Essential Questions:

  • What is xenophobia?
  • What does it look like when prejudice becomes and how can we recognize it?
  • What can we do as individuals and members of communities to disrupt patterns of xenophobia?

Densho, an organization whose mission is “to preserve and share the history of the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans to promote equity and justice today,” produced this short film based on Erika Lee’s book “America for Americans. They describe the film this way:

The United States often touts itself as a “nation of immigrants,” but this obscures the real story: Our country was built by enslaved Africans and exploited immigrants on stolen Indigenous land, which left deep scars that we have yet to heal. This brief history of xenophobia and racism shows how these darker parts of American history are interconnected, and challenges viewers to write new narratives as we work together to confront our past and build a more just and equitable future.

This film provides an introduction to the concept of xenophobia and introduces patterns of xenophobia in US history, connecting historical experiences and identities that are often considered in isolation. We recommend using it as part of any standard US history course for students in grades 7-12. Because the film itself is only an introduction, it should be followed with opportunities for inquiry about the historical events presented in the narrative.

Learning objectives. After using this film in a classroom discussion, students will:

  • Understand the term xenophobia
  • Be able to provide examples of what happens when xenophobia is reinforced by law
  • Be able to identify patterns of xenophobia
  • Identify the changes and continuities in the way that xenophobia has been expressed over time in U.S. history.

Reflection Questions and Activities:

Thinking routines can help students promote the habits of mind and heart that are vital to living in welcoming and inclusive communities. Consider using the following routines to promote the key dispositions that are part of the Re-imagining Migration Framework.

Take Perspective: 

Inquire:

Each of the routines we have associated with inquiry can be powerful ways to deepen exploration of the content of this film. The routines are:

Communication Across Difference:

Because this film may challenge people to think differently about the history of the United States, it can be helpful to identify strategies for talking across difference in a way that leads to respectful dialogue about important ideas. Consider these thinking routines as tools that can help reinforce and build those dispositions.

Recognizing Inequities:

Consider using the Who benefits? routine to reflect on who benefits from xenophobia and at what price to individuals, communities, the nation, and the world.

Take Action:

When presented with long-standing patterns of discrimination and prejudice, many of us can feel powerless. Help students consider ways that they can be part of the change by helping them articulate strategies people can use to disrupt patterns of xenophobia. The following thinking routines might be useful to structure those reflections:

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