Race Matters

In my av pro class we’ve been looking at tv shows, pulling them apart, analyzing everything from camera angles to dialogue to conflict patterns to scene & sequel to character cues. It’s been fun for me and for most of my students, but one, one whose been a true joy in class this year, has progressively gotten more and more agitated, aggravated, almost angry as we’ve worked. Today, he finally crossed the line into disrespectful, refused to pull up his sagging pants, kept talking about the Taylor Gang, a rap artist known for marijuana. I kept the show we were studying playing and asked the young man to join me in the hall so we could talk. At first he just kept up the front, the I don’t need this bs, I hate everything attitude, but finally, he said something that grabbed my attention.
“ain’t nothing about this show that has anything to do with me.”
He was right.
He’s a teenager of color and the characters we’ve studied are all white or Asian with a Hispanic thrown in every once in a while.
In the end, this led to some great discussion. I was able to talk to him about how this is a real problem everywhere on tv. He said he doesn’t want to watch tv targeting him as a black young man. He wants to watch tv that has black young men as part of a bigger picture, a picture that isn’t all about color of skin.
I realized something then.
For months he’s teased me about saying things “because I’m racist” and we both know it’s a joke. But for the last week, he’s been subjected to in your face racism and I didn’t even realize it, and worst of all, it was my lesson plans that made the racism happen.
Tomorrow we’re going to look at The Office and talk about comedy and how there’s a subtlenous (is that a word?) and over-the-top and appropriate that almost crosses a line, and then we’re going to write opinion pieces about topics of their choice.
Today the young man told me he feels like he’s invisible in the world of “white people tv.” I hope he’ll write about that and tell me how he’d make a true color blind society on tv and whether that’s realistic or not.
And then…I don’t know. I was thinking we would look at Buffy, but that doesn’t address this issue. Maybe Veronica Mars? I don’t know, but I do know well be doing a race and gender in tv week sometime in the next four weeks, and it’s going to take a ton of planning on my part. I may even see if the young man will lead one of our classes. 🙂
I’m going to suggest he reads The Invisible Man. I think he’s ready.

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