Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his opinion-editorial "The Good, Racist People," examines the present-day reality and pervasiveness of racism in U.S. democratic society. Many of our socially and economically privileged, primarily white students often perceive racism as something that is only performed by evil-doers and, as such, they could not be racist. To be associated with an ideology that modern America, according to Coates, has labeled as that of "trolls, gorgons and orcs" often conflates to our privileged students' complete denial of association. To be implicated in a system, which according to U.S. law, ended with slavery and has only progressively got better with the proceeding desegregation of schools and election of President Barack Obama is "insane."
Reading Coates' editorial may be uncomfortable for many of us, especially those of us who are socially, economically, and historically privileged. The reality of what Coates discusses is not something we want to believe and/or fully except as true. I think, though, this is what makes Coates' article an excellent addition for any classroom that wants to incorporate social justice issues that are occurring within U.S. society. It offers an opportunity for us as teachers to start a conversation with our students about racism in the U.S.--historically, presently, and systematically. The piece also opens the door for group conversations, journal reflections, or both, for privileged, white students about how seemingly "good" intentions potentially prevent one from analyzing their own internal biases. And finally, utilizing publicly-relevant, current news offers an opportunity for us as teachers to engage our students with the everyday and, in turn, open up doors for them to develop their own new and creative ways for working against socially-unjust and systemically-rooted everyday practices.