Social Movements and Race (by ShaKayla Rouse)

Overview:

After the lesson, students will have a better understanding of how other races contributed to different racial groups’ social movements. In addition, students will understand how each of the racial minorities in America fought together for equality.

Framework:

The students will use the three primary sources of the political platform of the Black Panther Party, the I Wok Kuen, and the Young Lords to notice the similarities and difference of the social justice movements and what they hoped to accomplish. Students should also be able to recognize that not everybody involved with the social movements were comfortable with people of the other races becoming involved. Students will also be able to recognize that there are people who were involved with other social movements beside their personal race who contributed significantly to the other movements in addition to their own.

By using the puzzle, students will have a visual representation of how the racial and social movements came together and fought for a greater cause- which is equality for all colored people.

Essential Understanding:

Different social movements can strengthen one another and fight towards the common good of all people, no matter the differences racially.

Essential Questions:

  1. What were some of the different racial social movement organizations?
  2. What were the political platforms of these organizations?
  3. How did the organizations interact/ benefit from one another?
  4. How did the people take what they learned and bring it to their own racial groups?
  5. How did people of a specific racial group feel about the involvement of others races?
  6. What can we learn from these organizations and people today?

Introduction:

The 1960-70s was a time of great change in the United States of America. There were many different minorities in the country all across the United States at the time. However, America was not the land of the free as its national anthem entails. The minorities in the country were still being oppressed in different ways from being paid less to being evicted from their homes. However, each minority group stood up together and united as one people. For example, the Chicanos formed the United Farm Workers, and black radicals formed the Black Panther Party. The oppression that the minorities faced forced them to recognize that they were not white. They realized with a cruel reality check that they are indeed colored.

However, each group realized that they were not alone in facing this oppression by white America. Once they realized this, some organizations started to support one another for a common goal. They taught each other strategies; for example, Richard Aoki benefited from Huey Newton and Bobby Seale because they taught him about nationalism while Aoki taught them about socialism. Together, they formed the Black Panther Party.  Richard Aoki, a Japanese American, worked together with two African Americans in order to benefit the greater community. Aoki then took the lessons that he learned as a Yellow Panther to help Asian Americans to organize and fight for identity and for equality. Another example is Yuri Kochiyama. She supported the Civil Rights Movement by working with the Harlem Parent Committee for quality inner city children. Her political views were also shaped by Malcolm X because she attended his liberation school. Organizations also supported one another during resistance instances. For example, one of those instances includes how the Black Panther supported the boycotts of stores and wines. BPP sent its members to also help with the United Farm Workers’ picket lines. Another instance includes the support UFW received when Proposition 22 came out. Both parties came together and were able to get the proposition voted against. Another instance includes the UFW’s support of BPP’s co-founder Bobby Seale running for mayor. Campaign flyers were printed in both Spanish and English.

However, not everybody was so accommodating. Many people had mixed feelings when it came to outsiders becoming involved. For example, Frank Chin, an Asian-American playwright and critic, says that that the Red Guard’s rally was a “yellow minstrel show” and called it “a vain attempt to imitate blackness”.1  Others embraced black thoughts and habits because it served “as a model for Asian American identity as a way to resist assimilation into whiteness”. “Steve Louie, a veteran of the Asian American movement, believes that it ‘owes a huge political debt to the black power movement.’ He points to Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Bobby Scale, and the Black Panthers as visionaries ‘who laid the groundwork that really brought . . . the Asian American movement out.’”1

Overall, once people started to come together, big things started to happen. This quote describes the thoughts that were associated with the 1960’s: “Through the mid-1960s, social justice in the U.S. was usually equated with the application of “color-blind” meritocratic principles – in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words (1963), that individuals be judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” 2 However, this thought is not as easily translated to the world today as we still deal with problems such as the debate regarding Affirmative Action for example. In order to move ahead, people should not try to ignore the differences between people. People should recognize those differences as strengths and utilize them to the fullest potential. In the long run, everybody will benefit from working together as history has shown.

Materials:

IWK 12 Point platform

BBP 10 point platform

Young Lord’s 13 Point Program

Puzzle (1 large puzzle)

Ziploc bags

Activity:

This class activity should follow previous classes that discussed some of the different social justice movements. It is not necessary to go into detail with these previous discussions as long as the class has general knowledge about the movements and organizations involved.

As class begins, ask the students if they could summarize in a few sentences what was discussed. After the brief discussion, make a general statement along lines the lines of: each of the social movements fought for equality in America, and they all had key parties to express their desires of equality.

From there, divide the class into groups of 5-6 depending on class size. Give each of these groups a name i.e. Group A, B, C, Group red, blue, yellow, etc. Give each of these groups a Ziploc bag with puzzle pieces inside (the totally number of puzzle pieces inside of the bag should equal the number of students in the group). Have each student take a piece, and leave it to the side as you move into discussion.

Have the students read and analyze the three political platforms included under material. These platforms are the beliefs of three organizations- Black Panther Party, IWK, and the Young Lords.  Ask the students to work within their groups to find the similarities and differences between the three. This should take no more than 10 minutes. However, feel free to shorten or extend time depending on the students. After the allotted time, bring the class back together for a discussion. Discuss the similarities and differences that the students found. Feel free to write out the similarities and differences on a white board or an overhead projector. Important differences to acknowledge include the wording i.e. use of third world people. Important similarities to notice is the style (We starting out every sentence) and the demands.

Next transition the discussion by acknowledging the differences and similarities, yet point out that these and other organizations also worked together. Have the students turn back into the groups and discuss that statement. How did these organizations work together? Who were figures that were involved in social justice, not only for their race, but for others as well? How did the people in the organization feel about different races helping them?

That statement was meant to get the students to start thinking about the class topic more than for them to give right answers. Build off of what the students are saying.

Sample topic 1: The emotions of the people involved: Not everybody was happy with the involvement of the other races. For example, some of the UFW members were unhappy interacting with the Black Panthers Party because of BPP’s use of violence.

Sample topic 2: Important figures and their relations to others: Richard Aoki aka the Yellow Panther. Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X. Caesar Chavez (United Farm Workers) and Bobby Seale (Black Panther Party).

Sample topic 3: How the organizations supported one another: For example, The BPP supporting the UFW boycott of wines and stores.

After a few minutes of discussion (once again use your discretion), return to the puzzle. Explain to the class that their goal is to try to complete the puzzle. Have the students in each group try to put together the pieces. (One piece should not fit in because it fits in with a different group’s puzzle.)

Acknowledge that there will be one puzzle piece that does not fit exactly.

From there, have the students with the odd piece out come to the front. One at a time, have each student go to each group in order to find where his or her puzzle piece fits in. Once that place is found, have the student sit beside the new group. Once each student has done the same thing, point out that in order for each group to complete the puzzle, there had to be an exchange. Even though the puzzle piece did not initially look like it would fit, it turned out to play an important role. Once each groups’ puzzle is finished, have the class come together and put the entire puzzle together.

As a class, discuss the significance of each step to solving the puzzle and draw a parallel about the discussion regarding social movements.

  • The pieces of the puzzle represent the people separated. Each puzzle is different representing the different minorities in the United States.
  • Putting together the puzzle initially represents the people of similar racial backgrounds coming together united as one social movement and identity.
  • The odd ball piece fitting in with other puzzles, even though it initially seems like it has no place, represents the different racial groups interacting and strengthening each other.
  • The puzzle being put together at the end represents all of the racial groups coming together fighting for one cause.

Close the class with a few parting thoughts. Tell students think about the problems affecting their lives currently. Point out that some times, the best way to achieve a goal is to look for support in unexpected places. Find others who are also fighting for the same cause. Use the cliché: You are never alone. Use the puzzle analogy to further the understanding: even though we are all unique and fit together in one certain group, it doesn’t mean we should only limit ourselves to the people who are similar to us. If we all come together, we can create a bigger, better picture for America.

Additional Sources:

Araiza, L. (2009). “In common struggle against a common oppression”: The united farm workers and the black panther party, 1968-1973. The Journal of African American History, 94(2), 200-223.

Fujino, Diane C. “Race, Place, Space, and Political Development: Japanese-American Radicalism in the “Pre-Movement” 1960s.” Social Justice 35, no. 2 (2008): 57-79.

Maeda, D. J. (2005). Black panthers, red guards, and chinamen: Constructing asian american identity through performing blackness, 1969-1972. American Quarterly, 57(4), 1079-1103,1275. 

Reisch, M. (2007). Social justice and multiculturalism: Persistent tensions in the history of US social welfare and social work.Studies in Social Justice, 1(1), 67-n/a.

Standards:

  • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text.
  • Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
  • Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.

1Maeda, D. J. (2005). Black panthers, red guards, and chinamen: Constructing asian american identity through performing blackness, 1969-1972. American Quarterly, 57(4), 1079-1103,1275.

2Reisch, M. (2007). Social justice and multiculturalism: Persistent tensions in the history of US social welfare and social work.Studies in Social Justice, 1(1), 67-n/a.

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