Teacher reaches students through film, racism exposed in a compelling light

Teacher reaches students through film, racism exposed in a compelling light

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Susie Cousar teaches a Global Health and Sustainability class in addition to First Aid Classes on Monday, Oct. 20.
Photo by: Amanda Irvin
Susie Cousar teaches a Global Health and Sustainability class in addition to First Aid Classes on Monday, Oct. 20.Photo by: Amanda Irvin

Susie Cousar teaches a Global Health and Sustainability class in addition to First Aid Classes on Monday, Oct. 20.
Photo by: Amanda Irvin

Daniel Roark
Reporter


The Global Health and Sustainability course, taught by instructor Susie Cousar, is aimed at increasing students’ knowledge and awareness of global sustainability and the health consequences related to poverty, social status and global economic systems.

Cousar was inspired to teach by her father, a middle school teacher who went on to become a high school principal. She received her Masters of Science degree at Oregon State University in 1992, majoring in Health Education with an emphasis on environmental health and health behavior. She calls Eugene and Lane Community College her home and has no plans to move.

Her Oct. 21 class featured a film titled “The Color of Fear,” with intermittent lecture discussion. In the film, seven American men of differing ethnicities and backgrounds talk of racism and how it affects society. The film shows the problem from different perspectives and how empathy can create a deep conscience, as related by each man.

In the film, an African-American man speaks of discrimination in early America. He believes that the concept of racism, based on skin color, originated in America. He tells of the early European settlers and their self-proclaimed superiority because they were white. When the slaves were brought over from Africa, he said, they too were indoctrinated with this belief.

The film covers subjects such as how skin color would determine a slave’s job. Often, the very dark-skinned slaves received the hardest and most laborious tasks, such as field-work. The lighter skinned slaves, especially the females, received easier assignments, such as housework. They would also receive more privileges. Some of the lighter skinned slaves even became oppressors themselves. Under orders from their masters, they would dole out punishment and torment to the darker-skinned people. But all of them believed what the white man said.

Cousar stopped the film periodically to make comments. She pointed out that fear is sometimes a conditioned response. She said that children under the age of three are often drawn to the color pink when shown the full color spectrum. Around the age of three, however, most of the boys repel this color. The only explanation, she said, is that they were taught, probably by a parent, that pink is a girl’s color and that girls are different. This is the same as fearing someone because of the color of their skin, Cousar said.

She quoted Albert Einstein, one of her heroes, “Knowledge is power but imagination is more important.’” Cousar explained that stories help people, much like a Shaman relates the lessons of life and how humans are closely connected to earth and nature. “Without imagination, we are doomed to continue with what we already know, even if it’s not working and/or destructive,” she said.

Cousar’s colleague and good friend, Stan Taylor, teaches Environmental Politics, a course focusing on solving environmental problems from a grassroots perspective. “Susie Cousar is an inspirational teacher, awakening students in her Global Health class to the fact that issues of social and environmental justice are directly related to our health as individuals and communities,” Taylor said.

 

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