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OPINION: Prospective anti-racism course requirements are not politically motivated

The proposed anti-racism courses in the College of Arts and Sciences will not promote a political agenda but instead teach tolerance, anti-discriminatory practices and the history of racism in America to students who may have never experienced it. SERGEY ZOLKIN/UNSPLASH

The USF College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is doing its part in creating a more accepting and knowledgeable society by considering a required course subject on anti-racism. This was originally proposed in March after the death of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the media. 

These courses will provide a new perspective to students who may never have experienced discrimination and could help decrease the racism that has been ingrained in our society. 

The content of the course will be taught by Humanities, African Studies and Social Science faculty and will be a revised version of Racism in American Society, a class already taught at USF. 

Some have expressed concerns regarding the motives behind an anti-racism curriculum, worrying that an agenda is being pushed. The prospect of anti-racism courses have brought much criticism when proposed in other schools, since some believe these classes will be politically motivated. 

President Donald Trump has been against anti-racism courses in America’s schools since the idea gained momentum in March.

He said at a Sept. 17 White House press conference that teaching anti-racism curriculum is “toxic propaganda” and “child abuse.” 

American parents are not going to accept indoctrination in our schools, cancel culture at our work or the repression of traditional faith, culture and values in the public square,” said Trump. 

Anti-racism is not a political matter and does not seek to be aligned with, nor promote either major party. This course material hopes to provide students with information that will allow them to gain a perspective rid of racist ideas they may have and learn through listening to their peers’ experiences. 

The CAS Anti-Racism Working Group, who developed the proposal and has since given it to USF’s administration Sept. 9 for approval, addressed the argument. The proposal, which outlines possible course material and the importance of anti-racism education, states that the courses will not include “political indoctrination.” 

Facilitator of the group Scott Solomon said the subject matter will be limited to facts that students can interpret in their own way.

“The notion that faculty indoctrinate students or teach from an ideological perspective implies that our students are somehow unable to think for themselves or challenge ideas they disagree with — that has never been my experience at the University of South Florida,” said Solomon in an interview with The Oracle. 

Despite the controversy, the proposal states that some facts which could be deemed political will still not be ignored, referencing the current Holocaust and genocide classes provided at USF.

“We don’t ask our scholars who teach about the Holocaust to justify their ideological approach or if they are utilizing a partisan perspective,” reads the proposal. “The objective facts of the Holocaust are not up for debate, nor are the facts of racism and racist violence in the United States.”

Unlearning racism and gaining knowledge about systemic racism through required CAS courses is neither anti-American nor propaganda. It is a step toward a more understanding and inclusive country.