Before beginning the lessons on colorism, the definition and difference between racism and colorism has to be explicitly taught. Racism is not colorism.
Lesson One: Exploration of the historical elements of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the United States in regards to the end of slavery and the role of blacks in these countries.
Activity one: Students will work on a KWL chart about the history of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Once students have been given the opportunity to process the prompts and write down their own answers in regards to what they know, they will then be able to peer share and complete the section in regards to what they want to know. Historical pictures will be posted as stimuli so that they can create question in regards to what they want to know based on what they are seeing. (Puerto Rico pictures between 1873-1920) (Dominican Republic between 1780-1920) The pictures are helpful because they offer a focused starting point for students who may have no prior knowledge at all. The pictures will be geared towards plantation life and social distinctions.
Activity two: This second activity will help to further activate questioning and offer research topics. This will also serve as a source of information that may help students answer the questions they generated earlier. Students will view two historical videos, one of Puerto Rico and the other of the Dominican Republic. They will annotate on a graphic organizer the facts they are leaning. The videos can be paused along the way to allow processing time for students as they annotate and revisit previous graphic organizers. This will then serve as a reference sheet to complete the KWL chart.
Activity three: Students will then view a historical video about slavery/plantation life in the United States and annotate the observations and facts gathered in this video. Once the viewings and subsequent discussions are complete, the students will gather their notes and begin to color coordinate and categorize subtopics and or commonalities found in each video. Some suggested categories are family life, working conditions, worker/overseer, dress, physical stance, and race/color/ethnicity.
Activity four: After classroom discussions, peer sharing and questioning students will complete a tri-Venn diagram with their findings. This will provide them with a solid historical background of all three countries and a focus on similarities of the three countries.
Suggested images and videos for lesson one and further studies:
Puerto Rico: 1873-1920: Uncle Sam teaching his countries. - stock illustration: Illustration from 19th century: Getty Images.
A Cock Fight, Puerto Rico 1909: Getty Images.
“The School of Master Rafael Cordero” (circa 1890) an oil by Francisco Oller: Credit Ateneo Puertorriqueno, San Juan, PR
Puerto Rican Planter with House Slave, ca. 1808: Walker, John A.
Video: https://youtu.be/GMpygYG1rQ4 Afro Puerto Rico: The African Diaspora in Puerto Rico
Dominican Republic: 1780-1920
Dominican Republic, 1871: Group of natives around a well in Samana City: Taylor, James, A.
Free Women of Color with their Children and Servants in a Landscape, Agostino Brunias. (n.d. ca 1780) Source: Wikipedia
Dominican Republic, 1871: burial ceremony in the Capilla del Rosario-a remnant of the city of Nueva Isabella, opposite Santo Domingo City: Author unknown
Atrocities of the Spaniards on Santo Domingo, published 1876 ; Darley, Felix
Hazard, Samuel, Santo Domingo; with a glance at Hayti (1873). Google Books.
Video: https://youtu.be/9ZYSOvlTm3A Afro Dominican Republic: The African Diaspora in the Dominican Republic
United States: Video: https://youtu.be/eFwG7jAeyrU Enslavement to Emancipation.
Lesson two: A map study to locate geographic relationships and the slave trade route.
Activity one: Journal write: How far do you think these counties are from each other? (United States, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic) Can you locate them on a map? How did the slaves come here from Africa? How long do you think the journey lasted?
Activity two: Individual period maps will be given to each student where specific areas will be labeled. Students will be given the opportunity to examine, draw, or trace the maps provided. They will analyze and discuss the slave trade route. Thought provoking questions to stimulate conversation will be provided. Why is the slave trade route triangular in nature? What is the significance that the traders headed out from European ports? Who was manning these ships? Based on the diagram of the interior of a slave ship found in the novel The Skin I’m In what was this voyage like for the slave from Africa?
Lesson three: Colorism: What is it and where does it come from?
Activity one: Journal write: Once slavery ends, what relationship do you think the Europeans have with the freed slaves? How much of the relationship do you think is based on skin color and socio economics? Why are people of color the largest part of the workforce?
Activity two: Cornell Notes: The topic for the Cornell notes is colorism and the objective is to define the term and provide concrete example of what it looks like. The essential question will be: What is colorism and what does it look like amongst Puerto Ricans and Dominicans? The students will formulate questions based on the topic, objective, and essential question. They will then complete the note section based on research. Once they are done with the notes they will culminate with the summary.
Activity three: Writing of an expository essay. Students will first google pictures of Sammy Sosa and then proceed to write a 3-4 paragraph expository essay utilizing the following prompt: Research and history have demonstrated that there is colorism and racism in the Caribbean. One modern day example of how colorism affects an individual is the case of Sammy Sosa. He is a retired Dominican baseball player. Over the years he has admittedly bleached his skin and as a consequence is much lighter. After analyzing your research, do you think that colorism in the Dominican Republic played a role in Sammy Sosa’s decision to become lighter? Use evidence and research based facts to support your essay.
Suggested articles and videos for lesson three and further studies:
Hatzipanagos, Rachel: Latinos have many skin tones. Colorism means they’re treated differently. The Washington Post March 31, 2022
Video: https://youtu.be/0fcwfKk3c3M: Open BxRx Tuesday Anti-Black Racism and Colorism in the Dominican Community
Lesson four: Colorism in the United States today.
Activity one: Gallery walk with prompting questions displayed on the walls of the classroom. Students will be in groups of 4 and travel as a group. Each group will have a different color marker. They will go around the room clockwise and answer the following questions: Do we see colorism in the United States among blacks and or African Americans? Where? What does it sound like? What does it look like? Have you ever experienced colorism? Did you know you were experiencing colorism or now after learning about it you recognize that is what it was? Students will respond to the prompts and engage in a peer share opportunity while they are answering them. The class will then regroup and we will share the findings and how each group responded. Students will have the opportunity to ask other groups questions thus enhancing and promoting whole group conversation.
Activity two: Students will view one video and read one article about colorism in the United States. They will have a graphic organizer that will allow them to record up to 5 concrete facts for each (total of 10). The videos below are suggested, there are many others.
Activity three: Once the students have completed activity two, they will reflect on the following questions: The students will do independent research of the questions to find articles or videos that help them answer the questions. They will answer the questions in RACE (restate, answer, cite, explain) format:
What role does media play in perpetuating colorism?
How does colorism impact relationships? (familiar, romantic, friendships)
What impact does colorism have on education?
How does gender intersect with colorism?
Students will then view the following video: https://youtu.be/P4wxh9Bjsmc It is a video that depicts women in media talking about suffering the effects of colorism. Students will then revisit the questions and add to what they answered already with new perspective and learning.
Activity four: It is important for students to react to a quote. They have gathered enough schema to formulate an informed opinion and or reaction. They will continue on to the following quote. Reflect on the quotes meaning, a reaction to it, and its connection to the themes and topics in this unit. They will then go on to relate the quote to the character Maleeka in The Skin I’m In.
“I found the Negro, and always the blackest Negro, being made the butt of all jokes, particularly black women. … “If it was so honorable and glorious to be black, why was it the yellow-skinned people among us had so much prestige? Even a child in the first grade could see that this was so from what happened in the classroom and on school programs. The light-skinned children were always the angels, fairies and queens of school plays. The lighter the girl, the more money and prestige she was apt to marry. So on into high school years, I was asking myself questions.” -Zora Neale Hurston, “My People! My People!” in Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942
Activity five: As a culminating activity students will work in pairs and generate two lists. The graphic organizer will have two columns. They will generate a list of 10 negative statements that display colorism. In response to the negative comment, the students will need to generate a positive comment that negates the negative one. This activity will help foster the student’s ability to recognize colorism and move towards a positive change that will help change a historically and socially perpetuated rhetoric.
Additional Activity: As a way to foster a positive self-image, students can participate in the following project. Take a small brown paper bag (lunch bags). On one side draw a self-portrait. Students should base the project on how they feel about themselves upon the completion of the unit. Self-awareness is key to this activity. The students can decorate it any way they would like but should be encouraged to try to draw themselves, or how they see themselves as accurate as possible. Inside the bag, they should include 3-4 items that represent them or what is in their heart or mind. Once everyone is done, an “Inside-Outside” circle should be implemented so all students get the opportunity to share their work.