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Monday, December 12, 2011

Educational resources on appropriation, racism and respect

Thesocial interwebs are a great resource when the right question isasked in the appropriate forum.

The question was posed by Dr. Eddie Moore Jr., Director of Diversity at Brooklyn Friends School asking for resources on racism and sexism that would be accessible to high school students, especially for European American males.

I'llshare something that (seems to) work (relatively) well for me with myundergrads. I've used this strategy at a local area high school with15 year olds too. I call it the "tracking racism historically in media". It's all pop culture stuff which gets their attention. I use representations of indigenous people as my "group to track."But this could obviously be adapted for other groups. I've done it with "genies" and representations of veils and Muslims.

I start with an old, "obviously" racist clip / song. Disney's Peter Pan "What makes the red man red" is a good one forthis:

After watching the clip together, we generate a list of all the"problematic" representation elements (chanting, campfires, interchangeable "red men", drumming, nondescript dance, White characters finding the red men "interesting", Indian princess, etc etc.). Write this list on the board.

Then I move historically into the present time. I often use Seinfeld's Cigar Store Indian clip:

Outkast's" Hey Ya" grammy performance from 2004

Sandra Bullock movie clip with Betty White:

SoYou Think You can Dance Warrior number:

And of course Pirates of the Caribbean:

You can add many others... I'll change stuff up every time. I ask students to keep track "how many elements from the Peter Pan problematic representations do you STILL see in the contemporary examples?" After watching the "old" example, students will often say "but it's different now". And so the activity is powerful because it shows that it is not that different now.

I then add concepts from media literacy like the commodification of cultural artifacts (we talk about bindis and yoga, and Madonna's "geisha" phase). Then I ask them if "outsiders" to a particular race/culture can "be inspired" by a culture and its cultural practices without reproducing stereotypes.

Finally, we talk about another concept that many scholars write about in media literacy around the importance of groups telling their own stories. In Canada we have the Aboriginal People's Television Network. I have students watch programming on that network and we discuss the differences between those representations and the patterns we saw in our historical viewing.

This is a looooong write up, but hopefully it will be something useful to you. I'd love to know how it works out with the students! -Ozlem Sensoy

Republished with permission from Ozlem Sensoy