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Race

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INTRODUCTION TO RACE
Use with Section A of the lesson on racial discrimination

Print student handout


Activity 1. Defining Race

· What is race? How would you define it? Write your response in the space below:


Definition
Race refers to a group of people who share the same physical characteristics such as skin tone, hair texture, and facial features. The transmission of traits from one generation to another is a complex process that is examined in a field of study called genetics.

So why does race matter?
Race is a significant social issue because people use racial differences as the basis for discrimination. Much of today's racism can be traced to the era of colonialism that began in the 1400s. When Europeans began colonizing Africa and the Americas, the white settlers adopted the idea that they were superior to the other races they encountered. The false notion that Africans and Native Americans were inferior (along with the desire for economic power) justified the Europeans' taking land and enslaving people. In this way, naturally-occurring racial differences became the basis for systems of exploitation and discrimination.

Racism is the systematic practise of denying people access to rights, representation, or resources based on racial differences. As you will learn in this lesson, racism involves more than personal actions of individuals. It is a thorough system of discrimination that involves social institutions and affects virtually every aspect of society.

It's important to remember that racism is neither natural nor inevitable. Through history, people of different racial groups have interacted and co-existed peacefully. During the Middle Ages, for example, Europeans looked up to the people of Africa and China, whose civilization and culture were considered to be more advanced. As noted, however, these ideas changed significantly during the colonial area.

As you learn more about race in this lesson, remember that racism is a system people created -- and one that people can dismantle.



Activity 2: Reflecting on our beliefs and their sources

The table below asks you to record the messages or images you have received about race throughout your life, the values or judgments that come to mind, and the sources of your beliefs. Complete the table individually, then wait for additional instructions from your teacher.

group
a. What images come to mind when you think of this group? b. What values or judgments do you associate with these images? c. What is the source for these images, values, or judgments? d. What impact do these images and judgments have on your behavior?
people of my racial background
       
people of other racial backgrounds
       

 

Guidelines for this discussion:
· Use "I" statements only. Speak only of your own experiences, thoughts, and beliefs.
· Speak honestly, but also consider the impact of your words.
· Listen to what your partner says, but do not ask questions. Do not deny your partner's experiences by saying something like, "Oh, come on, you don't really think that, do you?" The point of this activity is to bear witness to your partner's experiences, not to debate them.


Reflection
· What have you learned about race through these activities?
· What thoughts or feelings come to mind as you reflect on the process of learning about race?


 

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