Tiffany Black never thought professors would dumb down their approach to teaching because of her race.
“I’ve had a few experiences at this school, where a professor felt the need to change their language to adjust to who I am,” Black, a student at Nevada State College, said Tuesday night at a Black History Month event. “I’m a very intelligent young lady … so for someone to feel like they have to dummy down how they speak to me, I’m insulted.”
The college hosted events this month that culminated in Tuesday’s lecture on racial literacy by Dr. Howard Stevenson, a professor of urban education and African studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Stevenson shared a four-step process with students, faculty and residents to cope with and manage racially charged situations and conversations.
“We’re talking about, how do you navigate stress in face-to-face encounters that relate to race? People get nervous when racial conversations come up,” Stevenson said. “They don’t know what to do. They get tongue-tied and end up making bad decisions in general because of it.”
You should be aware of how you’re feeling, then locate where on your body stress is felt, he said.
Stevenson shared the story of a fifth-grader in Chicago who was angry that she was the only Native American in her class.
“She said, ‘I feel it in my stomach. It’s like a bunch of butterflies fighting with themselves so much that they fly up into my throat and choke me,’” Stevenson said. “Racial stress effects your body. But if you know where it is, you can do something about it.”
Underreacting or overreacting to racial situations can have negative health effects, he said.
The third step is to communicate how you feel, then to breathe, Stevenson said.
“The more you know about yourself, the more you can regulate your emotions, the more you can make better decisions during racial encounters,” he said.