MCTC instructor: I was reprimanded for how I handled a discrimination debate

A classroom confrontation between a black Minneapolis Community and Technical College English instructor and three white male students has reportedly resulted in a reprimand for the teacher.

According to a news video by City College News, 38-year-old Shannon Gibney was leading a class discussion about structural racism during her Intro to Mass Communication course when a white student interrupted her.

In the video, Gibney recalls what happened:

“[He asked,] Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?” I was shocked. … It was not in a calm way. His whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st Century America.”

Another white male student said, “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this? ”

I tried to say, ‘You guys are trying to take it personally. This is not a personal attack. We’re not all white people, you white people in general. We’re talking about whiteness as a system of oppression.

And so I’m quite familiar, unfortunately, with how that works — and how the institutional structures and powers reinforce this white male supremacy, basically, and that sort of narrative, and way of seeing the world.

And so I said, “You know, if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.”

The students reportedly did, and MCTC administrators called Gibney to an investigatory meeting. She went with her union representative, and an attorney for the school also attended.

City College News reports Gibney received a letter of reprimand from the vice president of academic affairs, which the paper cites:

“Shannon, I find it troubling that the manner in which you led a discussion on the very important topic of of structural racism alienated two students who may have been most in need of learning about this subject.

While I believe it was your intention to discuss structural racism generally, it was inappropriate for you to single out white male students in class. Your actions in [targeting] select students based on their race and gender caused them embarrassment and created a hostile learning environment.

For that reason, I have determined that a reprimand is warranted.”

Gibney tells the reporter the reprimand is formal and will go into her file. She tells the reporter she may have to attend some sessions with the college’s diversity director.

She says in the video:

“I don’t feel safe in the class anymore. I definitely feel like I’m a target in the class. I don’t feel like students respect me. Those students were trying to undermine my authority from the get-go. And I told the lawyer at the investigatory meeting, ‘You have helped those three white male students succeed in undermining my authority as one of the few remaining black female professors here.'”

Gibney would not comment on what happened when I called her. But she said she received an additional warning from administrators that she may have violated the students’ right to privacy when she spoke about the incident.

She said she is not part of a class-action lawsuit — as has been reported — but is one of a handful or so of MCTC faculty and staff who have filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging workplace discrimination.

Gibney tells the college paper:

“As a vocal, black female, younger-looking … faculty member here, unfortunately this is not the first time I’ve actually had multiple verbal and institutional attacks on me by white males, whether they were students, faculty, administration or staff.”

WCCO reported the three students who complained aren’t speaking publicly about the incident, and said school officials wouldn’t go on camera.

But it said they released this statement:

“At Minneapolis Community and Technical College we believe it is essential for our students to understand issues of race, class and power, and we encourage the faculty to actively engage students in respectful discussions about these topics and create an atmosphere in which students may ask questions as an important part of the classroom experience. That’s how we learn. As a diverse college we want to ensure that students, faculty and staff from all cultures and backgrounds feel welcomed and have an appropriate learning environment. We train our employees to ensure that these critical conversations around issues of diversity are constructive and lead to understanding.

The College has a thorough process for investigating and resolving complaints from students about faculty and from faculty and staff about students.

Under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, we are unable to comment on private personnel or student data.”

Meanwhile, the college’s handling of the case has received criticism in a student commentary and an op-ed website, and Minneapolis artist Ryan Williams-Virden has written an open letter to the three students.

I have calls out to Gibney’s union representatives as well as a college spokeswoman. We’ll see what they say.

  • Fred Garvin

    When the job depends on fomenting “debate” and fostering racial stereotypes, it’s no wonder how one can become single-minded and losing perspective.
    How about a detached perspective that supports the students?

  • Fred Garvin

    After reading Mr. Williams-Virden’s “letter”, I have to ask why his extremely racist views were linked.

  • Fred Garvin

    “I’ve actually had multiple verbal and institutional attacks on me by white males, whether they were students, faculty, administration or staff.””

    In reply:
    As a very intelligent person said: You’re trying to take it personally. This is not a personal attack. We’re not all white males, while students, white faculty or white administrators.
    Strangely enough, this person now knows how the students felt.
    But did anyone learn the lesson?

    • joseph conehead

      Hear, hear! Fred Garvin knows how to take a comment out of context and throw it back in a person’s face. I wonder if the three white students also tried his new and certainly-persuasive “I know you are, but what am I” approach?

      I look forward to his response and hope that it takes some form of “Shame, shame, know your name!”

  • Dr. Pate

    Thank you MPR for finally giving attention to the institutional racism at MCTC. News media outlets need to educate the public on the dynamics and workings of structural racism, as Fred Garvin’s comments reveal the continued ignorance of some members of the public. Professor Gibney’s syllabus stated specifically that the course would address unequal relations of power as it relates to race, gender, and class in the field of mass communication and journalism. By staying in the course, the students agreed to the terms of the course. They could have easily dropped the course after the first day of class upon reading the syllabus, but they didn’t. Rather than reprimanding the professor for teaching what she was hired to do (and what she stipulated in the syllabus), MCTC administrators upheld white supremacy–once again–by taking away her academic freedom and undermining her academic authority and academic integrity in the classroom. It is clear that the white male students targeted Professor Gibney because she is a nonwhite, female professor. And my dear Fred, unlike her critique of institutional racism, the students’ charge was, indeed, a personal attack; they singled her out with the charge.

    • Fred Garvin

      Dr. Pete’s comments reveal the ignorance of ignoring the present.
      No syllabus requires students to feel uncomfortable no matter what her race. No syllabus can supersede college polices for reporting unprofessional or unethical or non-collegial or intolerant conduct. A college classroom is a sanctuary of respect and this instructor’s attitude(s) if not words are arguably totalitarian.
      What’s good for the students is also good for the instructor: If the instructor believe the school’s policies are “racist”, she could have refused to sign her contract. By signing a contract, she clearly agreed to those policies and could resign at any time if she believes they are racist or were applied in a racist manner by the administration.

      So, in sum Dr. Pete, your comments are not indicative of a balanced perspective.
      Seems to me that she didn’t like the outcome after telling students what to do with their complaints, and got stung when others agreed with the students. Too bad. The students’ complaint was only personal because the instructor made it so! And no, it’s not clear that the instructor was targeted because of her race or sex–enough of this pulling the race or sex card at every turn of the complaint. Clearly, several professionals trained and educated in investigating these complaints agreed with the students–so your claims otherwise are mere speculation, and boringly predictable at that.
      Yes , discussions of race are complicated and this instructor’s demeanor made them unnecessarily confrontational by dismissing her enlightened student’s concerns with “oh, don’t take it personally”.

      • joseph conehead

        Wait, so if you sign a contract with an employer, you’re not allowed to criticize that employer without first resigning? If you sign a contract with an employer, that serves as a binding endorsement of everything that employer does? I don’t think most of the world agrees with you here.
        This is sophistry. MCTC has a well documented tradition of being poorly administered. That you give the administration the benefit of the doubt here rather than the teachers is interesting.

        • Fred Garvin

          My post was certainly sophistry–in response to the sophistry of Dr. Pate and his assertion that a syllabus is a take-it-or-leave-it contract for the student. Thus, my counter that an employment contract was similar for the instructor. The Socratic method in action.
          If you are correct–that MCTC is poorly administered–would that not include the HIRING of say…English instructors?
          I did not and do not give ANYONE the benefit of any doubt.

          • joseph conehead

            But it’s kind of ridiculous to frame a syllabus and an employment contract as though they are the same thing. One of these things is legally binding. One is not. Plus, I doubt that the instructor’s contract had a clause about MCTC being bad at handling race issues, whereas I suspect the syllabus was pretty clear about the direction the class was going take.
            Just because a comparison can be made doesn’t mean a comparison is apt.

          • Fred Garvin

            Contract and syllabus framed as the same thing? Yeah, that would be ridiculous but no one has made such an assertion. Nice strawman though.
            ALL employment contracts refer to disciplinary procedures, as do policies for students who wish to submit complaints. NO syllabus can supersede those polices. For example, a syllabus that claims that institutional racism will be addressed but no student can complain since they know of it and agree to it, is unenforceable and no effect whatsoever.
            Students have policies available to them as students BY CONTRACT with the college. Instructors have policies available to them as employees by contract. A syllabus cannot alter those. Got it? So, when Dr. Pate claims that the students cannot complain because they knew or should have known the topic would arise because it was in the syllabus, he would be WRONG because the students have rights and procedures available to them independent of the syllabus, AS DO INSTRUCTORS. This, my spot-on comparison.
            If MCTC is poorly administered as you claim, replete with institutionalized racism and sexism as claimed by Dr. Pate, why would any intelligent, young woman, black or white or purple, choose to work there? Sorry, something is missing.

          • joseph conehead

            You keep saying strawman. It does not mean what you think it mean.

            You said:

            “Dr. Pate and his assertion that a syllabus is a take-it-or-leave-it contract for the student. Thus, my counter that an employment contract was similar for the instructor. The Socratic method in action.”

            But now:

            “Contract and syllabus framed as the same thing? Yeah, that would be ridiculous but no one has made such an assertion.”
            If I am confused, it probably has a bit to do with the incoherence of your comments.
            For instance, you’ve pivoted here. You’ve abandoned the comparison between the employment contract and the syllabus and retreated to a comparison between some vague legal agreement between the student and the school and the instructor’s employment contract. Unfortunately, the syllabus angle was the only thing tying your comment to the comment of Dr. Pate. Your argument has become incoherent.
            By abandoning the syllabus angle, you’re essentially turning your response into a strawman. As someone who is ostensibly concerned about the use of stawmen, I imagine you are aghast at this realization.

          • Fred Garvin

            Incoherence? only to those incapable of reading & comprension.

            I wrote “similar”–you read & then wrote that as ” they are the same thing.”

            Here’s the point since you have yet to appreciate it: a student’s access to grievance procedures is guaranteed by the college’s policies–there’s no vagueness to that assertion. An instructor’s access to grievance procedures regarding discipline is guaranteed by the employment contract that invariably refers to the college’s policies–there’s no vagueness to that assertion. A syllabus cannot change either’s access to the appropriate policies–THAT IS 100% CLEAR. So, both parties’ access to applicable policies is SIMILAR; to suggest that the reception & possession of a syllabus by a student means that, “[b]y staying in the course, the students agreed to the terms of the course” is practically absurd, any more than an assertion that the instructor was bound to accept all terms of the administration’s actions simply because she signed an employment contract. See the SIMILARITIES? Yes, illustrating the absurd with the absurd is very enlightening.

            I cannot help you with your deficiencies and confusion.

            In any case, how about returning to the very valuable discussion about education versus indoctrination in the college classroom?

          • joseph conehead

            This is dumb. You’re parsing the definition of the word same as though it must indicate equivalence rather than mere similarity.
            No one is questioning a student’s access to grievance procedures. No one. I’m not sure why you brought it up. Seems like a strawman to me.
            And I agree, my deficiencies are my own. But, you could help me with your deficiencies by thinking through the things you write before you write them.
            I would remind you that you’re the one who turned this discussion into a meta-discussion with wild accusations about straw men.

          • Fred Garvin

            You may think it’s dumb, but “similar” is not “the same thing”.

            It’s not “parsing”–it’s language.

            Try it–the sooner the better.

            “No one is questioning a student’s access to grievance procedures.”

            It’s quite clear that Dr. Pate is attempting to do precisely that:

            “By staying in the course, the students agreed to the terms of the course. They could have easily dropped the course after the first day of class upon reading the syllabus, but they didn’t. Rather than reprimanding the professor for teaching what she was hired to do (and what she stipulated in the syllabus),”

          • joseph conehead

            Aha. I should have known better than to argue about anything with someone who is willing to claim they don’t have any deficiencies.

          • Fred Garvin

            But you have argued about me with me for quite some time…so who has the deficiency?

            Care to address Dr. Pate’s comments on barring students from accessing grievance procedures based on syllabus content?
            Or that he later described them as sexist and racist for doing so?

          • joseph conehead

            I have already copped to being someone who isn’t so delusional as to believe I am without deficiency. My point was that arguing with someone who can’t see their own deficiencies is a waste of everyone’s time.
            Speaking of deficiency, you’re making things up if you read Dr. Pate’s words and get that Dr. Pate doesn’t think students should have access to grievance procedures. It actually seems like Dr. Pate just disagrees with the decision made by the people tasked with responding to student grievances. Which, of course. Why would a proponent of institutional racism curriculum ever be against giving students redress for their complaints?

          • Toka313

            I’m watching 2 SNL characters try and hash this out.. how odd.

          • Fred Garvin

            “But, you could help me with your deficiencies ”

            I do not have any.

          • Fred Garvin

            “I would remind you that you’re the one who turned this discussion into a meta-discussion with wild accusations about straw men.”

            Your view of what happened here is not the reality.

  • Bobbi Wilding

    It’s never easy to discuss racism openly and honestly. Those conversations are, in their very nature, challenging. Kudos to MPR for covering this story – not simply for the single incident, but for the ongoing failure of MCTC to create an environment that is welcoming for all students and faculty. Despite the institution’s glib lip service to diversity, it seems to fail to recognize that, in order to make space for people who have historically been excluded or marginalized, people with privilege will feel uncomfortable. How much better would it have been to look at the complaint by the white male students as an opportunity for more dialogue about structural racism rather than to further the students’ attack on a woman professor of color who strives to bring these painful issues to light?

    • Sister

      Thank you for this excellent address to this situation. Structural Racism is uncomfortable for those of privilege – they just don’t want to hear it, especially from a person of color let alone be a female

  • Gina

    Indeed structural racism is a difficult conversation for those who fear losing the unearned privileges maintained by those structures. So really the deeper message from MCTC is that you can gently reflect on racism so long as nothing really changes and so long as no white males ever have to feel discomfort or lose their privilege.

    • Fred Garvin

      And structural deference to certain “aggrieved “groups is also a difficult conversation to have when a member of one of those artificial groups lacks competence regardless of race (or sex), or is artificially assigned competence based on race (or sex).
      The deeper message from MCTC is that racism and sexism know no racial or gender boundaries.

      • joseph conehead

        I think that organizations everywhere would be very interested in your ability to diagnose employee competence based on a few articles you read on the internet. It would be very cost effective to have someone like you around to tell them who isn’t performing up to snuff. I know I’m finding your performance evaluations of the MCTC instructor very persuasive.

        • Fred Garvin

          My post was not about any particular individual–it was about an alternative view of institutional mindsets as posited by Gina.

          • joseph conehead

            Aha. Gotcha. So just a general comment about nothing in particular.

          • Fred Garvin

            Clearly not, but flail away.

          • Gina

            Fred, based on your multiple posts and counter arguments– we can all see that you feel very threatened by what you might lose. You have all the time in the world to argue with people online, and you are deeply entrenched in the denial and defense mode of cultural awareness. Come up for air once in a while and you’ll see the world is starting to shift–like it or not, post online all you want, you’re still going to have to learn how to function in the real world.

          • Fred Garvin

            And I can see from your few posts that you are very threatened by a reality that would bring down your house of cards, and that scares the bejesus out of you.
            Poke your head out of the ivory (or ebony or beige or umber) tower and you’ll see a rainbow, not an old Hitchcock movie.
            But you have to take off the filtered glasses, open the narrow mindset, and move beyond a heart filled with resentment.
            It’s called growing up and being honest with the world around you. Yes, it can be very scary but ultimately and endlessly liberating.

          • J_ Mac

            Gina, with respect, your indoctrination is showing. Fred’s overarching and barely subtle commentary about selective equality and the vice of the perspective of victimization is spot-on. Racism is neither the purveiw of the Caucasian nor the Male. It’s a universal malady often masquerading under the veil of [un]fairness and should be spoken of in that manner. I agree that the world is shifting; let’s help it along by ensuring we don’t lock any lexiconological gimbals.

        • Fred Garvin

          “I know I’m finding your performance evaluations of the MCTC instructor very persuasive.”
          I know you’re getting good at discovering your own strawmen.

          • joseph conehead

            I am actually getting a lot of practice discovering straw men right now, thank you very much.

          • Fred Garvin

            You sure do–I’m reading them with amazement.
            It is weird.
            I type, and then you respond with bizarre and unrelated comments about words I never typed.

            Any idea how or why you do that?

          • joseph conehead

            So your position is that it is bizarre to respond to the implications of the words you’ve written?

    • A female

      Give it a rest. These students had every right to complain and I for one am thrilled that they did so. She was hired to teach, not to make certain students feel guilty because they were born white and male. She obviously did not think they would take her advise and file that complaint. If I were in charge I would have done more than reprimand her. She’s now on notice.

      • A P

        She wouldn’t be teaching in a comprehensive or constructive way if she didn’t call attention to white supremacy. If these students felt “guilty” as a result, they were missing the point, as she patiently explained to them.

      • janegray

        Here is a hard truth, guilt is on you. People who aren’t doing wrong don’t feel guilty. If you know that you do not harbor any racist attitudes, then a discussion of institutional racism shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable.

  • Avee

    Discussions on race are very sensitive and difficult topics. My undergrad studies were in Ethnic and Gender Studies at another university. I am very familiar with the high levels of discomfort, anger, and even levels of guilt some in the dominant culture may experience under these circumstances. White privilege and structural racism may be hard for some to understand and acknowledge. For White men and women, they have been indoctrinated to believe they have earned everything they have “worked” for: meritocracy and individualism prevail. Being exposed to the truth and history of America is like waking up to bad dream, a nightmare really. Some, like the students who cried “racism” would rather stay in a safe, comfortable, false slumber. Time to wake up!

    • Fred Garvin

      The American dream is not a “nightmare”; it is complicated and endlessly multifaceted. But once one assigns “good” and “bad” to past events, then there’s precious little room for a discussion. But I suspect that a DISCUSSION is the last thing that many college instructors wish to have.
      For example, how often do history teachers talk about the Dakota War of 1862 as the single worst example of domestic terrorism until 9/11?

      • joseph conehead

        You should reread what Avee wrote and actually respond to that.

        • Fred Garvin

          I would be happy to read and possibly respond.
          Can you direct me?

          • joseph conehead

            First, point out where Avee called the American Dream a nightmare.

          • Fred Garvin

            “Being exposed to the truth and history of America is like waking up to bad dream, a nightmare really.”
            Words are words.

          • joseph conehead

            Right. Avee used the term “nightmare” to describe the truth and history of the US. Do you know what they American Dream is? Look it up. It certainly exists within the truth and history of America, but it is not the truth and history of America.
            Words aren’t just words. They also have meanings.

          • Fred Garvin

            Well, that’s YOUR version/definition of the “American Dream”; which may or may not align with mine, but you never bothered to ask before running off on another tangent.
            I quoted Avee–he was referring to America and its history–it’s history being a bad dream (“a nightmare”). To him, according to his words, the dream of America –its truth & history, which is essentially America itself–is a really nightmare. A reasonable reading of his words is that there is no American “dream” since it’s “history & truth” is a nightmare.
            If Avee wishes to parse his/her words or correct my reading of them, I’m sure he/she will. Your views are skewed of course since you’re simply wishing to fight, not discuss theissues..
            Yes words do have meaning–I hope that you’ll heed such advice in your future postings … but I won’t count on it.

          • joseph conehead

            No. Avee wrote that learning about US history was like waking up in a bad dream. Avee did not say anything about the American Dream. It was a metaphor about coming to grips with the atrocities of US history. You read it wrong.

            Better to accuse me of ‘wishing to fight’ than to acknowledge that you misread something. There’s probably no better way to demonstrate the fact that you’re arguing in good faith while proving that my only goal here is to selfishly tear you down.

          • Fred Garvin

            Sorry Mr. Conehead,

            You do not speak for what Avee wrote, did not write, or meant.

            Or are you claiming that you are a sockpuppet?

            Nice try though.

          • joseph conehead

            I do not speak for Avee, but I’m pretty sure that you misread Avee and are just too stubborn to admit it. That’s cool. Stubbornness can be a virtue. But it is kind of funny in the context of you complaining about the contentiousness of this argument, as if I’m the problem here.

          • Fred Garvin

            Well, you have yet to address the issue of unprofessional behavior(s) in the classroom–the GENERAL ISSUE raised this this situation, so I guess that would be a problem of your making.
            I’m quite sure that it is funny …
            to you.

          • joseph conehead

            Wait. Are you trying to change the subject from the American Dream here? I will address the ‘GENERAL ISSUE’ once you acknowledge your mistake. Otherwise, what’s the point? Why would I try to engage in discussion with someone who won’t even acknowledge when they’ve misread something? It’s nice to meet some minimum threshold of intellectual honesty.

          • Fred Garvin

            Like I said and others can see, we’re waiting for you to address the very important issues versus joust with me unarmed.

        • Fred Garvin

          Please try harder to read and respond to what I write.
          I’m tiring of chasing after your imaginary strawmen that you apparently enjoy building and tearing down.
          If Avee wishes to respond, I’m sure he/she will.

          • joseph conehead

            It’s not a strawman to point out that your response indicates that you didn’t understand what you were responding to. Especially when you clarify by showing even more evidence that you didn’t understand what you were responding to.

      • Michael Derry

        You have quite an interesting perspective on the Dakota War of 1862. The killing of hundreds of settlers (civilians) might be considered terrorism if you frame it the way you’ve choose to. There are several other ways to view it, including as an insurgency, an armed rebellion, or a border dispute. Your reading of the situation ignores the part where the United States, including the previously mentioned settlers, invaded Sioux lands and the ensuing broken treaties, failures to pay as agreed, and the brutality of the occupation.

        I have no idea how often such discussions take place in history classrooms around the country but just because many people fail to teach, or tend to disagree with, your personal interpretation of history doesn’t mean they’re not open to discussion. Compared to the sanitized version of history taught to elementary school students, the actual facts of US history are often quite unpleasant. It’s no wonder the students in this article felt uncomfortable. That discomfort seems to have lead to a confrontational attitude, which is a the root of this event no matter who you side with. That appears to be the main intent of the comment you’re responding to here. No reference was made to the concept of “The American Dream” but, instead, an analogy was made that realizing the truth behind the propagandized version of history is as disturbing as waking up from a dream into a nightmare.

        I haven’t missed your moderately good point about the dangers of discouraging discussion by casting moral judgements on historical events. However, the tone of the rest of this post and many of your other responses on the topic signals to many posters here that you don’t believe structural racism exists and that white privilege has been diminished almost to the point of equality. This perception and your relatively aggressive responses makes me think you have a lot in common with the three young men in this article and their perspective on the situation.

      • janegray

        Are you suggesting that anyone could argue that slavery and Jim Crow were good?

    • Sister

      Here Here

  • Fred Garvin

    “You have helped those three white male students succeed in undermining my authority as one of the few remaining black female professors here.’”
    So, it’s fine to teach through race- and sex-colored glasses, but not for students to complain through those same skewed glasses?

    • So Problematic

      There’s a significant difference in that they weren’t being targeted; they responded to a generality (how whiteness and systematic oppression co-exist) by taking it personally (assuming she said they, personally, are responsible for a systemic issue). At no point did she say “You two white men right there are responsible for every structurally racist problem I and other PoC have endured.” If she had done so and been grading them specifically by constantly calling out their background, they would’ve had grounds to stand on. As I see it, they had nothing but the offences they felt towards something that is more true than they’re willing to see.

      It’s easy to get mad when someone calls out the privilege that exists for you rather than understand the point they’re trying to make; the latter requires effort to learn and empathy, which is something those two guys clearly didn’t have.

  • Fred Garvin

    I have a one-name open letter to Ryan Williams-Virden: Crystal Mangum.

  • kwame_zulu_shabazz

    I would be helpful to know what at what point did she “single out white male students in class.” Many white people (and, sadly, a few black people) are oblivious to the reality that African Americans (and other people are color) are routinely “alienated”–its just a fact of life in America wherein racism continues to be deeply entrenched in our institutions. Indeed, for most of America’s existence African Americans were not even considered fully human.

  • HorseShit

    From Ryan-hyphen-feminist-last-name-dude’s letter: “the disease that is whiteness”


  • HorseShit

    “white privilege” dogma is idiotic cult horse shit

  • HorseShit

    Ever notice that the only whites who believe in “white privilege” are sheltered whites who live in super-white-majority places? Ever notice the most “progressive” places are also the “whitest” places? They are all cult hypocrites or simply naive.

  • Joshua Warren

    I had a similar incident in one of the English classes, I ended up dropping out of the class because it was offensive to me and taking the N/C. The professor made us read “The New Jim Crow”, and frequently stated that the predominantly black and latino populations in prison were a result of unfair laws by white men. We were never given the option of disagreeing, or if we did we were basically yelled at and castigated by the African American students in the class.

    • Michael Derry

      That’s unacceptable. No one should be made to feel voiceless or ostracized for asking questions or stating an opinion, whether they disagree with you or not. Academic discussions should be open to all opinions. Hearing diverse views on a subject broadens people’s perspective on a topic and allows for greater understanding, even if agreement can’t be reached.

      To relate your experience back to the article, it sounds to me like the teacher was in your position in this case. Based on what I’ve heard from this article and others, the students who interrupted weren’t merely stating their opinion, they were lashing out against the teacher and demanding not to even hear the opposing view on the subject. “Why do we have to talk about this?”

      There’s nothing wrong with students dealing with being uncomfortable with the subject matter taught in a class. If we never dealt with uncomfortable subjects, much of human history would need to be skipped completely. (War, slavery, oppression… there’s never been a time in recorded history when one or more of these things wasn’t happening somewhere on Earth.) Enduring discomfort and discussing multiple viewpoints on topics like this is how meaningful insights are gained. If your worldview is never challenged, why learn at all? Everyone might as well believe whatever they want, without evidence, if everyone is entitled never to feel uncomfortable. It’s a part of the learning process, or at least it should be.

      Now, while I’m not defending your mistreatment, I’d like to point out a potential reason why someone ~might~ react negatively to someone disagreeing with the concept of unfair laws or ‘white privilege’ or similar concepts. [I have no idea what you disagreed with or what happened in your class.] For a certain students, these aren’t mere concepts, they’re part of their life experiences. For an over-the-top example: Hearing a white man claiming that he has ‘no more rights or privileges than anyone else’ might feel like an insult to someone who was pulled over the week before for ‘driving while black’.

      As I said, I have no idea what happened in your classroom, so I may have picked an example that might not apply to your situation, but I hope you get my meaning. There’s an important difference between arguing against the idea that it’s a systematic near-conspiracy and arguing that it doesn’t happen at all.

      I’m curious. I’ve never read it myself but did you drop the class before or after reading the book?

      • Joshua Warren

        I read a portion of the book. The professor was a white woman, but was wholly engrossed in pleasing the majority of students of the class. Myself and another white gentleman in the class who was also a veteran were the only two people to disagree, but we’re routinely cut off by the professor and other students when trying to share our opinions. I come from a predominantly Irish ancestry, where the people were also treated poorly and almost as sub human for centuries. Many Irish are still criticized as being alcoholics, uneducated, or lazy, but many are successful. Is there a difference? Maybe a little, but everyone has the same opportunities to succeed if they work hard and get an education. To blame society for everything bad that happens to someone is a cop out. Take responsibility for your actions, don’t do or sell drugs, use condoms so you aren’t a baby daddy, and get an education… is it that hard?

        • Michael Derry

          Unfortunately, this is evidence of human nature at play, more than anything. Without carefully protecting open and honest dialogue between everyone in a discussion, the majority tends to silence the minority. [Even when the majority is a ‘minority’.]

          No one should be interrupted while trying to make a point. Hearing the full argument and logic behind the position being taken is one of the most important part of someone’s view. Besides, if either side wants to convince the other, they need to know what they’re arguing against and, more importantly, what valid concerns need to be addressed by each side.

          Human relationships are too complex for perfect answers to societal problems. Even the best possible answer is bound to overlook something. That’s where the learning happens.

          Avoiding drugs, crime, and unplanned parenthood doesn’t guarantee success in life. (It only makes it possible.) Even hard work on top of all that usually won’t get someone out of poverty. Education is the most important thing you listed. Is it that hard? In some neighborhoods, yes it is. Public education is heavily influenced by funding from local property taxes. Poor neighborhoods tend to have poor school systems. Why not move to a better school district? It costs more to live in a better neighborhood. You need more money to get a better education and you need a good education to get more money. Of course, this long-standing cycle doesn’t explain everything but it’s a significant part of the problem.

          The best students at a substandard school will absolutely be at a disadvantage both in higher education and the job market. Can this be overcome with hard work and determination? Of course it can and it happens all the time. The problem is in the averages. There will be successes and failures in any group but when one group consistently has disadvantages, the typical outcome is predictable.

          Many, many studies have been done on the subconscious (we hope) prejudices that still exist in this country. A classic example is when sending out identical resumes with ‘ethnic’ vs ‘white’ sounding names, the responses are vastly different. The same thing happens with gender.

          On paper, everyone in this country has a fair shot at doing whatever they set their mind to if they work hard enough. In practice, subtle differences still ingrained in the culture add up to much larger effects. Blaming society is not (supposed to be) the point of these discussions; bringing to light the inequalities that still remain in our society, so that we can continue working to change them, is the goal.

    • janegray

      Look, not that this is or should be a tit for tat kind of issue, but that’s just a small taste of what black and brown people hear all the time. Black people are naturally just lazy. Hispanic people are more prone to commit crime. If you can recognize that sucks for you, then why is it so uncomfortable to understand it from the other side? Also, that’s pretty much how it went down, you can’t actually disagree with truth.

      • Anonymous

        Your post absolutely justifies structural racism.

  • W. J. Moussa Foster

    Professor Gibney, you do not stand alone. There are many of us, educators, students, activists and theologians, who are with you in bringing the issues of structural, systemic racism and White privilege to the forefront of our learning dialogues. Nearly everywhere we are met with denial, resentment, liberal self-righteousness and various forms of violence. Even when educational administrators are presented with incontrovertible evidence, most they cannot act ethically. Their very existence depends on living the lie of equity, fairness and merit, which means that they come for us with the full complement of weapons.

    I grieve with you for your loss. I hold you in my heart for your moral courage and your vision. You are in my prayers and inspire my activism. I am an older person in this struggle and I can’t give up no matter how much it hurts to see ignorance and the cruelty of those in whose hands some measure of power rests.

    No condition in permanent, my Sister. Bless you and the Beautiful Ones yet to be born.

    Brother Moussa Foster,

    United Theological Seminary
    New Brighton, MN

    • Adama

      It would be a shame not to dig deeper. Would it not? After all strong hands, a stout heart, and a keene mind built our country. And in these wild days when many of us don’t want to use our real names…for fear of something…I guess [ I was thinking about zombies].

      Anyway, I wish you all luck with your game. I have some racists, pimps, drug dealers, and single moms and dads to teach in the morning. [O wait, what was in that stinebeck about that key hole…oh ya]. They are also saints, and holy people, and the like. [ I mean its like page one of cannery row…right].¶ so this is where it gets fun.

      Mctc is a great idea, but I am not sure that Mrs. Fish would be proud of us. I mean, I am proud. But I don’t know that she would be. This instructor…shall I call her…say..the name of that one person who rode that bus the one time. The one who got in trouble. Why does that video piece start with the information it does? What is relevence? Where is that damned elephant?

  • janegray

    Here is the problem: a discussion of racism, if it is open and honest, should make you feel uncomfortable. Anything that challenges your way of thinking should make you feel uncomfortable. The reason people can go through 12+ years of education and come out being unable to think more critically than to figure out who they want on their fantasy football team is the result of people’s refusal to be uncomfortable and think about why such a discussion makes them feel that way. I don’t understand why anyone is okay with that.

  • peter

    I taught at MCTC for a year, in the English department. We were told at a meeting that they would cast as wide a net as possible to attract and hire faculty of color for the English department. MCTC more than any other college supports, welcomes, and celebrates diversity. Ms. Gibney is one of the faculty hired in the year following this meeting. This is the wrong college to be accused of racism–at least not racism against people of color.