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