The effects of racism are tangible and physical. They are carried in the bodies of their victims. But how does racism work? Why can it be hard to see? How do we combat racist messages that are woven into the very fabric of our social institutions?
Dr. Jeanine Staples works at the intersection of race, gender, identity, and education. By examining the subtle messages that devalue blackness, Afrocentric styles and fashions, Ebonics, and other cultural elements associated with African Americans, as well as the complex messages all girls receive about their sexuality and social worth, Dr. Staples reveals how African American girls internalize the simple message that they are not, and never will be, good enough.
Equally disconcerting is the way social institutions like schools, often thought of as neutral, act as places where cultural messages of value (and devaluation) are loudest. Far beyond teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, schools are a primary site where cultural values like competition, gender biases, and individualism are taught to the next generation. When those values include subconscious race discrimination, where black folks are coded as lazy or criminal or where black hairstyles are viewed as socially problematic, the broader messages about race affect everyone in society.
Dr. Staples discusses how we can make these messages more visible, why we need to take them seriously, and what we can do about them.
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For more information on Dr. Staples:
Dr. Staples’ personal and professional page: www.jeaninestaples.com
Dr. Staples’ project of conscious self-empowerment designed for people of color: The Supreme Love Project
More information on the material discussed in this episode:
Dr. Staples’ book outlining her project of empowerment for people of color: The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self – (This Is an Endarkened, Feminist, New Literacies Event) (Black Studies and Critical Thinking)
TEDxPSU talk featuring Dr. Staples: “How to Die Peacefully”
PBS documentary Unnatural Causes episode featuring the health effects of racism on African-American women’s infants: When the Bough Breaks
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxanne Gay’s memoir, referenced by Dr. Staples as discussing how black girls are so flooded with cultural messages of their devaluation that they begin to participate in it.
Robin DiAngelo’s book highlighting the issue of “white fragility”: What Does It Mean to Be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy
Links to Dr. Staples’ articles in anthropology, education, and literature: JeanineStaples.com/articles/