"Race" Is a Four-Letter Word

Grade Level: 
Student Level: 
High School

This lesson provides students with the opportunity to critically examine works of art from various time periods and consider not only ways that race and racial groups have been depicted in various societies, but also how those depictions might perpetuate stereotypes and biased thinking. A role-playing interactivity encourages constructive approaches to dealing with controversial issues.

Program Format: 
  • Open discussion on how artworks can be seen as images that perpetuate stereotypes, especially without information on the intent, the timeframe, and the background of the artist.
  • Introduce selected works without conveying background information, then review how perception of these works might change with adequate context.
  • Practice ways to describe, analyze, and evaluate works.
  • Role-playing interactivity in which students assess and react to cultural sensitivities in their own school community.
  • Students will understand that objects (paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts) from various historical periods reflect cultural beliefs and values of the period in which they were made.
  • Students will understand that the cultural ideas reflected in works of art might express perceptions that may or may not be accurate about the group of people portrayed-how they look and seem.
  • Students will understand that information about an art object can influence our perceptions of the object.
  • Students will learn that certain skills help us investigate works of art: description, analysis, and evaluation.