Task No. 3: Race // Part 1

After visiting the Shades of Noir website, I reflected on how I could apply the resources to my own teaching practice. 

First of all I’d like to mention that I am a contributor to Shades of Noir. A few months ago, I proposed, and conducted an interview to Theaster Gates, while his exhibition “The black image corporation” was hosted by the Prada Foundation in Italy. This has been the opportunity I had sought for many years, to be able to start a cultural debate around the important issue of racism, addressing the subject of racism, and marginalization, in my Country of origin, which I am afraid to admit, by looking at the data, is still far from being a truly multicultural nation. During my second lecture at the MA in culture, criticism and curation, I took the chance of showing the interview to my students (http://shadesofnoir.org.uk/theaster-gates-the-black-image-corporation), and I keep researching through Shades of Noir website anytime I need to inform my teaching practice. I find it hard to gather alternative sources of informations to the one of the white canon, and I believe it’s essential to provide the students with a truly multicultural experience into learning. Also, the website is my words reference, and there I can find a trustful meaning for cryptical words such as intersectionality, colourism, bias, non-binari gender, white fragility, and more. This is vital, for a person like me, who speaks english as second language. To learn the jargon is essential, and sources of information must be trusthworthy, and constantly updated.

How could you integrate the research/work your students do on this subject into your teaching/professional practice?

“students’ identities need to be taken into account in all educational settings” – Freire

Keeping in mind Freire’s words, in my teaching practice I try to incorporate elements that may help my students to feel included, based on a wider, and more inclusive kind of knowledge than the one of the “white canon”, in order to embrace their cultural heritage too.

(Can you cite examples?)

For example, in my latest workshop I designed a number of activities for the students, in order for them to acquire  graphic design knowledge and foster their critical analysis, with the aim to review an A5 booklet submitted by each of them, consequently to a task given by their course leader prior to my teaching.

In every activity I made sure to include a variety of books published in parts of the world, that are connected to their personal cultural heritage, so to approach the topic in the most open way, and make them feel more included. The very first activity asked the students to analyze and review an A5 booklet made by one of their peers during the previous academic year. Subject of the book was the research of black female actresses in the film industry of the 60’s.  I chose this booklet in particular, in order to address a possible number of topics to be discussed during the workshop, and I thought it was good to be able to do it through the analysis, and review of the work of one of their peers, which they could relate more. We did not talk about race, nor racism, but I am happy to say that the students coming from minority background, seemed the ones more actively involved in the conversations, and they definitely seemed empowered. The atmosphere in the room felt peacefully equal.

In my professional practice, being an expert in communication, and visual communication, race, social justice, and identity, represent not only words, but fundamental elements that have to respectfully addressed and wisely presented, in order to avoid conflicts based on false assumptions, and stereotypes. We have witnessed many sad pitfalls recently in the fashion industry, where a superficial approach to advertising, and the aesthetic of the brand have seriously misrepresented different ethnic groups, leading to severe consequences both in terms of business, and human relationships. I would therefore include the research my students do on these subjects, combining them to the ones of my own personal and constant research, to inform a model of visual aesthetic that meets the basic requirements of human respect, and equality of races.

Task No. 3: Race // Part 2

Discuss two things you learnt from the text.
And one question/provocation you have about the text.
Write a min. 100 word reflection

  1. “Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication. If it is true that thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world, the subordination of students to teachers becomes impossible” (Freire 2006, 77).
  2. The primary reason groups have discord with one another is the negative perceptions each has of the other, something that can potentially be overcome through a formative contact. If people are able to deconstruct and even eliminate these negative stereotypes, the conflict between them can be resolved.

The two sentences written on above, are the things I’ve learnt, and moreover I would say that I had a direct experience of their authenticity, while attending the Inclusive and Learning face-to-face sessions. I always felt secure in that environment, to the point that I intentionally pushed myself out of my comfort zone exchanging my opinions with the ones of my peers, on subjects that could indeed expose me to “negative perceptions”. The point is, I was “not exposed”, I was instead collaborating in groups of people who were seeking an opportunity to overcome cross-cultural barriers, and trying to absorb data to inform a truly multicultural learning, and teaching practice. The first bullet point on above, can be as well applied to my experience in the PgCert. I chose those bullet points, because although they relate to my personal journey as a student, I could recognize the role they’d played only after reading this book, whereas before they work almost “unconsciously”.

My provocation is:

If education is the key to enacting social justice (Freire 2006), and plays a major role in perpetuating the status quo, especially in terms of power, as well as it provides venues for students to achieve freedom, both intellectual and physical—the “indispensable condition for the quest for human completion” (Freire 2006, 47). What is the correct criteria for the selection of teachers?

Task No. 3: Race // Part 3

‘The room of silence’ from Rhode Island School of Design (Documentary Film, 2016 – https://vimeo.com/161259012) 

Write a min. 100 word reflection 

The docu-film “The Room of Silence” has a fresh approach to the complex problem of RACE, and I would definitely consider using it as a tool during my teaching lessons.

While watching it, I could help it but recall a sentence that one of my peers said in the lastest face-to-face session of the Inclusive learning and teaching unit, which was: “when talking about race, people are more afraid to feel guilty and bad about it, than to address the subject”. In other words, talking about racism isn’t easy, and us – white people – feel often uncomfortable for many reasons, but in a way this is what the video testimonies. 

The students reported a number of significant and rather scary episodes, in which their voice was unheard, the lessons were delivered accordingly to a standard white canon, without an in-depth consideration of culture at wide, moreover their ethnic background was stigmatized becoming the playground for assumptions, and stereotypes. 

The story told by the students are very powerful in my view, because the dialogue is informal, but pint-pointing, honest, and tackles the issues of racism, discrimination, marginalization, looking for an opportunity of actively solve the matters.

Task No. 3: Race // Part 4 – Extension activity : Read the terms of reference from SoN around Race 

  1. Color blind
  2. Intersectionality
  3. White anxiety
  4. White prejudice
  5. Gender Queer
  6. White Privilege
  7. White denial
  8. White fragility

These are the words that I take with me in this specific task, because are the ones that I had to reflect more on, while trying to change my frame of mind, to avoid being influenced by false assumptions, and stereotypes, when considering my “whiteness” in regards to the issues related to racism.