Required Readings:

  • James Baldwin, “A Letter to my Nephew”
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the world and me
  • Brent Staples, “Just Walk on by: Black Men and Public Space”
  • Joseph L. White & James Cones III, Black Man Emerging: Facing the past and seizing a future in America, Ch. 1-3
  • Naming It Podcast, Episode 1

Outline of Class Discussion:

  • When did you get “the talk”?
  • Sexualization of black women
  • Social media & social justice
  • Franz’s 3 Critical Questions

Today’s class was definitely one of the most interesting yet! We had quite a bit of reading so I felt like there was going to be a lot of things to discuss, but the conversation sort of organically drifted away from the texts and became more of an open and honest dialogue about black experience and livelihood.

The big question of the day was, “When did you get ‘the talk’?” Of course, by “the talk” nobody was referring to sex. This conversation regarding the separation of self from others and the distinction between skin colors noticed at a young age was a very powerful one that I won’t be forgetting soon. The tales which were shared by my peers were rather heart wrenching, with some being instances of brutal honesty on behalf of parents and others being examples of pure ignorance from friends on playgrounds.

I slowly began to see how each of these experiences shaped and changed the people sitting around me as I began to compare them to myself. What if I had been on a playground and had been told I couldn’t play with someone because of the color of my skin? What if I had been forced to clean a friend’s home simply because I came from a Mexican home? How would that have shaped the way that I approached the next child on the playground? How would that have changed the pride that I have in my culture? Unfortunately, I’m sure that most of the young people that have been through this have gone through a serious identity crisis.

After this topic, we were approached with the concept of Franz Fanon’s 3 Critical Questions: Who am I? Am I who I say I am? Am I all that I ought to be? This really made me think deeply because on a day to day basis we try to create versions of ourselves that blend in with society and exemplify what we want to be. To step back and try to answer those questions takes a lot of introspection and I feel like people of color are forced to fight much harder for the same sense of autonomy that most white people feel automatically. I think that this can affect the black psyche in numerous ways- both making people question their identity, sense of worth, and place in society. Black women are over sexualized and black men are cast in a light of aggression and rage. Of course, these are generalized assumptions about people but they are far from correct.

American Diversity #2 – Explain how social categories and structures of power may affect the human person. 



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