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. My book, Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox (Routledge), is an accessible and interdisciplinary introduction to race and racism with tools for action (see tab “My Book” for more info).
As a white anti-racist educator, I work in a variety of settings to address systemic racism:
- For more than fifteen 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 and racism in the US and the power of the media and other systems in shaping a racial ideology (see tabs on Resources on Race and Racism, Resources on Precious Knowledge and Ethnic Studies, and Resources on Representation Matters for related readings and videos).
- In 2016, I 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) hosted it, and it included discussions of assigned readings that analyze the history of race and systemic racism in the US and the persistence of systemic racism today. The public course officially ran from October 2016 to April 2017, and after, we decided to continue to meet to build on our work in meetings I co-facilitate. We still meet monthly, as of 2023.
- Since 2015, I have served as a steering committee member of the Hunterdon County Anti-Racism Coalition, which works to raise awareness about and take action on local and national issues related to racism. We also partner with other local anti-racism groups in order to strengthen our collective work and build solidarity.
- For several years, I’ve facilitated or co-facilitated anti-racism workshops at libraries, in churches, and for various organizations. I have also recently served as a Public Scholar by the NJ Council for the Humanities.
- I have presented my work at national conferences, including: Netroots Nation, the White Privilege Conference, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE), the Association for Ethnic Studies, the American Studies Association, the Modern Language Association, Critical Race Theory conferences at both Yale Law School and UCLA Law School, and the Working Class Studies Association.
- During the Fall 2022 semester, I was on sabbatical to research the rise of white nationalist online propaganda, how it impacts college students, and what colleges, especially my own institution of Raritan Valley Community College, can do about it. I have put together resources (available here) to encourage anyone to strengthen their own understanding of this complex issue and to integrate these resources into your own teaching or other work. These resources complement the recommendations I make in my op-ed soon to be published by Inside Higher Ed (link forthcoming).
- For additional details, see my c.v. here.
Email me with comments or questions at: dividednolonger at gmail.com
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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.
Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate your interest in my work.
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.
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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