Example 8. A few sample combinations of racism teaching modules

Low commitment (part of one class period)

Complete an analysis of a song from To Pimp A Butterfly in class. For the last ten minutes of class, discuss possible ways that the song engages with the topic of institutional racism.

Medium commitment (one class period)

Give a pre-class assignment asking students to research possible definitions for various terms around race and racism, giving them appropriate resources with which to do so. Spend a class period exploring those definitions and considering how they are made manifest in a song from To Pimp A Butterfly.

Give a pre-class assignment asking students to read about Kendrick Lamar’s social advocacy, using articles from the popular press.1

Higher commitment (2–4 class periods)2

Give a pre-assignment asking students to fill out an anonymous survey asking about their previous experiences discussing race and racism in and out of the classroom.

Take a class period for a general discussion (either as a whole class or in smaller groups) about race and racism, focused around definitions, student experiences and opinions. It is often conducive to discussion to rearrange the classroom into a circle, or into smaller discussion groups, rather than maintaining a standard lecture format.

Ask students to complete a reading or prepared analysis on a particular song for the next class. In the next class, discuss the reading and the song. Then, ask students to complete an assignment on a different piece, applying the concepts discussed in class. Finally, include at least one question on the final exam addressing this component of the course. It might be a free-form essay question, or a bonus question, but including it on the exam validates it as an important element of the course, rather than an ‘extra.’

Highest commitment

Devote an entire course to the topic (probably better as an upper-year course rather than the theory core); e.g., “Music and Race”; “Music and Racism”; “Hip Hop Analysis”; “Pop Music and Social Justice” (see Stamatis 2014).

1 See, for inspiration, Threadgold 2015 and Mooney 2015.

2 I have followed this strategy with the music of Beyoncé: I used McNally 2016 as the pre-reading; discussed Azealia Banks’s song “212” with reference to the article, and then applied the theories to Beyoncé through analysis of music, text, and music videos for “Crazy In Love” and “Girls.” “Girls” also appeared on the final exam.