James Madison University is now offering a Black Lives Matter course as part of the Women's and Gender Studies department’s upcoming Spring 2018 curriculum.
The class is listed in the course catalog as WGS 495: Special Topics in Women’s and Gender Studies, and will focus on the topic of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is offered as an elective and will be instructed by Dr. Beth Hinderliter, associate professor of Cross Disciplinary Studies at JMU.
Dr. Hinderliter is the co-editor of “(Re)framing the Feminine: Women’s Studies, Feminism, Gender Identity and the Academy" (currently under review for publication), which examines the persistent exclusionary aspects of feminism today after many decades of striving to become intersectional, transnational, and inclusive.”
Students enrolled in the course will have the opportunity to examine “the radical resistance of the Black Lives Matter movement to state-sanctioned violence against black and brown communities.”
The course description states that we are living under a “New Jim Crow” and that the BLM movement is purportedly at the forefront of defending fundamental rights in this era.
The course description asks, “What strategies has the Black Lives Matter movement devised to defend human rights in the era of a New Jim Crow?”
The Black Lives Matter course will focus on a myriad of topics pertaining to the grassroots movement, including “black joy in the face of oppression” as well as “the uses of anger.”
According to a publication by JMU’s student newspaper The Breeze, “there’ll be a focus on how the Black Lives Matter movement, founded by LGBTQ women of color, is different than the black nationalist movement seen in the 1970s, which tended to have homophobic underlying messages attached to them at times.”
“I would encourage people who are interested in engaging with activism on the ground as well as thinking about how we can spend lots of time being reflective in pursuing strategies to combat racism, to come up with justice reform in the United States,” Dr. Hinderliter states.
According to the Black Lives Matter website’s "herstory" page, BLM acts as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”
Other topics students will be exposed to in the course this upcoming spring include mass incarceration and justice reform, the media dismissal of Black Lives Matter in favor of focusing on “black on black” crime, black rage and the politics of respectability, and intersectional queer-led politics.
The course will also make an effort to draw a correlation “between the Black Lives Matter movement and the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s to 1970s, and the contemporary politics of self-care."
A.J. Morey, associate provost for the Office of Cross Disciplinary Studies and Diversity Engagement at JMU, supports Dr. Hinderliter in the creation of the course.
“We’re living in a time of great civil unrest and issues of racial injustice have not been resolved,” Morey told the Breeze. “Sometimes, a course like this can help bring understanding to both sides, so it’s better to talk about it than to just refuse to talk about it at all.”
Isaiah Denby is a college freshman from Tampa Bay, Florida studying economics and political science.