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August 4, 2016 9

Teachable Moments Abound in Khizr Khan’s Convention Speech

Khazir Khan - DNCOn the final night at the Demo­c­ra­tic National Con­ven­tion, a Mus­lim Amer­i­can cou­ple named Khizr and Ghaz­ala Khan came to the stage and deliv­ered a patri­otic speech about their son, a U.S. Army Cap­tain who died in 2004 in Iraq serv­ing his coun­try. Khizr Khan, as his wife looked on, spoke for a mere six min­utes. The speech was so riv­et­ing that the dis­cus­sion about it con­tin­ued into the next day and beyond, many peo­ple call­ing it was one of the most pow­er­ful Con­ven­tion speeches.

In the speech, Khan talked about his son and his ulti­mate sac­ri­fice, Amer­i­can patri­o­tism and immi­gra­tion. He strongly chal­lenged the Islam­o­pho­bia and biased tone of the cur­rent pres­i­den­tial campaign.

In the days fol­low­ing the speech, sev­eral con­tro­ver­sies arose and it occu­pied much of cable news’ air­time. Ghaz­ala Khan was ques­tioned for not speak­ing. Alle­ga­tions cir­cu­lated that she may not have been “allowed” to speak, imply­ing it was due to her being Mus­lim. It was also said that Khizr Khan “had no right to say” what he said. In fact, iron­i­cally, the Con­sti­tu­tion (which he used as a prop and referred to sev­eral times) allows him to express his thoughts freely. In the after­math, promi­nent Democ­rats includ­ing Pres­i­dent Obama and high-ranking Repub­li­cans denounced the harsh words directed at the Khans.

The speech and sub­se­quent pub­lic dis­course pro­vides a teach­able moment to talk with young people—in the class­room or around the kitchen table—about a num­ber of related issues. Below are those issues and some open-ended ques­tions with which fam­i­lies and edu­ca­tors may start the conversation.

Our Con­sti­tu­tional Rights

A dra­matic moment in Khan’s speech was when he pulled out his pocket copy of the Con­sti­tu­tion and asserted the impor­tance of “lib­erty” and “equal pro­tec­tion (under) law.”  That sin­gle action drove sales of the Con­sti­tu­tion pocket ver­sion to hit the top 10 best­selling books on Ama­zon. And that’s a good thing for democ­racy and pub­lic aware­ness of our Con­sti­tu­tional rights, includ­ing reli­gious free­dom and free­dom of speech. Among other find­ings, a 2014 study of stu­dent and teacher per­spec­tives on the First Amend­ment found that stu­dents who take a class deal­ing with the First Amend­ment are more likely to sup­port First Amend­ment rights. It also found that, for the first time, Amer­i­can high school stu­dents show a greater over­all appre­ci­a­tion for the First Amend­ment than do adults.

Fol­low­ing the speech, there were state­ments made that Khizr Khan “has no right” to raise ques­tions about the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. In fact, one of Khan’s main points was that the Con­sti­tu­tion allows him free­dom of speech and he was, in fact, allowed to make crit­i­cal com­ments about politicians.

Ques­tions for Discussion:

  • In his speech, what point did Khizr Khan make about the Constitution?
  • What do you know about the Constitution?
  • What did Khan’s words about the Con­sti­tu­tion have to do with immi­grants and patriotism?

Stereo­types of Muslims

In the after­math of the speech, ques­tions were force­fully raised about why Ghaz­ala Khan stood at the podium and didn’t say any­thing, charg­ing that “maybe she wasn’t allowed to have any­thing to say.” This per­pet­u­ates the myth and stereo­type that Mus­lim women are sub­servient to men. In response to these accu­sa­tions, Ghaz­ala Khan spoke up on her own behalf and in addi­tion, Mus­lim women posted on social media using the hash­tag #CanYou­HearUs­Now in defi­ance of that label. Fur­ther, in sev­eral TV inter­views about the speech, oth­ers slipped in the words “rad­i­cal Islamist ter­ror­ists,” seem­ingly in an attempt to con­flate the Khan fam­ily with terrorism—another com­mon stereotype.

Ques­tions for Discussion:

  • What are some of the stereo­types you have heard about Mus­lims and how do you see this play­ing out in the lat­est controversy?
  • How does what you learned about the Khans or any­thing else in the news dis­pel the stereotypes?
  • In what ways are stereo­types harm­ful and what can we do about them?

Being an Ally When Fac­ing Bias

When Khizr Khan spoke about his son and his views on the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, he spoke not only about the mis­treat­ment and big­otry directed at Mus­lims dur­ing this elec­tion but also about other immi­grants, minori­ties and women. Khan used his voice to amplify the voices of oth­ers. Being an ally in small and large ways is an impor­tant les­son and skill to teach our chil­dren. In addi­tion to Khan’s ally behav­ior dur­ing the Con­ven­tion, when he and his wife were attacked, other politicians—both Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats alike—rose to be their allies and speak on behalf of them and all vet­er­ans and Gold Star fam­i­lies (bereaved fam­ily mem­bers of U.S. Armed Forces members).

Ques­tions for Discussion:

  • What does it mean to be an ally, on a per­sonal and polit­i­cal level?
  • How did Khizr Khan act as an ally and how did oth­ers act as an ally to him when he was attacked?
  • What can we do to be allies to peo­ple who are mis­treated, stereo­typed and dis­crim­i­nated against?

The Immi­grant Experience

Khan spoke pas­sion­ately about his expe­ri­ence as an immi­grant, mak­ing clear his “undi­vided loy­alty to our coun­try” and shar­ing his com­mon expe­ri­ence of com­ing to this coun­try empty-handed. He explained that they believed in democ­racy and that with hard work and good­ness, they could “share in and con­tribute to its bless­ings.” The United States is a nation of immi­grants and should always seek ways to build bridges rather than walls. As Khan stated, “We can­not solve our prob­lems by build­ing walls, sow­ing divi­sion. We are stronger together.” Indeed, a cul­ture of bias and big­otry towards immi­grants hurts all of us.

Ques­tions for Discussion:

  • How does Khizr Khan’s expe­ri­ence as an immi­grant inform his per­spec­tive on U.S. democracy?
  • How are the dif­fer­ent points of view about immi­grants and immi­gra­tion being dis­cussed dur­ing this pres­i­den­tial election?
  • How is the Khan family’s expe­ri­ence sim­i­lar to or dif­fer­ent from the expe­ri­ences of your fam­ily or your friend’s families?
  • What do you already know about immi­gra­tion and what do you want to know?

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July 14, 2016 2

Speaking Truth, Facing Bias and Promoting Empathy

Magnetic-poetry-(modified-for-policing-and-bias)It has been a rough sum­mer as the topic of guns, vio­lence, police and bias scream across the news head­lines and our smart phones.

Still reel­ing from the June 12 mas­sacre of 49 peo­ple at a gay night­club in Orlando, a few short weeks later we watched on video the back-to-back shoot­ing deaths by police of Alton Ster­ling in Baton Rouge, LA and Phi­lando Castile in Fal­con Heights, MN.  Just a day later, as cities across the coun­try engaged in protests over these deaths, we wit­nessed the hor­ri­fy­ing sniper attack of white police offi­cers Brent Thomp­son, Patrick Zamar­ripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Loren Ahrens, and the wound­ing of seven others.

For most of the coun­try, school is out but that doesn’t stop par­ents and fam­i­lies from want­ing to answer ques­tions and find mean­ing in these deaths while they dis­cuss the tragedies with their chil­dren. Nor does it pre­vent teach­ers from reflect­ing on how they will address it with stu­dents when school resumes.

What can we learn from these events and what can we teach chil­dren about them?

The words of Dal­las County Judge Clay Jenk­ins, in the wake of the Dal­las shoot­ing, are insight­ful and instructive:

“We need this to mean some­thing to this com­mu­nity and this coun­try. It’s a sense­less act of hate but if it can mean that it’s an oppor­tu­nity to open that dia­logue so that white peo­ple think about what a Black fam­ily goes through as they teach their chil­dren a dif­fer­ent set of rules than a white fam­ily will teach their chil­dren. So that non first respon­der fam­i­lies think about what a first respon­der fam­ily goes through won­der­ing if their loved one is going to come home.”

What this means is not only do we all have to try harder to lis­ten to and hear the per­spec­tive of one another–perspectives that may be dif­fi­cult and uncom­fort­able to take in—we also need to engage in a dia­logue where we can con­cur­rently speak hard truths and lis­ten with com­pas­sion and empa­thy. It is also crit­i­cal that we lis­ten to and accept the strong feel­ings peo­ple may have about these and other incidents—whether it is anger, fear, shame, sad­ness and dis­ap­point­ment, but also the tri­umphant feel­ings of mak­ing a difference.

As par­ents, fam­ily mem­bers and teach­ers who are respon­si­ble for edu­cat­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of cit­i­zens and lead­ers, how can we trans­late the hard truths of racism, vio­lence, inequity and a need for empa­thy into how we talk to young peo­ple about these issues?

First, it is crit­i­cal that we pro­mote under­stand­ing of iden­tity, cul­ture, dif­fer­ences and develop skills in how to respect those dif­fer­ences. These are con­cepts and skills that need to be taught in a method­i­cal way, espe­cially if there isn’t racial diver­sity in the schools and com­mu­ni­ties in which kids live.  But even if there is diver­sity, these skills and con­cepts have to be taught, nur­tured and mod­eled on a reg­u­lar basis.

Sec­ond, from an early age, we need to talk with chil­dren about prej­u­dice and bias.  As they get older, we can teach young peo­ple about dis­crim­i­na­tion, implicit bias, injus­tice and the ways in which peo­ple have over­come oppres­sion. We need to also talk with them about the inter­sec­tion of racism, vio­lence, inequity and the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. At a time where 69% of Amer­i­cans per­ceive race rela­tions as “mostly bad,” open and hon­est dia­logue across dif­fer­ences must be a pri­or­ity, both for young peo­ple and adults.

Finally, as Judge Jenk­ins asserted, we need to “respect one another, show com­pas­sion for one another and see things through each other’s per­spec­tive.” Racism exists and espe­cially for Black and Latino men, bias can have dan­ger­ous and even deadly con­se­quences when inter­act­ing with the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Police offi­cers have a demand­ing job that pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to pos­i­tively impact com­mu­ni­ties but also requires them to face dan­ger on a reg­u­lar basis. Pro­mot­ing empa­thy means help­ing stu­dents under­stand dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives and the lens with which oth­ers see the world.

When we do this, we help young peo­ple tap into their human­ity, build their empa­thy skills and feel more con­nected to one another other.



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July 13, 2016 Off

Pokemon GO, A Popular Game with Some Troubling Consequences

pokemonThe Poké­mon GO app is a hybrid vir­tual and real world game.  The game’s objec­tive is to use a smart­phone to find, see and capture/collect vir­tual Poké­mon char­ac­ters. Many play­ers find the game highly engag­ing, enter­tain­ing and even addic­tive. Poké­mon char­ac­ters are appar­ently ran­domly dis­trib­uted on the game’s map, but can also be col­lected at “Poke­stops,” loca­tions in the real world based on points of inter­est as iden­ti­fied on Google maps. Play­ers can also cre­ate “gym­na­si­ums” and “lures,” which are typ­i­cally at  pub­lic places like parks, post offices and muse­ums, but these gym­na­si­ums may poten­tially be cre­ated in places like memo­ri­als, churches, tem­ples, mosques, syn­a­gogues, and schools where play­ing the game is inap­pro­pri­ate or offen­sive.  Play­ers tend to con­gre­gate where Poké­mon char­ac­ters can be col­lected and they can inter­act with other play­ers.  Like Google’s points of inter­est, the loca­tion of Poke­stops is not always pre­cisely accu­rate.  So, for exam­ple, a Poke­stop based on a Google map point of inter­est may be located in front of a reli­gious insti­tu­tion, but the Poke­mon char­ac­ter may be view­able on a smart­phone used inside the build­ing. ADL has received reports that Poké­mon char­ac­ters have appeared on phones inside the US Holo­caust Memo­r­ial Museum, out­side syn­a­gogues, at Auschwitz and at other loca­tions where play­ing a game is dis­re­spect­ful if not offen­sive.  The game is software-driven, and it is rea­son­able to assume the char­ac­ters are not placed in such loca­tions with any mali­cious intent.  It is likely that the appear­ance of Poke­mon char­ac­ters at the Holo­caust Museum and at Auschwitz is an unin­tended con­se­quence of the tech­nol­ogy dri­ving the app.  Once they learned of it, the author­i­ties at Auschwitz were right to tell peo­ple they can­not play the game there. Even though we do not believe the app’s devel­op­ers delib­er­ately chose inap­pro­pri­ate set­tings for the game, we would urge them to explore the pos­si­bil­ity of tak­ing steps proac­tively to restrict areas which are likely to cause offense, and to pre­vent the char­ac­ters for appear­ing in or near them.  In the mean­time, peo­ple who encounter offen­sive Poke­stops can visit the app’s sup­port page, which pro­vides infor­ma­tion about report­ing a prob­lem with a gym or Poke­stop.  There is no clear way to request that a loca­tion be removed, but there is a choice that says “dan­ger­ous Pokestop/gym” on the “rea­sons” drop-down menu.  One should be able to suc­cinctly pro­vide as much detail as pos­si­ble there, but at this time, it is unclear how effec­tive this process will be. While remov­ing prob­lem­atic loca­tions would be wel­come, there are also some broader soci­etal con­cerns regard­ing Poke­mon GO.  For exam­ple, there are risks related to game play­ers who are dis­tracted while mov­ing around.  It may also be prob­lem­atic that by play­ing the game, the player reveals his or her phys­i­cal loca­tion at any given time to the devel­oper.  While the game itself does not pose any inher­ent threat, it does raise ques­tions of per­sonal safety and secu­rity for play­ers who do not show good judg­ment.  Par­ents in par­tic­u­lar should under­stand that play­ing the game could pose some safety risks for their children.

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