Help your students understand that people of character take action to avoid putting everyone into one category regardless of individuals’ actions. They avoid lumping people together.
- They never speak of “slave owners” as though all were the same. They know that among the wicked slave owners were men and women of character who treated their slaves so well, the slaves never wanted to leave them.
- They never talk about “police officers” as though all are the same. They know that among the wicked police officers are men and women of character who work hard to enforce laws and keep peace.
- They never talk about “white people” or “Asian people” or “black people” or any other group as though all in the group are the same. They need to remember that in every group, including their own, there are good and bad.
You will be able to think of many similar examples.
The goal is to help your students realize that in Black History, there have been and always will be people of very strong character and people almost totally lacking in character.
Illustrate by setting a large box in front of your students. Beside the box, make a large pile of clothing. Include a variety of articles of clothing. Be sure some of the clothing is pretty and desirable, but most of it ragged, dirty, and undesirable.
CLOTHING = things people wear to cover their bodies. Clothing does not include jewelry, handbags, wristwatches, etc. Those items serve other purposes.
Tell students you are going to fill the box with clothing. Rapidly throw the items of clothing into the box: socks, shoes, pants, shirts, skirts, jackets, scarves, gloves, etc. Say nothing as you do this, but allow students to comment freely without you speaking.
When the clothing is all in the box, write “BAD CLOTHING” on the box in giant letters. Ask students what is in the box. They should answer, “Bad Clothing”.
Talk about the box of clothing with generalizations.
- Clothing helps cover our bodies.
- Clothing helps keep us from getting too hot in summer.
- Clothing helps keep us from getting too cold in winter.
Ask for several volunteers. Have each volunteer choose an item from the box. Give each a single statement from the above list, and ask if that statement is true of the item chosen. Then ask if it is bad clothing.
Example: Volunteer chooses a pair of good quality shorts. “Would shorts help keep you from getting too cold in winter? Would shorts help keep you from getting too hot in summer? Would shorts help cover your body? Should we put the shorts in a box marked BAD CLOTHING? No! Let’s not put the shorts in that box. Some things in there are Bad Clothing, but not these shorts.
Take time to apply the lesson to stereotypes that have developed regarding people involved in Black History.
- Show students a box labeled “Bad Slaveholders”, asking if it is honest to put every slaveholder into that box. Was there never a slaveholder with good, strong character?
- Show a box labeled “Bad Cops”, asking if it is honest to put every police officer into that box. Is there no such thing as an officer with good, strong character?
- Show a box labeled “Lazy Black Students”, asking if it is honest to put all black students into that box. Is there no such thing as a black student with good, strong character?
- Show a box labeled “Snobby Cheerleaders”, asking if it is honest to put all cheerleaders into the same box. Is there no such thing as a cheerleader with good, strong character?
People of every age who have built strong character in their lives take action to avoid tossing everyone into the same box. They refuse to believe or say that all slave holders, all police officers, all black students are the same. Within most stereotypes, we will find those who simply do not fit the stereotype.
Close the lesson by telling students that they are making Black History right now – today. They can choose to act honestly, and refuse to put everyone of a certain group in one big box.