Lesson Plan

Understanding and Analyzing "The U.S. of Us" by Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco

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GRADE LEVEL: Middle School, High School

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language

Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric and Policies

The U.S. has a long history of anti-immigrant bias. Years of anti-immigrant rhetoric, bias, discrimination and policies have permeated our country. In August 2019, a deadly shooting that killed twenty-two people in El Paso, Texas highlighted this anti-immigrant bigotry. The suspected gunman drove more than 650 miles from his home to El Paso, a border town that is 85% Latinx, to carry out a mass shooting. According to an arrest warrant affidavit, the shooter confessed that he planned the rampage and made the drive from his home to the border city with the intention of targeting Mexicans. Law enforcement officials said they believe the gunman wrote a four-page manifesto that embraces white supremacist and anti-immigrant views. The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime. 

During the 2016 presidential election campaign and continuing today, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the level and amount of negative and stereotypical rhetoric about immigrants. Rhetoric around Mexican people “bringing drugs, bringing crimes” and “they’re rapists” was a central part of our national discourse during the election. The campaign chant of “build the wall” (referring to a proposed wall to be built on the Mexican border to keep immigrants out) made its way into the school hallways and varsity sports even. Anti-Muslim language and sentiment moved from calls for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” into a travel ban policy, which targets mostly Muslim majority countries.

Richard Blanco Reflects Through Poetry What It Means to Be Latinx in the U.S. Today

In the aftermath of this devastating attack, poet Richard Blanco was asked by USA Today and the El Paso Times to write a poem reflecting on how the Latinx community is feeling about living in the U.S. “In the wake of the violence of El Paso, I felt an urgency to take a hard look at our place as Hispanics in the United States," he said. Blanco, author of five poetry collections, was born in Madrid and immigrated to the U.S. as an infant with his Cuban-exiled family. In 2013, he wrote and recited a poem for Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Blanco was the first Latino, immigrant and openly gay writer to write and recite a poem for a Presidential inauguration.

About the Lesson Plan

This lesson plan provides an opportunity for students to analyze Richard Blanco’s poem, “The U.S. of Us,” in the context of current immigration policy and rhetoric. By engaging in the writing and extension activities, students will explore and deepen their understanding of the poem and current immigration issues.