What Is Race,
and How Did I Catch It?
a solo performance by Aaron Jafferis
commissioned by your ancestors
Do you want a show for your [school/organization/national government] that examines the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for race and racism in general, and whiteness in particular? This show is for you! Especially if you have a lot of white people in your [school/organization/national government]!
In a series of hip-hop poems exploring his own misadventures growing up white, Aaron attempts to liberate his people – as soon as he can figure out who they are. What Is Race is a solo tour-de-farce that asks how race is constructed in each of us – our selves and our institutions – and how we can work to deconstruct it.
In a series of (mostly) true personal stories, Aaron answers urgent questions such as:
Am I racist?
How did white people become white?
Why is it “white” and not “beige”?
If I voted for Obama and Kamala, did I deconstruct racism?
Okay, but what can I do, like, tomorrow, about racism in my [school/organization/national government]?*
What Is Race is a site-responsive show: content shifts according to the demographics and needs of each venue; every show includes interactive audience-storytelling prompts that make each person’s experience unique.
An accompanying spoken word workshop asks how we're each trapped or liberated in moments of racial awareness, then invites participants to rewrite their intersecting identities to challenge racism’s story of who they are.
“Jafferis is a lanky Caucasian with a voice and talent that make you laugh and think… a comic philosopher whose raps are sophisticated yet easily understood. Jafferis hits home with his message that…there should be a concerted effort to end racism… by making everyone conscious of each other’s feelings and experiences.”
-The Talent Report
*This show should not be taken as a replacement for awesome anti-racist workshops like BD 101 or Undoing Racism. But it should make your [school/organization/national government] more excited about taking them. Side effects may include dizziness, increased urination, skin irritation, and euphoric liberation.
After booking What Is Race, & How Did I Catch It?, a group of people from your [school/organization/national government] choose from a menu of Aaron’s pieces about the past, present and future of race – and advise Aaron which feel most needed at their site, in this moment.
This decision-making group should include those most affected by the show - for example, if the show will be performed for students, students should help decide which pieces will be performed.
After each performance, Aaron makes the texts of all of his hip-hop poems available for further study, along with a set of study questions and an annotated bibliography for student research.
The performance includes a series of interactive prompts which enable students and staff to apply Aaron’s questions about race to their own lives.