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Posted under: Education News

Despite Calls For Its Cancellation, 'Black Minds Matter' Course To Proceed At San Diego State University

The creator says that justice has to not only be confronted in vigils and demonstrations, but in the classroom.

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As a way to fight back against civil unrest, Professor J. Luke Wood is teaching a course with Black Lives Matter roots called, "Black Minds Matter," for graduate students at San Diego State University.

When the course was announced, critics were quick to condemn it. Now, with 30 students registered to attend in person, and another 10,000 set to take the class online, many still aren't happy about it.

“We anticipated that there would be some people who were not happy with the course because whenever you speak love into a system of hate, there is a visceral reaction,” Wood told SDSU's school newspaper, The Daily Aztec. “We did expect that there would be some concerns, but the way that the concerns are manifested have certainly taken us by surprise.”

Jon Coupal, the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, is making efforts to make sure the class never sees the light of day. 

“We should be spending public funds on courses that will actually prepare the next generation for meaningful jobs instead of teaching them how to be victims,” Coupal says. 

“Taxpayer money must not be used to fund political campaigns of any kind, especially those associated with Black Lives Matter,” said Brandon Jones, the President of the San Diego State College Republicans.

Jones added, "The university must distance itself from this project and others like it that teach students to become victims, instead of preparing them to become contributing members of society." 

Wood is standing strong against his critics, however.

"What you see is an organization, led by a white male, [whose] position is to advance ideas and policies that benefit those who are the ‘haves’ of our society,” Wood said in response to Coupal's statement. “Our class speaks against that while providing some realistic pathways, and has a reach far beyond what a normal class would have. That, for some people, can be scary.”

Despite the criticism, Wood is hopeful about the course and sees it as a way to refute what he refers to as the criminalization of black men and boys in the classroom.

“The result of [these perceptions] is that [black men and boys] are exposed to exclusionary discipline or put in special education as a dumping ground for them, which really only does one thing well, and it’s to socialize people to go into the prison-industrial complex,” he said.

What will the course curriculum entail?

Well, according to Wood, the course will focus on non-black educators' interactions with black students.

“Nearly all educators are racist,” Wood said. “They are not overtly white supremacists, but they harbor perceptions of black males that are informed by what they have seen in wider society through the media, news, in books and in film. They engage black males from a point of stereotypes, microaggressions and bias.”

This course will provide educators with the tools to overcome their bias.

“Beyond that, we are organizing how we talk about what a new teaching and learning practice should look like through the Black Lives Matter principles of loving engagement, restorative justice and collective values,” said Wood.

It will also teach educators, as well as students, to utilize the classroom as a site for civil resistance against racism.

“We, often times as a community, confront justice through marches, demonstrations, sit-ins and vigils, and the classroom is another site, particularly through the avenue of teaching through empowerment, that can serve for that type of civil resistance,” he said.

Watch creator J. Luke Woods give an introduction to his course below:


Despite the threats from groups such as Coupal's, Wood is not worried about his class being cancelled. He feels that the university's administration has his back.

“We know that by fourth grade, only 14 percent of black males will be proficient in reading, [black males] are two times more likely to be suspended, three times more likely to be expelled, only 52 percent will graduate from high school and most of them who go to college won’t finish,” Wood said. “Obviously what we’re doing [in education] is not working, and I think that campus administration recognizes that and recognizes the need for the course.”

The course is set to be held at SDSU from October 23 to December 11; lectures will be streamed for attendees outside of San Diego. 

Those interested in participating can register for the online broadcast at: jlukewood.com/bmm.

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