MrMary Responds || Three white college students file racial discrimination complaint against professor over lesson on structural racism

The Facts

ShannonGibneyA black female professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College was formally reprimanded by school officials after three of her white male students were upset by a lesson she taught on structural racism. Shannon Gibney says that the students reacted in a hostile manner to the lesson in her Introduction to Mass Communication class, with one of them asking her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?”

These students continued to argue and disrupt the lesson until Gibney told them that if they were troubled by her handling of the subject, they could file an official complaint with the school’s legal affairs department. The students then filed a complaint, and Gibney was formally reprimanded by the school’s vice president of Academic Affairs for creating a ”hostile learning environment” for trying to educate her students about the existence and operations of structural racism.

Based on this and other actions by the school administration, Gibney and six other professors are filing a federal class action lawsuit against the college alleging that it is a discriminatory workplace.

My Thoughts

On of the most important questions that should be asked and answered is: “In a mass communications class what role does structural racism play ?” Let’s look at how some have described mass communications:

mass-commMass communication is the study of how individuals and entities relay information through mass media to large segments of the population at the same time. It is usually understood to relate to newspaper, magazine, and book publishing, as well as radio, television and film, as these mediums are used for disseminating information, news and advertising.

I would think that being that mass media is to a large part responsible for the continued negative portrayal of certain races, which in term affect public opinion and policy towards the aforementioned race that it is of vital importance to talk about structural racism.  Let me give you an example, From Dr. David Williams, professor of sociology and public health. This came from his discussion of unconscious bias in the lives of Black Americans in the September 2013 issue of @essencemag.

or by not talking about it

“We have shifted from biological racism to cultural racism. Sixty years ago most people in America believed that Blacks were biologically inferior, made-by-God inferior. Today there is a cultural racism that says that Black parents are not giving their children the right values, and it’s often offered as the reason for why Blacks are not doing as well as other groups. It associates ‘Black’ with a range of negative assumptions that are so deeply embedded in American culture that people who hold them are not bad people. They’re just ‘good Americans,’ because it’s what American society has taught them. Researchers put together a database of ten million words from books, newspapers, magazine articles, various documents. They found that when the word ‘Black’ occurs, what tends to co-occur is not only ‘poor’ and ‘violent’ and ‘religious’ but also ‘lazy’ and ‘cheerful’ and ‘dangerous.’ Being violent, lazy and dangerous, other research shows, are widely held stereotypes about Blacks. All racial ethnic minority groups are stereotyped more negatively than Whites, with Blacks viewed the worst, followed by Latinos, who were viewed twice as negatively as Asians. Southern Whites are viewed more negatively than Whites in general. There is a hierarchy.

This hierarchy, isn’t it maintained  in part by mass media ? Isn’t it a serious enough topic to consider in mass communications?

If you read the article on, you will learn that [the students reacted in a hostile manner to the lesson in her Introduction to Mass Communication class, with one of them asking her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this? also another student chimed in and 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?”

For my Caucasian readers

I want to assure you that, myself and many of the Black and Latino friends I know do not consider White people or particularly white males racist or evil. You should trust me on this, I have the esteemed privilege of being many white persons’ single black friend. What I personally do not understand as someone who is not-white, aside from salmon coloured shorts, is how is what this teacher did racially discriminatory? She isn’t saying white people are evil. She isn’t creating a hostile environment either by talking about structural racism.

I also admit I do not have all the details. Structural racism seems an important part of a mass media class? I could understand if it was a differential equations class, or Babylonian art before Christ class. As a teacher she isn’t responsible for what is discussed in every class outside of her own.

Talk to me folks help me understand. I don’t really get it, and I cannot stomach the discussion/comment sections. I really can’t.


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