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"But I Can't Help It!"

By Nancy Mussetter
Standards: 4.1, 4.5
Grade Level: Elementary
Topic: Wisconsin's Response to 20th-century change

Lesson Plan Text:

Introduction/Background:  African Americans made up a very small segment of Wisconsin¿s population prior to the twentieth century. The population of black citizens in Wisconsin increased after Word War II mainly due to available jobs and higher wages. The civil rights movement moved northward in the 1960s with Milwaukee being one of the most segregated cities in the nation.

Lesson Objectives:  The students will¿
1) experience discrimination either as one discriminated against or one doing the discriminating.
2) define discrimination
3) journal about discrimination experience
4) list reasons why it was necessary to study employment opportunities for Negroes.

Information/Resources:  Manuscript¿The need in Milwaukee for Extending Employment of Negroes--William Rasche details the difficulties African Americans faced in the workplace and advocated an increase in the number of employment opportunities available for African Americans

Suggested Activities:
1) On the day of this lesson have students experience discrimination based solely on eye color.  Give students with brown eyes special privileges such as getting a drink without having to ask, lining up first for lunch, sitting wherever they want instead of at assigned seats, etc.  Do not tell the students what you are doing or why.

2) At the beginning of the actual lesson, have students look up the word discrimination in the dictionary and discuss how students were discriminated against for not having brown eyes when they had no control over the color of their eyes.

3) Assign students to read manuscript.  Using the Page & Text ¿button¿ makes for easier reading.  As students read the manuscript have them list:

a. The 3 great obstacles that Rasche says stand in the way of providing adequate employment opportunities for Negroes living in the Milwaukee area.  *(See list in Additional Information section of plan.)

b. Seven reasons why matter of providing adequate employment opportunities for African Americans in Milwaukee needed to be studied according to Rasche.  *(See list in Additional Information)


discrimination¿showing favoritism in treatment                                                                                                       prejudice¿hatred or intolerance of other races
segregation¿to compel racial groups to live, go to school, etc apart from others
desegregation¿abolish segregation

Conclusion:  Ask the brown-eyed students to write a journal entry about the experience of getting privileges solely because they had brown eyes, something they had no control over.  Have the non-brown eyed students journal about being discriminated against by not getting the same treatment as the brown eyed people even though they couldn¿t help not having brown eyes.  Discuss journal entries.

Assessment:  The students will be assessed by¿
1) journal entries and discussion about the discrimination experience.
2) list of 3 obstacles that Rasche says stands in the way of providing adequate employment opportunities for Negroes in the Milwaukee area.
3) list of 7 reasons why Rasche felt it was necessary to study employment opportunities for African Americans..

Additional Information:  *Lists for assessment.
  3 Great Obstacles
  Inertia (continue to do what has always been done)
  Inexperience in working with Negroes
  7 Reasons to study employment opportunities for Negroes
  Proper thing to do
  Can do a better job than what is being done
  Should put American principles to practice
  Negro citizens need help
  Consistent with free enterprise
  Improve race relations
  Must be done sometime anyway

Possible Lesson Extensions:  Ask students if they think there are segments of the population being discriminated against today:
   in the world?
   in the country?
   in the city in which they live?
   in their neighborhood?
   in their school?

If yes, why is this happening?
What can they do to stop the discrimination?

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