Shannon Gibney

Shannon Gibney


* Professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC).
* African-American professor who has twice received reprimands for discrimination against white students
* Supporter and attendee at the U.S. Social Forum
* Opponent of interracial adoption

Shannon Gibney has been a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) since 2007. Gibney, who is black, was born in 1975 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was adopted a short time later by a white couple. At age 15 she read James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, which, according to her WordPress website, “changed her life” and made her want to “emulate [Baldwin’s] strategy of telling the most dangerous, and therefore liberating kind of truth, through writing.”
Gibney earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and Spanish from Carnegie Mellon University, and received an Alumni Study/Travel Award from Carnegie Mellon which she used to do research in Ghana for a collection of short stories on “relationships between African Americans and continental Africans.”

Next, Gibney attended Indiana University where she served as editor of the school’s literary magazine. In 2002 she earned an MA in Twentieth Century African-American Literature and also an MFA. She then moved to Minneapolis and spent three years as managing editor of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the state’s oldest black newspaper.

In an effort to forge connections between individuals and artists in different minority communities, Gibney in 2003 created a listserv called “radical_politics_poc” (people of color), whose name was changed to “brownpolitics” two years later. She also served on the grants selection committee for the Headwaters Foundation for Justice, which aims “to be a catalyst for social, racial, economic, and environmental justice.”

Gibney co-founded the Minnesota chapter of Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora (AFAAD), an organization that “advocates for the needs of the African diasporic adoption and foster-care community on an international level.” Blogging about an AFAAD workshop on “linking child removal in communities of color to larger social justice issues” (which she attended in 2010), Gibney notes, approvingly, a fellow participant’s observation that “white folks—no matter how well-meaning—are unable to provide children of color with what they need to survive in a white supremacist society.” In a separate piece on transracial adoption, Gibney contends that when “children of color” are removed “from their home communities” and placed in “predominantly (foreign) Caucasian ones,” they suffer from “the intersection of the multiple oppressions and systems of power” including “sexism, nationalism, Christianity, militarism, racism, poverty, and so many more.”

Gibney lauds the U.S. Social Forum (USSF)—a leftwing convention derived from the World Social Forum —for helping “the American Progressive Left [come] together under the guise of building a sustained movement for social change.” She also backs an organization called Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed, which “supports people whose work challenges oppressive systems by promoting critical thinking and social justice through liberatory theatre and popular education.”

By Gibney’s reckoning, white racism pervades virtually every facet of American society. She writes that even her own MCTC campus, like “most colleges and universities in this country,… operates within an unconscious middle-class and white bias.”

In her role as a professor at MCTC, Gibney’s outspoken views on race have led her to twice run afoul of the College’s code of conduct. In 2009, for instance, MCTC’s student newspaper, City College News (CCN) invited Gibney to speak at one of its editorial meetings, and Gibney used the occasion to discuss the media’s role in perpetuating “structural racism.” She also accused the white male students on the CCN staff of not working hard enough to eliminate racial bias from the paper. When one of the editors subsequently wrote her an email characterizing her comments as “inflamitory, racist, and sexist,” Gibney replied that CCN “has largely been staffed and run by white men for most of its history,” and that in recent years “every single student of color editor” had felt “used and unheard, and taken advantage of.” Gibney copied her email reply to several MCTC faculty members and students, prompting the CCN editor to file a harassment complaint. MCTC administrators verbally admonished Gibney.

In late 2013, several white students interrupted a lecture by Gibney and told her that they objected to her incessant emphasis, “in every class,” on race. She replied, “We are not talking about all white people, or you white people in general. We are talking about whiteness as a system of oppression.” When the students were not mollified, Gibney invited them to file a racial harassment complaint with the college, which they proceeded to do. Then, in December 2013, MCTC’s vice president of academic affairs formally reprimanded Gibney, charging that her in-class comments on “structural racism” had “single[d] out white male students” and thereby “created a hostile learning environment” for those pupils. Gibney, in turn, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and joined six other MCTC faculty members in initiating a class-action lawsuit charging MCTC with being a discriminatory workplace for nonwhites. She accused her white students of “trying to undermine my authority” and complained: “I’ve actually had multiple verbal and institutional attacks on me by white males, whether they were students, faculty, administration or staff.”

On the website, a number of Gibney’s students have noted her excessive emphasis on white racism. For example:

  • “[S]he talked about racism and diversity way too much.”
  • “She talks a lot about ethnic[ity] and racism but less about English.”
  • “[T]his is not an English class, it’s basic[al]ly just a way for her to stand on a soap box and preach about racial inequality.”
  • “[S]he talks more about diversity and racism than English. [O]n more than one occasion she hinted at the fact that she thinks most of the class was prejudiced and singled out students in the class.”

For additional information on Shannon Gibney, click here.

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