Listen to Gil Scott-Heron read his famous poem, “Whitey on the Moon.” Follow along with the lyrics below and try to define the highlighted vocabulary.

"Whitey on the Moon" by Gil Scott-Heron

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey's on the moon)
I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be paying still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
The man just upped my rent last night.
('cause Whitey's on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
I wonder why he's upping me?
('cause Whitey's on the moon?)
I wuz already paying him fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes taking my whole damn check,
Junkies making me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is going up,
An' as if all that crap wasn't enough:
A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arm began to swell.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Was all that money I made last year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain't no money here?
(Hmm! Whitey's on the moon)
Y'know I just about had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I'll send these doctor bills,
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)


  • swell
  • upped
  • junkies
  • nervous
  • wreck
  • crap
  • had my fill


Open the exercise to begin the activity. Follow the instructions in the document.


  1. Who is “Whitey” in this poem? What things does he represent?
  2. Describe the life of inner-city African-Americans as described by Scott-Heron. How do you think this contrasts with other people in America at that time? How do you think they view America?
  3. What does Scott-Heron decide to do at the end of the poem? What do you think this might represent?


  • What impression do you get about African-Americans’ lives in this poem? Do you think it was true?
  • This poem first came out in 1970. Do you think things are better or worse for African-Americans in 2014?


Watch the video on racism and answer the following questions.

  1. How does the experiment work in the video?
  2. Do you think it is fair for a news program to do an experiment like this?
  3. Do business owners have the right to refuse to serve people if they don’t like their race, religion, or politics?
  4. What does the psychologist say is behind racism? Do you agree?
  5. What do the actual Muslims interviewed say happens to them in America? Do you think this is a common event?
  6. What about the people who did not accept the racist shopkeeper’s actions? Why did they do it? Were they right?
  7. 13 people stood up for the Muslim woman’s rights, 6 supported the shopkeeper, and 22 did nothing. What does this tell you?

Last Words

  • Is racism a problem around the world? Where do you see it happening these days?
  • What about in your country? Is there racism towards a particular group or people from other countries?
  • Is there a ‘cure’ for racism? Will we ever have a world without it?
  • How can people from different races or ethnic groups live together peacefully?
  • In a group of four, create a list of rights you believe every individual is entitled to in our world. Be prepared to share it with the class.