I am a graduate student who has achieved my Masters in Writing and my Bachelor of Science degree in English from Indiana State University. While I enjoyed my time as an Indiana State University student and learn to read many different authors, I, also, learned how to improve my writing, making contributions to the world of academic and intellectual writing. Similarly, I learned how to think critically and see the world for the way that it really is and make informed decisions. The education I was given and gladly accepted made me a more valuable citizen of the world and a competitive employer for future companies.
After receiving an email in October 2020 about a proposal for a new required Foundational Studies course, I was a little more than upset. “Social Justice through the Lens of Systemic Racism” is a difficult title to swallow. The definition of Systemic Racism is “racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization. It can lead to such issues as discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power, and education, among other issues” (Oxford English Dictionary). As I read the attached Word Document with what has gone through the committee already, I kept shaking my head in disbelief. Why are we, as an institution, coming down to offer this as a course? If we are going to offer such a wrongly entitled course, then why are we making it a requirement for all incoming students? Does all incoming students mean graduate students? Transfer students? Or just incoming freshman?
My fears is that you will adopt this into the curriculum, and this course will not share different viewpoints or shun the students who do not agree. Even though you do quote in the Word Document that the class will not teach students “to adopt, adhere to, agree with or support the paradigmatic approach.” But as a college graduate, this is exactly what will happen. I see it, like the political arena in many states currently, as a boiling point for the students. Certain students will be shamed into buying the “lie” that is going to be taught in this course while other students will be raising their hands in glory as they are proving that they are being biasedly successful. As a university, we are responsible for teaching students to be open to other viewpoints but not forced to take their thoughts as their own. This course could cause more strife and dilemma on campus than I think you are taking into consideration.
While I love the diversity of our campus, I have an issue where a proposal comes across the desks of educated Americans where universities have to appease the popular outspoken minority in our country. Many Americans, black, white, yellow, purple, red, and blue, do not believe that Systemic Racism even exists. I know many Americans of different skin colors who have personally told me this themselves and is offended by all this talk of Systemic Racism. In American’s culture today, color does not matter to get a job, your income level, where you live, your career path, cars you drive, and schools your children attend. You cannot tell me that in 2020 there is much racism in our country. I am not denying that there are some people that do have race issues, but majority of Americans see Americans as Americans. If you allow future generations to believe there is an issue, then you are teaching them to allow Americans with different colored skin or ethnic backgrounds to walk all over them.
As a university, professors need to teach all Americans to take responsibility for their own behavior, but as Americans, we can learn from history on how to fight for better wages, working conditions, and/ or equality. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Cesar Chavez and the United Farmer Workers helped improved pay and the working conditions for farm laborers in California. Similarly, Martin Luther King did not want to be seen as better than other cultures. He wanted to be equal with the white man. No more separation between race and color. We have come so far since the 1960’s, but with this course, most United States universities are taking all the work they fought for and throwing it into the wind. Everyone has the opportunity and right to better their lives. Our culture, even our school, needs to treat everyone the same. If not, this is the bigger issue.
Yes, college is expensive, but any American citizen can have the same rights to attend. All students are allowed to have a college education. Some might have to take out loans; whereas, others might have a free ride with grants or scholarships. Nothing wrong with students working for a number of years, at McDonalds even, to pay for college, then go, so they do not have any debt following them after they graduate. Then they can purchase a nice home in a nice neighborhood. Have their students attend the nicer schools with more funding. All white colored Americans do not a road paved with gold bricks, like the outspoken minority wants the rest of the world to believe. Trust me, I have struggled at or barely above the poverty line for the past twenty-two years of my life. I have worked, learned, and applied for a higher paying job with benefits to make a better life for my husband and my three boys. I did not blame other races. I took responsibility for the choices I made early in my life. As a university, it is our job to teach students to be better contributors of society and take responsibilities for ALL of their actions and choices. Even the bad ones.
A better solution than the one that you are proposing to the education community and staff of all college campuses is to teach a class entitled “Ethical Behavior.” This class can show how racism has occurred through the years. Starting with the Israelites back in Egypt. Move forward to discuss other cultures. Mexican. Italians. Native Americans. Chinese. Jews. Women. White Man. (Don’t you dare tell me that it has not happened! Watch the news!) You can have a diverse staff who focuses and traces the cultures through history that has been persecuted and forced into lower class living. You can show what has happened to their cultures now. How far have they transpired? How the students should respond to this now and in the future? Teach the students that anyone, no matter their ancestor’s background, is an American. No more African-American, no Italian American, no Native American. Why are any white-colored skin American all lumped into the white category, but they cannot claim their ancestor without being shunned? Let’s educate that there should be no bias on the color of their skins, but base their perspective on the character of the person before they judge them. Universities should teach and educate this upcoming generation about how not to be biased.
As a university, it is your responsibility to teach these students to leave a better future. Not allow them to take a required class that will fan the flames of anger and seclusion.
Kelly Bridgewater, MA in Writing