This unit is designed for middle-school students in the Content Area of Visual Art focusing on Identity Politics, Voice, Critical Race Theory, Activism and Social Justice. The unit is accessible for modification and inclusion of all grade levels. Anti-Bias and Anti-Racist training interwoven with Social-Emotional Identification and Self-Care gives students skills and guidance to navigate humanity in the twenty-first century. The objective of the unit is for students to gain critical awareness of the self in the past, present, and future. Students will be able to project and assist in their vocality and aspirations for the self and the collective. Students will explore critical race theory and identity politics in relation to the self and their visual art practice. Through research and application, students will consolidate, frame, and expand their visual thinking to be full of self-determination and self-respect.1 Through critical analysis, students will activate their critical conscience and create a voice that is written, spoken, and established through visual representation. This visual art practice will give students a voice for change and act as a facilitator to sustain all paths of liberation.
RACE AS A METALANGUAGE
In Evelyn Higginbotham’s article “African-American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race,” Higginbotham writes, “We must expose the role of race as a metalanguage by calling attention to its powerful, all-encompassing effect of the construction and representation of other social and power relations, namely gender, class, and sexuality.”2 Race is a social construct originally created as a system for oppression for African Americans and Indigenous people. Race became a signifier for white, male, patriarchal America that ignored social distinctions of class, gender, and sexuality for African Americans. The blurring of these social categories and ignoring of their differences based on race’s all-encompassing ability to outbalance and influence all other social relations is why one can describe race as a metalanguage. Once social categories of gender, class, and sexuality began to take root for African Americans, these societal categories were still constructed by and out of the same constructs that created race.
Eventually in American History, race was both a tool for racist oppression and a tool for collective unification. “For African-Americans, race signified a cultural identity that defined and connected them as a people, even as a nation.”3 As African Americans were able to collect, connect, and unify through race, African Americans were also able to reconstruct and redefine their own meanings around social categories including gender, class, and sexuality. With race’s omnipresent ability to interject itself in the forefront of conversations, discussions, influences, thoughts, and ideas as forms of both liberation and oppression, race is a metalanguage with which individuals and collectives identify, culture is created, and information shared.