“Can We All Get Along?” Evaluating Racism in the Media

Author: Elisabeth R. Yucis


High School of the Future

Year: 2012

Seminar: American Racial Politics

Grade Level: 9

Keywords: American History, Media, racism

School Subject(s): English

This unit is intended to be implemented in the high school English classroom and has been designed with 9th graders in mind. Assuming one-hour class periods, the lessons can be covered in approximately 6 classes. The overall goal of this unit is to enable students to effectively evaluate racial stereotyping in the media and be able to identify situations where racism or individual prejudice plays a role in historical events and media portrayals. The lessons and classroom activities in the unit are designed to present students with historical case studies which they can analyze, interpret, and discuss. Through inquiry and discussion, students will gain critical thinking and media literacy skills which will enable them to be more effective and knowledgeable consumers of mass media.

This unit focuses on racist stereotypes of African-Americans. First, we will begin by developing some basic media literacy skills and students will explore some examples of news features containing racist stereotypes. We will discuss how the coverage of a news story shapes public opinion about race relations. There are classroom activities centered on the events of Hurricane Katrina (both the government’s response as well as the media coverage and aftermath). There is a lesson on racial implications of the police brutality suit stemming from the 1991 beating of Los Angeles resident Rodney King, and the subsequent riots that occurred in South Central LA for three days following the trial verdict. We will analyze and discuss a 2011 Forbes article, “If I Were a Poor Black Kid” by journalist Gene Marks, a text which was intended to provide low-income urban teens with some tips on how to get ahead in life, but contains some fairly egregious stereotyping. Finally, students will examine news coverage and discourse relating to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. Students will participate in class discussions and debates and construct organized and detailed writing prompts in order to demonstrate understanding of, and engagement with, the content.


Download Unit: TIP-EYucis-Unit-FINAL.pdf

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