Understanding colorblind racism, intersectionality, and oppression through the Black Lives Matter Movement

By Lia Bengtson

I teach 6-8 grade at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School, a bilingual (ASL/English) school for deaf and hard of hearing students on Gallaudet University's campus. During Black Lives Matter (BLM) Week of Action in Schools, my students started off by first discussing the idea of colorblindness and their initial thoughts about whether this was a good approach or not.

Then we moved into the idea of intersectionality and how people can have multiple identities and multiple areas of oppression. As the lesson progressed, I could see some of my students have that "aha moment" where they truly got what intersectionality is all about (ie. female, black, trans and Deaf).

I used a number of lessons from the D.C. Area Black Lives Matter Week of Action resource page and others I collected at that BLM curriculum share. #Lastwords was one of the most powerful lessons for many of my students.

I incorporated a variety of books on different reading levels to ensure that I accommodated my students who are still acquiring English proficiency. In one of my classes,  I used Milo's Museum and the suggested activity that accompanied the book. We're still working on this unit, but they seem to really be enjoying it!

As a final project, they were given five options to choose from:

  1. 5 paragraph essay

  2. creative writing - narrative (at least 5 paragraphs - can be more)

  3. a poem with at least 3 paragraphs explaining its meaning

  4. ASL essay (4-6 minutes long) OR ASL poem with at least a 2-minute explanation of its meaning

  5. art project with at least a 3 paragraph explanation of its meaning

We read some of the stories in "Our Lives Matter" written by Ballou HS students. I got a copy from a representative of Shout Mouse Press at the BLM curriculum share that was hosted at the Inspired Teaching Demonstration School. I think a lot of them were inspired by these stories. Many students chose to do poetry or creative writing. Enjoy reading samples of their work.

WeeklongMykella Palmer