Cultural and ethnic studies: intent vs. impact

  

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WRITING: INTENT VS. IMPACT

INSTRUCTIONS

Intent vs. Impact

One of the concepts that must be understood in order to have meaningful discussions about race is the differences between intent and impact. At first glance the differences may seem obvious and unimportant. But let’s look deeper and see what we find.

Definitions:

Intent: 1. something that is intended; purpose; design; intention: The original intent of the committee was to raise funds. 

2. Law. the state of a person’s mind that directs his or her actions toward a specific object. 

3. meaning or significance.

Impact: 1. the striking of one thing against another; forceful contact; collision: The impact of the colliding cars broke the windshield. 

2. an impacting; forcible impinging: the tremendous impact of the shot. 

3. the force exerted by a new idea, concept, technology, or ideology: the impact of the industrial revolution.

Class Example and Assignment:

Characters:

Fred, he’s a black male who has been going to Bellevue College for 3 years now and knows the campus pretty well. He is comfortable when at school and always arrives about 5 minutes early to class.

Jean, she a white female who is new to Bellevue College; this is her first quarter. She doesn’t know where everything is on campus just yet, and is always late for class.

Situation:

Monday morning: Fred is waiting for the classroom to empty so that he can enter and attend his Sociology class. It begins at 8.30 daily and he is always there before the previous class lets out. Jean sees that it is 8.25 and she has to be on the other side of campus by 8.30 so she is running. Jean doesn’t see Fred and runs into him full force, says she’s sorry and keeps on her way.

Tuesday morning: Fred is waiting for the classroom to empty so that he can enter and attend his Sociology class. It begins at 8.30 daily and he is always there before the previous class lets out. Jean sees that it is 8.25 and she has to be on the other side of campus by 8.30 so she is running. Jean doesn’t see Fred and runs into him full force, says she’s sorry and keeps on her way.

Wednesday morning: Fred is waiting for the classroom to empty so that he can enter and attend his Sociology class. It begins at 8.30 daily and he is always there before the previous class lets out. Jean sees that it is 8.25 and she has to be on the other side of campus by 8.30 so she is running. Jean doesn’t see Fred and runs into him full force, says she’s sorry and keeps on her way.

Thursday morning: Fred is waiting for the classroom to empty so that he can enter and attend his Sociology class. It begins at 8.30 daily and he is always there before the previous class lets out. Jean sees that it is 8.25 and she has to be on the other side of campus by 8.30 so she is running. Jean just misses hitting Fred this morning and hurries on her way.

Friday morning: Fred is waiting for the classroom to empty so that he can enter and attend his Sociology class. It begins at 8.30 daily and he is always there before the previous class lets out. Jean sees that it is 8.25 and she has to be on the other side of campus by 8.30 so she is running. Jean doesn’t see Fred and runs into him full force, says she’s sorry and keeps on her way.

A similar pattern continues for 2 weeks.

Conclusions:

By the following Monday morning, two weeks after Fred and Jean first encountered each other the following things are likely to be true: Fred is pissed. This white girl has run into him 8 out of the 10 times that she has passed him. She says that she is sorry but she still hits Fred far more often than she misses him. She can see that he waits in the same spot every day, so it must be that she wants to hurt him. Fred believes that what is happening between them is racism pure and simple, and that anyone one who watched what has been happening all quarter will see things his way. So he calls Jean a racist, and begins to yell that “white people act like they own this campus.” A crowd begins to gather. Jean is shocked by Fred’s anger and becomes angry herself when Fred accuses her of racism. She has simply been trying to get used to college life and finds that she has been running late every morning. When she does knock into Fred she says she’s sorry, so why is he holding this against her? Besides, why do black people always make everything about race? He must not like white people because he seems to be blaming all whites for what is happening between them and he’s making a big fuss in the process. All she has been doing is trying to get to class on time.

WRITING:

Your job is to figure out who is most right and who is most wrong in this situation by discussing the differences between intent and impact.

1. Use the discussion in Lesson 5 of intent vs. impact to talk with each other.

2. Then each person is to turn in a 2 pages assignment explaining the conclusions you have reached about what has transpired in this situation. Who is right and who is wrong in what ways? For whom is intent important? For whom is impact important?

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