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Week 1: Imagining Equity


Overview of Week

This week’s lessons introduce key themes and essential questions around equity and justice specifically focusing on social identities (race and ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+, socio-economic status, disability, religion, nationality, age, etc.). Students explore the meanings of equity and justice and consider them in the context of civil rights and social justice movements. They interrogate the promises of the  “American Dream” as built into the ethos of the United States. They identify inequities and injustices in our history, our institutions and industries, our media, and our daily lives. They further consider how social movements and other forms of activism have challenged historical and contemporary inequities and injustices, and how storytelling and media are powerful tools used to call for change and help us imagine equity.

Weekly Objectives 1. Define and explore the social and cultural values of equity and justice as they relate to our social identities 2. Identify systems of oppression and social inequity in historical and contemporary contexts 3. Analyze media that represents or tells stories about equity and the American Dream

Key Questions - How do we define equity and how does it relate to our social identities? - What efforts have been made to promote equity historically and in the present day? - Why is equity an important value? Why should it be everywhere?

Key Terms Equity: fairness, justice, and equal opportunity by acknowledging and addressing individual and systemic differences and disadvantages. Working to achieve equity acknowledges unequal starting places and the need to correct the imbalance. Social Justice: the collective work aimed at building and maintaining a society that is fair and equal for everyone, where each individual and group is respected and acknowledged. It involves initiatives to eliminate systemic violence, racism, and any systems that diminish the worth and humanity of any individual. Critical Making: a learning-by-doing practice that bridges critical thinking with hands-on production activities to explore the relationships among technologies, art, design and social issues. Social Identities: a way to define or explain who you are, comprising different characteristics or attributes (e.g. age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, class, sexual orientation, ability, religious beliefs, etc.) Civil Rights: equality under the law and the right to personal liberty; the right to live and move freely as an equal citizen. American Dream: the belief that anyone in America has the freedom and opportunity to achieve success through hard work and determination Oppression: being subject to unjust and sometimes abusive exercises of power and control; being denied opportunities and freedoms by those with authority and power; can function on an individual level (e.g, bullying) or a systemic and institutional level (e.g. slavery); can have serious and long standing impacts on those who are oppressed Prejudice: a preconceived, often unconscious, judgment or opinion about a person or group; usually a negative bias Racism: Individual, cultural, institutional and systemic ways by which differential consequences are created for groups historically or currently defined as being advantaged, and groups historically or currently defined as disadvantaged or non-White (African, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, etc.). Discrimination: Actions stemming from conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favor and empower one group over others based on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, language, age, national identity, religion and other categories. - Sexism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in sex/gender; usually by men against women. - Heterosexism: ​​The presumption that everyone is, and should be, heterosexual (Attracted to members of the opposite sex) - Ableism: Prejudicial thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental, and/or emotional ability; usually that of able-bodied/minded persons against people with illnesses, disabilities, or less developed skills/talents. - Homophobia: The fear or hatred of homosexuality (and other non-heterosexual identities), and persons perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual and /or transgender. - Classism: Prejudicial thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in socioeconomic status and income, usually referred to as class. Most particularly refers to the hierarchical striation of people by class - Ageism: Prejudicial thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in age; usually evidenced as a societal predilection for younger persons over older persons - Xenophobia: the unreasonable fear or dislike of things, cultures, forms of expression, or people that are different from oneself and one’s own experiences of the everyday; fear of that which seems foreign or strange

Curated and Sequenced Media


Write, Discuss, Share

The following are optional prompts to drive student engagement and make connections between the key concepts and student experiences:

  • Share: think of a piece of media (film, show, song, social media post) that empowers a group that experiences oppression.

  • Write/Discuss/Share: This Book Is Anti-Racist, Chapter 1: “Waking Up: Who Am I?” ACTIVITY, pp. 13-14

  • Write: what inequalities/oppression have you witnessed or experienced in your daily life and/or in the media?

Case Studies

Each week, students will do a critical deep dive exploring a media-related case study. As students watch/read/explore, they should complete the weekly case study handout.

crowded national mall from march on washington
young man holds sign reading i am an american without papers
red circle above the text shikata ga nai die in the attempt

Visit the March on Washington Film Festival.

Review the materials from the Define America Website and Watch the video.

Watch Shitata Ga Nai, a March on Washington Film Festival Student entry.

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