About Me

My name is Karen Gaffney, and I’m a Professor of English at Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) in New Jersey. I’ve been teaching composition and electives on race and gender there since 2003. I have a PhD in English from the University of Delaware (2003), where I studied Critical Race Theory and contemporary literature.

I’ve shared my approach to anti-racism in a variety of locations, from academic conferences to activist conferences to community groups, as well as in my teaching at my community college:

  • I’m currently working on a book project (under contract with Routledge) titled Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox, which is an introductory guide for college students in various disciplines as well as the general reader about race and systemic racism, with tools for action.
  • For more than ten years, I have been teaching a class I designed at my community college called “Race in American Literature and Popular Culture,” where we explore the history of race in the US and the power of the media and other systems in shaping ideology. My Recommended Resources page includes several relevant sources and follows my approach. We conclude with a social action assignment so that students can apply what they’ve learned and take action.
  • I recently adapted this course on race for the community as a free course open to the public. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills (in Somerville, NJ) hosts it, and it includes discussion of assigned readings that analyze the history of race and systemic racism in the US and how this racial ideology continues into the present. The public course officially ran from October 2016 to April 2017, but we decided to continue to meet, and then I’ll co-facilitate the course with another member again in fall 2017 for a new group.
  • In spring 2017, I taught this college course on race at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in NJ as part of the Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts that RVCC offers at several prisons in NJ.
  • I also apply my work on anti-racism to the community organizations I volunteer with, including the Hunterdon County Anti-Racism Coalition, the new Central Jersey Community Coalition I helped develop, NORWESCAP, and the Social Action Collective at RVCC.
  • In addition to sharing my work through various workshops in the community, I’ve also presented my work at Netroots Nation, the White Privilege Conference, the Modern Language Association, Critical Race Theory conferences at both Yale Law School and UCLA Law School, and the Working Class Studies Association.
  • I created this Prezi on “The Social Construction of Race, Systemic Racism, and Health Disparities” for a presentation at Rutgers University on July 9, 2015 as part of the Summer School of Addiction Studies through the Center for Alcohol Studies.
  • These are videos of a few projects I’ve been involved in:
  • This a link to a radio interview I did while in Saratoga Springs, NY to speak at “The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King, Jr.” weekend (Jan. 17-18, 2016). This interview focuses on systemic racism, mass incarceration, Meta Theatre Company, and more. The text of my speech is on my blog here.

Email me with comments or questions at: dividednolonger@gmail.com

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5 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Pingback: Panel on Systematic Racism at Northampton Community College | working class studies association

  2. I feel so very blessed that Spirit lead me to your work. Everything that you said in the article that I read online titled: Dismantling the Racism Machine A manual and tool box” I have said, felt and embodied my entire life. I am 63 years old and looking forward to retirement and with our new president in office I have encountered problems that I never dreamed that I would be exposed to at this point in life. I look forward to your book being released and i will be one of the first ones in line to purchase it. I am posting your article on facebook and doing everything that I can to promote the “Truth that You speak” Blessings always. Charles L. Griffin, Schaumburg, Illinois.

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  3. I came across your information through reading Susan Grigsby’s Kos diary ‘coincidentally’ (!) after an in depth, angst filled conversation with a friend about Ta Nehisi Coates’ latest essay. I was feeling absolutely hopeless about the very future of this country given how wildly successful the oligarch elite have been in dividing the rest of us on race since electing ‘the first white President.’ Reading about you & your work has been the antidote I was desperately needing and I want to first thank you so much for all you are doing. I live in Colorado but would so like to make the trip to NJ attend your community class this fall. I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered training others to teach this class so that your amazing, crucial work can reach even more folks & especially white progressives like myself who so desperately need this information & these tools to start the hard work of eradicating this horrible fake concept of race. I for one would sign up in a heartbeat! For now I’ll be digging deep into your website, eagerly anticipating your book, and checking for updates about when your next community class will be held. And I so look forward to meeting you someday soon, shaking your hand & expressing my appreciation in person.

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    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate your comments. I’m hoping that when my book comes out, it can support the anti-racist discussion and action groups that exist (and even prompt new ones) to raise awareness about the false ideologies we’ve been taught and take action to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism in our systems. The fifth chapter of the book is devoted to specific strategies for that work. Also, conferences like Facing Race (fall 2018) and the White Privilege Conference (spring 2017) are great ways to learn more and connect with people doing this work.

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