Why Black Media Studies Courses Matter – Technique
The recent approval of the Tech’s Black Media Studies minor, a program made up of many courses that I have taken as part of my own LMC curriculum, has made me reflect on the immense impact these courses have had on me.
Before coming to Tech, my required reading repertoire was dominated by the works of white men who wrote primarily about the trauma of war.
Only one of the books studied throughout my four years in my high school literature and AP classes was written by a black person: “Their Eyes Were Looking at God” by Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston’s celebration of female femininity and sexuality was the first literature I truly felt connected to as I sifted through the slew of Hemingway, Salinger and Frost that I was forced to sift through.
My library has become more and more diverse since coming to college and I have to thank the professors in the LMC department, and specifically the professors of Black Media Studies for that.
When I came to Tech, I chose to pursue a social justice thread within my major because I knew coming from a conservative high school that I had a lot of catching up to do.
For context, when I was transplanted to Winder, GA in eighth grade, I attended a college named after former Georgia Governor Richard B. Russell Jr. He is the author of the Southern Manifesto and obstructed civil rights legislation during his tenure as a senator.
You might be wondering what I learned about this man who aggressively advocated racial segregation in my social studies class? I learned all about how he helped strengthen our military by bringing more bases to the state, with his racist legacy swept under the rug for me to find out many years later for myself.
My first exposure to Black Media Studies during an introductory gender studies class in my sophomore year. It was taught by Dr. Susana Morris, a feminist and scholar of Afrofuturism who has since occupied the coveted place in my life of being my all-time favorite teacher.
This wasn’t your normal gender studies course, it was a gender studies course taught through a science fiction lens, which offered unique opportunities to decipher gender in fictional worlds where boundaries of the gender binary are repelled by extraterrestrial species.
Since that summer, I have tried to take every course Dr. Morris has to offer, including African American literature and media, culture, and society.
I also managed to slip myself into a class with Tech’s renowned hip hop culture expert, Dr. Joycelyn Wilson. Coming to the end of my tech career, I can say that my Black Media Studies classes had the biggest impact on my education and greatly influenced the way I see the world.
From analyzing how news outlets covered the testimonies of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas in the 90s, to delving into hip hop artists’ poetic ways of portraying class struggles, to learning how modern gynecology was built on the backs of exploited black women, black media studies showed me a world I never would have known if I hadn’t gone out of my way to take classes focused on social justice.
Without understanding intersectionality, I would not be able to confidently enter the professional world after graduation and ensure that I am doing everything in my power to make decisions that take into account the impact they will have on people who are not like me.
What excites me about completing this Black Media Studies minor is the access the minor will provide for students outside of the LMC major to experience the courses that have taught me the most.
What terrifies me is that students may not see the merit of a minor in Black Media Studies.
Technology sends thousands of students around the world every semester who have had minimal interaction with proper ethics or social justice education.
We send mechanical engineers around the world who design robots to automate the way rural minority farmers make a living. We’re sending future doctors out into the world who don’t understand the nuances of medical misogyny, racism, and bigophobia and how their intersections lead black women to experience three times the maternal mortality of white women. We send people out into the world who are still wondering why Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize, ignoring the deeper messages of his culturally significant snapshot of modern black American life.
The Institute praises the “progress and service” of our student-engineers while favoring the teaching of equations over equality.
This mindset is reinforced by the fact that many students outside the liberal arts college refuse to think critically about anything that happens outside the confines of this campus.
The roots of the civil rights movement are just down the street from our institute, but many students will never interact with the rich history and cultural currency Atlanta has to offer because they’re too busy stressing about transferring. heat and differential calculus.
I strongly urge any student reading this to minor in Black Media Studies. If you don’t have the time or the credits to do so, use one of your humanities or free elective credits to take at least one class from some of the brightest professors Tech has to offer.
I’m tired of enrolling every semester and watching STEM students asking around for the easiest humanities course to take. Stop looking for “easy A’s” and taking “the chair story” because you’re afraid your worldview will be challenged.
Tucked away on the third floor of the Skiles is an educational opportunity that will easily complement any major here in an incredible way and I sincerely hope to see more students take advantage of it.