What's Race Got to Do with It?
Role Play / Role Reversal (depicted in video – DVD Chapter 3) ***

In this exercise, students are asked to “step into someone else’s shoes” – to experience firsthand a vantage point other than their own. Allow 20-30 minutes for the activity and discussion.

>> This activity works best if led by students who can draw on their own personal experiences. Be sure to plan for preparation beforehand and debriefing by facilitators afterwards.

In the video, David, Mayra and Abe - the three Latino students – act out a “driving while brown” profiling scenario in which the racial roles of police and suspect are reversed.  Afterwards, members of the class relate stories about their own brushes with the police and discuss the legitimacy of racial profiling as a practice. The activity elicits a visceral response from Mark but also makes Peter think twice about his stance after hearing David’s personal stories.

Other role play / role reversal possibilities: Latino students might enact an elementary class session taught entirely in Spanish to demonstrate cultural bias and their own childhood experiences; African American students might role play someone being followed in a store and questioned about shoplifting or a high-scoring student being unfairly accused of cheating on a test; Asian American students might illustrate stereotype threat by praising or criticizing their colleagues right before administering a test; Native American students might illustrate the arbitrariness of the reservation system by assigning people to marked areas of the room and then moving them around.


An alternative role play activity is Starpower, a game developed by R. Garry Shirts in 1969 to simulate a stratified society. Although the game itself teaches about power relationships, with proper facilitation it can be a useful tool for exploring meritocracy and racial disparities. To purchase the Starpower "kit" go to: http://www.stsintl.net/schools-and-charities/products/starpower/


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