Interview: Emily Bernard, “Teaching the N-Word”

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One glance at the news headlines these days reveals something at once obvious and disturbing.

Don Imus, Michael Richards, the case against, and then the dropping of charges against white players on the Duke University Lacrosse team. When it comes to race relations in the U.S., it seems even as we head into the 21st century, there’s still an awful lot to learn.

That’s why a piece of writing honored as one of the “Best American Essays of 2006” is so timely, and telling.

“Teaching the N-Word” appears in that best of anthology and chronicles what happens when an African American professor decides to discuss the language of racism with her all white class.

Emily Bernard is an associate professor of English who teaches African American studies at the University of Vermont. She spoke with VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb about why she felt it was important to wade into such potentially dangerous waters.

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