How to Deal with a Racist or Sexist Professor

At some point in our lives we all deal with some sort of prejudice, whether it be in regard to our gender, our race or our age; these situations are often hard to deal with. Sometimes we are left feeling like we did something wrong — something as natural as our being is called into question, and having that attacked can be frightening and overwhelming. In life, we are given the choice to fight for ourselves or walk away. Sometimes the decision is harder than actually dealing with the situation, We have to ask ourselves many questions — “What do I have to lose?”, “What do I have to gain?”, and most importantly “How will this affect, not only myself, but those who come after me?”

When it comes to a professor — someone whose job is to enlighten and educate students — and their bigotry, the decision on whether to walk away or to fight is a tough one. You risk your grade, your standing at the school and perhaps a part of your future. As I said before, I see only two options in dealing with this situation, either fight or flight, and I want to explain both to you.

When I say flight, there are many ways this can be done. You can simply drop the class after you realize this professor’s demeanor; you can decide that you don’t want to deal with it and just leave. Or if it’s too late to drop the class you can just grin and bear it. Going to class everyday maybe torture, having to hear the professors hateful and demeaning statements may eventually take a toll on you but you can decide its in your best interest to deal with it and then move on. Personally, I think this is the cowards way out. If you really think about it, it’s doubtful you are the only person in the class who is offended by what that professor is saying, I’m sure if you were to speak with your fellow classmates someone, at least one person, would feel the same way that you do and together you could do something to make a change.

I think the best way to handle the situation is that from the moment you realize there’s a problem, you say something. I would say something directly to the professor in front of the entire class, but that’s just me. Not everyone is okay with being the center of attention. If that’s the case, wait until class is dismissed and speak to the professor separately. If, after the conversation, he continues to be disrespectful and prejudicial during class time, it’s then time to bring the problem to some higher-ups, — i.e. the dean, the head of the department — because someone there will listen. I am not saying you have to try and change the professor as a person, that’s not your responsibility, they may not want to change, but it is your responsibility to stop them from spewing their hateful ideals to a classroom full of impressionable people.

It is too often that people don’t stand up for themselves, and in a situation like this, where you are paying to earn a higher education, there is no reason you have to deal with such foolishness. Some people are stuck in the past, I get that, but I think it’s our responsibility as the generation of the future to bring them to reality and face the present.

If you or someone you know is dealing with something like this, I really think its time you look at the situation and do something about it, because the more these things go overlooked, the longer they continue.

Has this ever happened to you? If so, how’d you deal with it?

[Lead image via Adam Gregor/Shutterstock]

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