artwork from The 1619 Project

Units November 8, 2021

Race, Power, and Health: Past and Present

Lesson Summary: Students examine the relationship between power and race, and how it has shaped science and medicine in the United States. They practice crafting knowledgeable claims based on analysis of essays in The 1619 Project and other texts, ultimately writing original papers in response to a DBQ about racism in the healthcare system. Downloads: Unit resources
SECTIONS


This unit was created by Humanities at Life Academy of Health and Bioscience, part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately five weeks, or twenty-two 105-minute class periods.

Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • Determine the main idea of texts through close reading.
  • Craft precise, knowledgeable claims in writing.
  • Compare and contrast the past with the present.

Big Ideas for this Unit

  • Power (and protection of it) is at the root of racism/casteism.
  • Race has formed science just as science has formed race—science has been both a victim and perpetrator of racist beliefs, and scientific honesty is essential.
  • The health care system is a set of institutions that historically and presently perpetuates our racist caste system.
  • Communities of color and individuals of color have resisted (and continue to resist) scientific and medical racism.

Unit Overview

In this unit, students engage in three document-based inquiry cycles comparing how people of color, specifically African Americans, have been treated in the American medical system in the past and present. After these three inquiries, students write a summative DBQ essay answering the unit question: Considering the history of racism in healthcare, to what extent should people of color have trust and faith in the U.S. healthcare system?

This unit serves as the first unit of the year and as such the first week is both an introduction to the class and to the unit—please tailor to your own needs. In the first week, students are introduced to the relationship between power and race, specifically how race is used as a “tool” to protect and justify systems of power. Using Nikole Hannah-Jones’s essay “The Idea of America” as a framing text, students investigate the dominant “1776” narrative of American history and the “1619” counter-narrative. They conclude the first week with a free write answering the prompt: What does America mean to you? Week 2 begins the first document-based inquiry which is themed around medical crises. Students compare the treatment (and scapegoating) of people of color in the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 and in the modern COVID-19 pandemic. In Week 3, students explore an inquiry focused on healthcare in which they compare the successes and failures of the Reconstruction-era Freedmen’s Bureau to the Affordable Care Act. In the final inquiry cycle in Week 4, students learn about theories of scientific racism in the American past and draw connections to scientific racism in the present day. In Week 5, students synthesize their learning and craft a five-paragraph DBQ essay that draws on evidence from the three inquiries.

Performance Task

Students synthesize their learning and craft a five-paragraph DBQ essay that draws on evidence from the three inquiries. In the DBQ, they answer the question: Considering the history of racism in healthcare, to what extent should people of color have trust and faith in the U.S. healthcare system?

For more detailed instructions on the DBQ, explore the student-facing DBQ Instructions:

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