“Archie Bunker’s Neighborhood,” a program co-sponsored by Black Repertory Theater and the resident advisors at Bragaw Residence Hall, gave a different approach towards educating others about racial, systematic, and social stereotypes. “The purpose of hosting this program is an attempt to educate others about the negative aspects of stereotypes through interaction and real-life experience,” said Marquis McCullough, a junior in science education and member of Black Repertory Theater.
Students who came to participate were divided into different groups that represented different communities: Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, Middle Eastern, and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trasngendered communities. Once divided, the goal was to build their communities by buying a permit and using taxes to help pay for items and purchase land. However, that wasn’t just the only task at hand. Members of Black Repertory Theater acted as officers, mayors, and permit holders, but contributed to showing the participants about how it felt to face discrimination.
Through the use of improvisation, each group experienced just what it was like to have these stereotypes placed on them based on their appearance. Most of the stereotypes exposed were far from unheard of or uncommon. For example, those that represented the Middle Eastern and Muslim community were denied of getting taxes for amenities and purchasing land because of the fear they were terrorists; other times, they were denied of getting a permit because of not being able to comprehend what they were saying. The members of Black Repertory Theater who acted as officers pretended to use excessive force and often “argued” with others without any justification to show possible bias. Other groups felt the same pressure, often through common yet unjustified stereotypes represented in the communities. These often included drug dealing, unemployment rates, lack of identification, homophobia, and not having as much money as others. “I feel discriminated,” said Olivia Lehman, a sophomore in fashion and textile management.
Not all the groups faced the “usual” act of discrimination, however. Those who represented the upper class white neighborhood were treated nicely by those acting as the county officials. As compared to the other communities in the improvisational program, they started with $2000 towards purchasing land, whereas the others started with much less than that price alone. “They told us we were rich, and I don’t know what’s going on,” said Geoffrey Hunter, a senior in political science. One of the members was kicked out of the community; this showed inner discrimination and how it often times goes unlooked as a form of prejudice.
Toward the end of the program, the participants discussed how they felt throughout the program. “I felt like I wasn’t given the time of day just because I didn’t speak English,” said Jared Welch, a junior who represented the Hispanic group. “I felt like when I was protesting my rights, people were looking at me in a strange manner,” said Toni Thorpe, the African American Cultural Center program coordinator, “I protested by myself.” Most felt that stereotypes, whether social or cultural, still exist today.
One of the interesting points of the program was how most of the participants – not just the members of those hosting Archie Bunker’s Neighborhood – eventually played into their roles in each group through their reactions to what they had faced. “It was interesting to see the different aspects involved,” said Brittany McCullough, a senior in public and interpersonal communication. “A lot of you got angry, but we’re all socialized to do the same thing.
In short, several thought that the program was informative as well as successful in engaging others to think differently about the way people perceive others. “Overall, I think it was an intellectually stimulating program,” said Tiffany Lewis, a junior in business management and accounting. “It makes you have a self reflection about how different races and ethnicities are treated in the world today.”