Tag Archives: Week 3

Friday, September 13 – Moving Beyond PC and “Colorblind” Approaches

ImageToday, we’re going to build on the ideas of ascribed and personal identity that we’ve explored this week.  As we talked about yesterday, the idea of race is ultimately a social construct.  This social construct often influences how people perceive and prejudge us – our ascribed identity.  Worse yet, it can lead to acts of extreme prejudice and injustice like the profiling experienced by Adama and Gurwinder in Patriot Acts.  With this in mind, it’s easy to see why people are sometimes uncomfortable talking explicitly about race, leading to a “colorblind” approach to viewing society.

In today’s Moving Beyond PC lesson plan, we will start by discussing the difference between “colorblind” and “multicultural” discussions of society using the example of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington.    When King famously said,Image “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” was he pointing toward a society where differences are never discussed, or one where differences are embraced?  How do we combat racism, inequality, and prejudice without discussing race (or class, for that matter)?

To explore thesestop-and-frisk-sfSpan and other questions, I’ve created an Anticipation Guide, which we will use in class to explore our opinions at the beginning and end of class.  After completing the “before reading” column of the Anticipation Guide, we will focus on how these questions played out in the news surrounding a controversial topic: New York City’s Stop and Frisk policy.  As a class, we’ll watch the PBS News Hour segment introducing this topic.  If time allows, we can also watch a very moving short documentary on the NYTimes about Stop-and Frisk.

Then, in small groups, we’ll read articles representing two of the many sides of the Stop-and-Frisk debate: two teens targeted by “stop-and-frisk” the policy (Nicholas Peart and Linda Sankat) and Mayor Bloomberg‘s response to allegations of racial profiling.  ImageAs we investigate these perspectives as a group, we’ll discuss how they support or go against our original opinions on the Anticipation Guide.  Finally, we’ll mark whether our opinions have changed in the “After Reading” column as we have a whole-class discussion on whether it’s better to use a “colorblind” or “multicultural” approach as we discuss and fight against injustice.  We’ll also talk briefly about how the “Stop and Frisk” topic relates to broader discussions of human rights.Image

I’ve been thinking about the “colorblind” question a lot as I reflect on how we as students, educators, and community members can work together to combat prejudice and injustice, especially in the week following the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.    This is a complex issue, but I feel that it is a vital one to address as we work toward building a more just and equitable society – from CHS to Charlottesville and beyond.  Feedback and reflections would be greatly appreciated as we revise this lesson for the future!

Thursday, September 12 — Cultural Norms.

As a way to follow-up on the idea of ascribed identity and explore a little more about what this means for us, today we will talk about cultural norms with a lesson plan inspired by the novel Americanah. This novel brought home to me the idea that my cultural identity really influences the types of things I take for granted and how strange these things might seem to someone with a different cultural identity, so I decided to build this lesson plan around that idea of cultural norms. On June 27, 2013, interviewer Terry Gross hosted Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on her NPR show Fresh Air. Adichie is a novelist who grew up in Nigeria before moving to America to attend college. Her most recent novel is called Americanah, and in the interview she reads an excerpt  based on events from her own life. We will listen to the first 12 minutes or so of this interview, found here, then we will talk about how people learn “norms” — acceptable and unacceptable behaviors for or society. (Here is a link to the transcript, in case you want to follow along.) These vary widely depending on cultural traditions and cultural identities and history. As a way to explore this idea further, students will meet in groups and create a list (using pictures or words) of norms for a particular place. Then the group will come back together, check out each others’ work, and discuss whether we all agree with the norms represented, or if there are different norms even within this classroom.

The take-away for today is to remember that norms are very specific to a time, place, and society or group.  As Adichie says, “Race is a social construct.” The implications of that statement can be quite broad, so I’m really interested to see what comes out in this conversation and to see what comments you have about this idea.