I'm a professor of medieval history, an Italian-American Catholic who grew up in the suburbs of Texas and only attended big state universities, but who currently teaches at a small liberal arts college founded by Norwegian Lutherans in the upper Midwest. Go figure.
I study medieval monks, who are much more interesting than you might imagine. In the past few years, I've branched out to write on non-medieval topics, like the history of Augsburg University for its 150th anniversary, coming soon. I'm also passionate about teaching. Check out this video where I talk about a crazy course I developed with some colleagues a few years back.
Memoir / Blog
Learning racism - 1
In his 1984 essay for Essence magazine, “On Being White ... and Other Lies,” James Baldwin discussed how whiteness is constructed. Whites became white, Baldwin argued, “By informing their children, that black women, black men and black children had no human integrity that those who call themselves white were bound to respect. And in this debasement and definition of black people, they debased and defined themselves.” A great example of this comes from Carl Zimring’s book, Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in America. Zimring relates the story of a Slovakian woman, recently immigrated to Connecticut, speaking to a researcher in the 1930s.
“I always tell my children not to play with the nigger people’s children,” she said. “But they always play with them just the same … This place now is all spoiled, and all the people live like pigs because the niggers they come and live here with the decent white people and they want to raise up their children with our children.”
Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, I had similar experiences, though these only came into my consciousness as racist much later. At the age of about four, my biological father skipped town never to be heard from again.