So today there occurred a major eye-opening moment for me. We're discussing stereotyping in the midst of addressing a monologue (see below post) about a young Muslim-American who coped with racism and feared for his safety in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Now, the students with whom I work come from very privileged backgrounds. I hadn't conceived, unfortunately, of the degree to which they are still keenly aware of prejudice and racism. One brave young man shared a story. It went something like this:
PLAY: One day, I was walking along and saw a penny on the ground. It was just laying there, so I decided to pick it up.
PAUSE: So, in my naive head I'm thinking, "Oh, great, here's a story about how someone stereotyped this boy as poor. He's going to say that someone asked him if he needed that because he was poor and then we're going to have to refocus what we mean by stereotyping. These rich kids aren't taking this seriously at all."
PLAY: And so then someone goes, "hey Jew, picking up that penny"
I should be honored that this student felt safe enough to share this story in class. And shame on me for assuming that this student couldn't possibly understand what it feels like to be stereotyped, pigeonholed, or discriminated against.