Classroom Etiquette

“Devil’s Advocate” and “All sides of the argument”

Chad, nobody wants to hear you say, “Well, if I was a slave owner, I would be mad my property is gone too!”

Devil’s advocate can be used as a tool to know what traditionally racist and bigoted people would say.

But please don’t say “If I were” to things and then say a sentiment of things that are vehemently repulsive, or actively threatens the livelihood of people of color.

My life is more important than your shitty hypothetical attempt to devalue my life.

Power Dynamics: Voices in the Room

Recognizing power and privilege in a room is absolutely paramount to having more fruitful discussion and discourse.

Meaning, you should step back for a second when you’re in the classroom talking about racism.

Listen to the people of color in the room. The Indigenous, Black and Brown voices.

Acknowledge how you move throughout the world and your experiences.

“There is nothing glamorous about being subjected to racism, and certainly no social rewards to be reaped from being the victim of oppression in a society that heaps disadvantage on historically marginalized groups,” Atlantic journalist Simba Runyowa wrote in an article about microaggressions. “So why would people willingly designate themselves as victims if they do not truly feel that way? The only people who benefit from oppression are the ones who are exempt from it — not the ones who suffer through it.”

Do not talk over women. Do not talk over women of color. Do not talk over people of color when they try to speak about their experiences, no matter how “offended” you feel.

This country would benefit from a lot of listening. Please try to do so.

Professors, and People in Power

Professors and people in power at the University of Michigan, in order for any of this anti-racist activism to work, you all need to constantly be checking your privilege.

That means not telling your students they will not succeed because of where they are from.

Looking at you, University of Michigan, Residential College 

That means not castigating a Black student on her tone and thoughts in front of 80 of her white peers for saying what she thinks.

And you, University of Michigan Professor Elisabeth Gerber, Ford School of Public Policy

That means not ignoring students when they assert “Black Lives Matter” in class.

And you, University of Michigan Graduate Student Instructors, ECON 330, Ford School of Public Policy 

That means inviting both the Black woman and white woman to your class to discuss the pieces written in The Daily that you list on your syllabus.

University of Michigan, Professor Blasey, Residential College 

Do not create class activities about race that require the Black kids to pretend to be the victims in horrible tragedies, i.e., the Philando Castile trial.

I’m looking at you, University of Michigan Associate Professor Ann Lin, Ford School of Public Policy

That means listening to the concerns of your students of color.

That means, being more conscious of the people who occupy space in your classroom, and how they occupy that space.

The classroom is an immensely powerful place where learning about power and privilege is central.

Be mindful of how you choose to understand privilege.

Privilege isn’t about what you have to go through — it’s about what you haven’t had to go through.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.