Living the Legacy

Share

Power, Privilege, and Responsibility

Unit 1 , Lesson 4

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

http://jwa.org/LivingtheLegacy

Power, Privilege, and Responsibility

Lesson plan:
  1. Text Study: Letters Home

    1. Distribute the "Letters Home" Document Study"Letters Home" Document Study"Letters Home" Document Study"Letters Home" Document Study"Letters Home" Document Study to your class. Review the italicized introduction with your students. Share some basic facts about Freedom Summer (see Unit 2, Lesson 4 for more information).
    2. Have a student read Lew's letter out loud. Using the questions on the Document Study, discuss this document with your class. Try to emphasize the issues of privilege and power present in the relationships between white and African American activists in the North, and that while Jews might identify with African Americans they didn't really know what it was like to be African American. Emphasize that while the documents in this lesson explore these issues of power and privilege at an interpersonal level, they resulted from larger social structures and institutions.
    3. Have a student read Ellen's letter out loud. Using the questions on the Document Study, discuss this document with your class. Try to emphasize the issues of distrust between African Americans and whites and the difference that sometimes occurs between what we say we believe or are committed to and what our actions say.
    4. After reading both letters, ask your students the following wrap-up questions. (You may want to write their responses on the board for reference later in class.)
      1. What type of relationship did these white activists want to have with their African American counterparts? In what ways was this type of relationship realistic? In what ways wasn't it realistic? Why? What personal experiences and larger social structures got in the way of the ideals whites brought to their civil rights activism?
      2. What issues came between many white and African American activists?
  2. Driving Miss Daisy

    1. Introduce the movie using information in the synopsis and scene descriptions below.
    2. Show Clip #1, Temple Bombing. (In some versions of the DVD the Temple Bombing is scene 18.) After showing the clip, ask a couple of students to describe what happened objectively, in their own words, and then discuss some of the following questions:
      1. When Miss Daisy asks who would bomb the Temple, Hoke responds, "You know as good as me. Always be the same ones." To whom do you think Hoke is referring?
      2. Why do you think the Temple bombing made Hoke think of the lynching of his friend's father? How are these events similar and/or different?
      3. Does Miss Daisy see herself and her experiences as similar to or different from Hoke and his experiences? What evidence do you have? How similar or different do you think they are? What is the biggest difference between them?
      4. Describe where you see power and privilege at work in this scene. At what points do you think Miss Daisy and/or Hoke seem especially aware of these issues?
    3. Show Clip #2, King Dinner. (In some versions of the DVD the King Dinner is scene 19.) After showing the clip, ask a couple of students to describe what happened objectively, in their own words, and then discuss some of the following questions:
      1. Recall the reasons Boolie gave for why he didn't want to go to the King dinner. Are you sympathetic towards him? Why or why not?
      2. Miss Daisy says she's not prejudiced. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
      3. How does Hoke react to Miss Daisy's last minute mention of a possible invitation to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. speak at the dinner? What did you think about his reaction?
      4. Describe where you see power and privilege at work in this scene. At what points do you think Miss Daisy and/or Hoke seem especially aware of these issues?
    4. After showing both clips, you may want to discuss some of the following questions with your students:
      1. Do you think Miss Daisy treats Hoke with respect and dignity? Do you think Hoke treats Miss Daisy with respect and dignity? What accounts for the differences in the ways they treat each other?
      2. Miss Daisy has the power in this relationship both in the sense that she is Hoke's boss, and in the sense that as a white Jew she has more power in society than does Hoke as an African American. Do you think Miss Daisy's actions reflect what she says about herself and her beliefs? How could Miss Daisy better wield her power? What, if anything, do you think Miss Daisy learns from her encounters with Hoke?
      3. Return to the student responses you wrote on the board after the previous activity. Ask your students:
        1. How are the issues raised by Driving Miss Daisy different and/or similar to the issues raised by Lew and Ellen's letters?
        2. The letters were written by real people, while the movie is a fictional story. What can we learn from facts? What limitations are there to learning from facts? What can we learn from fiction? What limitations are there to learning from fiction?

    Synopsis:

    Based on Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer-prize winning play of the same name, Driving Miss Daisy tells the story of Miss Daisy, a southern widow from a well-to-do family, who lives alone except for her African American maid and driver. The movie focuses on the relationship between Miss Daisy and her driver, Hoke. It is set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta, GA. While Miss Daisy and her son, Boolie, appear to support the Civil Rights Movement in a general way, their actions on a more personal level are complicated by their position in the community and their own assumptions about race, class, and social roles at times appear inconsistent with this support.

    Clip #1:

    Temple Bombing (Scene 18)
    Miss Daisy is sitting in her car, stuck in traffic. It's raining outside and we see her driver, Hoke, carrying an umbrella, returning to the car after finding out the cause of the traffic jam). Hoke explains that Miss Daisy cannot go to the temple today because it has been bombed. At first, Miss Daisy doesn't want to believe Hoke. Then she asks, rhetorically, "Who would do something like that?" Hoke responds to the question, saying "You know it's always the same ones." Later in the scene, Hoke tells a story from his youth when a friend's father was lynched. He explains that the temple bombing reminded him of the story; however, Miss Daisy refuses to see a connection between the two events.

    Clip #2

    King Dinner (Scene 19)
    Boolie, Miss Daisy's son, arrives at her house. He tells her that while he supports Martin Luther King, Jr., he can't go to the dinner where King is speaking because it might not be good for his business. If people think he supports King, Boolie explains, they might call him names behind his back, throw business to other businessmen, and not let him know about other business deals or events. Boolie is also surprised that Miss Daisy is so committed to going to the dinner. She responds, "I've never been prejudiced in my life." Boolie suggests that maybe she should invite Hoke, her driver, to go to the dinner with her. Shortly thereafter, we see Hoke driving Miss Daisy to the King dinner. On the way, Miss Daisy tells Hoke about her conversation with Boolie and how silly it is that he would think that Hoke would want to go to the dinner. She also assumes that Hoke knows King. Just before they arrive at their destination, Hoke suggests that in the future if Miss Daisy wants to invite him to attend a function with her that she invite him properly and not wait until they are in the car on the way to the function. As the scene ends, we see Miss Daisy listening to Martin Luther King, Jr. speak, while she sits at a table with well-dressed people and an empty seat at an elegant dinner and then we see Hoke sitting in Miss Daisy's car listening to the same speech on the radio.

  3. Journaling Exercise

    1. Make sure that your students have blank, lined paper, and a writing implement. Prepare them for a journaling exercise. You may choose to have the students keep their journaling exercise or hand it in.
    2. Ask the students to consider the story that Ellen tells about her family's African American maid and the scenes from Miss Daisy about the Martin Luther King, Jr. dinner. Remind your students that these are examples of people's words and actions not quite matching (or examples of the limitations of people's beliefs about their own lack of racism). Explain that this is also a challenge in our world today.
    3. Have your students reflect and write on one of the following:
      • Describe a situation today in which you or someone you know or a public figure has proclaimed certain values and then acted in ways that did not reflect those values. How could this person better align his/her actions with his/her beliefs? Which do you think speak louder, words or actions? Why?
      • How do power and privilege shape your life? Give a specific example.
  4. OPTIONAL: Text Study: Power, Privilege, and Social Justice

    1. Remind your students that one of the issues between some African Americans and whites that we've already discussed is one of power and privilege. The white activists whose letters we read were from middle-class backgrounds. Their families had "made it" and since they didn't have to fight for their own rights they could fight for someone else's rights. However, not all Jews in America have power and privilege.
    2. Distribute the Power, Privilege, and Social Justice Document StudyPower, Privilege, and Social Justice Document Study to your students.
    3. Have a couple of students take turns reading aloud the introductory material and the excerpt from Paul Cowan's book An Orphan in History. Stop them occasionally to clarify terms or phrases, or provide a little extra background information.
    4. Discuss the document with your class using some or all of the questions provided. Emphasize what Cowan discovers about how power and privilege relate to social justice issues, while encouraging your students to share their own responses to the situation he describes.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: Power, Privilege, and Responsibility." (Viewed on April 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/civilrights/power-privilege-and-responsibility>.