In this lesson, students will practice listening, research and discussion skills as they analyze American race relations and issues of political representation.
Video clips provided with this lesson are from the film Getting Back to Abnormal.
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One 50-minute class period
- discuss race and class in the United States, through the lens of post-Katrina New Orleans
- use an example from a New Orleans election to examine racial representation in U.S. politics and government and how minorities make their voices heard in the current political system
- understand how, in a city like New Orleans, historical race relations influence current politics
- Internet access and equipment to watch online film
- 1 sheet of chart paper and markers
- Copies of a history of New Orleans (http://www.history.com/topics/new-orleans orhttp://www.neworleanscvb.com/visit/about/history/)
1. Create a KWL chart examining what students Know, Want to Know and ultimately Learn about the history of race and politics in New Orleans. Ask students to identify what they already know about racial representation in U.S. politics and government and write their answers in the "K" column of the chart paper. Ask students what they want to learn about how historical race relations influence current politics in the United States and place these answers in the "W" column of the chart. (5 minutes)
|Know||Want to Know||Learn|
|1. What do you know?||1. What do you want to learn?||1. What did you learn?|
|2. What are your sources of information?
a. How do you know what you know?
|2. Where can you find credible answers?||2. What were the most valuable sources?|
2. Divide students into groups of 3 or 4 members. Assign each group a section fromhttp://www.neworleanscvb.com/visit/about/history/ orhttp://www.history.com/topics/new- orleans. Ask students to identify two key historical moments from the assigned reading and to share their selections with the class. Ask them to predict how these historical moments might affect current electoral politics in New Orleans. (10 minutes)
3. Show Clip 1. Invite students to share their reactions to the clip. Ask students to describe their impressions of New Orleans and how cultural diversity influences political representation. What are the "abnormal" facets of New Orleans that make it a unique American city? How do race and class intersect in New Orleans? How is this similar or dissimilar to the students' own experiences? How does the city's past affect everyday life? How does this compare to what happens in other major cities in the United States? How might a city's cultural and political past affect current residents? (10 minutes)
4. Show Clip 2 (In whole or in parts). Ask students to identify some of the issues affecting the political debate in New Orleans. Invite students to examine the cultural climate of the city and encourage them to explore the perspectives of each character.
Ask the following discussion questions:
- Barbara Lacen-Keller: How does Barbara Lacen-Keller's advocacy for Stacy Head impact the campaign and the community's perception of her candidacy?
- Mitch Landrieu: What would you ask Mitch Landrieu about the future of the city? How do you think he might answer?
- WBOK: What do the WBOK hosts and listeners think about the upcoming election? Whom do they support and why do they seem to be leaning in this direction?
- Stacy Head: How does Stacy Head solicit voters? Do you think this is an effective approach?
Ask students to predict the outcome of the election. Explore the following questions:
- Regardless of race, how can a political official represent the interests of a community as diverse as that of New Orleans?
- How can future candidates transcend racial boundaries?
- Should elected officials be required to acknowledge the impact that race and economic class have and have had historically on their constituents? What are the challenges and benefits that come with such a requirement? (15 to 20 minutes)
5. Ask students to summarize what they learned about race and representation and to analyze the lessons offered by post-Katrina electoral politics that might be valuable for all Americans to learn. List student responses under the L section of the KWL chart (see step 1). (5 minutes)
1. Invite students to explore the politics of their own Congressional district(s). Ask students to identify the district or districts where they live and their own elected officials. Ask students to write one-page comparative essays that contrast what they saw in the film with what they discover about their district(s).
2. Watch Getting Back to Abnormal in its entirety. Ask students to assess the spectrum of personalities in the film. Invite students to examine the pros and cons of the outcome of the election. What do they think would be the best way to handle things moving forward?
3. Invite students to create a presentation (using software such as PowerPoint) that examines the complexity of New Orleans culture and the sociopolitical climate. Ask students to explore changes in the ethnic makeup of the city and to investigate how various cultures combine to create the city's unique character.
The official website for the film includes a photo gallery and information about the filmmakers.
The POV site for the film includes a more comprehensive discussion guide with additional discussion prompts and activity suggestions.
The geography of New Orleans has played and continues to play an important role in the city's history. Learn more about the Louisiana landscape and the significance of the city's location in bayou country.
Filmmaker Paul Stekler discusses New Orleans documentaries in this article.
Richard Campanella discusses demographic changes in New Orleans.
In August 2013, Debbie Elliott presented this brief commentary about the new New Orleans. A transcript of the story is available, as well as an mp3 for downloading.
In this August 28, 2013 article, Mark Waller examines post-Katrina New Orleans with statistical data provided by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (now known as The Data Center).