Figuring Out Who I am So I Can Cross
I. Start by reviewing the items on this list. Check each that describes you.*
- I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most
of the time.
- If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing
a housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
- I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be
neutral or pleasant to me.
- I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I
will not be followed or harassed.
- I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and
see people of my race widely represented.
- When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am
shown that people of my color made it what it is.
- I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that
testify to the existence of their race.
- I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race
represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my
cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut
- Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin
color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
- I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who
might not like them.
- I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters,
without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the
poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
- I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race
- I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit
to my race.
- I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
- I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color
who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any
penalty for such
- I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its
policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
- I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I
will be facing a person of my race.
- If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can
be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
- I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards,
dolls, toys, and children’s magazine featuring people of my race.
- I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling
somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard,
held at a distance, or feared.
- I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having
co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
- I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race
cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
- I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not
work against me.
- If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative
episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
- I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them
more or less match my skin.
II. Then, we will watch
Stewart's interview with Bryan Stevenson. (If you enjoy this interview,
Stevenson's TED Talk.)
- Did parts of this conversation make you laugh?
- What did they discuss that you didn't understand?
- With what did you disagree?
- With what did you agree?
- At any point did you find yourself saying, "hmmm... I hadn't thought
about that before now." Explain.
III. Next, ponder
this visual text by artist George Longfish called "Who's Gonna Ride Your
Wild Horses?" Use the suggestions below to further your thinking as you make
meaning of Longfish's text.
- List what you see.
- What do you recognize? Describe why it is familiar and the context in
which you understand it.
- What confuses you? Ask questions about those elements of the text.
- Think visually: what choices has the artist made about color? positive
and negative space? composition (placement of each element)?
- To what part of the text are you drawn? Why?
- Do you have an emotional reaction to the text? Is it alarming? funny?
sad? etc. Explain your reaction.
IV. According to an art critic this piece "affirm[s] the creative survival of
Indigenous consciousness, offer[s] insights into the concerns of a Native
perspective and shatter[s] many of the stereotypes associated with Indians."
Longfish is "critically engaged with the problem of decolonization." His work is
"concerned with discerning truth from lies, the acknowledgement of spirit and
memory, communication and dialogue — often expressed with humor and irony." In
this work can you find evidence of each element of this criticism?
- Survival of Indigenous consciousness
- Native concerns
- Shattered stereotypes
- Truth separated from lies
- Spirit, memory, communication and dialogue
- Humor and irony
V. You will each be given a section of a mural on which you will create your
own visual text in response to the list of attributes in Part 1 of this
exercise. Consider what your message is; what will an art critic say is
the value of your piece? Longfish used so many techniques and artistic
conventions to convey his purpose. Purposefully choose the means by which you
will communicate yours. Once you have completed your section, you will be
invited to comment on the sections created by your classmates so that the mural
becomes a dialogue about race, place and cultural identity much like the spoken
dialogue between Stewart and Stevenson. Consider this work to be a visual "they
say... I say" exercise.
- What words can you include to push your viewer to think about your idea?
- What historical allusions will you make? (Revisit your historical
reading and the primary sources your examined)
- What current events will you reference?
- What literary allusions will you make? (This is place to incorporate
- What images will you quote? (Again, your primary sources will be useful
- How will you use line and color to further your purpose?
*List adopted from Peggy McIntosh
McIntosh, P. (1988). White
privilege and male privilege: a personal account of coming to see
correspondences through work in women's studies. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley
College, Center for Research on Women.