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The Rachel Dolezal story

The Rachel Dolezal story is all over the news. 

The story is a horror show for many reasons, but as Dolezal was an African-American Studies instructor at Eastern Washington University, her story brings up important issues of race in the classroom.

It has me wondering how my colleagues think about and handle these issues.

  • What does the Dolezal story bring up for you as an educator? 
  • What assumptions do your students make about you based on your body?
  • What assumptions do students or other scholars make about you and your work? (Women scholars do feminist work?)
  • How much do you reveal to your students about your identity?
  • How does difference (race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, disability, sexuality, etc.) affect what you teach? How you teach?
  • Are you a role model? Why or why not?
  • What strategies do you use to prepare your students to address issues of difference? Code of conduct, trigger warnings?
  • How much do you reveal about your relationship (or lack thereof) to the course material?
  • Do you have to be x, or practice x, in order to teach x? (Can a Jewish scholar teach New Testament? Or a straight scholar teach queer theory?)

We invite your comments and responses.

We also invite blog entries for Race Matters in the Classroom. Blog ideas and entries may be sent to: Paul Myhre (  at the Wabash Center to be considered for posting in this blog space.

What questions about teaching does the Rachel Dolezal story raise for you?


Nyasha Junior

About Nyasha Junior

Dr. Nyasha Junior is Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. She holds a Ph.D. in biblical studies from Princeton Theological Seminary. She writes, teaches, speaks, and frequently tweets on race, gender, religion, and their intersections. She is the author of An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation (Westminster John Knox Press, 2015). Her current projects include Reimagining Hagar: Blackness and Bible (Oxford University Press) and Black Samson: The Untold Story of an American Icon (Oxford University Press). Her public scholarship has appeared in The Washington PostInside Higher EdBuzzfeed, and other media outlets. She is passionate about grits, Star Trek, and Octavia Butler. Visit and follow her on Twitter (@NyashaJunior).

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