Megan was confused when her 9th grade classmates reacted differently to the assassination of President Kennedy than her family did. She didn’t know who was right. And then she learned to listen to what her heart told her was truth for her.
Have you ever wondered how you’re “supposed” to feel about a situation that makes you uncomfortable?
How can you be friends with someone you disagree with?
What’s the difference between an argument and a debate?
What happens when you realize you no longer believe some of the assumptions you grew up with?
The President Has Been Shot!: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James F. Swanson
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Gene travelled by van across the country to see the land of his people. Along his journey, he had the experience of meeting a southern white couple on a backcountry dirt road and an old black man in Sparta, Georgia who fought with First Nation men during the Korean War.
How do we break up the biases we have about other people?
Can travel be a way to open or confirm our ideas about other people?
Where would you like to travel? How would you keep an open mind about the people you meet along the way?
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Smooth Traveler: Avoiding Cross-Cultural Mistakes at Home and Abroad by Susan O’Halloran
During WWII the Navajo Code Talkers created a code that was never broken. The Navaho were forced off their reservations into boarding schools where they were told not to speak their language or practice their culture. But when WWII started, the United States military reached out to the Navajo to help them create a code using their previously forbidden language.
Why did the U.S. switch its policy toward the Navajo’s native language?
The Navajo were not allowed to speak of their role in WWII until 1968. What effect do you think it had that those fighting alongside American Indians during the War were unaware of their critical contribution?
The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers by Chester Nez and Judith Schiess Avila
Code Talk: A Novel About the Navajo Marine of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac
Gene tells of an afternoon he spent with Rachel, a Holocaust survivor, in Omaha, Nebraska. Rachel, an elderly woman, asks Gene, “Tell me about your people?” Gene tells her of the 1835 Indian Removal Act and how his Cherokee ancestors were forced to leave their homes and walk for 800 miles through the winter months; many died. Rachel replies, “Your people, my people – same.” Later, Gene goes to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and while being overcome with emotion, is comforted by an African American woman
What do you think of Rachel’s statement: “My revenge: I am going to live a happy life – no one can take that from me.” What might this type of revenge give her that other types of revenge would not?
How do we learn about and stay emotionally present to all the genocide in the past and in the world today? What gives us the strength to look at the worst in humankind?
What can stop “ugly history” from repeating itself? How can we support those who have been through the worst imaginable horrors and those who are willing to speak about and learn from it?
Trail of Tears: The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation by John Ehle
Holocaust Museum in Washington by Jeshajaho Weinberg
Kiran reveals the experiences of living between two worlds: on one hand, his experiences with racism being one of the few brown boys in his town contrasted with the kindness of strangers as well as the inspiration he received from his storyteller teacher, Mr. George.
Is there a teacher, a parent, a movie star whose life story inspires you? If so, describe why.
Recall a story you heard, a folktale or someone’s personal story that influenced you. Why does it matter to you?
We can all be the stories we want to see in the world. Do you agree with this or not? Explain your reasons and what would your story be?
Why did Kiran talk about both racism and the kindness of strangers in one story? What do you think was his intention by doing so?
Issues within the same religious group or ethnicity are complex and rarely discussed. Laura grew up on a street in Brooklyn with many kinds of Jews – Orthodox, Conservative, Sephardic, cultural and so forth. As different as they were, they had one thing in common: no one talked about World War II and the Holocaust. Two young children (one from an Orthodox family and Laura from a Conservative background) find a way to memorialize the unspoken through a make believe graveyard. In doing so, they strike up an unlikely and forbidden friendship.
As a child, what games did you play with other children?
When you were growing up did you play with children from other races, gender or culture? What was the best part of getting to know others?
When challenges in life and even deaths go unspoken how does that still affect the children?
God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors by Menachem Z. Rosensaft and Elie Wiesel
A wannabe comedian in the suburbs of Pittsburgh finally meets a professional comic who is willing to take him under his wing. However, stunned silence over the discovery of a small town’s nasty racial secret destroys a brand new friendship before it can even begin.
When was a time when you remained silent when you should have spoken up about discrimination? What caused you to stay silent?
How could this situation have turned out differently? What effect could calling out the racism around us have on the people practicing it or on the people experiencing it?
Have you ever observed the silence of others while you yourself were being treated poorly? How would you have wanted others to react or behave?
Silent Racism: How Well-Meaning White People Perpetuate the Racial Divide by Barbara Trepagnier
Film – Dear White People (2014), Directed By Justin Simien
When former Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s, war broke out across the region. Hasan, a Muslim, was a college student in 1992 when the siege against his city, Sarajevo, began. He joined the Army of Bosnia but would do anything to escape and live in peace and freedom. A few of his many adventures are detailed in this excerpt as well as his victory in studying Islam and rediscovering his identity when he came to the United States.
What led to the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s?
What would you do to escape a war? Could you leave your friends and family?
Storyteller, Patrician Coffie, learns that traveling to understanding is part of traveling from one physical place to another. Understanding involves listening first. Listen to what is said, to tone of voice, to body language and to the silences. Some colleagues of Pat’s give her feedback on a joke she told and help her realize that change, based on understanding, takes action. Change for the better is always possible.
Have you had the opportunity to examine your assumptions about race? Have you taken the opportunity?
When you listen, do you listen for reaffirmation of what you already think you know or do you listen to learn something new?
Can learning take place all your life long?
Can you hear one thing while others hear something different?
Donna’s father is quite a trickster, and one afternoon in the 1980’s, while her large family was traveling through the south, they ran into a potentially dangerous situation. Donna’s trickster father literally saved our lives.
Have you ever traveled to a new place and felt uncomfortable?
Have you ever met a person who made you uncomfortable? What did they do?
Have you ever seen another person being bullied because they are a different color or culture?
Have you ever seen somebody use humor to get beyond an uncomfortable situation? Why do you think humor helps us through difficult situations?
The night Obama was elected to the presidency, Donna was a lone black woman in a very conservative part of the country. She discovered that it is possible be in a foreign land in her own country. She also found out that the world is full of people with good hearts.
Have you ever been scared in a new place?
Have you ever reached out to someone who was uncomfortable?
What does it mean to be brave? Does it have anything to do with being scared?
Have you ever felt like a group of people disliked you for no good reason? Who and why?
Bill’s mother and father came from opposite ends of the political spectrum which meant that his mother and father’s family did as well. Bill’s father could not tolerate the biased language that was spoken at his in-law’s dinner table. Then, one Thanksgiving dinner, Bill’s father can take the bigotry no longer and speaks out. Bill learns a valuable lesson about the importance of taking a stand.
What lessons about race and other differences have you learned from your family? What spoken and unspoken beliefs are there?
Are you aware of different racial and ethnic beliefs in your family? Are there examples of tolerance and intolerance clashing?
Have you ever been in a situation where someone speaks outright prejudice and racism or speaks in coded intolerant language? What are different ways of approaching that language or belief when you hear it?
Racism Learned at an Early Age Through Racial Scripting by Robert Williams
Bill gathers a group of musicians together to record an album of Civil Rights freedom songs. However, they learn that they can’t assume they are all on the same page or that underlying emotions and biases aren’t in play.
Is it possible to separate ourselves from some of our beliefs? How do we create a dialogue in which we’re able to admit our mistakes?
What was it about Hollis Watkins that made him able to say things in a way that others could hear? Have you been in a situation where someone found a way to encourage dialogue and admit our failings? How did they do it?
Do you think we all have prejudice in us?
What made it difficult for the white musicians and the musicians of color to work together? What history and different life experiences stood between them?
What is it about music that breaks down barriers?
Recording – “I’m Gonna Let it Shine – a Gathering of Voices for Freedom” available at Round River Records and www.billharley.com.
Sing for Freedom by Guy and Candie Carawan (SingOut Publications) was the sourcebook for the recording.
Everybody Say Freedom by Bob Reiser and Pete Seeger (Norton) tells the story of the songs used in the Civil Rights Movement
Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch (stirring accounts of how songs were used in Civil Rights demonstrations and rallies)
Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina during Jim Crow, Cynthia is baffled by why Black people get to ride in the “best part” of the bus, the back of the bus with the great view out the rear window. She plays with a young boy named Sammy when his mother comes to help Cynthia’s mother with the ironing. Cynthia doesn’t understand when her mother tells her that Sammy is dead and that he died because he couldn’t get to a “colored hospital” in time. When she was 12, Cynthia’s mother takes her to an integrated church service in Winston Salem. Cynthia is able to sense the danger but her heart feels full and happy to be in this circle of women.
How did white children in the Jim Crow South learn to treat people unfairly? As a young child what were Cynthia’s parents teaching her?
When were you first aware of color? When did you first become aware of injustice? How did you learn who was supposed to be “superior” and who was “inferior”?
Are transportation and health systems free of discrimination today?
Why are churches and other places of worship still so segregated today?
Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South by William Henry Chafe and Raymond Gavins
Deluxe Jim Crow: Civil Rights and the American Health Policy, 1935-1954 by Karen Kruse Thomas
A Short Video Story
by Anne Shimojima
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if the government had imprisoned your entire family? For Anne Shimojima, this was the experience of her grandparents and their children. In this touching story, Anne tells of what life was like behind the barbed wire fences and the inadequate housing. Looking past what is unspoken, Anne reveals details of life for Japanese Americans in incarceration camps during WWII.
Curious as to her family’s experiences in incarceration camps during WWII, storyteller Anne Shimojima explains how she uncovered details to her family’s past. For whatever reason, many Japanese Americans do no talk about their experiences during this time. Anne was able to dig into her family history and speak with relatives who then shared details of what life was like in these camps.
Armed with a deeper and more personal understanding of what her grandparents had endured in the incarceration camp, Anne reveals a hidden world when she is able to describe the camp itself. She explains how she was brought closer to her grandparents and better understands the indignities they suffered, the sacrifices they made, and the hopes they had for future generations.
Invite grandparents of students to come to class and share a story from their life
Explore geneology or create a family tree
Watch videos or read literature the helps students to better understand historical events..
Watch the video now
Explore our many other RaceBridges Studio videos and lessons
A chance encounter is an unexpected blessing for a teenager, who discovers that true strength is rooted within, extending down into the roots of the ancestors.
There are many forms of laughter: discomfort, joy, fear, amusement, sarcastic, etc. What type of laughter would you attribute to the students in the library? What dynamic did it set up between them and Diane? What are a few responses you would have had to the situation?
Invisibility is a much-desired attribute among superheroes. However, there are times when we, too, search for the cloak of concealment. When have you ever wanted to be “invisible”? In what situation and for what purpose?
The themes of belonging, identity, shame, and protecting one’s self can be found in the story of each human being. What other themes did you connect to in this story? Did the story help you to remember something that is or has happened to you?
Every Tongue Got to Confess by Zora Neale Hurston
African American Folk Tales for Young Readers by Richard Young and Judy Dockrey Young
Listen and move as this spoken word piece takes your mind and body through an insider’s/outsider’s understanding of immigration, identity, and family. The story began when Arianna and her now husband wanted to get married and had to prove, with evidence, that their love for each other was real. Complexity arose as they entered the immigration process better known as: K-1 Non-Immigrant Visa. As they hit barrier after barrier, they quickly learned how unpredictable the U. S. was about immigration,
Where in your life have you had to navigate the U.S. government to solve a problem?
How does Arianna manage the immigration process in the United States? What steps does Arianna take to manage the immigration process?
What evidence does Arianna use to show she is “in love?” What evidence do you have that would show you love someone in your family?
What is it like to be so immersed in a culture that a lady on the bus becomes your adopted “Aunt” and a bus driver your “Brother? While Arianna Ross travelled alone through Indonesia, she discovered that sometimes family is defined by a connection and not blood. Many days Arianna lived with only the support of total strangers. Witness the similarities and differences between Arianna’s culture and theirs.
Where in your life have strangers become family?
How do the people in the island of Banda Aceh, Indonesia define family?
When the police stopped the bus that Arianna was on and searched people, what were they looking for and how did “strangers” protect Arianna?
Folk Tales From Bali and Lombok by Margaret Alibasah
In three short anecdotes, the teller (Milbre as a child) and her small daughter, Elizabeth, try to make sense of a world in which we are taught to fear “the Other”.
Why did Milbre’s mother think that Milbre had put her friend, Debbie, in danger?
Have you ever had to tell a younger child about the realities of racism and violence? How did you balance the concern for wanting to protect their innocence and the need to prepare them for some of the harsh realities of life?
What do you think of Elizabeth’s comment: “Even the bad guys and bullies can be painted on the mailbox”? Do you think this is just childish well wishing or is it possible to include everyone in our definition of family?
In 1991 in Lincoln, Nebraska, a Jewish Cantor and his family were threatened and harassed by the Grand Dragon of the state Ku Klux Klan. Here is the remarkable story of how they dealt with the hatred and bigotry, and, in the process, redeemed a life. Based on the book, Not By the Sword: How a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman, by Kathryn Watterson.
Is this a story about religious transformation or about how isolated people need caring relationships?
What does this story say about the power of words and the means of spreading those words? How does anonymity protect the speaker? How do the cantor’s ‘public’ words spread his message?
Would you have considered inviting the former KKK member to live in your home? How was the family able to open their door and their hearts to a man who had hurt so many?
Not By the Sword by Kathryn Waterson, Simon & Schuster, 1995; University of Nebraska Press, 2012.
When Laura fell in love with Kevin, she was certain her liberal family would love him, too. After all, he was smart, handsome, educated and kind; that his skin was a different color didn’t matter, right? Imagine her surprise when Laura and her father needed to negotiate his discomfort with her sweetheart’s differences.
What do you think Laura’s Dad felt during their conversation? What do you think Laura’s Mom thought?
Do you think things are any easier for bi-racial couples today?
What do you think Laura should have done when her parents were upset about the German man she was dating? Do you think her dad had a point?
How would you feel if your child married someone of a different race or religion?
Do you think Laura should have told Kevin about the conversation?
When Nancy’s sister adopts seven-year-old Taylor, aunt and niece find kindred spirits in each other. This story explores what makes us family and when the color of one’s skin does and doesn’t matter.
Transracial adoption, while becoming more common, remains controversial. What issues can you imagine experiencing (or have you experienced) if you were adopted into a family that doesn’t look like you? How might it be different in an urban area vs. a rural area? How might it be different if the adoption is in infancy or as an older child? What are potential problems? What are potential benefits?
How would you want your differences acknowledged and handled by your adoptive family? How could they support you, make you feel welcome, and find the balance of becoming part of the family while honoring the culture(s) of your birth? How can you imagine asking for what you need and want? What can you imagine a supportive, productive family meeting looking like?
How would you want your friends/classmates to support you if you are (or were to be) part of a transracial, biracial or multiracial family? What are things they might say or do that would be helpful? What are things they might say or do that would be hurtful? How would you want them to ask you what you need/want in way that feel supportive? How could you bring it up to them?
In Their Own Voices, Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories by Rita J. Simon and Rhonda M. Roorda
Inside Transracial Adoption, by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall
During the 1950s, Gwen’s mother, like many African American parents, ritually sent their children down south for the summer. Gwen remembers the rich experiences with her grandparents on the farm but also many painful and dangerous racist encounters which greatly impacted her.
Why would African Americans send their children back down South in the summertime, after they had left behind the discrimination and mistreatment they often endured while living there?
Have you ever experienced or seen others experience racism or discrimination of any kind? Describe the experience and how you reacted or coped with it.
What are some ways that people can become advocates or builders of acceptance of others who are discriminated against in our society?
The Gold Cadillac By Taylor, Mildred (Ages 10 And Up.)
Born Colored: Life Before Bloody Sunday By Erin Goseer Mitchell. (High School)
After fishermen in the Okefenokee Swamp give Elliott two fierce looking mudfish, he finds himself on a hilarious cross cultural journey learning how to cook the fish, and later meets a number of challenges learning how to tell the tale.
Is “good ole boy” an ethnic slur?
What does food and traditional cuisine mean to people in different cultures?
What is soul food? What is a favorite food from your ethnic background?
Everybody’s Fishin’- A Cross-Cultural Fishing Extravaganza CD by Doug Elliott
A white woman moves into a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood with, initially, very little curiosity about the community that resides there. Her assumptions about what it means to belong are challenged.
What does the storyteller’s phrase “understanding begins in misunderstanding” mean?
Have you ever been in a situation where you were the only person who looked like you? What did you do and what happened?
What supports were needed in Julie’s neighborhood so that the long-standing residents didn’t feel misplaced or overrun and the new residents understood how they were perceived? What might everyone do to build bridges and create community?
Carol’s father is told he is not permitted to run on his college track team at the University of Pennsylvania. Two Jewish runners in the 1936 Berlin Olympics are not permitted to participate in the 400 relays. All three are Jewish and all three have the same coach.
In the story, Jesse Owens spoke up and told the coach, “Coach, I’ve won my 3 gold medals, I’m tired. Let Marty and Sam run.” The coach pointed a finger at him and said, “You’ll do as you’re told.” Why do you think the coach wanted the Black men to run in the Olympics but not the Jewish athletes? By deciding not to let Marty and Sam run, of what do you think Coach Robertson was afraid or resisting?
What could Stanley’s teammates have said or done to enable Stanley to race in all the track meets in which he was not allowed to run? Would you have been willing to stand up against discrimination even if it meant not running for the team?
The ending quote in the story by William Lloyd Garrison was important to Stanley. How do you think its importance related to the discrimination he encountered?
Do you think what happened to Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller could ever happen again in today’s Olympics?
The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936 Jewish Athletes — Marty Glickman & Sam Stoller.”
Talking about World War ll was hard for Carol’s father. As a recipient of three Purple Hearts, he shares his story of anti-Semitism at boot camp, his sense of Jewish identity with a stranger in Paris and how he mentally stayed strong and survived the front lines by wearing “blinders.”
Why do you think Carol’s father, and soldiers today may not want to talk about their experience during war? Should we respect their silence or encourage them to talk?
Carol’s father talked about wearing “blinders” to get through the hard times. Have you ever had a time in your life when in order to move ahead, you had to “wear blinders?”
The Red Cross volunteer handed out Mezuzahs and Crosses to the injured soldiers. What comfort was she hoping to bring them from these objects?
Carol’s father shares that his Sargent asked him to take off his helmet so he could see his horns. Many commentators say that this myth of Jews having horns started with a mistranslation in the Bible. Why do you think rumors and anti-Semitic myths are perpetuated today?
St. Lo was flattened in one night and the writer Samuel Becker described it as “The Capital of the Ruins.” Besides the physical city being destroyed, what other type of ruins exists from war?
The Complete Short Prose of Samuel Beckett by Samuel Beckett
Nancy tells an excerpt from “A Window of Beauty,” a story inspired by the experiences of a young girl, her remarkable teacher and their secret art classes in the Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia during World War II. It is a tale of courage, friendship and the power of artistic expression to sustain hope and light the way during the darkest of times.
The story of Friedl and Rutie tells of the deep relationship between teacher and student. One child described the experience of being in Friedl’s secret art classes in the concentration camp at Terezin: “Friedl. We called her Friedl. Everything was forgotten for a couple of hours. We forgot all the troubles we had.” What was Friedl’s legacy as a teacher? What memorable teacher in your own life was a rescuer or a life changer for you?
How does a human being survive a tragedy such as the Holocaust?
In what way is artistic expression – the creation of poetry, art or music and so forth – a form of resistance against oppression? How does it compare to the uprising of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto during WWII?
I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944, 2nd edition, 1993.
Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker Brandeis and the Children of Terezin by Susan Goldman Rubin,
Art, Music and Education as Strategies for Survival: Theresienstadt 1941 – 1945 edited by Anne. D. Dutlinger
During the Civil Rights Movement, Patricia’s family moved to the Auburn Gresham community on the south side of Chicago. Hers was one of the first African- American families to integrate the parish school. Over time, Patricia witnessed white friends quietly moving out of the neighborhood as they transferred to new schools. Before long, Patricia understands the meaning of “white-flight” and its effects. Fortunately, because of a few good angels, she was not severely hurt by the negative behavior surrounding her.
What are the social and emotional effects caused by the decision of whites to abruptly leave a school rather than to figure out how to make integration work?
In what respect has integration failed and why is there still so much negative reaction to this practice?
Time alone has not taken care of the race problem; what steps are needed to begin the healing process?
Who are the people in your life, outside of family, who have been brave enough to stand up for what is right? What have they done to demonstrate their courage?
Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
Dear America: With the Might of Angels by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation’s Graduates by Amy Stuart Wells
Amber, Misty, and Autumn – three multi-ethnic sisters – offer a sneak peek into their thoughts about self-identification. These storytellers also share a medley of emotional experiences about how they have sometimes been viewed by others. From skin color to hair texture, from humor to poignant reflection, these dynamic young women personify Dr. Maria P. P. Root’s, Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage.
Should agencies require people of mixed heritage to check one box for their “race”? Why or why not?
Does not choosing just one race imply that a person of multi-ethnic heritage is somehow denying any one part of his or her heritage? Explain.
What are some challenges that may arise for multi-ethnic siblings?
Some believe that since the number of people of mixed heritage has increased, that being “mixed” is no longer a “big thing”. Do you agree?
What Are You?: Voices of Mixed-Race Young People by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins, Editor
Sadarri retells a story of heroism that her mother, Rose, remembered as a child. The story takes place in Holly Springs, Mississippi in the late 1920’s when Sadarri’s Uncle Carl was set to be lynched for “speaking out of turn”. This story is about the unlikely hero who saved the life of Carl Esko Lucas who was truly a Black man dead and resurrected from the dust.
What effects did the jailing of Carl and the actions of the KKK have on his family?
Why is the story called Unsung Hero?
Was the deputy the only hero in the story? Explain. What does being a true hero mean to you?
They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case, (By Chris Crowe)
Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till
In A Crack in the Wall a white man has an experience at a copy shop that causes him to examine the negative impact racial conditioning has had on him. He is disturbed when he realizes that he has been indifferent to the historical suffering of African Americans, and he becomes painfully aware of his subconscious denial and patronizing attitude towards them.
How is it possible for a white person to be unaware of systemic unjust treatment of African Americans?
Discuss how racial conditioning can cause white Americans to deny the systemic injustice that for African Americans is all too real.
Why is being treated in a patronizing way so devastating?
What are the rewards of connecting cross-racially?
Savage Inequalities, Death at an Early Age and The Shame of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol
Honky by Dalton Conley
True Colors – ABC Prime Time Live 1994
Longing: Stories of Racial Healing by Phyllis and Gene Unterschuetz
Why do you think Kathryn and Georgia chose to tell Phyllis about the things they had to teach their sons?
What might have caused Randa, the waitress in the story, to withdraw so suddenly after Phyllis promised that things would “get better”?
What does Phyllis mean when she asks, “Is this one of the elements of white privilege – having the option to know the truth and then forget it because it doesn’t apply to my life?” What are some other elements of white privilege?
What do you think happened in Randa’s mind or heart that allowed her to respond as she did to Phyllis’s apology?
In the early 1960s, at a time when the hierarchy of race was evident in much of the country, a Black student feels relief to encounter a White teacher who operates without apparent bias. However, as the school year progresses, the student discovers that, in spite of her kind heart, his teacher unknowingly perpetuates White superiority by unselfconsciously promoting cultural and social standards that are rooted in “White” cultural and social norms; norms that might have worked for her, but not for everyone. It’s a lesson that is even more valuable for today’s “colorblind”, “post-racial” society.
One of the major points of this story is that in the United States “Whiteness” acts as an invisible, unspoken, socially unacknowledged set of cultural, political, educational, etc. standards by which we all are forced to live. Since those standards aren’t talked about, they are perceived to constitute a neutral, normal, and (if you are White) benign quality of life. As the story relates, that doesn’t work for everyone.
Try this: If you self-identify or are sociallyidentified as “White” – Over the next day, without forcing the issue, try to make a mental note of how many “White” images you see versus images of everyone else. Look for things like “White” mannequins in stores, “White” people on product labels, images of “White” people in books and magazines, on medical charts and TV shows, in ads on billboards and buses. Before hearing the author’s story, were you ever self-conscious of those things?
To read and do: Roger Bannister is credited with being the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. Matthew Henson is purported to be the first man to reach the summit of the North Pole. Read a book or a few of the numerous online accounts of each of these men’s lives. Why do you suppose absolutelynone of the literature on Bannister ever calls him the first “White” man to run a sub four-minute mile? In contrast, why do you suppose all of the literature on Henson calls him the first “Black” (or African-American) man to reach the North Pole?
Did you know? . . . The first woman in space (1963) was Russian Cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova. Twenty years later, the first American woman in space was Sally Ride. Consult a variety of sources and read their stories . . . Notice that there is absolutely no mention in any of their histories about them being “White”. The first Black woman in space was Mae Jemison in 1992. The first Latina in space, in 1993, was Ellen Ochoa. The first Japanese woman in space was Chiaki Mukai in 1994. Consult a variety of sources and read about them. Notice that every single account of their stories mentions their “race”. To what do you ascribe these different treatments?
The Right Hand of Privilege by Steven Jones, PHD. jonesandassociatesconsulting.com. Jones & Associates Consulting, Inc.
Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America by Stephanie M. Wildman (Introduction, Chapter 1 “Making Systems of Privilege Visible”, and Chapter 7 “The Quest for Justice: The Rule of Law and Invisible systems of Privilege”
Understanding White Privilege from the Teaching/Learning Social Justice series (Chapter 2 “What’s In It For Us: Why We Would Explore What it Means to be White”)
Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children by Louise Derman Sparks and the A.B.C. Task Force
Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to K – 12 Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development by Lee, Mankart, and Okazawa-Rey
A short story told by
Its hard not to picture the stereotypes associated with terms like “redneck” or “hillbilly.” These stereotypes are often the butt of many jokes. But like any stereotype, these are often labels unfairly placed on people. In his story, Searching for My Appalachia: A Modern Jack Tale, Storyteller Kevin Cordi takes a closer look at his mountain roots thanks to a chance encounter with a modern day “redneck.”
Having spent time in the mountains of West Virgina as a child, Cordi is no stranger to the Appalachian tales of a silly hillbilly, Jack, who sealed up the northwest winds or climbed a beanstalk in search of his fortune. To Cordi, being called a hillbilly simply meant holes in your overalls. But when he shares this with his mother she states that he shouldn’t make fun of people or let what people call him determine his future. It is not until years later when he moves away and gains employment as a traveling salesman that Cordi learns who he really is and can take pride in his mountain heritage.
In this chance encounter, Cordi meets someone others classify a “redneck.” Puzzled by the reluctance and fear of others to connect with the so-called “redneck,” Cordi knocks on the door and begins a short conversation with a very pleasant man named Jack. Jack explains to Cordi about the nature of the term redneck and states, “When did dirt and hard work become something bad?” It is then that Cordi suddenly realizes that stereotypes exist because it is easier to be afraid of someone “different” rather than to see them for who they really are. And in that moment, Cordi realizes that he’s now found his fortune and longs to go back home.
This touching story demonstrates that while stereotypes may be part of society, we must be ready and willing to peel back their layers to get to know the real person who is often hidden behind them.
Watch this revealing story that shows that people are so much more than labels:
See many other short free videos like this
one on the Showcase Page of this site. .
Antonio explores the challenges and joys of trying to raise a bilingual child. As anxious new parents, Antonio and his wife ask, “Are two languages better than one?” and find humor along the way.
Why did Antonio and his wife begin to doubt their choice of raising their son to be bilingual?
What is the advantage of speaking more than one language?
Two-way Immersion (TWI) classes or bilingual immersion classrooms are springing up in many urban/suburban communities where people new to America settle. What used to be a rare challenge for the public schools has become mandatory. Also, many English-only speakers want these programs because parents understand that their children’s world is much more global than the world in which they grew up. Would you put your child into classes that teach core subjects in a language other than English?
Susan O’Halloran attends a Chicago Memorial service in November of 2011 for children who have died through violence. Being at the Memorial sparks a high school memory for Susan of going to a youth conference in 1965 and meeting Cecil, an African American teenager, who became Sue’s friend. One evening, in 1967, Sue receives a phone call that changes everything.
Being at a Chicago Memorial service in November of 2011 for children who have died through gun violence sparks memories for Susan O’Halloran of people she has lost. At the end of the service, the congregation moves into the streets to plead for peace as everyone asks the continuing questions: Will the violent deaths of young lives end? When? And what is our part in ending violence?
What are the causes of violent deaths in America? People are always responsible for their own actions, but how does America’s legacy of segregation and discrimination play into violence?
Are you for more restrictions on guns? More policing? How would greater educational and job opportunities affect violence?
If you could be Mayor of a large U.S. city, what would you do to curb violence?
Do you believe as Sue says that “these are all our children”? Why would someone in one part of a town be concerned with what happens in another part? How are we connected to one another? How does violence affect even the more “peaceful” parts of town?
Sue remembers that she was directly touched by violence. What affect has a young person’s death had on you?
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Cornell West
Youth Violence: Theory, Prevention and Intervention by Kathryn Seifert, PhD
Can you see antennas on this middle aged white woman? “Aliens” (the word used for people from other countries) come from places other than Mars. During the McCarthy witch-hunts (a period of anti-communism intensity), the Cold War and the Space Race, we all learned to “blend” our ethnic identities.
Why was Yvonne’s family able to legally become naturalized citizens while other people came to the U.S. as “illegals”?
How old do you think Yvonne needed to be before she understood what it meant to become a U.S. citizen?
As Franco-Americans from Quebec assimilated into the larger Anglo culture in the United States, they became, as a result of that effort, more “invisible.” The story that Michael tells, as Jean-Paul Boisvert, shows a couple’s resistance to that “invisibility.”
Do you know when “your people” came to the United States? If you do not, is it because, in their effort to assimilate, they also became “invisible”?
Were “your people” able to assimilate successfully? Or did they accommodate to the Anglo culture to the point where they became “invisible”?
Did your grandparents or parents ever speak a language other than English? Were they able to learn English and also continue to speak their “native” language even if it was a dialect of the language rather than the “standard” version?
Have you ever had to “bite your tongue” to fit in, or assimilate into a culture? Do you think it was wise of the narrator of the story not to “bite his tongue” and speak up?
The Franco-Americans of Lewiston-Auburn by Mary Rice-DeFosse and James Myall, The History Press, Charleston, S.C. 2015. (A lively exploration of the challenges of the French-speaking immigrants from Canada who came to work in the textile industry.)
The First Franco-Americans by C. Stewart Doty, The University of Maine Press, Orono, ME 1985. (Well edited New England Life Histories from the Federal Writers’ Project.)
A Yiddish King Lear is about hard choices, hopes, dreams, racial persecution, and love! It tells of the moment Judith realized that her grandfather, Oscar Markowitz, an actor in the Yiddish Theatre at the turn of the 20th Century was her role model as a Storyteller. Remembering her grandfather’s background, gave her the courage to pursue her dreams. A Yiddish King Lear is set in the emotional, artistic and actual geographic crossroad of Second Avenue in New York City in the early 1900’s and in the 1970’s.
Who in your family is an unsung hero or heroine? How has this person influenced your life and/or helped you make important decisions? What might you like to learn more about this person?
If you have ever moved, gone to a new school, relocated to a new country or community, what have you brought with you? Why are these things important? These things can be memories, values, traditions – intangibles. A few special objects are often passed down from one generation to another and are cherished. Does your family have any of these items? If so, tell their stories! You can also discuss what you left behind and how that affects you.
Describe a time when you have either experienced feeling like “the other” or perhaps excluded others. What prompted these situations?
At age 16, in 1855, Jane’s great-grandfather sailed from Long Island, N.Y. around the Horn to San Francisco where he was stranded! He took a job with Wells Fargo as a treasure agent in the Sacramento-Shasta Mining District…the home of the Shasta Indian Nation. In 1860 he rode the first leg east for the Pony Express. He was also a member of San Francisco’s Vigilance Committee, a group of 6000 men, committed to establishing “law and order.” How do we seek understanding of both the pride and the discomfort our ancestor’s stories?
How did the varieties of available transportation and the movement of people in the mid-1800s contribute to the ‘opening of the West’? Martin Luther King said, “The arc of moral history is long, but it bends toward justice.” How does that quote fit with the opening of the West? How has social media changed the way we learn about how people are being oppressed today?
If you were to create tableaux or pictures from this story, how might you picture the Shasta Nation? the miners? the Vigilance Committee? the U.S. Army? the Pony Express? How might you depict each group’s point of view and predicament?
Because Brinck is a member of Jane’s family, when she tells this story to her grandchildren, what should she tell them? Why?
A biography of Jane’s Great Grandfather: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elbert_Adrian_Brinckerhoff
Website – About the Shasta Nation Territory: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shasta-Trinty_National_Forest and www.fs.usda.gov/stnf
Storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, was invited to come to Uganda by “Bead For Life”(www.beadforlife.org), an NGO helping women lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Many of them are displaced people from the horrors and atrocities of civil war in northern Uganda and are dealing with the ravages of AIDS. Connie was welcomed into their homes and hearts as if she was family and she listened to their profound and transformative stories. This is Namakasa Rose’s story.
How do you distinguish between what is helpful and what is patronizing to another culture?
When she was at her most desperate what kept Namakasa Rose alive and providing for her children?
Poverty and social justice issues seem to go hand-in-hand; one of the social issues is health care, specifically about the AIDS epidemic in Africa. How did being diagnosed with AIDS actually become a turning point in Rose’s health and her ability to support her family? What kind of support needs to be present for people to live full lives with AIDS?
Stories about our ancestors help us understand who we are. Encountering troubling revelations about her forebears and their Indian neighbors in colonial New England, Jo asks what it means to tell – and live with – her whole, complex history.
People say that in history, the winners get to tell the stories. How do we look beyond the winners’ points of view to understand the past?
What are the legacies of the early conflicts between Native Americans and Europeans?
Is the Abenaki story of the Kcinu a viable model for bridging cultures? In practical terms, how might we treat “the other” as family?
How might white Americans think about redressing past wrongs and responding to the contemporary situation of First Nations?
New England’s Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century by Virginia DeJohn Anderson
White Devil: A True Story of War, Savagery, and Vengeance in Colonial America by Stephen Brumwell
Carol believes this statement: “To build a bridge from one culture into another and make pluralism a cause for celebration, we have to have one foot firmly planted in who we are.” However, in exploring her Polish and Scottish roots, Carol wonders if she’s really been living what she teaches.
What is a WASP and why is that word part of American history?
Why are many students who are identified as “white” unaware of their ethnic heritages? It seems from the story that there is a hierarchy of “whiteness;” is this accurate in your experience?
The storyteller accepted many last names in the story – her original name, her father’s name-switch, her husband’s name. Finally, she went back to what name and why? Why is so much consideration given to a name?
The “Indian Experiment” in education, the government boarding schools, is unknown to many Americans, yet affects us all. Following forty years of study of these stories, Dovie knew she had to share what she’d learned that would be essential to her daughter, and all of us. She weaves history, biography, autobiography and personal reflection in this story that she never “wanted” to tell. But there are some stories that need to be told…
Had you heard about the Indian Boarding schools? Why has this part of American history been largely hidden?
What political and economic factors caused the U.S. Government to wage genocide against the First Nations?
How does witnessing and speaking about tragedies such as this help heal the spirit? What made it possible for Dovie’s Grandfather to start speaking out? How and when do you tell young people about the oppression of their group by others?
What factors in First Nation cultures supported families in surviving the unthinkable and continuing to thrive?
Who is my friend and who is my enemy? Gail Rosen, a Jewish storyteller, goes to Germany and makes a surprising connection to a German man who lived through WWII.
Do you think people make assumptions or judgments about you based on how you look? What might they be? What do people think they know about you by looking at you? How could they be right and how could they be wrong?
Can you tell of a time when you made assumptions or judgments about a person, but learned to think differently of that person later? How did that happen?
How do you choose your friends? What qualities do you value in a friend?
RaceBridges highlights a short video for
your viewing and inspiration. .
Negotiating the Narrows
A short video story by Storyteller Susan Klein
Themes : Religious Differences. Recognizing the various kinds of “isms”. Hope for societal change that embraces diversity.
(Please be patient as the video may take a few moments to load.)
……. As a young child Klein was intrigued by the mysterious practices of her Roman Catholic friends and neighbors. In the 1950s the Roman Catholic Church was still seen as somewhat foreign and was largely unknown or misunderstood by Protestant America. Although she was raised in the Methodist church, Klein was dazzled by Rosary beads, statues of saints, and the very mysterious Sunday Mass she attended with her best friend Debbie. (more…)
Storyteller Jim May relates his days working his way through school on a union construction crew; as well as the unions roll in softening the effects of classism and racism.
Have you ever worked in a menial job with someone without an education but found that they had much wisdom and sound advice based on their natural intelligence, intuition and life experience?
Have you ever worked in a job where you were kept on but someone was let go in spite of the fact that they were as good a worker as you? Was there some kind of prejudice involved around race, gender, sexual orientation, class or age?
What is your feeling about labor unions? What was their role in ushering in the 40-hour week, getting paid for overtime and ending child labor among other worker benefits?
Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkel
Working Class in America by Eugene Debs
History of the U.S. Labor Movement: Labor Movement in the United States: Volume Two by Phillip Foner
Trail Guide For A Crooked Heart by Jim May (p. 12)
African American/Black History
Education and Life Lessons
Family and Childhood
Stereotypes and Discrimination
Use this video and story in your classroom with the Reflections and Discussions
Emily Hooper Lansana’s story tells us about her educational journey growing up in a house where her parents always wanted her to have access to the best. Growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, she learned a lot about the ways that kids of different races were separated, and separated themselves, at school. (more…)
As a child, each summer Diane’s family drove from California to Louisiana to visit family. Diane remembers her father responding with increasing frustration whenever her brother asked if they could stop to get something to eat, each time promising “next town.”
Finally, the family stopped at a restaurant. Just as she is about to open the restaurant door, her father stops her. There is a “whites only” sign above the door. Diane’s family must go around back to eat in the kitchen. Diane learned about prejudice that day but also about how her family kept their spirits high no matter what they faced.
What did you think the title “Next Town” referred to when you first read it? How do you react to the title now that you know how it was used?
Diane’s parents left Louisiana to escape the segregated south, which oppressed African Americans with Jim Crow laws and threats of violence. Why do you think they returned every summer? Why do you think some African Americans stayed in the south?
Diane learns significant lessons on the day she describes in this story. She learns that people can hate her without even knowing her and that there are people such as her parents who maintain their integrity even in the face of such hate. When have you faced irrational prejudice in yourself or others? How did you deal with it?
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
A Guide for Using The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 in the Classroom by Debra Housel
While sitting alone in a restaurant having lunch, Ferlatte notices an older white man also eating alone and looking sad and worried. When she tries to be friendly, the man responds with a grunt. Ferlatte starts labeling him in her mind as a “mean old white man.” Later, she corrects her own thinking by reminding herself that she doesn’t know anything about the man. Later, as he leaves the restaurant, the man pours out his story, sharing that his wife of 61 one years has recently died. The two end up having a brief conversation, and Ferlatte realizes the importance of reaching across barriers of race, culture, and generations in order focus on the person right in front of you.
What do you think inspired Ferlatte to speak to the old man? How would you have felt if you had been Ferlatte, and the old man had grunted at you? What would you have thought about him?
Have you ever tried to reach across a barrier (race, age, language, class, etc.) with someone you didn’t know? How did it go? Did you learn from that experience?
Ferlatte manages her own initial reaction against the man. How does she do that? Have you ever had to talk to yourself to get yourself to think differently? When? Did it work?
The Nature of Prejudice: 25th Anniversary Edition by Gordon W. Allport and Kenneth Clark
Bartholomew, an African American man who is the church custodian is a familiar figure to the congregation at Mary Gay’s church. However, when it’s rumored that African Americans are coming to their church and will be asked to be seated, suddenly the pleasant veneer of acceptance is exposed.
Why could the people in Mary Gay’s congregation be welcoming to one African American man but feel threatened by other African Americans who would be seated with them as equals?
How did churches become so segregated and why are so many still segregated today?
Church Diversity: Sunday the Most Segregated Day of the Week by Scott Williams
Segregated Sabbaths: Richard Allen and the Emergence of Independent Black Churches1760-1840 by Carol V. R. George
This is a true story written by Mako Nakagawa and told by Alton with her permission. A young girl wonders about the difference between “hakujin” (white people) and “nihonjin” (Japanese people) while in an internment camp in WWII. She speculates as to why hakujin do not onara (a euphemism for “passing gas”).
You have been ordered to move out of your house in two weeks and can only take one suitcase weighing 50 pounds. You will be gone for an unknown period of time for an unknown destination. There are no stores where you are going, no Internet or cell phone or cable service, and very little electricity. What will you take with you?
Meals in the camps were served in large mess halls like the cafeteria in your school. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of serving meals in this way? How would you feel about eating in a cafeteria for all of your meals for the next year?
The incarceration (internment) camps were surrounded by guard towers, barbed wire fences, and soldiers with rifles. Do you think such measures were necessary? Why were they implemented? How would you feel if you had to live under those conditions? How do you think it would change you?
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki
Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps by Michi Weglyn.
As a Cuban and Irish American child, Antonio deals with being “too ethnic” or “not ethnic enough”. By trial and error and with the support of his family, Antonio reclaims all of his ethnic heritage and his Spanish language.
Do you think Antonio is white or brown? What does he think he is?
What could Antonio have done when he was teased about speaking Spanish? Have you ever hidden parts of your cultural background to “fit in”?
Does each group who comes to this country eventually lose its culture? What is gained and what is lost from assimilation?
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent by Julia Alvarez
This is a true story set in rural McHenry County, Illinois in the 1920s and 1930s about John Henry Higler, a man who claimed to be former slave who assimilated into an all white farm community.
Can you imagine living and working in a community where there was no one who shared your background and “race”?
Do you think this account of John Henry being a beloved member of a white farming community in the early part of the 20th century is hopeful or simply a story that whites told to assuage their guilt about white privilege?
Have you ever gone to a graveyard and imagined the stories behind the people buried there?
Sue grew up hearing about “them” – the people who would come and take her and her neighbors’ homes in their all-white neighborhood. When her family watched the Friday night fights, it was made clear who was “the other” and who was “us.”
What activities did your family take part in that brought you closer together?
To what “us” (or us-es) were you told, verbally or non-verbally, you belonged?
Who were the “them”(or thems) when you were growing up?
How did you make sense of racial dislike when you were younger?
Were there areas of life where your community or family acted as though they were under attack?
In what areas of life did/does your community or family take pride?
American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass by Douglas S. Massy and Nancy A. Denton
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation by Natalie Y. Moore
Looking at high school yearbooks, Shanta reflects on the “change” in her neighborhood from mostly white to all black. As a child, Shanta could not understand when the adults told her “the white people are running away from us”. Even as an adult with a larger understanding of the times – blockbusting and other societal and economic pressures – the sting of being “the other” remains.
What stories can photo albums or school yearbooks tell you about the people in your family or neighborhood?
How do you feel when you realize that someone doesn’t like you?
What keeps you strong when you’re in uncomfortable situations?
How does your family influence your ideas and feelings about people from different backgrounds or cultures?
John Price escapes from the Kentucky plantation where he had been enslaved. He plans to go to Canada but when he arrives in Oberlin, Ohio and sees Black shopkeepers and Black students going to college, he decides to stay. However, he doesn’t know that a slave catcher under the protection of the Fugitive Slave Act is coming for him.
Why was the Fugitive Slave Act enacted in 1850? What did it require of citizens and what was the punishment for disobeying this law?
The Supreme Court upheld the Fugitive Slave Act. Five of the nine Supreme Court justices participated in slavery. How do you think their involvement with slavery affected their vote? Do you think it would have been possible for the judges to remain “impartial”?
Why did President Buchanan’s administration decide it had to make an example of the Oberlin Rescuers? In what ways did the federal government’s plan to punish Oberlin backfire? What actions did the public take to show their support of the Rescuers?
Susan tells a story set in the period when slavery existed in America. She tells this story without ever using the word “slave” (except to refer to the already-named Fugitive Slave Law). What difference does it make to talk about “a person who escaped slavery” or “a person who was captured and enslaved” rather than “a slave”? How does language hide responsibility? Give other examples such as calling an area a “ghetto” instead of a “dis-invested neighborhood.”
Do we have a responsibility to make things “better”? What would you like to change? What would you be willing to do to make a difference?
Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism: College, Community, and the Fight for Freedom in Antebellum South by J. Brent Morris
History of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue by Jacob R. Shipherd
While in high school, Michael and some classmates make demands of his school to include more Black History in the curricula. The students hold a walkout and Michael is expelled. Decades later as an adult, Michael is brought back to the school to receive his high school diploma and the school’s gratitude.
What were the motivations for the school walkout?
What inspired Greg Meyers, who hadn’t had any contact with McCarty or Tyler for decades, to create a movement to get St. Ignatius High School to apologize and give them their diplomas?
Was the walkout the best way to get the school to listen? Was making their point and getting expelled worth the victory McCarty and Tyler experienced years later?
Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin
Growing up in New York City, Gerry never understood that Jews were such a small percentage of the world’s population. In his neighborhood, one could go for blocks and blocks and never meet anyone who wasn’t Jewish. But when Gerry went to visit cousins who had retired to Albuquerque, he discovered that “we all look alike when we are the other.”
Did you grow up in a neighborhood of people who were very similar to you? What are the advantages and disadvantages of growing up in homogenous communities?
Why did the police officer not see that Gerry and his cousin looked very different from each other? How is it that we can look but not really see a person?
A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson
Anti-Semitism in America by Harold E. Quinley and Charles Y. Glock
What if the U.S. went to war with your country of origin? Anne Shimojima tells of the difficult days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, when her Japanese-American family were forced to evacuate their home. Could it happen to you?
Imagine that your family had to leave its home in ten days. You can only take what you can carry. You may never return. What will you take and why? What will you have to leave behind that will break your heart to leave?
What can we learn from the experience of the Japanese-Americans at this time when Muslim-Americans face so much prejudice?
Being an American citizen gives us certain rights. If you lost your rights as the Japanese-Americans did in World War II, what are some of the actions you could take in response?
Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project – The Densho Digital Archive contains 400 videotaped histories (fully transcribed, indexed, and searchable by keyword) and over 10,700 historic photos, documents, and newspapers. www.densho.org/
Personal Justice Denied; Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and University of Washington Press, 1997. Available at: books.google.com and