A number of pictures lined my desk: pictures of my family, friends, and my two cats.
When perusing these pictures, students would literally shriek when they saw a picture of my cat Perry. “Ahhhhh! Mrs. Schultz, you have a black cat!”
Questions would immediately follow:
“Is he mean?”
“Does he give you bad luck?”
“Aren’t you afraid of him?”
My husband and I adopted both of our cats from the Humane Society. When we went to adopt our second cat one mid-October day, we were surprised by the number of black cats. We decided to adopt one.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), black cats are the hardest to get adopted. A big reason is that black cats are associated with bad luck, evil, and witchcraft in Western culture. In other countries such as Britain, Ireland, and Japan, however, black cats are considered to be good luck. There is no evidence to support that black cats are lucky or unlucky.
When students asked questions about Perry, I took the opportunity to have a conversation about stereotypes and prejudice. I asked, “What about Perry makes you think he would be evil?” Students would often say it was because he is black. I would then ask other questions, such as:
- Can you think of a time when someone judged you only by what they could see on the outside?
- How did that make you feel?
- Can you think of a time when you judged someone else based on what you could see on the outside?
- How do you think the other person felt?
- What other information could we use to decide if Perry is mean or not?
Most students could think of times when people judged them because of the way they looked—their skin color, how they dressed, or something else.
I would also talk to students about how I believed that black cats are often misunderstood. People judge them without getting to know them and usually just based on the color of their coat.
What teachable moments have you used to talk about stereotypes?
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