English 101

Watch James Baldwin I Am Not Your Negro. [Links to an external site.]

Please copy and paste the following questions into the submission text and write your answers below. Your answers can be in bullet form or written as paragraphs. You will be graded on the depth and thoughtfulness of your responses.

• Why is it important for YOU to view this film? You live in/ go to school in the US, and racism has alway played a substantial role in our culture. Whether you’ve just arrived here or are several generations deep, reflect on how the oppression of Black people impacts you. How does it impact your ability to move through life in the US? How do you fit into America’s [made up but real nonetheless] racial hierarchy?

• How does the oppression of Black people impact how you see as a photographer?

• In the film, Baldwin argues that any conversation about the ‘Negro in America’ is really simply a conversation about America, and that attempting to silo race not only hinders us from improving race relations, but also undermines growth for our society as a whole. How does this theory relate to the contemporary conversation about race in America? How does this relate to photography?

• What does it mean to be a witness? How is the role of witness in history different from the roles of others – such as perpetrators, victims, bystanders or allies? What are the responsibilities of a witness, and why is it important that there be witnesses? How does this relate to photography? Can you be a witness and also a perpetrator, victim, bystander and/ or ally?

• How did the film portray the struggle for school integration – the importance of school and access to books and learning – as well as the criticism surrounding the effort to integrate? How has the struggle for integration impacted YOUR life? How do you see it playing out at SVA?

[Please not that Baldwin was writing in a different era, and the terms he uses are now outdated. Here is some context: In the 1920s, W.E.B Dubois and Booker T. Washington advocated for the term”Negro” to replace the word “colored.” Stokely Carmichael coined the phrase black power in 1966, and black quickly became the term of choice of Black activists. Both the Associated Press and the New York Times abandoned Negro in the 1970s, and by the mid-1980s, even the most hidebound institutions, like the U.S. Supreme Court, had largely stopped using Negro. In 1988, after the black power movement had faded, many leaders decided another semantic change was required. Jesse Jackson led the push toward African-American. Now, Black and African American are both acceptable, but it is preferable to capitalize the “b” in Black.]

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