Race: The Power of an Illusion

This week in World Cultures, we are talking about Latin American colonialism. Today I asked my students to compare high social status in American culture today to high social status in Colonial Latin America.

The conclusion: Many of the characteristics are the same. Heritage, money, education, occupation…

Somehow (who knows how), the conversation of racial classification came up. At some point each year, my I get my students to try to “sort” people by race using this PBS Sorting People Game. It’s pretty cool to do on the Smartboard because everyone can watch.

Of course, the students realize that you can’t tell a person’s heritage, where they are from, or what they are good at just by looking at them. However, I still had a student shout out for each picture, “oh he’s DEFINITELY Native American…” each time. It became quite humorous.

With about 1/3 of our school being “non-white,” there are always interesting stories such as the Willy’s burrito man addressing Nilai’s mom (an Indian-American woman) in Spanish, or wondering why so many Asians live in Duluth.

It’s also always interesting to watch the kids as they stumble through discussing such a hot-button, complicated, and personal issue. They say things like, “this feels weird,” and “that’s racist.” I love sitting back and watching them react. I believe it is so important to bring up the topic in a risk-free place at an early age.

Today was a good day.


2 responses to “Race: The Power of an Illusion

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