Reluctant to Learn

Slavery is not a comfortable topic for most people to talk about. Bringing up slavery makes white Americans focus on a part of our history that we aren’t so proud of but it is still an important part of our history. Professor Baptist doesn’t want this part of American history to be forgotten and neglected. So for 20 years he has been pushing students to learn and talk about slavery. Professor Baptist has taught at prominently white campuses and the number one complaint about his class and assignments is they focus too much on slavery. Baptist states “College students today arrive knowing little about the way America’s history of slavery has shaped their lives. Avoidance of the topic is deeply ingrained.’  He is implying that students are afraid to talk about a topic that could potentially make them look bad even if they weren’t involved in it. Not being prompted to talk about slavery prior to college encourages students to continue avoiding talking about slavery as they continue on in life. In his article Baptist recalls a time when he taught a class with one African American student. He was having a hard time getting the class to talk about slavery so he turned to that lone student to try and get the conversation started. Baptist quickly realized that was inappropriate and made that lone student feel just as uncomfortable as the white students feel when slavery is brought up. That single African American student replied ‘It’s not right to always look at one group of people to explain slavery,’’. African Americans are often looked at to spark a dialogue about slavery because their ancestors were the ones oppressed. But no one ever thinks that maybe the conversation makes them uncomfortable too and they don’t want to be the ones to bring it up either. This dilemma leaves Professor Baptist stuck at trying to find a solution about teaching slavery to those reluctant to learn.

This article makes me question what is an appropriate way to teach slavery in a classroom? How do you start a dialogue on this topic between white and black students? What are some ways we can tie slavery into things going on in the U.S. today? I thought maybe anonymous online discussions would be a good way to get the conversation going before class. Is using the internet to make students feel more comfortable appropriate in this case or is that just taking the easy way out?

Big Words:

Persecute: to treat someone extremely badly, or to refuse them equal rights, especially because of their race, religion, or political beliefs.

Socioeconomic – relating to or concerned with the interaction of social and economic factors.

Anecdote -a short and amusing or interesting story about a real incident or person.