Katrina Knutson: 'Understanding the history and context of race, racism, and privilege in the United States is essential'

Katrina Knutson graduated from South High and now teaches at Intermedia Arts. When we asked for people to tell us about their experience with classroom discussions of structural racism, here's what she told us:

"I first learned about institutional racism from my family when i was really young but I also remember teachers at South talking about it, Mrs. Ballard in an African American Culture class and Mr. Ram in African American history and Peace classes. I just finished SPEAC last year, which is an amazing community organizing leadership training program run by Chaka Mkali out of Hope Community, and structural/institutional racism is a core part of the year-long training."

A classroom discussion of structural racism led to a reprimand for Professor Shannon Gibney at MCTC. Professors and students at other colleges report that discussions are often tough, with some white students perceiving any discussion of structural racism as a personal attack. We've collected many of their accounts in Structural racism: Can we talk? Or not? To join in the discussion, post a comment or send an opinion article to editor [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net.

"I think understanding the history and context of race, racism, and privilege in the United States is essential. I use it in my work now as a lens to help figure out what and how to teach. For example, when I teach art history, I don't just teach about white artists (and I teach about women artists, too.) And in the broader class discussions of who has power in America, who decides what images are mainstream, where stereotypes come from etc.

"I have dealt with some white youth (and adults) getting very defensive when learning about it for the first time, I'm not sure how to avoid this and in some ways think it probably needs to happen, and if they can get past that, it's fine."

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    Sheila Regan's picture
    Sheila Regan

    Sheila Regan (sheila [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net) is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer.