The Anti-Racism and Equity Coalition is comprised of members from all departments across campus. The diversity of our members is meant to help us gain unique perspectives on university matters. Our goal is to ensure that the Coalition’s mission permeates throughout the Barry community. To satisfy this aim, we created the Voices of the Coalition, where Coalition members have a chance to write about their perspectives.
Voices of The Coalition
Voices of the Coalition
By: Dr. Laura Finley
I grew up in rural Michigan. The “diversity” in my community was one Mexican family and an occasional exchange student, at least to my knowledge. But my parents raised my twin and I to care about social issues and to be interested in learning about and connecting with people who are not like us—white, UK-heritage, able-bodied people. While I enjoyed my K-12 educational experience, I later came to realize how poorly it addressed the diversity of people in the U.S. and beyond.
I was an education major in college, seeking to teach high school social studies. As such, I took a number of history classes. They blew my mind, made me angry, and hurt my heart. I remember taking a course on African American history, with me and only one other white student. The teacher, who was from Zimbabwe, shared things about U.S history and its oppression of people of color that I had never heard. Why, I wondered, did my high school teachers not share this information? During the course of that semester, the four officers who brutally attacked Rodney King, all captured on video, were acquitted. I vividly recall going to class the day that was announced and feeling so tremendously bad for all that white people had and continue to do to harm people of color, and I vowed that I would learn more and use that knowledge to help in whatever way I could.
I had similar experiences taking courses on Native American history, Women’s history, and Chinese history. These courses reminded me that we need to look beyond traditional textbooks to teach history, as they overwhelmingly emphasize the positive contributions of white Americans and do little to share those of others.
First as a high school teacher and now as a college professor, I use this experience (or lack thereof) to shape how I approach my courses. I continue to recognize my privilege as a person who was simply born white in this country and to reflect on the intersectionality we all must navigate. And, moving beyond anger that I was not taught what I should have been, I have decided that I will understand others who feel that way, share what I know, and continue to engage in efforts (like the Anti-Racism and Equity Coalition) to advance human rights and social justice for EVERYONE.
Laura Finley, PhD, is a Professor of Sociology & Criminology at Barry University. She is an author, co-author, and editor for more than 30 books as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Finley is also a community activist for peace, justice, gender equality, and human rights.