This coming week Wake Forest University will hold numerous “teach-ins” about race and racism in America, inspired by the creation of a “Charlottesville Syllabus” by a group of University of Virginia graduate students.
Though the stated goal of the teach-ins is, according to Melissa Harris-Perry (yes, that Melissa Harris-Perry, whose Pro Humanitate Institute is partnering with the Humanities Institute in offering the seminars), “to ensure our campus and community members have ample opportunities for meaningful engagement with the most crucial ideas, persons and events affecting our nation and our world,” the materials for the sessions aren’t exactly what one would called … “balanced.” (To be fair, one teach-in leader includes an article by Victor Davis Hanson.)
That the UVA group which created the syllabus is called the Graduate Student Coalition for Liberation just might account for the political leanings of the material: “The GSCL welcomes new graduate student members who are committed to prioritizing the needs of students most affected by the terrors of white supremacy.”
(Interestingly, the Coalition’s website currently is suspended.)
According to the Old Gold & Black, the GSCL’s syllabus opens by stating “[it] seeks to explore the local historical and contemporary precedents for this gathering, to give it history and context, to denounce it and to amplify the voices of community members most affected by this ‘alt-right’ occupation of space.”
Wake senior Matthew Connor said the workshops “emphasize the importance of critically and analytically engaging with the events in Charlottesville and with the growing visibility of white nationalist movements across the U.S.”
“I have attended several teach-ins at Wake Forest and I generally find them to be a useful step in advancing the dialogue around campus and national social climate,” he said.
Ron Von Burg, an assistant professor in the [Wake] department of communication and director of graduate studies, is leading a group discussion centered around the implications of public memory and the role that monuments and memorials play.
“Monuments and memorials serve an important civic function in articulating our values as a society,” Von Burg said. “I hope students will gain a more critical understanding of how monuments and memorials serve an important rhetorical function in defining our cultural values and the consequences of the values embedded in monuments and memorials.”
He has selected two articles to accompany his group’s discussion: “Tools of Displacement” published by Slate Magazine, and “Moments of Rupture: Confederate Monuments and a Southern Town’s Search for its Identity” published by The Politic. …
[Connor added] “It goes beyond the assumption that white nationalism and ‘the alt-right’ are new phenomena by very carefully exposing many of the facets of a racist society which fuel and support these explicit white nationalist groups, from the veneration of Confederate statues to gentrification to continued legacies of segregation and slavery. It ultimately helps us see a more complete picture of white nationalism as a powerful current spanning all of American history and not as some new fad among disgruntled white people.”
Other workshop readings include those by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Slate magazine, NPR, Todd Gitlin, and a Smithsonian.com piece titled “The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson.”