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Becoming Cultural Allies

Grades 5-8

Students will learn strategies for becoming cultural allies and be empowered to respect and support one another in difficult situations. Students will gain a better understanding of how mistreatment against some people impacts everyone.

1. To develop a working definition and qualities of a cultural ally.
2. To teach students how they can each be allies for themselves and for others, and to teach the importance of having allies and being an ally.
3. To understand the emotional and mental (and sometimes physical) support an ally can provide.

TV & DVD Player
DVD of Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Black and White Together: We Shall Not Be Moved
Large Paper

Prior to Viewing: 10-15 min

1. Discuss the definition of an ally. During the discussion, write down lists of things on large pieces of paper so the whole group can see.

2. What is a cultural ally? Ask students to brainstorm what a person must do to show he or she is a cultural ally. Some examples might be:

* An ally listens. Pay attention to, believe in, and respect what the person who needs help says.
* An ally is present. Back the person up by being a friend, by keeping your word, and by letting the person know when you can't be there.
* An ally opens doors. Help the person explore the available options, resources, and support. Provide useful information, and share your resources and connections.
* An ally takes chances. Sometimes we don't reach out because we fear we will make a mistake or say the wrong thing.
* An ally is bold. When they mess up, they fix it and try again. It's always important to take a chance and reach out.

Show Program: 22 min.

Suggest to students to take notes during the video for the activity afterwards.

Activity: 30 min.

1. Review skills for being a cultural ally. Have students add to the list based on tools they saw in the video.

a. Practice the Golden and Platinum Rules:
i. GOLDEN RULE - Treat others the way you want to be treated. ii. PLATINUM RULE - Treat others the way they want to be treated.

b. Address Culturally Inappropriate Behavior - DARE to request a behavior change:
Duplicate the offending statement (repeat verbatim)
"When you said..."

Articulate how the statement made you feel
"I felt..."

Request a behavior change
"I need for you not to make those kinds of statements in my presence any more because..."

Explain consequences (if the behavior is repeated)
"If you continue to make these types of negative statements..."

c. Practice the 3-Second Pause
Before making a conclusion or responding to a comment that provokes you, take three seconds to think about any information you do not have available. In those three seconds, consider the following:
*How do I understand what the person just said or did?
*What assumptions might I be making?
*What might be happening from the other person's point of view?
*What do I need to ask this person to get the information I need to truly understand what his/her meaning was?

2. In small groups, have students develop a roleplay of a situation where they could be a cultural ally. Have students use the at least one cultural ally tool they just learned or a tool they saw in the video. Role-playing can be used to set up situations that the students can relate to and may have already experienced. * Sample Scenario: Your friend is being bullied at school, or teased for some part of her/his appearance, and you witness it. What can you do to be an ally and help your friend in that situation? The students act out these scenarios and then discuss the outcome as a group (Was the outcome realistic? Could it have been dealt with differently?).

Trainer Tips:

Prior to the role-play, make sure you tell the students who are acting as the people who display culturally insensitive or negative behavior that you would never expect them to make the comments or behave in the way they are about to in the role-play. Also ensure they "de-role" at the end of the role-play or participants may continue to associate the offensive behaviors with the individuals playing that role for the rest of the workshop. A simple way to "de-role" is to have everyone take a big deep breath, and return to being themselves, the caring cultural allies that they are!

Learning Points:

1. Someone can be an ally to people in her or his own group, or to people in other groups.
2. Members of non-power groups are often told, in word or deed, that they are not as good or not as important as people across the line, that they are to blame for their own problems.
3. When you are told over and over that you are unimportant, you might start to feel hopeless.
You might think, "What's the use?" You may give up. Or you might stop caring what happens, and start doing things that put you at risk.
4. When people are always fed messages from the world around them that they unimportant, they begin to believe it and sometimes act in ways that make their situation worse.
5. For this reason, it is important for all of us to be diversity heroes and cultural allies to ourselves and to each other, so that we can help those who begin to believe the bad things about themselves and show them how valued and talented they are.
6. It is also important to remember that many people do not have bad intentions when they say or do insensitive things. They may not understand the impact that their words or actions have on others. As a cultural ally, it is important to believe in good intent and to help teach others how to be more sensitive.


Debrief the activity and pose the following questions for group discussion or an individual journal writing assignment.

* What ways can you be an ally for other young people at school (such as respecting others, not putting others down, supporting others taking care of themselves, interrupting when others are pressured engage in high-risk behavior)?
* Think of one person you could be a better ally to and what it is that you can do to be a better ally to that person?

About National MultiCultural Institute:

Founded in 1983, the National MultiCultural Institute (NMCI) is proud to be one of the first organizations to have recognized the nation's need for new services, knowledge, and skills in the growing field of multiculturalism and diversity.

The mission of the National MultiCultural Institute (NMCI) is to work with individuals, organizations, and communities to facilitate personal and systemic change in order to build an inclusive society that is strengthened and empowered by its diversity. Through the development of strategic initiatives, partnerships, and programs that promote an inclusive and just society, NMCI is at the forefront of global efforts to address critical and emerging issues in the diversity field. www.nmci.org.

National MultiCultural Institute (NMCI)