How To Transform a “Talking Heads” Conference Panel Into Active Learning

How To Transform a “Talking Heads” Conference Panel Into Active Learning

On April 9, from 330-6pm, we will be hosting live and livestreamed symposium, “Race and Its Futures.”  Rather than a “talking heads” panel, we are going to practice what we preach and turn the conference venue itself into an engaged learning experience that mimics and mirrors the structure of our class, “Mediating Race.”

Here’s our abstract and our run of show for the event.

“Reimagining Race in Academia: Media, Education, and Performance”

Please note: The language and visuals in the music videos may be offensive or disturbing to some viewers. Discretion advised.


Our panel will explore the link between media representations of race and examples of social and institutional racism, including in higher education. Media in all forms often situate race as a binary of positive and negative, superiority and inferiority, “high” and “low.”  Those same binaries are replicated in the value systems in our classrooms and in our higher education institutions. What can we do to “flip the script”?

As Richard Dyer writes, “racial imagery is central in organizing the world.” It shapes the way we learn and the way we teach and the way we engage in the world around us. This panel draws from Racquel Gates’s theoretical work to think through issues of blackness and popular media. It includes film clips (from the website “White People Won’t Save You”), interactive pedagogical exercises, music videos, and “critical karaoke” to both address these key issues and to illustrate ways that they can be deployed in the engaged, active classroom.


Run of Show   40-45 minutes

Introductory Remarks Cathy [2 min] 

  1. “White people won’t save you” – compilation of white savior complex scenes from famous movies – Diana [3-4 min video and discussion) [8 min total]  

  2. TPS connecting the video to the concepts in “Mediating Race” – Dave [10 min]

    • Think question: Name the common messages communicated in these “white savior” movies

    • Pair with a partner in the audience; one person reads card, another listens; switch. And then decide who will read or “share” one with the audience

    • Share  one comment with the audience

  3. Critical Karaoke (Intro: Christina) – “Flipping the Script”  [15 min]  Critical Karaoke to three music videos by artists of color designed to question the “white people will save you” mythology in far too much media.

    • Chandni

    • Solange

    • Zee

  4. General Discussion and then Q and A Led by Tiffany, Cassandra, Stephanie, Sammy [10 min]

Here are some questions we will ask:

How can we use new media in the democratic classroom to avoid replicating old systems of inequality?

How do we locate and champion truly meaningful engagement with difference in a system plagued by empty gestures toward diversity and locate

           ourselves as honest and constructive participants in a compromised system?

How do we subvert techno- and bureaucratic systems of diversity that Kristen Warner calls “plastic representation” or “box-checking” and strive,

instead, for actual equity and inclusion?



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