Launched on March 1, 2014, “I, Too, Am Harvard” (#itooamharvard) is an online photo and hashtag campaign that features portraits of over 50 black and mixed race students at Harvard College holding up dry-erase boards with handwritten examples of racist comments, microaggressions, talk-back messages and quotes, or other difficult interpersonal and institutional interactions they’ve experienced as students. Touching on issues of tokenism, assumption of lack of intelligence, the myth of meritocracy, color blindness, devalued and dismissed perspectives, stereotypical exchanges, and other kinds of problematic interactions, the visually impactful campaign resonated with many people and rapidly spread across the Internet. It further inspired minority students on other campuses to create and share similar projects through their own locally-situated social media campaigns.
Looking through the campaign images (http://itooamharvard.tumblr.com), what common themes do you notice about the portraits and message boards?
Why do you think the students created this campaign? Who are the images and messages directed at?
How might the messages be received differently if it didn’t feature people and their faces in the photos?
What can and should be done when you hear an example of everyday racism at school, at home, amongst friends, and with strangers?
Some of the messages the campaign participants are holding up are unintentionally racist, or are meant as jokes or compliments. Does intentionality matter?
What role does Harvard University play in the visibility and legitimacy of this campaign? Do you think people would have paid as much attention to the campaign if it had been another school?
What are the students claiming and speaking back to when they use the hashtag #Itooamharvard? How do the hashtag, images, and message boards (especially via social media) work together to create an impactful campaign?
What effects does a campaign like this have? On who?