Ethos Education

Doctor Who: Rosa: How should Christians respond to racial inequality?

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Learning Objectives

  • Recognition of the UK as a multi-ethnic society.
  • Understanding of Christian teaching that promotes racial harmony.
  • Awareness of modern Christians who have worked to oppose racial prejudice.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the unfairness of treating people differently for arbitrary reasons.
  • Analyse a clip from Doctor Who to understand the impact of racial inequality on individuals.
  • Reflect on comments by the Archbishop of York and the teaching of Jesus from the Bible to determine a Christian perspective of racial prejudice and discrimination.
  • Synthesise learning producing a list of ways of opposing racial prejudice and discrimination and reflecting on the extent to which a Christian might approve or disapprove of such methods.

Supporting Values Education:

The values of mutual tolerance and respectful attitudes to those who are different to ourselves is based on a belief that all humans are of equal worth. This lesson encourages students to consider the impact of racial prejudice on individuals’ lives, and to understand the Christian basis for opposing such prejudice.

STARTER:

Start the lesson by reading out a list of students’ names. Choose no more than half of the class to be on the list, either making an arbitrary decision as to who to choose, or by picking an innocuous trait such as having fair hair. Explain that the people whose names were read out will be allowed to remove their jackets (or some other trivial act), but the rest of the class will not. Try to select a suitable perk for the chosen group which is unimportant but likely to irritate those students who are denied it. If the non-chosen students don’t protest, add more and more liberties for the chosen group until you get a reaction.

Ask the protesters why they think it wrong to give different rights to different students. Draw out from them the unfairness of treating people differently without due cause. Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about racism, and looking particularly at Christian responses to racially-motivated prejudice.

MAIN ACTIVITIES:

Introduce the clip from the Doctor Who episode Rosa. The episode is available on the DVD Doctor Who: the complete series 11 (BBC, 2019, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends have found themselves in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, and they are about to get a rude awakening concerning the differences between racial relations in that time and what they are used to in 21st Century Sheffield. Ask the students to see what Ryan (Tosin Cole) does that risks getting them into trouble with the locals.

  • Start time:       0.04.20
  • End time:         0.06.47
  • Clip length:      2 minutes and 27 seconds

The clip starts with Yaz (Mandip Gill) saying, ‘Real life, 1950s: time travel’s awesome!’. It ends with the Doctor talking about ‘Artron energy’ and finishing with, ‘Why is that?’.

Ask the students what Ryan did wrong? Draw out that he did nothing wrong and was just being helpful, but that the prevailing attitudes towards different races meant that his actions were considered provocative and offensive by the white man and his wife. Ask the students how they think Ryan might have felt about this encounter. How do the students think they might have reacted to such a situation? How do they think they might have reacted if they were on the opposite side of the racial divide?

Later in the episode, the Doctor and her friends are looking for somewhere to stay. Introduce this second clip and ask the students to pay attention to further examples of racial injustice, and to what the Doctor and her friends say about it throughout the clip. The clip starts with them standing outside a motel which has the sign, ‘Whites only’. The first line is Ryan saying, ‘I’m getting pretty sick of seeing that sign.’ The clip ends with Yaz saying, ‘It must be my Mexican blood.’

  • Start time:       0.13.59
  • End time:         0.20.11
  • Clip length:      6 minutes and 12 seconds

How did the Doctor and Graham challenge the racist attitudes of the policeman? Should they have said or done more than they did? What reasons do you think they had for what they did do, and for what they chose not to do?

Ask the students to think about the conversation Yaz and Ryan had behind the bins. What did they say about the impact that racism has in their day-to-day lives. If they need prompting, you might want to remind them of some or all of the following lines:

  • Ryan talking about, ‘Having to work so hard to keep my temper every second’.
  • Both mentioned older family members advising them to keep calm and controlled so as to, ‘never give them the excuse’.
  • Ryan complains about getting ‘stopped by the police way more than my white mates’.
  • Yaz mentions being called a paki when carrying out her work as a police officer, or getting called a terrorist on her way home from the mosque.

Now ask the students what positives Yaz drew from the situation they found themselves in. Remind them that although 50 years on from Rosa Parks’ day, racism still exists and still has an impact on individual lives, so much progress had been made as a result of people – like Rosa Parks – who opposed it. Yaz wouldn’t have been able to be a police officer in 1950s Alabama, and the idea of a black man being elected President of the United States would have been just unthinkable. As Yaz says, the progress to be made in the next 50 years could be just as astonishing.

Today, the vast majority of Christians accept that the Bible is clear in its opposition to racism. Passages such as Acts 17:24-26 talk of God creating all people, wanting all to reach out to him and to find him, while there are numerous instances of the Bible talking of God’s kingdom being made up of all nations.

Ask the students how they would expect a modern-day Christian to respond to issues of racial equality. What would they expect a specifically Christian perspective on racism to be like?

Give out copies of the following article. Explain that in the 2007 series of the television show Big Brother, there were allegations that one of the housemates, Jade Goody, had made racist remarks towards Shilpa Shetti, another contestant. Explain that in this article John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, added his contribution to the media debate after Jade Goody was made to leave the Celebrity Big Brother house as a consequence of her remarks.

Read through the article with the students and ask them what Archbishop Sentamu suggests is the root of prejudice, and therefore the reason for racist attitudes. Draw their attention to his reference to Martin Luther King’s remarks that ‘ignorance is the root of all prejudice’ (incidentally, Rev. King appears as a character elsewhere in this episode of Doctor Who).

While it is true that opposing racism is not unique to Christians, both Archbishop Sentamu and Martin Luther King were motivated by the values and principles they derived from their Christian faith.

Explain that Jesus lived in a culture where racial prejudice was commonplace. Jesus challenged people to reject prejudice and to show love to others regardless of their race or religion. If you want to give some examples, you could refer to passages such as Mark 12:28-34 (Jesus tells his followers to love their neighbour) and Luke 10:25-37 (the parable of the Good Samaritan). Ask the students to read through either or both of these passages and to write brief notes suggesting how a Christian might interpret them to support the views expressed by Archbishop Sentamu.

SUMMARY AND ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING:

Ask the students to write a list of different ways ordinary people today could oppose racial prejudice and discrimination. For each item on the list, they should reflect on how a Christian might consider that course of action. Which of the measures might a Christian be likely to approve of and carry out, and which ones might they feel were inappropriate? Ask the students to give reasons to justify their answers.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • A copy of the Doctor Who episode Rosa.
  • Copies of the BBC News article containing John Sentamu’s remarks.
  • Bibles.

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