In order to enlighten students to the dangers of persisting dominant culture to both those threatened by it and by those who benefit from it, we must utilize classroom time to consider dominant narratives, both cultural and societal as well as intellectual and artistic. The dominant narrative of our society, for example, while ever changing, excludes culture and race minorities from certain privileges and even from fair chances. The dominant narrative in our school books, while slowly evolving, excludes to a large degree the stories of those marginalized. Plugging in stories and art and music of marginalized cultures is important, but not as important as recognizing its absence as a symptom of American cultural domination by its founding culture. Perpetuated by centuries of suppression of marginalized cultures, rooted in slavery and continued to this day in the lack of inclusionary, comprehensive race education, said dominant culture persists. Inclusion of marginalized counter-narratives therefore is not a specialized topic, but one necessary for growth as a diverse society, and to help American students grow to build a nation of true equality. In order to do this, we must confront and scrutinize colorblind racism, utilize Critical Race Theory, and study and appreciate artists who, while generally are seen as subversive, actually lead us to overarching cultural understandings we are only now growing to accept.
The term “colorblindness” itself for example, is a concept worth poring over, considering on many different levels, and plugging into past experiences and knowledge. The term is complex and in many ways fraught with intensity, tumultuous aspects of American history, beleaguered peoples, archaic yet persistent misunderstandings, and harmful practices that sustain into today. The simple surface understanding of the term – that admitting to the differences in how races, classes, sexes are treated thereby acknowledging and confronting the racism and classism and sexism attached to that – is the tip of the iceberg in understanding how dominant white narratives in this country continue to pervade every opportunity for growth, advancement, advantage, and quite simply fairness for non-white peoples.
This unit attempts to counteract that through literary study using the concepts of Critical Race Theory (CRT) through the work of Caitlin L. Ryan, Adrienne D. Dixson and others, and Colorblind Racial Ideology (CBRI), through the work of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Sheri A. Castro-Atwater, and others. Through analysis of scholarly work and academic theory, I will try to reach an evolved understanding with my students of the history of American racism through its modern manifestations, predominantly focusing on the dominance of culture rooted in white supremacy, and how to counter that culture through study, contemplation, reflection, discussion, activism, and inclusion of counter-narratives in instruction. To that end, we will also be exploring the work of classic and modern artists – writers of speculative fiction, pioneering artists of Afrofuturism – from said counter-cultural perspective. Afrofuturism has risen in popularity in recent years with blockbusters like Black Panther. This unit will explore texts through which all children can see themselves as space cowboys, aliens, zombie hunters, and other exciting futuristic tropes. We will not, however, be simply plugging in the genre to fill gaps in a largely white narrative of American literary study, although that will be a welcome byproduct. We will be using Afrofuturism along with anti-racist academic concepts as a critical lens through which to study race.