempting to clarify and explain to the class the history of the mess we call the “race concept” and its rapport to white privilege, which we have created in this country, and how it has affected America’s race relations and the history of the economically-and-socially disenfranchised communities in this country.

The same white student interrupted me and said “Why are you so loud? You need to be quiet.” He also said that “I did not pay for this class to learn about politics. I paid to learn about English.”

Oh well, Happy and Blessed Black History Month!

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