Education » ADL Blogs
January 6, 2016 1

Empowering Jewish Youth to Respond to Anti-Semitism

USYLast week, over 700 Jew­ish teens from across the United States and Canada gath­ered in Bal­ti­more, MD as part of United Syn­a­gogue Youth’s Inter­na­tional Con­ven­tion.  The Anti-Defamation League par­tic­i­pated in the con­ven­tion as a pro­gram part­ner to edu­cate and empower the stu­dents to respond to anti-Semitism. At a time when global anti-Semitism is on the rise, col­lege cam­puses are rife with anti-Israel bias and Jew­ish youth reg­u­larly hear insen­si­tive com­ments about Jews and Judaism, this work is more impor­tant than ever.

Eighty teens par­tic­i­pated in three work­shops over the course of two days, shar­ing their own expe­ri­ences with anti-Semitism, learn­ing the his­tory behind anti-Semitic stereo­types and myths, and prac­tic­ing new strate­gies to respond to anti-Semitism in their every­day lives.  Hear­ing from their peers around the coun­try, stu­dents were able to gain aware­ness about the preva­lence of anti-Semitism.  As one stu­dent com­mented, “I learned that there is more anti-Semitism in schools than I thought there was.”

Stu­dents shared sto­ries of pen­nies being thrown at them, swastikas appear­ing in their schools and hear­ing anti-Semitic “jokes” from their peers.  Through inter­ac­tive exer­cises, role play­ing sce­nar­ios and con­ver­sa­tions with their peers, the stu­dents gained strate­gies to respond and explored what it means for them as Jew­ish teens to stand up for them­selves in the face of anti-Semitism. They also dis­cussed and devel­oped strate­gies to respond to anti-Semitism as it relates to Israel and talked about how these sit­u­a­tions are sim­i­lar to and dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional forms of anti-Semitism.

At the end of the pro­gram, the stu­dents shared one thing they will do dif­fer­ently as a result of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the work­shop. Col­lec­tively, their responses demon­strate the com­mit­ment and power of teens to make a dif­fer­ence in the fight against anti-Semitism:

  • “I will tell friends that anti-Semitism is unacceptable.”
  • “I will be a big­ger advo­cate for the Jew­ish peo­ple and Israel.”
  • “Inform my friends about the facts and what’s really going on”
  • “Point out and explain anti-Semitism when I see it”
  • “I will stand up for the Jew­ish peo­ple if some­thing anti-Semitic is said.”
  • “Respond calmly and in an infor­ma­tive man­ner to anti-Semitic stereotypes”
  • “I will edu­cate oth­ers on how to com­bat anti-Semitism.”
  • “Speak up against insen­si­tive jokes”

The work­shops drew upon the Anti-Defamation League’s edu­ca­tion pro­gram­ming to address anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias with teens and young adults across the United States.   Since the pro­gram was first offered in the 1980’s, ADL has reached over 55,000 teens with knowl­edge, skills and resources to respond to anti-Semitism.

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December 7, 2015 1

When Injustice Goes Unchecked and Concealed, What Message Does This Send to Children?

LAQUAN_McDonald_Chicago_memorial_from_protestorsThir­teen months after Laquan McDon­ald was shot and killed by Chicago police offi­cer Jason Van Dyke, the recorded inci­dent was released to the pub­lic. The day before its release, Van Dyke was arrested for first-degree mur­der. The dis­turb­ing video shows seventeen-year-old McDon­ald being shot for fif­teen seconds—the major­ity for which he was down on the ground. At the time of the shoot­ing, a spokesper­son for Chicago’s police union said that Police Offi­cer Van Dyke had fired his gun after McDon­ald lunged at him with a knife but the video shows he was first shot while veer­ing away from the offi­cers. An autopsy revealed that Van Dyke shot McDon­ald a total of six­teen times.

Pub­lic offi­cials and the police depart­ment have known about the video for 400 days. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that the video was not released ear­lier because of con­cerns it could taint a fed­eral and state inves­ti­ga­tion; how­ever, Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials said that the depart­ment never requested that the city with­hold the video. Because a jour­nal­ist work­ing on the case sued for release of the video, a county judge ordered the city to make it pub­lic. In the wake of these pub­lic rev­e­la­tions, the Police Super­in­ten­dent has been dis­missed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The back­drop and con­text of this inci­dent can­not be ignored. For the last six­teen months, this coun­try has been engaged in a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion about high-profile cases of African Amer­i­can and Latino men being killed at the hands of the police: Fred­die Gray, Wal­ter Scott, Michael Brown, Eric Gar­ner and oth­ers. The Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment has gal­va­nized issues of implicit bias and the racial dis­par­i­ties in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, shin­ing a light on the prob­lem and offer­ing pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions. The McDon­ald case stands out in par­tic­u­lar because of the hor­rific nature of the video, the arrest of the offi­cer for first-degree mur­der and finally—and maybe most importantly—the length of time it took for the video to see the light of day and in what many peo­ple are call­ing a “cover up.”

In the midst of dis­turb­ing media reports and videos cov­er­ing these inci­dents, it is crit­i­cal to remem­ber that the major­ity of police offi­cers chose a career in law enforce­ment because they want to do good in their com­mu­ni­ties and aim to per­form their respon­si­bil­i­ties with honor and integrity. They put their lives on the line every­day as they aim to pro­tect the pub­lic and uphold the law.

As par­ents, edu­ca­tors and oth­ers who work with chil­dren, how­ever, we need to care­fully con­sider the mes­sage this lat­est inci­dent con­veys to young peo­ple about what to do when they wit­ness injus­tice. Anti-bias edu­ca­tion teaches young peo­ple what bias is and then how to address it; the over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage is that we all have a respon­si­bil­ity to con­front racism and all other forms of big­otry and that there a myr­iad of ways to inter­vene and be an ally. We teach stu­dents how to do something.

Although bul­ly­ing and bias in schools is not the same as an alleged mur­der such as in this case, there are some use­ful lessons in what we tell chil­dren about how to behave when faced with bias. We say that being a bystander is not enough. We pro­mote the con­cept that when you see bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion, you should do some­thing. And we teach them that there are many ways to be an ally.

One way is to not par­tic­i­pate. If we use that con­cept and apply it to this inci­dent, we see that there were peo­ple in author­ity who, instead of not join­ing in, par­tic­i­pated in the injus­tice by not speak­ing up about the inci­dent and not tak­ing action when the alleged mur­der was com­mit­ted. Fur­ther, it took the city more than a year to arrest the per­pe­tra­tor of the crime and some have said that many offi­cials were actively involved in a “cover up.”

We teach stu­dents that another way to be an ally is to tell the aggres­sor to stop. We don’t see any indi­ca­tion from the video—on the part of the other offi­cers stand­ing by—that Offi­cer Van Dyke was told to stop what he was doing to Laquan McDon­ald. After the inci­dent, the other police offi­cers did not come for­ward to bear wit­ness to what they saw. And again, it took thir­teen months for the video to be seen by the public.

“Get to know peo­ple instead of judg­ing them” is another crit­i­cal inter­ven­tion strat­egy. While we don’t know what was in the hearts and minds of Offi­cer Van Dyke, the other police offi­cers or the offi­cials who kept the video under wraps all that time, it seems pos­si­ble that implicit bias played a part and that the pat­tern of African Amer­i­can men being more likely to be killed by police offi­cers is germane.

Fourth, we encour­age young peo­ple to inform a trusted adult. The fun­da­men­tal idea is that if a child tells a trusted adult about an inci­dent of bias, bul­ly­ing or dis­crim­i­na­tion, that adult will do some­thing about it. In this case, the “trusted adults” would be the pub­lic offi­cials and police depart­ment (who had the video) because they are author­ity fig­ures with power. One of the rea­sons dash­cams exist is to pro­vide evi­dence when police offi­cers use unnec­es­sary or exces­sive force and once they had this infor­ma­tion, they should have done some­thing imme­di­ately rather than wait­ing for a court order to force them to make it public.

The col­lec­tive shock and dis­may around this case, the protests that have been tak­ing place in Chicago, the fir­ing of the Chicago Police Super­in­ten­dent and the arrest of Police Offi­cer Van Dyke will not bring Laquan McDon­ald back. If pub­lic offi­cials and the police depart­ment had acted the way we tell young peo­ple to act, things may have turned out very dif­fer­ently. Per­haps if we can glean some­thing instruc­tive from this case, namely our respon­si­bil­ity to be an ally in con­fronting injus­tice, we will finally begin to turn this around.

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October 28, 2015 2

Now More Than Ever: Why We Need to Address Inequity and Justice in Schools

Diverse-students-holding-sign-lets-talk-equityWe live in an increas­ingly plu­ral­is­tic, mul­ti­cul­tural and con­nected world. In order to pre­pare stu­dents to live, learn and even­tu­ally work suc­cess­fully in soci­ety, we need to pre­pare them.  Diver­sity in the United States is rapidly increas­ing, espe­cially among young peo­ple enter­ing our school sys­tem. 2014 was the first school year when more chil­dren of color were enrolled in U.S. pub­lic schools than white chil­dren. How­ever, the diver­sity of our teach­ing force is stub­bornly stag­nant at 80% white and, fur­ther, between 2002 and 2012 there was a decline in the num­ber of African Amer­i­can teach­ers in nine major cities, includ­ing the three largest school dis­tricts. Of all the teach­ers in the U.S., only 2% are black and male.

Over the past year, pub­lic con­scious­ness around insti­tu­tional and implicit forms of bias has been ele­vated and there is a lot of con­ver­sa­tion about the ways our soci­ety needs to progress fur­ther towards a “more per­fect union.” The pub­lic aware­ness about the racial dis­par­i­ties in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem includ­ing the recent deaths of men of color at the hands of the police, have pro­vided con­vinc­ing evi­dence that injus­tice per­sists. For all of the great gains we have made leg­isla­tively over the past sixty years, includ­ing this past year, there is still much work to be done: the gen­der wage gap, trans­pho­bia, vot­ing sup­pres­sion and restric­tions  that tar­get peo­ple of color, stu­dents and the elderly, anti-Semitism around the world. inces­sant anti-immigrant hate­ful rhetoric com­ing from reg­u­lar cit­i­zens and law­mak­ers and depend­ing on what state you live in, hate crimes laws that are either incom­plete or non-existent.

The struc­tural inequities in soci­ety also exist in our edu­ca­tional sys­tem. School re-segregation has resur­faced in a major way. In 1972, after years of fed­eral enforce­ment fol­low­ing Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion, 25% of black stu­dents in the South attended highly seg­re­gated schools; between 1990 and 2011, 53% of black stu­dents across the coun­try now attend such schools. In addi­tion, the per­sis­tent racial and socioe­co­nomic achieve­ment and oppor­tu­nity gaps and the racial dis­pro­por­tion­al­ity in school dis­ci­pline prac­tices (e.g. Black stu­dents are sus­pended three times the rate of white chil­dren) that leads to the “School to Prison Pipeline” threat­ens the abil­ity of all stu­dents to get a fair and just education.

When diver­sity is not under­stood, val­ued or respected, this can lead to inter­group ten­sion both in schools and society—manifesting as identity-based bul­ly­ing and bias, scape­goat­ing, stereo­typ­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion, microag­gres­sions, implicit bias, the school to prison pipeline and expres­sions of hate that can lead to vio­lence and death.

Young peo­ple under­stand what is hap­pen­ing and want to be part of the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion we are hav­ing about jus­tice, equity and racism in soci­ety. And sev­eral national orga­ni­za­tions agree. Since June 2015, four of the most promi­nent edu­ca­tional institutions–the National Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion (NEA), Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers (AFT) , Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tional Research Asso­ci­a­tion (AERA) and National Coun­cil of Teach­ers of Eng­lish (NCTE)–have all made state­ments and res­o­lu­tions or issued reports that affirm the need for address­ing equity in schools and soci­ety, specif­i­cally rec­om­mend­ing that we high­light the “sys­temic pat­terns of inequity—racism and edu­ca­tional injustice—that impacts our stu­dents and tak­ing action to enhance access and oppor­tu­nity for our stu­dents.” and “pro­vide pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment and cul­tural com­pe­tency train­ing that helps teach­ers and other school staff under­stand their own per­sonal biases.”

The goal of anti-bias edu­ca­tion is to do just. By focus­ing on the devel­op­ment of an inclu­sive cul­ture and respect­ful school cli­mate, address­ing issues of bias and bul­ly­ing in schools and class­rooms, ini­ti­at­ing these rel­e­vant and timely con­ver­sa­tions with young peo­ple about the inequities in soci­ety and devel­op­ing a more cul­tur­ally respon­sive cur­ricu­lum, we teach young peo­ple that they can make a dif­fer­ence in their schools, soci­ety and world.

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