Brown helps students 'create safe spaces' to discuss privilege

Toni Airaksinen
New York Campus Correspondent

  • Brown University is offering a summer course to teach high school students how “the racial hierarchy” and “white supremacy” impact the health of African Americans.
  • The class promises to help students learn how to “organize their peers and communities around an agenda of social justice,” and concludes with a capstone project intended to “engage in public discussion around racism and health
  • Brown University is offering a summer course to teach high school students how “the racial hierarchy” and “white supremacy” impact the health of African Americans.

    Black Lives Matter Less: How Structural Racism Affects the Health of Black Lives and Communities” will be taught by Dr. Ellen McCreedy, a research fellow at Brown, and Professor Sirry Alang, who has been described as “instrumental” in organizing community forums to fight police brutality.

    Students will learn to "organize their peers and communities around an agenda of social justice."   

    “Black people in the US have shorter life expectancies, live with more physical and mental illness, and have more disability than white people,” the course description asserts, chalking the result of this disparity up to “systematic racism in our society and its institutions.”

    [RELATED: Prof organizing BLM-themed ‘Youth Activist Camp’]

    Students will also learn to “consider their own privilege” and “how that privilege affects their health and position in larger society,” as well as how to “create safe spaces” to talk about racism and health.

    The class will have a strong focus on police brutality as well, according to the course description, which states that students will also learn about “racially disparate law enforcement” and must be comfortable viewing “explicit depictions of police brutality.”

    While encouraging students to engage in political activism for course credit is generally controversial, the final project for the class is slated to be a “demonstration, forum, or other activity” that students will devise collaboratively.

    Neither of the professors responded to queries from Campus Reform regarding whether students will be required to engage in activism to pass the course, but the description stresses not only that the capstone project is intended to “engage in public discussion around racism and health,” but also promises that students will learn how to “organize their peers and communities around an agenda of social justice.”

    [RELATED: Colleges now teaching social justice to high schoolers]

    The professors hope that by the end of the class, students will adopt their mission and spread the word, and that some might even “become interested in pursuing scholarship that informs policies and programs aimed at addressing racial health inequities at a federal, state, or local level.”

    The class is offered as part of the Summer@Brown program, which is open to students of any age from schools across the country. Although students can’t actually earn any college credits from the program, the course still costs, $3,996, comparable to the cost of summer classes that are offered for college credit at other schools.

    Campus Reform reached out to professors Alang and McCreedy, as well as to spokespersons for Brown, but none had responded by press time.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen





    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    New York Campus Correspondent
    Toni Airaksinen is a New York Campus Correspondent, where she reports on free speech issues and social justice research. She is a senior at Barnard College, majoring in Urban Studies and Environmental Science. She is also a columnist for PJ Media, and formerly held a post with USA TODAY College, The Columbia Spectator, and Quillette.
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