Teaching The Skin We’re In

One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. Then you can come to an intelligent decision for yourself. 

Malcolm X

Unit Goals

  • identifying and stamping out racist ideas and thoughts within myself and systemic racism within my community;
  • identifying micro-aggressions and reflecting on how to modify questions or comments in ways that are less likely to reflect stereotypic assumptions and beliefs;
  • identifying how form, style, and poetic devices communicate meaning; and
  • building on our media literacy skills by exploring a small cross-section of political and social protests through images and headlines focusing on constructed narratives and identifying inherent bias. 


We embarked on reading together to have a shared experience for the initial parts of the book. Throughout the unit, excerpts were shared aloud and discussed.

Implicit Bias

Diversity: Not So Black and White, The Agenda with Steve Paikin

Students then took the Implicit Bias Test from Project Implicit of Harvard University.

Amnesty International Book Club Discussion Guide: The Skin We’re In
Riot police in helmets twisting arms of protester behind his back while arresting him on street – Stock photo

Poem Resisting Arrest

Kyle Dargan reads his poem “Poem Resisting Arrest”
“Poem Resisting Arrest” by Kyle Dargan


  • Alvin Poussaint refers to the cumulative impact of experiencing microaggressions as ‘death by a thousand nicks.’ Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain your answer Or
  • Derald Wing Sue has argued that the impact of subtle prejudice, such as microaggressions, is more harmful than the impact of blatant discrimination. Do you agree or disagree with this proposition? Explain your answer.

Media Investigation

Black Lives Matter protests in 2014.

Tim Wise continued to inform our study in this brief video discussing how African Americans are portrayed in the media.

Search Signals and Boosters

Podcast or Photo Essay

Possible topics were:

  • Protests over the death of George Floyd
  • Indigenous Day of Action
  • Idle No More
  • Not Another Black Life
  • Occupy
  • Police in Schools (School Resource Officers)
  • Abdiramen Abdi
  • Carding
  • Dafonte Miller
  • Immigration Detention of Children
  • Asylum Seekers
  • School to prison pipeline
  • Other topic approved by the teacher

If students chose to do a podcast, I provided them with a few examples they could listen to before they got into creating theirs. Some of the podcasts I suggested were:

Students were also required to include an Artist’s statement consisting of an explanatory paragraph for the reader that meets the following criteria:

CriteriaArtist’s statement meets these criteria
why you decided on this topic
a brief description of the events you are portraying, which should include your research – reason, name of organization, date and place and other relevant information
explain at least three decisions you made in shaping your assignment
describe a challenge you encountered and how you overcame it.

Furthermore, research was a necessary element of this project, so students were to include a full bibliography with at least two annotated entries.

We are in the midst of photo essay and podcast creation and so far the ideas I’m hearing about are creative and insightful. I am eagerly looking forward to the “reveal.”


Choudhury, Shakil. Deep Diversity: A Compassionate, Scientific Approach to Achieving Racial Justice. Greystone Books, 2021.

Cole, Desmond. The Skin We’re in: A Year of Black Resistance and Power. Doubleday Canada, 2020.

One response to “Teaching The Skin We’re In”

  1. […] Use Real-World Examples: Connect literary texts to real-world issues and current events. This will challenge students to think critically about the relevance of literature in today’s society and make connections between the text and their own lives. A popular unit in my classes has been The Skin We’re In and students’ feedback specifically cites the real-world subject-matter as being really important and appreciated. You can read more here: “Teaching the Skin We’re In.” […]

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