Three More Books to Read for Black History Month

Earlier this week at The Anxious Bench, I mentioned five books that I’m planning to read for Black History Month: biographies of Frederick Douglass and Jackie Robinson, plus a study of Catholic civil rights activism in Chicago, an analysis of the impact of the black church on the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jemar Tisby’s widely-acclaimed history of Christian complicity in racism.

But I’m no expert, so I appreciate that Dr. Kooistra (here at AC 2nd) and Dr. Magnuson (at our Facebook page) have also shared resources related to African American history. And today, I’m happy to welcome back our colleague Ruben Rivera, Bethel’s chief diversity officer and the instructor of our Minorities in America class, who recommended three more books to read this month.


Audio book of Rankine, CitizenClaudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014)

There are numerous books about the African American experience in a racialized USA. What I like about Rankine’s is that, with the exception of a few pieces in it, the highly personal experiences are conveyed in the form of vivid short prose poems. I have often been asked what microaggressions are. Still others believe the term was invented by liberals. Read Rankin’s book and you’ll know what microaggressions are and that they are very real.

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (Balzer & Bray, 2017)

The Hate U Give is a young adult novel that has been adapted for a major motion picture by the same name. It deals with ripped-from-headlines issues: racial profiling; policing in communities of color; and most explosively, the killing of unarmed black men by white officers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015)

This book comes in the form of a letter to his son Samori in the context of the need to make sense of recent killings of black men by police. Very well written, thoughtful, moving, and certain to stimulate questions about what it means to live in a black body in America.

– Dr. Ruben Rivera

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What’s New in 2014-2015? Our Faculty

Now that we’re past the busyness of Welcome Week and the start of classes, it’s high time we get back to blogging here at AC 2nd. We’ll start with three posts sharing what’s new in the department. First, comings and goings on our faculty:

Ruben RiveraRuben Rivera is continuing in a new role that he started last spring, as the university’s interim Chief Diversity Officer. Here’s how he described that position for us:

My tasks are numerous, but my overarching responsibility has to do with the articulation of vision, strategy, initiatives and support for Christ-centered unity in diversity across the university’s schools. What excites me most about my role is that I have an opportunity to help lead our community closer toward that goal that Christians the world over have for centuries prayed to God to fulfill: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). Jesus himself taught us that prayer. What does the kingdom of heaven look like? In the book of Revelation we catch a glimpse of heaven where people from every language, culture and nation are worshipping Christ in beautiful unbroken unity (Revelation 7:9-10). Further in the book we see that time when God’s cosmic purposes are finally accomplished, and the kingdom of heaven, the new Jerusalem, coming down to earth and God dwelling among all his diverse people (Revelation 21:1-3). I see my role as nothing less than the promotion of the enjoyment of that coming kingdom.

In between all the work that that job entails, Ruben will continue to teach undergraduates: HIS210U Minorities in America this fall, and HIS209L Christianity in America and HIS217UZ Hispanic Christianity in the spring.

• Diana Magnuson will be on sabbatical next spring, continuing her research at the Minnesota Population Center (MPC). Look for more on those plans in December or January…

• Last year we were thrilled to have one of our former students, Katie (Thostenson) Dunker (’05), come back to Bethel to teach. Over the summer Katie returned to the UK, where she’s completing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Edinburgh. But she will be teaching for us again next spring, when she offers HIS311 Roman Civilization online.

• Another of our distinguished alumnae, Emily Osborne (’06), will be on campus Wednesday nights this fall teaching GEO120 Introduction to Geography, one of the required courses in our Social Studies Education 5-12 major. Emily is a social studies teacher at Mahtomedi High School, holds a master’s in curriculum and instruction from the University of Minnesota, and spends her summers in Oxford, England, directing a unique pre-college program for high school students.

Read the next post in this series of updates>>

Fall Course Previews: Minorities in America

Today we’ll continue to preview some of our Fall 2012 courses, as Ruben Rivera discusses one of his signature courses.

Course

HIS210U Minorities in America

What are some of the big themes of this course?

If you ask people how long America has been a democracy, many will say since the American Revolution. However, in 1776 when Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and endowed by God with “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,”  he did not mean Native Americans, whom he called savages in the Declaration and were given no voice or place in the formation of the new nation. He did not mean women, who did not get the universal right to vote until 1920. He did not mean black people, as he himself was a slaveholder, and indeed after the Revolution slavery worsened and was only ended with the Civil War, and then followed by a century of Jim Crow discrimination practices. HIS210U Minorities in America looks at the history and contributions of minority groups that have helped make America a truer democracy. We discuss typical themes like slavery, racism, gender, and class, but we also look in fresh and interesting ways at current hot button issues like immigration, affirmative action, the changing face of the American population and culture, and the role Christianity has played throughout.

How many years have you taught it?

15

What do you most enjoy about teaching it?

I have learned that when dealing with controversial issues like racism, or affirmative action, or immigration and Christian mission (in which people had to commit some level of what I call cultural amputation or even cultural suicide to be considered acceptable), I cannot simply give a lecture or assign readings. So I have created activities and dialogic scenarios in which students are responsible to learn about a given issue and why they hold the position they do. From there students are introduced to new material, experiences and questions. This problem-based approach to learning has helped students to see the issues from the viewpoint of others. They may not always feel comfortable in the process, but I am of the belief that students would rather be challenged than bored. Over the years I have had many students thank me for this approach, and they have often recommended the class to their roommates and friends.

What do students seem to enjoy most about it?

Students really enjoy the fact that the class is student centered rather than professor and lecture centered. Students actually do most of the talking, and in the problem-based learning process they are especially surprised and challenged in the discovery of the frequent difference between their perception about a thing and the historical as well as current social reality.

Talk about one or two changes to the course you’re planning for this fall.

One additional aspect of the course this semester will be to look at the burgeoning Latino population in the U.S. Today, 1 in 6 Americans is Latino or Hispanic. By 2050 it will be 1 in 3. Why has this been happening, how has it been received, and what developments are occurring because of these changing demographics? Another new element is the introduction of developing understanding and skills for living and working in cross-cultural settings, which in a globalizing and diversifying world is fast becoming a prerequisite not only for Christian ministry but just about any profession imaginable.

If students take away only one thing from the course, what would you like it to be?

By the end of this class I want students to understand that America is not about one race, political party, or even religion; it is an unfinished, ongoing experiment. The “founding fathers” are given credit for having started it, and many call it democracy. But the story of America is the ongoing struggle to close the gaps between its cherished and much vaunted democratic and religious ideals on the one hand, and reality on the other; that the ceaseless struggle of disenfranchised and marginalized minorities have helped move America closer to those ideals; and that those ideals are fragile and always in danger of falling into the gaps again.

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