Harrowing and Necessary: Amer-Ind 100

Introduction to American-Indian Studies

Learning about other cultures is a very different type of learning than scientific understanding or acquiring technical skills. It’s a test of empathy and the ability to recognize personhood/humanity in others with their differences. And in the case of learning about Native American history, it’s a test of your capacity for second-hand grief and also the necessary development of some shame for the white people present.

The Whities and Empathy

In this class there were over 300 students with 20 person discussion sections, I got to see the full range of empathy. There were people who weren’t paying attention, there were those who were laughing at the many atrocities committed against Native people, those who scoffed at the issues that the Native community deemed important, those who felt ashamed for their whiteness, those who felt ashamed for their white ancestors, and those who were empathizing so much that they could not help but be brought to tears. I cried many times and more often than not I found myself saying “I hate white people.”

Sport iconography: Red and white funky lettering that reads "Fightin' Whities" with a subtitle of "Every Thangs Gonna Be All White!!!" and a portrait of an old white man on the right hand side.
An intramural basketball team in response to racist Native “iconography” in sports.

Class Specs

There’s one main class text, but approximately one million additional supplementary sources. There were two big exams, about 5 smaller tests, and 5-6 four page reflective essays. There was a lot of reading and watching and listening, but there was also a lot of reflection. The instructors were relatively forgiving, and ready to engage meaningfully with students. Overall it was a lot of work but it was worth it. Also it fulfills the Ethnic Studies requirement. So. There’s that.

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