Broad Approaches to Social Issues & Myth Disruption

Key Terms for Targeted Searches: Book | Essay | Popular Article | Documentary | Video | Game | Podcast

**Titles link to the content**


This documentary is on Netflix. It does an amazing job tracing the rhetoric of the myth of Black criminality across history and into our contemporary political moment of Mass Incarceration as the “New Jim Crow.”

Tag: Documentary

Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”

This classic TED Talk addresses how social and racial “myths” impose themselves on the imagination through the circulation of single stories. 

Tag: Video

The Atlantic, “Who Does Donald Trump Exclude from the American ‘We’”

This video offers a rhetorical analysis of implicit audience construction and normative national identity in political rhetoric. 

Tag: Video

James Baldwin, “I Am Not Your Negro”

This documentary is on Amazon. It does a great job of connecting Baldwin’s profound insights from the Civil Rights Movement to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Tag: Video

Yara Bayoumy & Kathy Gilsinan, “A Reformed White Nationalist Says the Worst is Yet to Come”

Christian Picciolini discusses the mainstreaming of white nationalism, what it takes to de-radicalize far-right extremists, and why the problem is metastasizing.

Tag: Popular Article

Jason Edward Black, “Re/Performing and Re/Claiming Native America”

This text examines how the United American Indians of New England uses performative rhetoric through the Day of Mourning protests to “re/claim American Indian identities by challenging dominant American conceptions of Indianness.”

Tag: Essay

Bustle, “What’s the Difference between Hispanic, Latino, and Spanish?”

This video uses the person-on-the-street framework to address the question. 

Tag: Video

“Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in [Film]”

Created by Dylan Marron, “Every Single Word Spoken” is a Tumblr blog that edits entire movies down to only the words spoken by people of color, highlighting the massive lack of authentic representation or even minimal representation in Hollywood films. 

Tag: Video

Danielle Geller, “Blood; Quantum”

An excellent short essay on Native identity and race. 

Tag: Essay

Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true”

This New York Times article offers an incredible historical tracing of the legacy of slavery throughout U.S. history and into the present. Hannah-Jones does a brilliant job offering a fiercely honest look at history while reclaiming what it means to be “American” and patriotic. This article is a part of the New York Times’ The 1619 Project, which is a series of reports that trace the legacy of slavery in the present. Highly recommend. 

Tag: Popular Article

Vi Hart & Nicky Case, “Parable of the Polygons: A Playable Post on the Shape of Society”

This text is actually a gamified webpage that asks users to interact with little game simulations to better understand implicit bias and community segregation in a distanced, non-threatening way. 

Tag: Game

María Hinojosa, “From Invisible to Visible”

Hinojosa raises questions of who gets to decide the news when it comes to race. She talks about how her newsroom doesn’t use the words “minority” and “illegal,” highlighting the importance of representation on and behind the screen. 

Tag: Video

bell hooks, “Language: Teaching New Worlds / New Words” (in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom)

This text interrogates the hegemonic racial violence of Standardized American English, disrupting the myth of “proper” and “bad” English in its recognition of linguistic diversity as well as reflecting critically on when white people appropriate Black English and for what means.

Tag: Essay

In the Thick with Maria & Julio, "Black and Undocumented"

"Many times forgotten, black undocumented immigrants from Latin American, Caribbean or African countries are a growing part of the immigrant community. Maria and Julio speak to Jonathan Jayes-Green, co-founder and director of the UndocuBlack Network, to understand the complexities of this population and how they are organizing to fight back and support each other."

Tag: Podcast

Lauren Michele Jackson, “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs” 

This Teen Vogue article offers an incredibly powerful critique of the ways in which the use of reaction GIFs perpetuates misogynoir stereotypes against Black women. Many students and colleagues of mine have described this article as one of the most important arguments that they’ve read in a while because it intervenes in prominent digital rhetoric of both the Right and the Left. 

Tag: Popular Article

Ernestine Johnson, “The Average Black Girl”

This spoken word performance attempts to disrupt normative assumptions about Black women and Black English. 

Tag: Video

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

This text really does speak for itself. But it’s worth noting the value of King’s reflections on white moderates. This text especially helps disrupt the white-washed myth of MLK in the dominant American imagination, thereby offering students opportunities to reflect on the operations of power involved in the construction of this myth. An additional complementary resource and activity could involve looking at the #ReclaimMLK movement in light of this text.

Tag: Essay

Eric Liu, “How to Understand Power”

This TED-ED Animated video breaks down some of the characteristics and operations of power.

Tag: Video


Audre Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”

A deeply moving and surprisingly brief text that, in the context of Racial Consciousness 101, illustrates the panelists’ courage and strength in publicly disrupting racial “myths.”

Tag: Essay

Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism”

This text actively disrupts the racialized, gendered myth of respectability politics that “anger is not an appropriate or productive response to racism” and that “the person who expresses anger is the one who necessarily doesn’t wish to maintain a relationship with those being addressed.”

Tag: Essay

Jamila Lyiscott, “Broken English”

This powerful spoken-word performance challenges linguistic hegemony and demonstrates three varieties of English in advocating for linguistic diversity. 

Tag: Video

Dylan Marron, “Conversations with People Who Hate Me”

“As a writer and video maker who focuses on social justice issues, Dylan Marron receives a lot of negative messages on the internet. In his podcast he calls some of the folks who wrote those messages, and other times he moderates calls between strangers to ask one simple question: why? Sometimes awkward, often political, and always fascinating - Conversations with People Who Hate Me takes contentious online conversations and moves them offline.” 

Tag: Podcast

Steve Martin and Guy F. McHendry, Jr., “Kaepernick’s Stand: Patriotism, Protest, and Professional Sports”

“This essay examines the public controversy that has followed Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit or kneel during the national anthem, which is played before National Football League games. We examine public statements made by Kaepernick, and various rhetors who have defended him, arguing that two compelling defense strategies are present. Drawing from the genre of apologia, or speeches of defense, we argue that Kaepernick seeks to transcend his protest and focus on systemic racism and violence against people of color. Meanwhile, external defenders of Kaepernick seek to differentiate his protest from charges that he is unpatriotic. These efforts argue that Kaepernick has the right to protest, but avoid engagement with the content of the protest. Finally, we consider implications for rhetorical entanglements with Kaepernick’s protest to argue that most responses, ultimately, serve to reinforce the status quo.”

Tag: Essay

Guy McHendry, “I’m Not Racist; I’m Nostalgic for Racial Terror: The Debate Over Confederate Monuments”

This text examples of the politics of memory in the nostalgic rhetoric surrounding Confederate monuments.

Tag: Popular Article

Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” 

This text offers a list of the ways in which white privilege operates in everyday reality in a way that can speak to students in a concrete way. 

Tag: Essay

José Medina, “Pig Heads, Burning Crosses, and Car Keys” (in The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations)

This text focuses on a university-based student incident as a case study for unpacking how epistemic injustice (or injustice of ways of knowing and believing) operate in universities. My students have found this text immensely helpful for disrupting the dominance of a rhetoric of intentionality and professed ignorance.

Tag: Essay

NBC News, “Before the Civil Rights Movement, it was common to call something ‘racist.’ What Happened?”

On the heels of a tweet storm from President Donald Trump telling four freshmen congresswomen of color to “go back and help fix the totally crime infested places from which they came,” Cornell professor Lawrence Glickman joined THINK to examine the history behind why many in the media are so reluctant to use the term “racist” to describe people in power.

Tag: Video

NPR CodeSwith, “So What Exactly Is ‘Blood Quantum’?”

Great podcast episode on Native identity and race. 

Tag: Podcast

Eileen O’Brien, “Sustaining the Personal Struggles of White Antiracism” (in Whites Confront Racism: Antiracists and Their Paths to Action)

This text offers an overview of the stages and struggles of white racial identity development, specifically for white anti-racist activists. 

Tag: Essay

Mark Orbe, “#AllLivesMatter as Post-Racial Rhetorical Strategy”

“#BlackLivesMatter was created following the acquittal of the man who killed Trayvon Martin; the movement’s call to action is against the “virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.” Shortly after #BlackLivesMatter became a nationally recognized symbol, it was re-configured, co-opted, and/or replaced by some with the more inclusive and racially neutral alternative, #AllLivesMatter. This analysis utilizes the core elements associated with a critical race theoretical frame to argue that #AllLivesMatter is akin with larger rhetorical devices—like the notion of a color-blind society—that are used to promote post-racism, something that was not possible with other political slogans during earlier civil rights struggles.”

Tag: Essay

Octavio Pimentel, “Not the King: Cantando el Himno Nacional de los Estados Unidos

This text offers a critique of the normative construction of what it means to be an “American” through a rhetorical analysis of reactions to Sebastein de la Cruz’s singing of the National Anthem for Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.

Tag: Essay

Proyecto Mas Color, “What Am I?”

Two young Afro-Honduran sisters tackle questions about being Black Latinas. They challenge television representations of Afro-Latinx on Spanish-language television. “You’re not black enough but you’re not Hispanic enough,” one sister says about how others perceive her.   

Tag: Video

Raven Rakia, “Black Riot”

This text boldly challenges the dominant rhetoric around Black riots. 

Tag: Essay

Adam Serwer, “White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots”

A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his “bible,” and the man who wrote it. A great historical overview. 

Tag: Popular Article, Podcast

Jesse Williams, 2016 BET Awards Speech 

If you haven’t seen this speech, then drop everything you’re doing right now and check it out. It’s incredibly powerful. 

Tag: Video

Joy Ann Williamson, “In Defense of Themselves: The Black Student Struggle for Success and Recognition at Predominantly White Colleges and Universities” 

“In the late 1960s, Black students at predominantly White colleges and universities reevaluated the education they received. Influenced by the emerging Black Power movement, they sought to make their institutions more receptive to their needs, representative of their culture, and relevant to their situation as Blacks in America. However, many institutions were slow to change or were resistant. This article documents the support systems Black students created to ensure their psychological and academic well-being at predominantly White institutions and examines how Black students of that era redefined what it meant to be a ‘successful’ Black student.”

Tag: Essay

Iris Marion Young, “Five Faces of Oppression” (in Justice and the Politics of Difference)

This text identifies five operations of institutionalized and systemic oppression, thereby further disrupting the myth of oppression as an individualized conditions.

Tag: Essay

Vershawn Ashanti Young, “Should Writers Use They Own English?”

This performative text--written in Black English--interrogates the educational and cultural hegemony of Standardized American English. It critiques the marginalizing characterization of Black English as an “improper” and “bad” form of English, as opposed to an accurate understanding of Black English as being a linguistically and rhetorically complex grammatical form of English (and even more efficient than Standardized American English).

Tag: Essay

Vox, “Color Film Was Invented for White People”

In this YouTube video, Vox offers a look at the racialized invention of color film and at some contemporary examples of technologies being designed without people of color in mind.

Tag: Video