Power, prejudice and social institutions

18 Mar

I am really struggling with how to help my students to appreciate the complexities of power as a concept.  I am particularly keen to help my students understand that power can be wielded by institutions and that the prejudices of a community can render particular individuals or groups powerless.

The obvious choice to prove this point would be Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  However, I cannot use extracts from this as a related text as other classes are studying it.  As such, I have been looking for an alternative.  At the moment, the best alternative I have found is an excerpt from A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines.  As in To Kill a Mockingbird, institutionalised racism means that an African American man must pay (with his life) for a crime perpetrated against a white man.

The excerpt is also interesting as it engages with the power that fear (caused by circumstances and appreciation of social realities) can have over an individual.



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