OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV)-Race, ethnicity, and equality.
Ask a group of people whether these topics should be discussed in a classroom and you’re likely to get many different opinions.
But what are classes that discuss these topics really like? Local Five News got access to classes at two local university’s to find out.
At Lawrence University, students in professor Jesus Smiths’ race, ethnicity, and justice class discussed the book ‘Invisible No More.’
“When I was planning this course I was thinking about all the different ways we could approach inequality in the criminal justice system and how we can make changes,” said Smith.
As students flip through the pages of the book, they hear stories about police violence against minority groups. The class, which includes a very diverse group of students, discuss topics like racism, inequality, and white privilege.
Talking about these topics isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it can be uncomfortable. But in professor Smiths’ class, they embrace these topics rather then avoid them.
“The goal isn’t necessarily to change people’s minds it’s for people to begin to understand other perspectives and to be critical of what they are consuming,” said Smith.
There are 11 students in this small class at Lawrence University. Two of those students are Chloe Thomas and Earl Simons.
“The first step (towards change) is to talk about it you know it’s that first leap that a lot of people are afraid of taking,” said Simons.
“Censoring important conversations like this because they are difficult is really an injustice and sets us back as a collective,” said Thomas.
Over at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in a classroom in Sage Hall, there’s another class discussing African American history and culture and how all of this shaped the African American experience in the United States.
Whether it’s an introductory course to African American studies or a much more advanced course, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh professor Alphonso Simpson Jr. is never at a loss for energy.
“US history is African American history, African Americans are woven into the fabric of America,” said Simpson Jr.
Simpson Jr. emphasizing that there is nothing minor about African American history, yet in the United States we tend to gloss over African American history.
To prove his point, Simpson asked trivia about American history involving Americans of European descent such as what was the Boston Tea Party. When he asked his students these types of questions, they were able to answer them easily.
But when he asked questions about African American history and culture like when Kwanzaa is during the year his students had a much more difficult time answering these questions correctly.
“We learn about so many historic monumental events in the US minus black people and all monumental or historic events involved black people,” said Simpson Jr.
Both professors said that while they appreciate Black History Month every February, really every month should be Black History Month.
Black History Month began in 1926 as Negro History Week. Carter G. Woodson, who is credited with popularizing the study of African American studies in the American education system, is the one who started Black History Month.