October 28, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘What Students Are Saying About Race and Racism in America’

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Oh, and there’s one catch: You can only use 10 words or fewer. Here’s Mr. Gold’s example: “I am a gay, Jewish-American, millennial, fitness-obsessed journalist.” How would you complete your “I am” statement in 10 words or fewer? Think about all parts of your identity: race, ethnicity, religion, gender, class, sexuality, passions and hobbies. What makes you who you are?

Part 2: How Much Racism Do You Face Every Day?

Now, think specifically about your racial identity. Is race something you included in your 10-word self-description? Why or why not?

Do you remember the first time you were aware of your racial identity? Did you become aware of your race because of something someone said to you? Or was it as you realized you were different from someone else? How did it feel?

Last year, we asked students about how much racism they face every day. The writing prompt was inspired by a Times article that surveyed readers about their daily experiences with racism and compared their responses to the responses of 101 Black teenagers who answered the same questions. If you have time, you can take the quiz or respond to our student prompt, but in the meantime, consider these questions in writing or class discussion:

  • Have your parents or family members ever talked to you about your racial identity? Are people at your school or in your community comfortable talking about race?

  • Have you ever been teased or discriminated against because of your race? Have you ever witnessed or been part of teasing or making fun of someone else because of their race?

The featured article includes 36 student comments divided into nine sections. Each section’s header is a short excerpt from a student comment. Read the entire featured article (available here as a PDF) and annotate it using the following prompts. You can choose to highlight, underline or respond directly to things in the article that stand out. Here are some things to look for:

  • A comment that challenges a belief you have.

  • A comment you relate to based on your own life experience.

  • A comment that makes you think of something you have witnessed or heard someone else talk about.

  • A comment that resonates with how you see the world or understand the issue.

  • A comment that reminds you of things you have heard friends or classmates say.

  • A comment that is moving or evocative in some way.

  • A comment that prompts another question or further inquiry.

Look back at your annotations and choose one comment that stood out to you — to which you will write a reply. We encourage you to pick a comment that challenged your beliefs in some way, but if you are inspired to pick a different comment, that is OK too. Reread the comment carefully. Then write a reply.

Some questions to consider as you craft your response: Do you agree or disagree? How does the comment make you feel? Can you relate personally to anything they said? Do they use any evidence to support their opinion, and if so, do you find it compelling?

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