A performing artist and diversity practitioner, Fosberg presented the journey of discovering his racial identity – raised in a working-class white family in Chicago, Fosberg, at age thirty, discovered that his biological father was black.
Demonstrating his varied emotions and the development of his thoughts on racial identity, the play was designed to help students ponder the power and importance of racial identity through Fosberg’s personal experience. “In contrast to the first program of Conversations of Race, the documentary “I’m Not Racist… Am I?,” I found Fosberg’s play to be a less controversial and more comfortable starting point to think about a personal and possibly difficult subject,” said Devika Das ’16. Das emphasized how the emotional aspect of the play stimulated her thinking about the influences of race and stereotyping on individuals: “I liked how his play focused on his happiness on the discovery. He was upset at his mother for keeping it a secret, but that did not engulf the play. We were able to enjoy the warm moments he had with his father’s side of the family and get a personal story to a complex and broad discussion.”
After the play, Hopkins students divided by class to engage in workshops and group discussion facilitated by Fosberg. Students discussed the contents of the play and its manifestation of racial identity, white privilege, and stereotyping in society.
During the workshop, students partnered up with a classmate whom they did not know many things about, and listed five assumptions of what their partner liked based on their outward appearance. Additionally, Fosberg shared various genres of songs and asked students what type of person they thought would listen to that genre. While students found out that some assumptions were true and others were not, many students understood the goal of the exercise.
“The exercise encouraged us to look past first impressions and skin color to the character within,” said Lindsay Martin ’16. Other students, on the other hand, questioned the effectiveness of the activity: “I found it challenging to name things that my partner liked just by appearance. I don’t think we judge what people like – we judge what they are like by stereotypes and first impressions. His exercise with the music was interesting, but I personally only had a stereotype for one of the genres and I felt like he was trying to provoke us and force us to make stereotypes that we may not have previously had,” Christy Lano ’16 commented.
Students again shared their reactions to the play on Monday, February 1. In joint advisory groups, students used a set of questions to further reflect about racial identity and engage in discussion with a smaller group to share their ideas and expand their thoughts.
The next program in the Conversation on Race is an address by Charles Blow, New York Times columnist and author of Fire Shut Up in My Bones, on Friday, February 19.