teaching about race



i have a master's degree in 'africana studies' (which means black studies but with a certain political bent towards african nationalism). sometimes people look at me funny when i tell them that. i am so clearly white, and these days, much of the time, i am a shopgirl without obvious interest in non-design related subjects.

yet here i am-- a white shopkeeper who periodically teaches courses about race and ethnicity in our country. i have just completed a course in african american history for one of our local community colleges-- and it was marvelous. my students were amazing: smart, engaged, challenging, fun, warm; the college left me alone to do my thing (always a boon for an adjunct); and my subject, always challenging, brought me closer to the politics and history of the work that i do every day in the shop.

when i teach about african american history, i am clear that i am teaching OUR history-- the history of the united states. there have been people of african descent here since 1619 (brought against their will)-- as long as there have been european women here-- and the telling of OUR history is very much the story of how race, power, and money shaped our nation from the beginning.

there is no one black experience of living in this country-- the african american community is as diverse and complex as any other on our planet. yet there are common themes, common experiences that most black people in our country experience: racism, white supremacy, lack of access, at times, to basic human and civil rights. and a common (though diverse) struggle to address these wrongs.

at the shop i think about issues of race in our world-- of hundreds of years of european imperialism that resulted in both our international imbalance of power and wealth, and in the global ecological devastation we find ourselves living with today.

i find that the only answer, for me, is fair trade.

so i buy eco-sustainable products that are made locally, or internationally, by fair trade organizations that i trust are providing me with products made by people in good working conditions, who have access to good food and water, fair wages, as well as education, healthcare, and decent housing for their children. in doing this i side-step, for the most part, being part of the global economy of destruction.

because i am wanting to make the future of OUR history different than the past...


- mary moore.

3 comments:

Emily said...

Hi Mary Moore -

I stopped in the shop yesterday, and used a gift certificate to buy these lovely canisters. Hope to see you next time!
xo emily
http://www.redbirdcrafts.com/2011/05/treasured_18.html

shopgirl said...

hi emily! great-- so glad you like them!

mary-moore

shopgirl said...

and thanks for the lovely mention on your blog/website!

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