Many American citizens with a "hyphenated ethnicity, race, or country" experience a double consciousness. In this activity, youth write a narrative essay from the perspective of another person, reflecting upon their own opinions about how the hyphen is used. Hyphen-Stories is inspired by an article by Dena Simmons called, "Why We Can't Afford Whitewashed Social-Emotional Learning."
- Social-Awareness: practice empathy; take another's perspective
- Relationship Skills: communicate effectively
- Define hyphenated American as an American citizen who can trace their ancestry to another ethnicity or part of the world. Examples include African American or Irish American (so-called because terms like Asian American are often written with a hyphen).
- Watch one or two of the New York Times Hyphen Nation videos in which individual Americans express when they feel least or most American.
- Discuss the video(s) together, especially how the person feels about being an American and how it feels when people talk to them as if they are "other" than American.
- You may allow some time for watching more videos on their own.
- Distribute the Hyphen Stories handout below. Review and discuss the directions.
- Brainstorm together possible story ideas, which may arise from personal experiences or experiences of friends.
- Allow time to draft a hyphen story. Use peer editing and revision strategies to help writers improve their narratives.
- When they are comfortable with their drafts, ask writers to share their narratives aloud or in a virtual space.
Whole Group Discussion Questions
- How do you develop empathy for your character if their experience is not like yours?
- How do you feel about the hyphen in describing identities? What is the purpose of the hyphen (African-American) and why might it feel like a mark of bias or "othering"?
- What does it mean to feel like an "other," even if you are an American?
- Why does a question like "Where are you from?" feel biased? What is a better way to ask that shows interest with respect?
Self Reflection Writing Prompts
- What are some thoughts or feelings that arose during this activity?
- After hearing several stories, what country, race, or ethnicity would you like to learn more about?
Share the edited stories in Flipgrid, in a public place, or other virtual environment. Provide an introduction and reflection questions with the stories to stimulate conversation and awareness.
- Suggested Reading for Facilitator Why We Can't Afford Whitewashed Social-Emotional Learning by Dena Simmons