By Dorothe Bach, CTE team
I hate binaries, but I am tired of the long spectrum between survival and freedom. Dark folx’ lives are consumed by the two options. We live somewhere between never reaching freedom and never becoming fully comfortable with this reality. When pursuing educational freedom—really, all freedoms—survival cannot be the goal, and finding a place somewhere on the spectrum cannot be, either. The goal must be pursuing freedom at all costs as a collective group of abolitionism-minded people who welcome struggle.
(Love, We Want to Do More Than Survive, 2019, p. 161)
The Center for Teaching Excellence faculty and staff mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and too many others, and support the protests against police brutality and racism that have occurred in Charlottesville and nationwide. As a community of educators dedicated to cultivating educational equity, we offer our solidarity and support to Black faculty, students, and staff, and to all who have experienced marginalization at UVA.
We have also witnessed great resilience in the face of such pain. In our community, this country, and around the world, many Black, Brown, and Indigenous activists—including UVA faculty, staff, and student activists—are working hard to dismantle systems of oppression and have laid the foundation for the work that still needs to be done.
We acknowledge that racism and white supremacy are baked into both the history of UVA as an institution and the history of higher education as a whole. Our pedagogical philosophies and practices can either reinforce the racist beliefs and outcomes of our educational system, or they can work to eliminate them.
Since its founding, the CTE has promoted student-centered pedagogies, rooted in scholarly evidence about what makes teaching and learning effective, and aimed to foster equitable learning outcomes. However, we still have more to learn, as individuals and as a center, in order to promote practices that explicitly support the work of Black faculty and faculty of color, and the learning of Black students and students of color. We recognize the insufficiency of promoting equitable and inclusive pedagogies in general terms; we must do that and also advocate for explicitly anti-racist educational practices.
To that end, CTE faculty are committed and actively working to be better, more careful listeners; continuing to learn about the ways systemic injustices disadvantage our Black students and faculty and other students and faculty of color in and out of the classroom; and advocating for anti-racist educational practices and weaving these through the core fabric of all our work. To hold ourselves accountable, we have already established internal processes to begin learning and reimagining much of our programming. We are also working to generate a long-term plan for action, informed by feedback from experts in our community. We will provide regular updates as the plan is implemented.
In closing, we would simply like to amplify anti-racist teaching practices and Black pedagogues’ scholarship.
- Evans, S. Y., Domingue, A. D., & Mitchell, T. D. (2019). Black Women and Social Justice Education: Legacies and Lessons. Albany: State University of New York Press. (e-book available through UVA Library)
"Black Women and Social Justice Education builds on the legacies of Black women who articulate educational values that investigate identity and demand moral accountability in ways that directly upset and undermine systems of inequality. This effort simultaneously deconstructs systems of oppression and constructs liberatory pedagogical principals. These principles should be taught, studied, and institutionalized." (p. 2)
- hooks, b. (2003). Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. New York: Routledge. (available through UVA Library)
"To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination. A body of critical theory is now available that explains all the workings of white-supremacist thought and racism. But explanations alone do not bring us to the practice of beloved community. When we take the theory, the explanations, and apply them concretely to our daily lives, to our experiences, we further and deepen the practice of anti-racist transformation." (p. 36)
- Kishimoto, K. (2018). Anti-racist pedagogy: from faculty’s self-reflection to organizing within and beyond the classroom, Race Ethnicity and Education, 21:4, 540-554, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2016.1248824
"While academic culture promotes specialization and elitism, and does not encourage humility of the faculty, anti-racist teaching highlights learning as a life-long process. This means that even though faculty may have terminal degrees, because of our relative positions of power, we need to be aware and self-reflexive of our social locations. [...] To admit that the faculty are ‘also in the process of learning’ and to acknowledge their oppressed identity as well as their complicity in the oppression of others is a political act." (p. 544)
- Love, B. L. (2019). We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. Boston: Beacon Press. (e-book available through UVA Library)
"When you understand how hard it is to fight for educational justice, you know that there are no shortcuts and no gimmicks; you know this to be true deep in your soul, which brings both frustration and determination. Educational justice is going to take people power, driven by the spirit and ideas of the folx who have done the work of antiracism before: abolitionists. The fact that dark people are tasked with the work of dismantling these centuries-old oppressions is a continuation of racism." (p. 9)
- Starr, G. G. (2020). After George Floyd’s Killing, What Academics Can Do. The Chronicle Review. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/After-George-Floyd-s/248890?cid=wcontentgrid_hp_1b
"We must harness the tools at hand. Those of us who teach the law or medicine, let us do so with joy, the sharpest of insight, and the highest of ethics. Those of us whose [sic] teach in the sciences, let us keep our sights high, and never forget that each small step we take in placing rigorously tested evidence before the world moves us all. If we are social scientists, let us document, discover, develop policies, and help test them. Let us each use the knowledge we have gained to destroy the mythologies and half-truths that make injustice seem palatable, and to make it harder for charlatans to mislead individuals and obscure reality."