Diversity and Discrimination
(Spring 2013 – Volume 26, Number 1) By Angene Wilson
Anyone reading this publication probably agrees that the diversity of our nation and our world is a positive thing, but also realizes that discrimination occurs both in our country and around the world. The spring issue of WorldView magazine takes diversity as its theme. The articles offer an opportunity for teachers to engage students in learning about diversity and discrimination from a global perspective.
I remember more than 25 years ago when I volunteered with an American youth exchange organization some American host families were surprised, even shocked, to discover that a German exchange student was black – had Ethiopian-German parents – and that a Dutch exchange student was brown – had Indonesian-Dutch parents. Of course, citizens of other countries have stereotypes of Americans as well. “You cannot be American,” a Chinese-American Peace Corps volunteer was told in Morocco. Serving while black in El Salvador was not easy for a Peace Corps volunteer. Navigating race in Benin was not easy for another African-American volunteer. An Indian-American volunteer was mistaken for a possible Pakistani spy in Ukraine. And how do gay volunteers deal with their identity overseas? These are the topics of articles in the spring 2013 WorldView.
The following lesson idea may fit in an English class in which writing a personal essay is a goal. A possibility in social studies, perhaps a psychology class, would be to use all the WorldView articles in the special section on diversity as resources.
Objective: After reading the WorldView essay by Ravi Shah, write a two-page essay about an experience in which you or someone you know was discriminated against. Include the outcome of and reflections about the experience.
Materials: WorldView (http://www.worldviewmagazine.com) article, “Skin Deep” by Ravi Shah
Procedure: Ask students to read Ravi Shah’s essay. In discussion of the essay, ask questions such as: What is the challenge that is the focus of Ravi’s letter from the Peace Corps? How does Ravi begin to assuage his concerns? What are his other worries as a Californian moving to Ukraine? How did his Ukrainian host family make him feel welcome? What was his bad experience in the capital city of Kiev? What was the prejudice of his new host family at what was to be his permanent site? What was the happy ending? How and why might Ravi’s story have turned out differently? Also discuss how Ravi puts together his essay to keep the reader interested as he describes the two instances of prejudice because of the color of his skin and the condition of his skin. Finally, ask students to write their own essay.
Reminder to English teachers: You will find wonderful essays and stories and lesson plans on the Peace Corps website (http://wws.peacecorps.gov/wws/index.cfm?) in the publications Voices from the Field and Uncommon Journeys, available in pdf form at http://wws.peacecorps.gov/wws/publications/. For example, the last of 11 essays in Uncommon Journeys is “Mr. John and the Day of Knowledge” about the first day of teaching English in Ukraine. Both publications aim to broaden students’ perspectives and inspire students to respond to the texts and create original narratives. Among my favorite essays in Voices from the Field – and I have even used these with undergraduate and graduate students – are “Magic Pablo,” “Cross-Cultural Dialogue,” and “A Single Lucid Moment.”