A Long Way to Go: Conversations about Race by African American Faculty and Graduate Students

By Darrell Cleveland | Go to book overview

14

“I SHALL NOT BE MOVED”: TEACHING
RACE IN A MULTIETHNIC CLASSROOM

Cyrus Marcellus Ellis

To engage in a serious discussion of race in America, we must begin not with the
problems of black people but with the flaws of the American society—flaws rooted in
historic inequalities and longstanding cultural stereotypes.

CORNEL WEST, 1999

Although there are major differences in the racial climate of the United States, discussing race in political arenas, academic arenas, and social arenas still brings about major debate and repressed volatile emotions in many Americans. The topic of race is not a singular topic germane to a sect of people in present-day America; rather it is a topic of multidimensional factors concerning the historical understanding and social contexts of the people under examination (West, 1999).

The world of higher education has not been immune to the difficulties encountered when discussing race. Higher education is a dimension of the American fabric; thus, the inequalities of our society find themselves in the fabric of our institutions of higher learning. If the academic setting is purported to be a place of academic freedom where questions can be asked and human phenomena can be investigated, what makes discussions of race difficult and controversial? Further, what is an African American academician to do when he or she attempts to teach and discuss race in an unreceptive classroom? This essay will explore the difficulty of teaching race, culture, and ethnicity as an African American faculty member, focusing in particular on the educative value of exploring the important role race has in forming the American

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