One activity that I appreciated the first week of class was when we each wrote down our different social identities on note cards, mixed up the cards and redistributed them, and then had to say why or why not we thought the card we each received would be in our in-group or out-group. I found this interesting because it made me think about how arbitrary these social identities such as religion, sexual orientation, and disability status in showing how compatible people could be and what values they have in common.
As they so often do, our discussion in class this week reminded me of one of the most influential teacher’s that I’ve had the privilege of learning from at Muhlenberg, Dr. Charles Anderson. Our discussion of how racism directly effects the testing ability of black youth made me feel as if I was right back in introduction to African American Studies and I had to re-visit one particular article that I felt was so relevant to what we are discussing. The article is by Molefi Asante, who is one of the most respected African American studies scholars in the world. He is currently a professor at Temple, where he started the first PhD program for African American studies. He has written countless works, but the articles I read, or should say re-read are titled “Locating a Text: Implications of Afrocentric Theory”, “Afrocentricity”, and “Where is the White Professor Located?”. In all of these articles, among other things, he points out the many flaws in the American education system. More specifically Asante convincingly argues that our education system is based on racist Eurocentric viewpoints that keep white people at the center of every academic subject and only teach these subjects from a Eurocentric perspective. Asante further asserts that because of this narrow and exclusionary education system, young African American students feel alienated, dislocated, unimportant, and above all, marginalized in the scope of academic study. Getting more specific, Asante discusses how non-white groups are portrayed in academic study, specifically the study of history, as the groups that are acted upon rather than groups with agency. He argues that the agency denied to minority groups in the study of history and academia in general further alienates African Americans and other minority groups because it promotes a feeling of helplessness in their lives.
During Thursday’s class discussion, we compared speeches from Dr. King and President Barack Obama. Though forty one years apart, we agreed that the speeches called for similar action; time had not changed much. I found the same to be true of the results of a landmark social psychology study. In the course of reading James Jones’s article “Psychological Knowledge and the New American Dilemma of Race”, I found myself wanting more details about the Kenneth and Mamie Clark doll study because of its influence in Brown v. Board of Education. So, as is my natural reflex I typed it into a search engine. One of the first items that came up was the video below.