In this episode of Chalk Radio, essayist Garnette Cadogan shares a new approach for teaching about race and racism in American cities.



Garnette Cadogan is an acclaimed essayist who teaches in MIT’s Urban Studies and Planning program. As befits a teacher who is also a professional creative writer, he conceives of the academic syllabus as a matrix of interconnected and recurring themes and leitmotifs, not as a schematic outline of self-contained units. In this episode, he describes how he designed his latest class, 11.S947 The Fire This Time: Race and Racism in American Cities, to draw on a wide range of cultural documents—not only written texts but also standup comedy, song, poetry, and film—to de-simplify students’ understanding of racial relations. Too often, he says, the struggle for social justice is presented in terms of a teleological progression toward freedom and inclusion, and too often victimization is presented as if it were the only experience of those on the receiving end of racism’s injustices. Oppression dehumanizes everyone, oppressor and oppressed alike, Cadogan says, but it isn’t the sum total of anyone’s being. He hopes this class will help students encounter the experiences of others in their full human complexity of joy, hope, pessimism, struggle, and imagination.

Relevant Resources

MIT OpenCourseWare

The OCW Educator Portal

Garnette Cadogan’s course 1.S947 The Fire This Time: Race and Racism in American Cities — coming soon!

Garnette Cadogan’s course 11.S948 Seeing the City Afresh on OCW

Garnette Cadogan’s essay “Walking While Black”

Garnette Cadogan’s faculty page

Watch MIT’s 47th Annual MLK Jr Celebration to hear more voices on the role of joy in the struggle against systemic racism

Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions

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Sarah Hansen, host and producer

Brett Paci, producer

Dave Lishansky, producer

Show notes by Peter Chipman