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Teacher Lesson Return to "Lose the Label"
Lose the Label
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Acting White and Acting Black: Small Group Work, Treasure Hunt, and Discussion

Objective: Practice cooperating in a small group. Practice finding information in an essay. Stimulate thinking about racial categories.

Activity: Divide the group into smaller ones. Give each student a copy of New Youth Connections. Tell them they are going to read a story about behaviors and attitudes that are known as “acting white” and “acting black.” Tell them they will have 10 minutes to complete their jobs and that they might want to figure out how to divide up the work so they can finish on time.

Tell them their first job is to read the story up until heading “Finally Fitting In.” As they read they will make a list of what activities in the story can be categorized as “acting white” or “acting black.” Give them examples: liking the Backstreet Boys (white) and watching BET (black).

Also tell them that after they finish reading, they should think of two other activities that their group considers acting white or black and add them to the list from the story.

Call time. Go around and ask each group to give one example of acting white or black. Go around as many times as it takes to hear all the items on the list.

Lead a short discussion (5-10 minutes). Here are some prompts you can use.

• Has anyone ever told you that you were acting white or acting black? Have you ever told anyone that? Or thought that about someone’s behavior or attitudes?
• Nesshell writes that junior high was the “first time I’d thought about the advantages or disadvantages of being one race or another.” Do you think about this at all?
• She also writes, “I promised myself that I would act like no one but myself.” What does she mean by this? Have you ever felt like you were acting like someone other than yourself?
• Is there a difference between acting black and acting ghetto?
• We have been talking about acting white or acting black. Is there such a thing as acting Latino? Acting Italian? Acting Jamaican?

Note on further reading: Encourage your group to read the story “Ghetto Not-So-Fabulous.” It is about hotghettomess.com, a web site that some feel goes too far in stereotyping black people and contains outrageous examples of so-called “acting black.”

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[Other Teacher Resources]
(NYC-2010-09-14)

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