The Gordian Knot of education

White Guilt is my arch-enemy

The Gordian Knot

This guy is funny as hell, and he is right. My comment on his YouTube video: “Duuuude!! (says the college history professor).

One of the most difficult hurdles to overcome when teaching American history to White students in the U.S. is the creeping sense of embarrassment that comes over some when they begin to rub up against the idea that this is part of their legacy.

Here is the gist of what I say to students (way too often): History is sometimes unpleasant, but it’s not about you. The trick is to understand that history just helps us to sort out who we are — it’s the backstory. Freaking out about it — White Guilt — stops you dead in your tracks.

I suppose I could say something stupid like, “S%!t happens, get over yourself, can we get back to the reading please?” But that’s not helpful either. This balled up sense of guilt is the true Gordian Knot of education: until the knot is untangled or cut, THAT student — the student of the moment — is stuck.

This balled up sense of guilt is the true Gordian Knot of education: until the knot is untangled or cut, THAT student — the student of the moment — is stuck.

W.E.B. Du Bois articulated this less-than-helpful dynamic in a number of essays, but in his Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of the Race Concept he referred to Whiteness as a “public and psychological wage” that suppresses people’s ability to deal with each other openly and honestly. This is crucial.

So, please, chill out and join the conversation.

Please.

Citations

Myers, Ella. 2019. “Beyond the Psychological Wage: Du Bois on White Dominion.” Political Theory 47(1): 6–31.

Robinson, Cedric J. 1983. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.