April 20, 2005
Cameron Wedding helps students recognize biases
Racism may not be as out in the open as it was prior to the civil rights movement, but make no mistake it still exists in America, says ethnic and women's studies professor Rita Cameron Wedding.
Professor Rita Cameron
"Today you may not recognize it," says Cameron Wedding, who is also coordinator
of the university's women's studies program. "Racism looks different now because
it is far more covert and hard to detect compared to pre-civil rights racism
which was irrefutably racist."
The professor is the recent recipient of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies' Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.
But despite pretexts of "color blindness," Cameron Wedding says racism still results in disproportional treatment in all major social institutions.
That is why she strives to teach her students how to recognize their own latent racial and gender biases by developing curriculum about how implicit biases work and how they function in a "colorblind" society. In doing so, she hopes she can help students recognize systems of bias and how they are institutionalized in society.
"We need to know how to recognize our own biases and how they affect our work and influence our decision-making processes," she says.
Cameron Wedding has been teaching ethnic and women's studies for 12 years. Currently on sabbatical, her research and scholarship focuses on how racism and sexism play out in institutions such as education, corrections and child welfare services.
But the classroom is not the only forum she educates others on her findings.
As first vice chair for the California Commission on the Status of Women, Cameron Wedding, along with her fellow commissioners, reviews and recommends legislation to the legislature and the governor regarding women's issues.
Gov. Gray Davis appointed her to the position in 2002.
She says her ethnic studies and women's studies background allows her to address the different issues faced by women of color compared to their white counterparts.
"Women of color obviously have to deal with issues such as reproductive rights and economic justice," she says. "But in addition we need to draw attention to the extremely disproportionate representation in systems like corrections and child welfare."
Last summer, Cameron Wedding traveled to South Africa, as a Fulbright Scholar. While there she lectured on colorblindness at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. In addition, she appeared as guest on a national talk radio show in Cape Town where she discussed her perspective on U.S. affirmative action and how it relates to South Africa's post-apartheid era.
In addition to her work, Cameron Wedding has participated in the last three Sacramento Leukemia Lymphoma Society marathons.
She has also co-edited two textbooks including the 2004 textbook Institutions, Individuals and Ideologies: Feminist Perspective in Gender, Race and Class and Ethnic America: Readings in Race, Class and Gender in 2003.
In the classroom, Cameron Wedding likes to create a dynamic in which material is freely exchanged between teacher and student.
"I try to create a classroom that acknowledges that students, like teachers, bring something important to the table," she says. "In my classrooms this is where learning begins."
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