Teaching Black Lives Matter

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The Black Lives Matter movement continues to be an active and relevant force and one certainly worth teaching.  The saturation of violence against black people in this country demands careful thought and consideration.  Several essays in Emerging can offer you and your students tools for thinking about this campaign.


By The All-Nite Images [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kwame Anthony Appiah, “Making Conversation and The Primacy of Practice.”  In the first part of this selection Appiah makes it clear that cosmopolitanism is as much a problem as a solution.  That is, the answer is not just “let’s all get along.”  Instead, that we live in an interconnected world demands that we pay careful attention to how to get along.  The second part of this selection is also useful since it is about the processes of social change in relation to values.  Appiah, then, can offer students strategies for thinking about how to achieve the change imagined by Black Lives Matter and also can help them evaluate the movement as it exists today.

Francis Fukuyama, “Human Dignity.”  Human dignity is in some ways central to the concerns of Black Lives Matter.  Why is it that black lives seem to be less valued? What are the consequences when any human is denied a basic level of dignity?  Fukuyama’s dense text offers students complex theoretical grounds for examining social violence in relation to human rights.

Malcolm Gladwell, “Small Change.”  Gladwell’s essay is perhaps particularly apropos to the Black Lives Matter movement. Gladwell looks at the relation between social media and social change by drawing from the lessons of the civil rights movement.  His arguments about the kinds of connections necessary for real social change are perfect for thinking about this campaign and how to realize its goals.

Steve Olson, “The End of Race: Hawaii and the Mixing of Peoples.” Olson’s essay makes it clear that there is no longer any biological basis to race.  He also hints at some of the reasons that race nevertheless persists (and powerfully so). 

Leslie Savan, “What's Black, Then White, and Said All Over?” Savan’s essay offers a larger context for violence against black people by examining the pop cultural appropriation of black langue.  Her essay can offer students a broader context for looking at the ways that black lives and culture are devalued.

Peter Singer, “Visible Man: Ethics in a World Without Secrets.” Singer suggests that a world saturated in surveillance may allow us to watch the watchers.  Given Singer’s example of the Rodney King beating, and given the role that video has played in many recent case of violence against black people, Singer perhaps offers students tools to think about how technology can combat this racial violence.

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About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.