A Film Study: Race Matters (9–12)

From the recent events in Baltimore, Maryland to the shooting of a 12-year old in Cleveland to the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to the death of Eric Garner in New York to the “not guilty” verdict in the death of Trayvon Martin to the 1955 killing of Emmett Till – all the way back to the 19th century kidnapping of Solomon Northrup (12 Years a Slave) – the subject of race has been central in our country. One of the most contested ideas since the re-election of President Obama is that we live in a “post-racial America.” The suggestion is that race no longer matters, but no matter how you identify yourself, you know from your daily experience – in school, in the classroom, in your life beyond Oakwood – that race still matters. It matters in a personal sense because of the way we define ourselves and the way others define us.  In this course, we’ll travel to our own screening room to watch films that confront this subject head on – Bamboozled, Do the Right Thing, Grand Torino, Crash, Selma, Fruitvale Station, Dear White People – to name a few. We’ll talk honestly, write journals, research  our ancestors, engage with guests, and read literature. The focus of these activities will explore the nature of identity in general and race in particular. We’ll reflect on how we arrive at a sense of self, both in the individual and social domains. The course will culminate with each student’s hands-on presentation of a “self-identity project,” expressed in an art form of the student’s choice.

We’d like to embark on this experience with a group dynamic that we don’t normally have at Oakwood. We will attempt to enroll the course with an equal number of students who identify as students of color and an equal number who identify as white, breaking the expectations we have (regardless of who we are) upon entering an Oakwood classroom.

Harold Boughton and Lynn Cohen