White Male College Students File Complaint Against Black Female Professor For Discussing Racism In Class

December 3, 2013  |  

If you’ve ever been in a class in college where the topic of race was brought up to the disgust and discomfort of your white classmates (for me, it was the fraternity and sorority loving, trust fund baby bunch), clearly this is a more common issue than you might have previously thought. One a teacher can get in trouble for. According to Raw Story, Shannon Gibney, a faculty member at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, decided to speak about structural racism in an Introduction to Mass Communication class. Gibney says that when she began her lesson, she was interrupted by one student, a young white male, who asked her point blank, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?” When speaking on the way the young man delivered his complaint, Gibney said this in an interview according to City College News:

 “[h]is whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.”

But the young man wasn’t trying to hear it, and neither was another student male student who jumped in with the guy to argue and said, according to Gibney, “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?”

Gibney says she tried to tell the students that they were taking the lesson a little too personal, but the students kept trying to argue with her and a debate ensued. At one point, she eventually said to them, “if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.” Unfortunately, they called the professor’s bluff and did just that, and she’s since been reprimanded. According to the Raw Story though, this isn’t the first time she’s been reprimanded for talking about race. An editor of the college’s newspaper filed a racial harassment discrimination complaint against Gibney in 2009 for a class discussion that was also centered on race, but this time, the Vice President of Academic Affairs wrote her a letter scolding her for the situation. He said that he found “it troubling that the manner in which you led a discussion on the very important topic of of structural racism alienated two students who may have been most in need of learning about this subject.” He went on to say the following:

“While I believe it was your intention to discuss structural racism generally, it was inappropriate for you to single out white male students in class. Your actions in [targeting] select students based on their race and gender caused them embarrassment and created a hostile learning environment.”

Clearly he didn’t even try to back up Gibney, so she is filing an anti-discrimination lawsuit with six other professors against the school. Gibney says that the Vice President of Academic Affairs, by reprimanding her, has “helped those three white male students succeed in undermining my authority as one of the few remaining black female professors here.”

This is all just ridiculous when you think about it. If she tries to speak about the realities of racism in our society in the future, will Gibney have to change her whole lesson plan if one student gets up and says they don’t want to talk about it? The fact that people are so scared or bent out of shape to speak on something folks face every day is proof that we really do need to have a discussion about racism. It’s one thing to quietly be willing to be ignorant about such issues, but to argue with someone and say that folks need to get over it just proves that we have a long way to go.

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  • Philip Schuster

    I have yet to get a full transcript of the actual conversation. Without that, It’s anyone’s guess what really transpired between Gibney and the two white students.

  • Open your eyes

    Well, it’s clear that the readers of this blog generally have a closed mind, as does the blog itself. The headline is misleading for starters….they didn’t file a claim because she was discussing racism in class. Instead, she was ramming racism down people’s throats in a class where, at best, it has a peripheral role. Second, can we EVER discuss a topic without hearing how blacks are disadvantaged and discriminated against? Where I went to college, blacks were both favored in terms of hiring practices, gaining funding and admission, and having many special services on campus. This widespread “affirmative action” is found everywhere today…just try to fire a black person who is inefficient at their job, and of course the race card will be played.

    For those on this site who see racism as a one way street, many whites are just tired of hearing the same screed when many blacks have opportunities today that are not available to whites, particularly white males. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that the most discriminated group in today’s America is the young white male…who has to fight the tide of favored treatment against him in order to meet “quotas” of minorities and women.

    OK, now you can all call me a racist for writing what I believe…I’ll await those “progressives” to start calling me names! Oh, and by the way, you weren’t in that class, so don’t even try to defend this woman without any prior knowledge!

  • MLT

    Unfortunately many Non Black Americans fear talking about racism, because it insults them that they were actors in cultural and daily racism. But Black students were fed the history of the great white leaders and world heroes. Hiding behind reverse accusations is gutless and weak and decisive.

  • Fair and Balanced

    Many Caucasians immediately go on the defensive because they take it personally that they are being targeted. The fact of the matter is institutionalize racism will never disappear although we have come along way many Caucasians and others whether taught or learned elsewhere will never allow themselves to accept Blacks as their equals due to the fact that are ancestors were once slaves and we as extensions will never be seen as their equals. This of course is not all Caucasians, there are many who have tried and continue to try to make things right unfortunately, inequality exists and when ignorant things are done in the Black communities across this country we are often generalized. We as a whole have not learned to harness our power and many of us continuously play into the stereotypes. Many of us run around using the N word and then become angry when someone of another color uses it that is just plain ignorant if that is how those of us who use it see themselves and others then that is how people of other races will see us and think it is okay. Again since we are so generalized many people of other races cannot see that many of us are well educated and are hard workers who only want the opportunity to succeed and be treated fairly educated or not many of us do all that we can legally to make it and live a normal and well deserved life just as they do. The problem is we are judged by the idiots that exists in every race except we are judged as one. The professor did nothing wrong, these 2 students were offended because they are probably tired of hearing it or are guilty of feeling a certain way who knows but one thing is for sure she was not wrong in framing it the way she did as she was just pointing out structural and institutional racism.

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    Instead of singling any single race out, we need to talk about how each race contributes to racism as a whole . . .

    • Real Truths

      Who else has the power to oppress? You do know what racism is right? If not…shut up!

      • Ms_Sunshine9898

        ^^^^ exactly what i mean . . .

  • YessISaydIt

    Those white guys are nothing but assholes… you can’t change the past and you can’t re-write history! For the men to state those things and feel so aggressive about it says that they are guilty in some fashion for being a racist! As far as the Vice President – shame on him! But it happens everyday when it comes to white people (men or women) they will defend each other over another race in this day and age! Racism is very still alive in the world for the people who have their heads in the clouds!

  • B

    The incident was not the first of its kind for Gibney. She was also reprimanded in 2009 after allegedly singling out white male students on the school newspaper staff for not doing enough to eliminate bias from the organization, according to an article in Minneapolis City Pages, a local news source.–from another article.

    There’s a time and place for racial discussions. Daily in a mass comm. class isn’t appropriate. We get it. Racism. There are lots if forums to discuss it. Seems like this woman thinks she gets a pass. I see animosity on her part towards whites. Sorry. Just how I see it.

    Their suit came after this one time.. Whynot after every other time this has happened?? Take the reprimand and learn your lesson. Ugh. I don’t miss school at all. Bunch of PC, sensitive, close-minded people–students and professors alike–who don’t know when enough is enough and that their opinions aren’t snowflakes but actually tired and yawn inducing, especially when it’s just ad nauseum. Blah.

  • OSHH

    I hope those professor’s win their case, and 6 others huh?
    Some white folks cannot stomach the violent and savage history associated with their race. Not to mention current events, the first step in solving an issue and or crisis, is acknowledging the problem. Structural racism has gone on far too long in this country imo is more harmful because it is insidious in nature as opposed to blatant racism and discrimination.

  • Rebecca Polius

    The young white men must understand — this country was BUILT on RACISM. That’s the first thing. The second thing — now they must ask themselves how they felt about possibly being stereotyped, and understand that black people and other non-white people walk around here being stereotyped every day. This is our LIFE, that feeling that racial profiling is wrong and shouldn’t be done in various places in our society… That feeling alone should prove to them why the conversations on race need to happen.

    • jessica

      All the time this professor has been teaching and 3 white boys file a complaint and the teacher get reprimanded. This is very disturbing to me. Did the vice-president take the time to hear both sides. College is supposed to be a place of higher learning and in a Mass Communication class that deals with the masses of people that is a topic that will come up from time to time. It’s ridiculous to be so one tracked minded not to realized that. Those white male students shouldn’t feel bad about what there ancestors did only, and only if they do not feel that way on the inside. Maybe that’s why they had a problem with it. Bc they are secretly racist.

    • Brit

      I understand your point, as well as everyone else’s, but that seems morally wrong to me. Just because we go/went through it, doesn’t mean they need to be subject to it. That doesn’t sound fair at all. Also, as African-Americans, I think we forget that the generation alive today in colleges is not the generation that treated us with that sort of racist mind. Not saying that there are no racist in this generation, but imagine how you would feel if someone kept reminding you of something your ancestors did years ago and you had/have nothing to do with. Racism will always exist in some form and I think we can do a lot more to eradicate it, but forcing what we felt/feel about racial profiling and stereotyping on another race simply because “this country was built on racism” is racism in itself. Think of it this way, we don’t like being associated with the bad side of Black America because we don’t behave that way. In the same respect, they don’t want to be associated with the “racist” side of White America because they don’t behave that way. Honestly, in this situation, I would have to know what she said and how she presented it. As I said before, and as evident in most of the responses in this comment section, we are still bitter about it, so when we speak/teach on it, we tend to be biased and condescending rather than didactic. We also have the tendency to assume and call out “racism” every time something happens that is us against a white man, when that is not always the case. I think we have grown so much in bitterness of the history, and because we still see microcosms of it in structural society (mainly the business sphere), that we have ourselves become racist. I just want you all to understand that when we speak the way we do in this comment section, crying “racism, racism”, “they need to learn”, we look a bit silly and honestly it is a form of racism itself. Instead of calling them racist and repeatedly force feeding them a horrible past they didn’t contribute to, it would be best to encourage them not to continue with that business trend. It’s all about presentation. If you are bitter and rash with how you present a topic like this, you will be met with rejection. If you are nurturing and sincere with how you present a topic like this, you may have some listeners. I tend to look at many situations in the shoes of both parties involved. I could understand her wanting to present the relevance of racism in communications, but I’m almost positive that her presentation and outlining that relevance may have been biased and too bold for such a sensitive topic. As for the boys, I could understand their reaction at not wanting to be consistently painted as a villain in every class they went to. It’s overkill and unnecessary. Do I think they should have interrupted the class the way they did and that there was a more constructive way to confront the professor about this, yes. Lastly, why are we so shocked that they filed a complaint? Was she not the one who gave them that option?

      • brit

        To further drive my point, what would we all be saying if these were 2 black students that stood up and said they were tired of hearing about this? Would it have even made the news? I had two African-American classmates drop out of an Dance class because our professor continuously made a point to incorporate racism into almost everything we learned. White people aren’t the only ones tired of hearing about this in the manner in which it is presented. When discussed, it needs to be relative and treated with sensitivity, not bitterness and boldness.

  • Brit

    I can understand this story from both sides. After going to school for about 13 years by the time you reach college, you are guaranteed to hear about racism and related material repeatedly. It’s not like it’s a happy subject that you would be glad to continuously hear. I can understand the boys frustration with having to hear it in almost every class. As an African-American, I would be pretty frustrated to hear still be hearing about it as well. I probably wouldn’t have said anything, but I could understand why they would have. Especially seeing as they are white, they are consistently painted as the villain in these topics. They probably do feel victimized themselves at this point. On the other hand, I could understand the professor wanting to outline its relevance to the class. In my opinion as an African-American college graduate, it really does seem like African-American instructors always feel the need to somehow incorporate topics like this into their lessons even when the relevance is extremely loose.

    • FauxRealFaux

      I would like to know exactly what this professor said in that classroom that offended those particular students. I am unsure as to how “structural racism” relates to a Mass Communication class and how that topic is relevant in a non historical or political science course.

      • Ms_Sunshine9898

        I would assume it has to do with how race is played out in the media. . .

      • Rags2Righteous

        I am am graduate psychology student, and I would like to state that the discussion of structural racism is not limited to the disciplines of history or political science. Structural racism affects every sphere of life, including my field of social science. It’s not always easy to talk about these things, but if there is oppression, discrimination, or misrepresentation of any kind on a structural/systemic level, it’s always relevant. Students go to college to learn, not to feel good about themselves or to get blinders reinforced. Academia is way too expensive for folks to be babied and coddled because of their guilt over racial privilege.

  • stewwie

    Oh, the irony……This white male “Vice President” has succeeded beyond wildest
    expectations in perfectly illustrating Professor Gibney’s point about
    structural racism. It couldn’t be the thin-skinned, denial-ridden white guys’ problem,
    right? She was only wrong in trying to influence these bigots, an
    impossible task…..

    BTW; She didn’t single them out. They singled themselves out by trying to derail the discussion.

    • guest

      “She didn’t single them out. They singled themselves out…”
      Exactly. A hit dog always barks.

    • Lord_Steven_Regal

      Oh, yes, there is definitely irony here. You calling the white students “bigots” without knowing anything about them other than what’s written here certainly shows someone’s bigotry.

      • stewwie

        It is funny how you white trolls only comment when it is time to defend or deny racism.

        FYI; Their action makes them bigots, I don’t need to know them personally to make that assessment.

  • Tamira Bennett Volk

    Im from Minneapolis, and frankly I’m surprised and disappointed to hear this. This is unusual. Minneapolis is very progressive. They just legalized gay marriage! This is ignorance on the part of those young men.

    • aztekman

      Really? Talking racism in a mass communication class, daily? When do we start holding instructors responsible for their actions.
      She brought up the “white,white, white”. treating one race different than another is the definition of racism. She became the racist in this story by blaming the white students for possible sins of their great-great-great-great grandfathers.
      I also thought it was wrong to profile? I guess not in her mind.

      • Tamira Bennett Volk

        I highly doubt it was discussed daily. It was the fact that it was mentioned at all. Now white men wanna play the victim. I’m from.minneapolis. no teacher would do that.

        • aztekman

          I highly doubt you listened to her statements and those of the faculty.
          Next thing you want to say is that people (teachers) in Minneapolis are perfect and would never cross any “line”.
          Tell me how it is appropriate for in a mass communication that they talk about racism? Teachers profile? Teachers, in a discussion, not want discussion?

          • Tamira Bennett Volk

            Read the article again. Lesson is singular not plural. And every book I’ve read, and I’m in a class now racism is discussed because it affects communication.

            • aztekman

              Find the video and Watch it.

              From the lesson: “Every day, the teacher starts the lesson. ”

              “Why do we have to talk about this in every class” also insinuates that there have been more than one class.

              Is it fine that this teacher profiles people based on their race?

      • YessISaydIT

        It said it was discussed in every class – doesn’t mean it was everyday in that particular class setting!

  • Kristen

    The truth isn’t easy to hear!

    • Wendy Jeanlouis

      you know why, because they are guilty and obviously the room, was to hot for their asses. But i am glad that she brought it up. Many times, I realized many whites people who like to pretend that racism does not exist, or talk about it in their homes etc are the most racist kinds out there.

      • Kristen

        Exactly!