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❗ Each activity assignment will be documented in a written paragraph of approximately 200-300 words. The assignments are ordered from less to more personally risky, with a goal of improving your ability to think and talk about issues of race and racism.
Social media can be considered anti-social in that it promotes highly differentiated monolithic social groups rather than broader socialities like a city-wide community. Open a social media app or site that you use often (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit etc.). What are the top items in your feed? What ads are you being fed? Take a screenshot from your feed and plop it into a Word doc (it’s ok if the feed is in another language other than English). Then write a paragraph about how someone might interpret your feed and ads through a racial lens. How does race show up in your feed if at all? What does it mean if race doesn’t show up at all when it’s so prevalent in the current news? What are other ways that race/ethnicity are not depicted but connoted in things like food, music, and clothing in your feed? If you are not based in the US, what are the other ways that racial/ethnic difference can be interpreted in your feed?
Racial profiling, discrimination, and isolation are routine experiences in everyday life for minority groups around the world. Think about an experience you had and think about how it might have been different if you were of another race/ethnicity. If you are an international student from an area with relative racial homogeneity, I encourage you to write about an experience you have had on UCSD’s campus or while traveling.
Here are two examples if you need help to think about something:
I grew up in a majority Black area just outside of Washington DC, at that time a majority Black city with a popular local form of music called go-go (it’s still around but not as big), and would often go to 18+ Black club nights. One week, I asked my best friend’s boyfriend, Bryan, to join me. Bryan was tall, blond, and had tried out for the Olympics. He was a “bro” jock type from the neighboring, better off county. When I found Bryan at the club, he was very happy to see me and gave me a bear hug. His eyes somehow looked bigger to me, more intense. Otherwise, he looked his regular self: blue jeans, muted color t-shirt with a moose or something like that on it, and slightly curly hair that looked at the same time messy and untouched (“tousled,” as was common at the time). I introduced Bryan to my roommates and friends. A very social guy, Bryan had no problem interacting with others. He later told me that when he got to the club, and was looking for me, he saw one other White guy, and, even though they were not physically close, felt compelled to kick back his head, air point a couple fingers in the other guy’s direction, and say “Hey! What’s up?” This was something Bryan had never done before with someone he didn’t know. Bryan recounted that he did it because that guy was the only other White person there and he felt isolated as it was his first time in a Black space. Bryan recounted that after that experience, he understood why Black guys would say “Hey, bro” to each other in majority White spaces. I never asked him if he was afraid of racial violence, which was perhaps in the back of his mind. I was, nevertheless, glad he had this revelatory experience.
The first time I got kicked out of a bar was when I was 16. I was at the 9:30 Club, which I went to with 2 White female friends, one a pretty blond, Kathy. It was 16 and over for entrance because they hosted punk and other alternative bands, but 21 to drink. I went to the bar with Kathy and asked for 2 Cokes. Kathy was wearing a Corona shirt, and the club was very loud, so the bartender thought I asked for Corona and gave us 2 beers instead. I happily paid, took the beers, and walked away. A couple minutes later, the bouncer came and grabbed me. He accused me of lying about my age to the bartender, drinking underage, and sent me to see the manager, a skin head punk, who berated me for a while and then kicked me out of the club. My pretty blond friend? She got to stay. The bouncer, who was White (as were all the staff), was giving me looks and acting funny when we were at the door. I thought he was jealous because he thought Kathy was my girlfriend. The fact that I was thrown out but she was not, both of us with beer in hand, sent a message to me: You should not be with a White woman, especially a pretty blond: this is your punishment. I waited in the car while my friends watched the concert and afterward we drove home. I think that if I was someone like Bryan, I would not have been ejected from the club. He would not have fit in that space either, but I don’t think he would have triggered the bouncer in the way that my presence did.
Sometimes it’s easy to talk to family members and friends about a sensitive issue like race, sometimes it’s harder because we fear rejection from loved ones if our opinions don’t match. But risk taking and vulnerability are also what strengthens intimacy among acquaintances. Start a conversation about a race related issue with family or friends. (Thanksgiving dinner might not be the best time for this, since it may cause indigestion, and I don’t want to ruin your holiday if you celebrate it.) In one paragraph, describe what you talked about, how it went, and whether you feel the conversation encourages or discourages you from having further conversations about race and racism.
Think about how your last conversation went. How would you do it differently a second time around? Go back to the same family member or friend and ask if you can go back to that conversation about race. In one paragraph, describe how the conversation changed and what you feel made a difference. If you are not able to re-engage with the same person for logistical or emotional reasons, imagine what this second conversation would be like and how you would handle Take 2 differently.
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