Literature and Public Life

L240 — Spring 2020

Joan Pong Linton
Days and Times
9:30-10:45 TR
Course Description

TOPIC: “Responding to White Rage and White Nationalism: Community-based Democracy in Action”

N.B. Students enrolled in this class will need to pass Background Checks for IU Clinical Experiences and also attend a 1-day weekend session in Basic Mediation and Restorative Justice Training, and observe at least one community mediation session.

“White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly…. Working the halls of power, it can achieve it ends far more effectively, far more destructively.

“The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship.”

Carol Anderson, from White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016)

The rise of racial tensions and violence in our society calls for constructive response from the college classroom, one that students coproduce as equipment for living in a world of complex challenges. This course begins with an interdisciplinary inquiry into White Rage and White Nationalism, before turning to focus on two literary works. Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Othello offers a prototype of White Rage in the character of Iago, a white man of low achievement who works the system to bring down a black man of high achievement. Eli Saslow’s Rising Out of Hatred is a creative nonfiction account of how Derek Black, the “Great White Hope” personally mentored by David Duke, came to renounce White Nationalism through sustained engagement from, and conversation with, a few friends during their college years. These texts address race matters respectively through counter-storytelling and instances of transformative mediation. Using these devices, and with basic training from Community Justice and Mediation Center (a local non-profit), the class will work in groups with teens in local venues to address on-the-ground issues of racial tension and conflict they have identified, thereby helping to coproduce civil conversation that is, at heart, democracy in action.

Texts may include but not be limited to:

Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016).

Eli Saslow, Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist (New York: Doubleday, 2018)

William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Othello: Texts and Contexts. Ed. Kim F. Hall (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007).

And a number of articles and book chapters.

Course activities and assignments will likely include the following:

  1. Attending a 1-day (8-hour) basic training in the skills of mediation and observing one or more mediation sessions
  2. Keeping a reading log of news articles (local, national, international) relating to white rage and white nationalism, and reading notes in preparation for in-class activities.
  3. In-class activities, developing and practicing the skills of counter-storytelling and transformative mediation
  4. Outreach project: coproducing racial understanding in community venues.
  5. Final Project building on civic engagement course work. This may be a creative activity with analytical component; or a research report: identify and analyze an emerging theme from your outreach experience.