American Identity


Intro to American Identity journal: homework.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack--A classic article on white privilege by Peggy McIntosh. Check the schedule for the due date.

Discussion questions to accompany the above article.

A Guide to Race: The Power of an Illusion - more context for anyone who wants it.

How "Privilege" Became a Provocation - even more context on the history of privilege in discussions about race

More articles on white privilege and race in America (in order of date - most recent at the bottom):

An essay written by a Princeton student for a campus newspaper was picked up by Time and other outlets: Why I'll Never Apologize For My White Male Privilege. And many people's one: To the Princeton Privileged Kid.

Do you think it's uncomfortable or inappropriate to talk about race? If you're white, do you feel hurt by these discussions? You're not alone, according to this article.

Book Review of A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race, which has similar themes to our discussions of race.

A blog that discusses race, class, and the 2012 presidential election. It might take a little while to get to the point of this entry, but hang in there if you want to hear why one person thinks Obama's race is important.

Our Reckless Meritocracy--here's a link to an op-ed piece about America's meritocracy, arguing that the intelligence of our leaders gets us in trouble. You might find it interesting after reading the McIntosh article, above, which discusses the idea of meritocracy.

10/23/12: One class had a lively discussion in which a student argued, "One hundred percent of the soldiers who died at the battle of Gettysburg were white," further suggesting that "whites built our country." I'm hoping that in U.S. History this year you will learn that the contributions, both voluntary (immigrating to the U.S., writing documents, being elected as president) and involuntary (for example, slavery of Africans, genocide of native Americans) of many people of all races "built" the United States. Meanwhile, here are links discussing a book about the African-American presence during the Gettysburg Campaign; African American soldiers in the Civil War; a list of Civil War statistics, including African-American soldiers (1% of the northern population, but 10% of the Union army); and the capture of many African-American civilians during the battle of Gettysburg. Thank you for a fun and thought-provoking discussion!

Another source on African-American soldiers in the Union army.

Clybourne Park Opens in Chicago--link to an NPR story about the 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about racially charged real estate issues in both 1959 and 2009. This relates to Race: The Power of an Illusion and a work we will study later in the year, A Raisin in the Sun.

Why Do White People Think Mitt Romney Should Be President?
Now that you have some familiarity with identity politics, you will have a deeper understanding of articles such as this one... feel free to suggest other articles to link here as you come across them.

The Color of Christ: A Story of Race and Religion in America. An NPR story that aired 11/19/12, discussing the ways various American religions have envisioned Jesus Christ's race. It's a good intersection of several issues we have discussed or will discuss.

"Why do we need to talk about race? Doesn't talking about race just call attention to it?" If you've been wondering about this, you might want to read this excerpt from Po Bronson's Nurture Shock that shows that if parents never discuss race with their children, their kids think people of other races must be bad.

Here's an article on the inaugural poet, Richard Blanco. He's a good fit for our identity studies as he discusses his identity as a gay Cuban-American poet.

The Distress of the Privileged, a thoughtful analysis of our changing society, tolerance, and Chick-fil-a. If you'd like to think more about the claim that gay rights activists are "intolerant" of people who think homosexuality is wrong, this is a good place to start.

Wealth Gap Among Races Widened Since Recession: A good follow-up to Race: The Power of an Illusion.

No Rich Child Left Behind: Class, not race, is now the greatest predictor of success in school.

Racism at the White House Correspondents' Dinner - white privilege ironically rears its ugly head.

A Professor and Ex-Addict Confronts Perils American Indians Face - another voice, another Indian experience.

Publisher Drops Book Deal with Paula Deen: just one article about Paula Deen's professional implosion after she admitted to using racial slurs.

Inequality Is: interactive website on the earning gap and more.

Dear Parents of White Children: an editorial on talking to white kids about race.

"Mixed Race Kids Are Always So Beautiful" - compliment, or racism?

Brothers Seek a Way Up and Out - the 2011 story of two brothers in Boston, currently living in poverty but attending an elite high school, hoping to achieve their own version of the American Dream. Here's a follow-up two years later.

The Case For Reparations = a long article detailing the history of racism in the U.S., similar to the film Race: The Power of an Illusion

What White Children Need to Know About Race - Although this article was published int he summer 2014 issue of the NAIS magazine, I read it in November 2015 and mentioned it in at least one class. It hits many themes we've discussed.

"When Whites Just Don't Get It" Part 1 and Part 2 - brief editorials on white privilege in the New York Times, summer/fall 2014.

Class Prejudice Resurgent - Racism and classism seem to be merging into a combined bias.

Racial Bias, Even When We Have Good Intentions - a January 2015 article that I mentioned in at least one class, showing that racial bias still exists.

When Will the North Face Its Racism? - this writer argues that the recent cases of police brutality in the North show that racism is more prevalent here than in the South.

Building the First Slavery Museum in America - really interesting article. Why do we have a Holocaust museum and a 9/11 memorial and no national slavery museum?

Review of "Please Stop Helping Us" and "Shame" - two books written by conservative African-American authors giving their views on our cultural and economic divisions.

1.5 Million Missing Black Men - a chilling analysis of the gap between incarcerated or deceased black and white men in the U.S. - 1.5 million black men have either died young or been imprisoned.

Housing Apartheid, American Style - similar to Race: The Power of an Illusion, this article traces the history of America's racist housing policies.

From "Fancy" To a Cancelled Tour: The Breakdown of Iggy Azalea's Demise - analysis of Iggy Azalea's career and the concerns that she is appropriating hip hop inappropriately.

Black Like Who? Rachel Dolezal's Harmful Masquerade

Ta-Nehisi Coates' Visceral Take On Being Black In America

The Meaning of Serena Williams: On Tennis and Black Excellence

White Debt - a reflection on racial privilege and the debt that can never be repaid.

A White Mom's Plea "To the White Parents of My Black Son's Friends" - good advice for allies here.

White Privilege Just Made An Appearance In the Presidential Race - It's About Time - January 2016.


Full online text (or at least most of it)

Vocabulary list
Critical Thinking Question Stems - the other side of the metacognition bookmark!
Reading Questions and Character List
Themes, Motifs, and Issues
Final Discussion Questions

What The Privileged Poor Can Teach Us - an article analyzing underprivileged students who get a good education (like Rashid in The Fall of Rome) in both high school and college settings.


READ (OR LISTEN TO) ALL OF THESE (including the Atwood and Freneau pieces):
"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus - the poem once displayed at the base of the Statue of Liberty (now inside a nearby building), built in 1886. Please also find out who Colossus of Rhodes is.
"Unguarded Gates" by Thomas Bailey Aldrich - written in 1894.
"Immigrant Blues" by Li-Young Lee - both printed and audio versions available.
"The Sound of One Immigrant Clapping" by Adrian Castro.
"My Faithful Mother Tongue" by Czeslaw Milosz
Angel Island Immigration Station Poetry - written by Chinese immigrants to the U.S.
Google doc containing all of the above.
Please also read:
"The Immigrants" by Margaret Atwood - both printed and audio versions available.
"On the Emigration to America" by Philip Freneau (scroll past the essay - look for the arrow pointing to the poem)

Poetic Waves - a multimedia presentation on Angel Island poetry (above).

Michael Bloomberg's Immigration Policy Poetry - a writer from The Brookings Institution composed a poem built from NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg's 2011 Wall Street Journal opinion piece about immigration. Together with the original article Bloomberg wrote about immigration reform, it provides an overview of the major issues in immigration today. However, these issues are many, varied, and complicated, so we will not discuss them in detail in class. Our job is to use immigrant poetry (and later essays) to consider how immigration contributes to American identity, both individual and cultural.

Complete the immigration/immigrant poetry discussion log in class with your partner(s). Work in groups no bigger than 3 students. Your work will be graded and added to your classwork average, so do your best. Make sure your completed discussion log is in every person's shared English 10 folder to get full credit.

"Crossing the Line Between 'Immigrant' and 'American'": A New York Times "Room for Debate" - writers from various backgrounds, including Irish, Latino, and Canadian Immigrants, discuss immigration in America. If you're interested in immigration, check out their contrasting opinions. You can use any of these articles for the prose section of your American Identity paper (scroll down for assignment).

America, the Not So Promised Land - it's a myth that all immigrants loved America.


--Poem we will read in class to accompany our viewing of The Lone Ranger episodes. Also available as a google doc, if you prefer.

Part 1 of our Alexie packet.

Part 2 of Alexie packet

Part 3 of Alexie packet.

Discussion questions for our study of Sherman Alexie stories.

Discussion quiz, document to be unlocked if needed.

A NYT review of Alexie's new book, Blasphemy.

What Sherman Alexie likes to read.

Native American readings:
Vine Deloria (13 p.)
Rowlandson and Bartram (9 p.)
and poems from several Native American writers (6 poems).

NPR Story on Native Americans and Foster Care--the radio segment we will hear in class in January.

Notes and discussion questions to accompany NPR story

Pine Ridge Reservation Votes To End Alcohol Ban - related to reservation discussed in above NPR story.

A Professor and Ex-Addict Confronts Perils American Indians Face - another voice, another Indian experience.

Photo of native American protestor and Cleveland Indians fan in "Indian" garb

Native Americans Have Every Reason To Object To Caricatures By Teams - from Sports Illustrated. Check the date!


Generic discussion questions to be used in the absence of specific discussion questions.

PDF of Adrienne Rich's "Split at the Root"
"2G" full text online
Discussion questions for Pilcer and Rich ("2G" and "Split at the Root")

Discussion questions for James Baldwin "No Name on the Street"
Link to recent story (2011) about cab drivers not stopping for people of color in NYC.

Discussion questions for Richard Rodriguez, "Hunger of Memory"

Pre-reading exercise for Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Discussion work for Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Journal/discussion on place for O'Brien "Suburbs" and Ehrlich "The Solace of Open Spaces."


How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

Introduction - Feminism (n): Plural by Roxane Gay

Gender and sexuality related articles:

Discussion questions for gender and sexuality articles

A University Recognizes a Third Gender - good discussion of students at UVM who identify as neither male nor female.

What's So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?: An article about parenting transgender kids. If you're interested, check out this interview with the author.

Transgender at 11 - An ABC news story on a transgender middle school girl - one in a series.

When Women Become Men at Wellesley College - A NYT article reporting on transgender people at Wellesley College, a women's college outside of Boston.

"That's My Sister!" Taking a Twin's Gender Fluidity In Stride - A story of how a young girl and her family are handling transgenderism.

Housing Dispute Over Transgenderism at Quaker University

Redefining Gender in Mexico City - one person's experience with identifying - and trying to do so officially - as neither male nor female.

Bruce Jenner's Coming Out - by far the most famous transgender person so far.

The Quest For Transgender Equality - the first in a New York Times series.

What Makes a Woman? - the potential conflict between feminism and transgenderism

Yes, My Son Is Transgender. No, You May Not Ask About His Genitals - a good article to read if you're not sure what's OK to ask a transgender person.

Sexual Attraction and Fluidity - about the many people, especially in younger generations, that don't define themselves by the gender and sexuality binaries.

What It Feels Like To Use the Wrong Bathroom

Issues Related to Boys/Men:
"The Boys at the Back": "Boys score as well as or better than girls on most standardized tests, yet they are far less likely to get good grades, take advanced classes or attend college. Why?"

Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: an often revolting commentary on the worst aspects of "manhood." See also When a Feminist Pledges a Sorority for another take on college Greek life.

Pity the Men on Top: A look at how men in the 1950s-60s suffered by being expected to be the sole provider of their families' incomes: "The cost to men — in terms of stress, time lost with the families they were trying so hard to support and lack of freedom to pursue personal interests — has not been nearly as well documented."

Why Most Mass Murderers Are Privileged White Men: This article argues, "the less privileged you are, the less likely you are to take your violence outside of your family and your community."

I Killed My Friend - a discussion of guns and their connection to one's sense of manhood.

10 Responses to "Man Up" - Spoken word poetry about this silly phrase, suggested by a student. Thank you! It reminds me of the song "When I Was a Boy"by Dar Williams (listen all the way to the end for the "when I was a girl" verse).

Men's Lib - an editorial discussing how men need to adjust to changes in the economy and society in general.

Teaching Men To Be Emotionally Honest - about the ongoing conversation and courses on college campuses that look at the emotional difficulty of being stereotypically masculine.

Issues Related to Girls/Woman:
"Does Victoria's Secret Care That Parents Hate Pink?": Is it a bad idea for young girls and teens to wear suggestive underwear? (Yes, some parents worry about this stuff!)

Hollywood's Year of Heroine Worship: Examining gender in the movies.

Boys On the Side: Is the hookup culture hurtful or empowering for young women? (Yes, people write serious articles about this stuff!)

Sexual Transgression: A story and an essay about how women have been punished for breaking unspoken rules.

"My So-Called Post-Feminist Life": A journalist and author explains the bias she's faced in her career:"This is what sexism does best: it makes you feel crazy for desiring parity and hopeless about ever achieving it."

On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women: This article has similar themes to the above piece, discussing how women authors face different expectations than male authors.

Why Women Should Embrace a Good-Enough Life: as opposed to trying to have it all (family + career) perfectly together.

Cinderella Storybook: The Book I Wish Didn't Exist - Or, why princess stories are irritating.

Banning Barbie: Can toys influence young girls' body image?

The Line Between Sweet and Skimpy: If you think a girl is dressing in a provocative way, is it her fault for dressing suggestively, or your fault for making assumptions based on her clothing?

Gabrielle Reese (former pro women's volleyball player) defends her choice of the word "submissive" to describe her behavior in her marriage - more on the theme of professional athletes and gender roles!

Disney's Sexy Princess Makeovers - Most recently, Merida from Brave. Also check out I'll Take the Tiara, You Keep the Prince.

A Billionaire on Working Moms: Babies Kill Women's Focus - The article is interesting, but the comments, where you read different people's interpretations of the original statements, are really thought provoking.

Is the Professor Bossy or Brilliant? Much Depends on Gender - gender bias is revealed in students' evaluations of their teachers.

Mom: The Designated Worrier - food for thought on gender roles in families.

Alison Bechdel Misses Feeling Special - an interview with the author of Fun Home, with some thoughts about gender identity.

The Fear Factor: A Clueless Male Learns How Scary "Compliments" Can Be To Women Runners - as a woman runner, I ask you to read this!

When a Feminist Pledges a Sorority

Gender in General:
"Minimalist Parenting, 'Manimalist' Style": Do fathers parent differently than mothers?

"Raising Children Who Will Speak Up to Prevent Rape, Not Defend It": Reactions to the Steubenville, Ohio rape case (in which an intoxicated teenage girl was raped at a party by several classmates - was it partly her fault?).

"Do We Want Mothers To Work Part Time?": Should moms stay home with kids? Or dads? Or does it matter?

Who Wears the Pants in This Economy? How the economy is affecting gender roles.

Why Bother To Marry? - An article about how marriage has changed in our society.

Sexual Attraction and Fluidity - about the many people, especially in younger generations, that don't define themselves by the gender and sexuality binaries.

Jason Collins Comes Out - the first openly gay athlete to play major sports in the US. While not explicitly about gender, Collins and his article challenge gender stereotypes.

Yes, I Really Am Bisexual. Deal With It. - A woman explains what her sexual identity means to her, even though she's married to a man.

Q and A With Jason Collins

An essay by Brittney Griner, a WNBA player who is also an out lesbian. An interesting read if you've been thinking that being a lesbian in professional sports is a far smaller deal than being a gay man in professional sports (like Jason Collins, see above).

Do Gays Unsettle You? - there's still work to be done toward acceptance of all relationships.

The Same-Sex Couple Who Got a Marriage License in 1971

Among the Navajos, A Renewed Debate About Gay Marriage

Sexual Attraction and Fluidity - about the many people, especially in younger generations, that don't define themselves by the gender and sexuality binaries.


American Identity Poetry--very large PDF covering our study of American identity poetry.

Poetry discussion questions.

American Identity Essay, our final assessment of this unit. Here's a guide to help you plan your paper.