Monday, February 11, 2013

Diversity in America/Stereotypes seminar

Last week I organized a Diversity in America/Stereotypes seminar at my site. I invited two other Peace Corps volunteers and an expat working at the World Bank to help me. It was a huge success. 

 We began with the slide in the above picture and the question "Who is an American?". My students thought that the only Americans in the picture were the two Caucasian people. The above slide included two African Americans, one Native American, two Caucasians, one Latina woman, and one Muslim woman wearing the hijab. My students learned what it means to be "American", who is included in that group, and who the "original Americans" are. It was a wonderful discussion. 

The following day we wrote the names of five groups on the board.(white people, black people, Russians, Chinese, and Mongolians) The students were instructed to say the first thing that came to mind when they heard the name of the group. Descriptions in the pictures above and below are from my 9th and 11th grade classes. The above picture is a little blurry, but it says the following. 

White people: beautiful, big nose, big smile, fun, rich, good education, smart, good body, kind
Black people: friendly, talented, Afro hair, good singers, good dancers, good at sports, gangster, mean, dangerous, good rappers, rude, big lips
Russians: tall, big eyes, vodka, mafia, drugs/heroin, dangerous
Chinese: bad, dangerous, liars, stupid, small feet, 1 child policy, don't like animals, good products
Mongolians: best, strong, generous, laid back, lovely, welcoming 

  • Mongolians generally like white people. They meet Peace Corps volunteers and expats and have positive views of them. 
  • Unfortunately, there are not many minorities in Mongolia. Therefore, most Mongolians have never met an African American before. They base their views on black people off of what they see in movies and hear in music. 
  • Despite what is written above, Mongolians like Russians. Russia is credited with pushing the Chinese out of Mongolia. The fact that they remained in Mongolia for years after the Chinese were pushed out is ignored. 
  • For obvious reasons Mongolians do not like Chinese people. The Qing Dynasty ruled Mongolia for some 300 years. Mongolia became independent in 1921. 
Next, we asked the students how many people from each group they had actually met. They had met 4 white people, 1 black person(me), 0 Russians, and 0 Chinese. My students realized that they could not describe these groups of people if they had not actually met them. They learned about prejudice, stereotypes, the roots of many of the stereotypes that they believed, and why it is important not to stereotype. 

I believe that the seminar went well and my students got a lot out of it. Hopefully next time they will think twice before stereotyping. 

Schools in America Seminar 

Classroom games seminar 

By educating my students preconceived notions of what it means to be a black, Russian, or Chinese person evolved into positive and inclusive descriptors. This series of Seminars reminded me how essential it is that we teach and travel abroad(especially minorities). We are our own Ambassadors!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this! Scrummaging around for some Mongolia perspectives about race and its nice to have a PCers first-hand experience.