Racist Images: In (and Out of) Racist Context, Pt.2

Yesterday, someone (h/t June Jacobson, Dick Ranck at Brainstorms), shared the following YouTube clip as an example of inspired pedagogy.  In this clip (9:45), the (older/white/male) professor uses an extremely provocative drawing my Kara Walker, a young, African American, woman artist to get reactions from his students and spark a discussion.  (I wrote about the Kara Walker exhibit at The Whitney Museum back in 2007, here.)  The professor, John Thornton, is leading an art class and he videotapes the class and the students’ reactions as he conducts the class.  Here’s the clip:

In the context of a museum exhibit with curation that explains some of the artist’s intention, Walker’s work is meant to use racist images to question, challenge and critique stereotypes. I should say, too, that I admire Walker’s work a great deal and find it compelling, if disturbing. Yet, in this class, Thornton takes one of these images and uses it without that context. To me, this is many layers more complex than the controversy over the Delonas cartoon, and I still don’t know what I think about this use of Walker’s work. So, I’m posting it here to ask you all what you think. Is this inspired pedagogy? Or, is this a problematic use of a racist image out of context? Or, is it something else altogether?

Teaching “Race & Ethnicity” : The First Day (Open Thread for Comments)

What’s the best way to begin a class on “Race & Ethnicity”? This question is inspired in part by the terrific discussion in yesterday’s comments about the common trainer’s question, “what about being (fill-in-your-racial-ethnic-background) makes you proud?” and by a recent question on the Teaching Sociology listserv.

For the readers here who are professors and classroom teachers, what’s the best exercise or introduction to this class that you’ve used?

For readers who have taken such a class, what sort of exercises have you enjoyed on the first day? What sorts of exercises do you absolutely loathe?

Let us hear from you in the comment box.

And, as a reminder, we have a (beginning) stash of films and syllabi here at RacismReview available for download. I know lots of folks are working on their syllabus for the upcoming semester right now. Please email me (jessiedanielsnyc _at_ gmail _dot_ com) if you’d like to see your syllabus added to the mix.