Teaching Activity. By Linda Christensen. 20 pages.
Teaching about patterns of displacement and wealth inequality through the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.
In this article, Rethinking Schools editor and language arts teacher Linda Christensen describes a section of Stealing Home, a unit she created about ways the homes of people of color have been stolen through “race riots” and “urban renewal” in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Los Angeles’ Chávez Ravine; and Portland, Oregon’s Albina neighborhood. This is the first of a two-part series about the unit.
I teach language arts, so why would I teach my students about the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot?
In language arts circles, we discuss reading as a window to the world, but in a country plagued with foreclosures and homelessness, we need to question the world we’re gazing at: How are contemporary evictions a historical reach from the past? What has happened to black and brown communities? Why do people of color have less inherited wealth than whites? The untold history—the buried stories—reveals patterns that affect our students’ current lives, from eviction notices to the hunger of deep poverty. I can wax poetic about the importance of story in students’ lives, but reading literature of poverty and despair without offering a historical explanation leaves students with little understanding about how things came to be the way they are. And that’s worth reading and writing about.