JWU College of Arts & Sciences

JWU Students Take a Closer Look at (De)Constructing Race and Color

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From the Civil Rights Movement to #BlackLivesMatter, from Emmett Till to Mike Brown, and now from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time to Jesmyn Ward’s The Fire This Time, ILS4320 takes students around the world and back on a search for answers.

ILS4320, (De)Constructing Race and Color, is a new course for seniors across all majors to establish integrative learning as a part of the Arts & Sciences Core. Integrative Learning (ILS) courses “approach a big idea or question from the perspective of multiple disciplines. Developing the habit of connected inquiry throughout the four years of their undergraduate experience allows Johnson & Wales University graduates to apply the sort of adaptive, innovative thinking needed for professional success and lifelong learning.”

Professor Jessica Sherwood directs robust discourse among students about the key parameters of the racialization process and further asking them to analyze why race matters within various educational, economic, political and social institutions through a 21st-century lens.

There are days in this country when you wonder what your role in this country is and your place in it. How precisely are you going to communicate … that you are here?" - James Baldwin

Directly aligned with the curriculum of this course, students attended a screening of a James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro at the BRIDGE Center. With his frank approach empty of hatred, Baldwin poetically relays the plight of the American Negro intertwined with the stories of three prominent African-American leaders of his time: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. The emotions in Baldwin’s voice transcends time as his words act as a mirror to the contemporary footage played along side it. The uncanny parallelism displayed between now and then builds a bridge from his experiences to those of my own.

This “melting pot” we call America today seems to be missing a few ingredients! The journey that is I Am Not Your Negro confronts the cyclical trends of race relations in America including the country’s erasure of cultures. This system that we have here has not built a reality for many of the people both voluntarily and involuntarily calling America their home.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed if it is not faced." - James Baldwin

Courses like this are not only important to me as a black millennial making America my own but are necessary to shift the mindsets of my fellow peers who have been living in contentment all their lives unaware of the other side of the fence. This brings to light my complex intersectional identity as well as the ones of many others fighting the same fight, including James Baldwin, and shows it to people in positions of power and privilege.

Home of forward thinkers, leaders of our generation, and overall supporters of one another, Johnson & Wales University is taking a step in the right direction cultivating and rethinking how we process race in the future.