African-American Literature Week One BIG UNIT IDEA: How do we handle race?
Essential Question: How do stereotypes affect our first impressions?
Objective: I can listen critically to others’ words; I can speak with poise and control
to defend my ideas. I can write reflectively about my own experiences with first
impresssions using organization and awareness of audience.
Bellwork: I want you to write about how appearances can be deceiving. I will give
you about five minutes and I want you to write nonstop for those five minutes. You
need to fill a page, so if you can’t do that in five minutes, you will need to finish this
writing at home. (5)
Attendance and introductions (10)
Go over syllabus, required supplies and my expectations (5)
What class will be like; my grading scale (5)
Group discussion expectations: discuss what should a group discussion look like?
I’m going to give you a few minutes to write your first impressions of me and this
class. (5) Now let me tell you that no, I’m not African-American, but that doesn’t
mean I don’t know how to teach this course. If you think I’m going to need more
credibility than a Master’s Degree, let me say that I’ve taken a number of courses on
African American Literature and a few years ago I helped teach an African American
Experience course at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia.
We’re going to be talking about some difficult subjects in this class. At some times it
will be uncomfortable. The first thing I need you to do is understand that race and
race relations aren’t something we can help. They are what they are. We ourselves
can change our own behaviors, but we can’t be held responsible for the behavior of
others. Secondly, we need to put our defenses to the side and talk openly and open-
mindedly. Our first unit is on race and identity. Some questions we are going to
look at are: What do we mean by race?
How does race affect identity?
What is the difference between a cultural generalization and a stereotype?
Can you have stereotypes and not be racist?
How do we handle race in America?
How does society influence our identity and the choices we make?
How can ideas about race be used and abused?
What can be done to counter harmful myths about race?
(Write these down in your notes) (15)
What do first impressions have to do with our discussion about race and identity?
(Discuss with students)
Your homework is to write a one-page essay about how a first impression impacted
you. It could have been you with the first impression or the other person. It could
have been a negative or positive impression. What happened? What did you learn
from it? It’s due tomorrow. (5)
Essential Question: What is race and how do we handle it in America?
Objective: I can listen critically to the messages in the CNN report in order to write a
Bellwork: What does the word ‘race’ mean? How does our race affect our identity?
You may choose to write on these open-ended questions or you may choose to write
about a time when your race affected you. Maybe you were called a mean word
because of your race, or maybe you were treated differently. Maybe you or someone
you know treated someone differently because of their race. Remember to write a
full page. (5)
The term race: definition and discussion. Race refers to the classification of humans
into populations or groups based on various factors such as culture, language, social
practice or heritable characteristics. Conceptions and groupings of races vary over
time and reflect societal customs in defining essential types of individuals based on
perceived sets of traits As a biological term, race describes genetically divergent
populations of humans that can be marked by common phenotypic and genotypic
traits. This sense of race is often used in forensic anthropology analyzing skeletal
remains, biomedical research, and race-based medicine. Race, however, has no
official biological taxonomic significance — all humans belong to the same hominid
subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens. Nor is there scientific basis for any racial or
ethnic hierarchy. (Have students copy into notes and discuss as a whole group) (10)
We are all affected by race, whether we want to be or not. Unfortunately, we can’t
ignore it. It’s pervasive. (define pervasive)
Let’s watch some clips from CNN and read about a study recently completed on skin
color and children’s reactions to it. Pass out CNN article and read. Watch video
Write a reflection on what you just watched. What surprised you? What didn’t? (5)
Discuss the reading and clips (5) Turn in writing on the way out.
Essential Question: Can you have stereotypes and not be racist?
Objective: I can speak with poise and control to discuss my ideas.
Bellwork: Is everyone racist? What makes someone racist? Is stereotyping
different from racism? You may choose to answer these questions or you may
choose to write about a situation in which you were faced with racism or
stereotyping. Write one full page (5)
Discuss the video clips and article from yesterday (10)
Ugly Words: The N-word, the C-word. Where the words come from, what they
mean, and how they contribute to racism. (5)
The Pyramid of Hate (show the pyramid, have students copy into notes) (10)
What does it mean to be colorblind? Think-pair-share answers. (5)
In groups, discuss how being colorblind is a bad thing. You can use experience, the
video clips, the article, or your notes to help with the discussion. Write your
answers on the white board. Use as discussion springboard –use essential questions
Essential Question: How does society affect our identity and the choices we make?
Objective: I can visually represent the school and in writing reflect on society using
organization and a strong controlling idea. I can read to analyze the author’s
Bellwork: What are ways society segregates us? Why does this happen? What are
ways we segregate ourselves? Why do we do this? Remember to write a full page.
We’ve been talking about stereotyping, and I want to show you one more video
about it (show youtube video at http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/race/).
Students write reactions to video and discuss (15)
Groups: students work in groups to create a social map of the lunchroom. Note who
the different groups are and where they sit (students group by lunch 1,2,3). Have
students discuss and answer why do we self-segregate? Write it on bottom of map.
Tell students next week try to go out of their comfort zones and sit in different
places for lunch. When they do, they can add arrows to their maps. (10)
But we’ve moved beyond racism, right? Let’s see. On Wednesday, November
5, 2008, the media reported a nation wrapped in the euphoria of
electing its first black president. The event was widely hailed as the
beginning of a "post-racial" America – a country where race no longer
matters, where racism no longer exists. Yet, within ten days, the
media's attention turned to a racially charged backlash against the
coming Obama presidency. I want you to tear off two pieces of paper.
Using a scale of 1-10 with 1 being despair and 10 being euphoria, write
the number that reflected your attitude about President-elect Obama
on the day after the election. On the second slip, record your current
attitude about President-elect Obama.
Hand out two articles about Obama. Hand out highlighters. Let students mark text
for key words, phrases and concepts that help explain the mood of people as
reflected in the article. (10)
Get students into groups and have them disuss the articles and copy key words and
phrases onto white boards. (10)
As a whole class, discuss the articles. After reviewing the word/phrase lists,
students will compare and contrast the two articles:
• What was the political climate reflected in the articles?
• Do the articles reflect a shift in attitudes about race? If so, how did
those shifts come about?
• Where do the articles show race as an influence in our society?
Where do the articles show evidence of a "post-racial" culture?
• In which column would you place yourself ... euphoria, despair or
somewhere in the middle? Why?
Are people your age more "post-racial" than other generations? What
arguments can you make to support either position?