Cyndi Kernahan

Oct 7, 2021

Teaching about Race and Racism in the College Classroom

Notes from a White Professor

West Virginia University Press 2019

Welcome to The Academic Life! In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • Why White professors need to teach about race and racism in their courses
  • The gap between “inside” and “outside” knowledge
  • How to effectively provide data in an atmosphere of strong emotions
  • Why having debates and discussing misinformation won’t work
  • The reasons students resist learning about race and racism
  • How to meet students where they are and help them cross the learning threshold

Today’s book is:Teaching About Race and Racism in the College Classroom: Notes from a White Professor (U West Virginia Press, 2019). Teaching about race and racism can be difficult. Students and instructors alike often struggle with strong emotions, and many have preexisting beliefs about race. It is important for students to learn how we got here and how racism is more than just individual acts of meanness. Students also need to understand that colorblindness is not an effective anti-racism strategy. Dr. Kernahan argues that you can be honest and unflinching in your teaching about racism while also providing a compassionate learning environment that allows for mistakes, and avoids shaming students. She provides practical teaching strategies to help instructors feel more confident, and differentiates between how white students and students of color are likely to experience the classroom, helping instructors provide a more effective learning experience for all students.

Our guest is: Dr. Cyndi Kernahan, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. She is also the assistant dean for teaching and learning in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her research and writing are focused primarily on teaching and learning, including the teaching of race, inclusive pedagogy, and student success. She is the author of Teaching About Race and Racism in the College Classroom.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, co-producer of the Academic Life. She is a historian of women and gender.

Listeners to this episode might be interested in:

  • White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, by Nancy Isenberg
  • The Making of Asian America: A History, by Erika Lee
  • Teaching Black History to White People, by Leonard N. Moore
  • The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, by Andres Resendez
  • Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
  • Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by B.D. Tatum

You are smart and capable, but you aren’t an island and neither are we. We reach across our mentor network to bring you podcasts on everything from how to finish that project, to how to take care of your beautiful mind. Wish we’d bring on an expert about something? DM us on Twitter: The Academic Life @AcademicLifeNBN.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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