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June 7, 2014 0

Why Pride?

“Stonewall was just the flip side of the black revolt when Rosa Parks took a stand.  Finally, the kids down there took a stand. But it was peace­ful.  I mean, they said it was a riot; it was more like a civil disobedience.”

– Storme DeLarverie (1920–2014), early leader in the Gay Rights Movement

June is LGBT Pride Month.  To under­stand the LGBT move­ment, it’s impor­tant to appre­ci­ate the mean­ing of pride.  Pride, accord­ing to Merriam-Webster, is “a feel­ing that you respect your­self and deserve to be respected by other peo­ple.”  How does this trans­late into LGBT pride or pride amongst any other group of peo­ple such as African Amer­i­cans, Jews, women or immi­grants? Espe­cially for groups of peo­ple who have been oppressed, mar­gin­al­ized, dis­crim­i­nated against and tar­geted for bul­ly­ing, harass­ment and vio­lence, pride is key.  Pride is a group of peo­ple stand­ing together and affirm­ing their self-worth, their his­tory and accom­plish­ments, their capa­bil­ity, dig­nity and their vis­i­bil­ity.  It is a vocal and pow­er­ful state­ment to them­selves and the world that they deserve to be treated with respect and equal­ity. Pride is a way out.

The LGBT Pride Move­ment began at Stonewall in the sum­mer of 1969.  On June 28, a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in NYC, turned vio­lent when cus­tomers and local sym­pa­thiz­ers rioted against the police.  The riot embod­ied the mount­ing of anger and weari­ness the gay com­mu­nity felt about the police depart­ment tar­get­ing gay clubs and engag­ing in dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices, which occurred reg­u­larly dur­ing that time. And yes, it also rep­re­sented their pride. The Stonewall riot was fol­lowed by days of demon­stra­tions in NYC and was the impe­tus for the cre­ation of sev­eral gay, les­bian and bisex­ual civil rights orga­ni­za­tions.  One year later, the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York, Los Ange­les and Chicago, com­mem­o­rat­ing the Stonewall riots. The Pride move­ment was born.

Forty-five years later, there have been major strides in the rights and treat­ment of LGBT peo­ple: in nine­teen states plus D.C. same-sex cou­ples have the free­dom to marry ; we have openly gay pro­fes­sional sports’ play­ers — Michael Sam (NFL) and Jason Collins (NBA); and this month Lav­erne Cox became the first trans­gen­der woman to grace the cover of Time mag­a­zine.  At the same time, there remains much work to be done.  Just as LGBT Pride rep­re­sents a wide diver­sity of peo­ple and issues, there are a wide vari­ety of oppor­tu­ni­ties for edu­ca­tors to cel­e­brate, teach and demon­strate their pride for LGBT people:

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May 15, 2014 0

Brown v. Board of Education: 60 Years Later, the Legacy Unfulfilled


LOC2Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion the promise of equal edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties in the United States remains unful­filled. On May 17, 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a land­mark deci­sion in Brown deseg­re­gat­ing America’s schools.  Find­ing that “it is doubt­ful that any child may rea­son­ably be expected to suc­ceed in life if he is denied the oppor­tu­nity of an edu­ca­tion,” the Court con­cluded that edu­ca­tion “is a right which must be made avail­able to all on equal terms.”

Today African Amer­i­can and Latino stu­dents are more than twice as likely to drop out of school as their white peers. Although there are many fac­tors that con­tribute to this trou­bling inequity, school sus­pen­sions and expul­sions are among the best indi­ca­tors for which stu­dents will drop out of school. A stu­dent who has been sus­pended from school is more than three times more likely to drop out in the first two years of high school than a stu­dent who has never been sus­pended.  Stu­dents who drop out of school have more dif­fi­culty find­ing gain­ful employ­ment, have much lower earn­ing power when they are employed, and ulti­mately are more likely to become involved with the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.  This cycle of sus­pen­sions and expul­sions that leads to stu­dents drop­ping out of school, which in turn leads to increased like­li­hood of incar­cer­a­tion, has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Harsh school dis­ci­pline poli­cies dis­pro­por­tion­ately impact stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and stu­dents who iden­tify as les­bian, gay, bisex­ual or trans­gen­der (LGBT).  Data from the Depart­ment of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows that black stu­dents are sus­pended and expelled at a rate three times greater than their white peers.  Sim­i­larly, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties are more than twice as likely to receive out-of-school sus­pen­sions as stu­dents with no dis­abil­i­ties and LGBT youth are much more likely than their het­ero­sex­ual peers to be sus­pended or expelled.  Con­trary to some hypothe­ses, stud­ies have found lit­tle dif­fer­ence in stu­dents’ behav­ior across racial lines to account for the dis­pro­por­tion­al­ity.  Rather, stud­ies have found that African Amer­i­can stu­dents tend to receive harsher pun­ish­ment for less seri­ous behav­ior, and are more often pun­ished for sub­jec­tive offenses, such as “loi­ter­ing” or “disrespect.”

The bad news doesn’t end with the data about dis­ci­pline. There are other dis­pro­por­tion­ate, neg­a­tive impacts related to seg­re­gated schools and they rep­re­sent what can be known as the edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­nity gap.  Stu­dents in major­ity black and Latino schools are taught by fewer cer­ti­fied teach­ers, and their teach­ers are paid less than teach­ers at pre­dom­i­nantly white schools. Schools that are pre­dom­i­nantly black and Latino offer fewer courses nec­es­sary to attend com­pet­i­tive col­leges and have fewer gifted and tal­ented programs.

The data boils down to a truth many have known for a long time.  Race is still a promi­nent pre­dic­tor of access to qual­ity and equity in schools. It remains as impor­tant as ever to dis­cuss issues of racial dis­par­ity crit­i­cally and thought­fully in local communities.

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May 2, 2014 0

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but Watch Out for the Stereotypes

Cinco de mayoCinco De Mayo  is a fun and fes­tive hol­i­day in the United States, that it is often wrought with prob­lem­atic choices made by good peo­ple just want­ing to have a good time and cel­e­brate. With­out intend­ing to, peo­ple can per­pet­u­ate harm­ful stereo­types of Mex­i­cans at a pri­vate party, restau­rant, com­mu­nity fes­ti­val and even in schools.

As Cinco de Mayo fes­tiv­i­ties com­mence, it is impor­tant to stop and con­sider whether class­room obser­vances and cel­e­bra­tions in gen­eral are inclu­sive and respect­ful, and do not pro­mote stereo­typ­i­cal por­tray­als of groups of people—in this case, Mex­i­cans and Mex­i­can Americans.

Con­sider that Cinco de Mayo, which means the “5th of May,” is pri­mar­ily cel­e­brated in the United States, not in Mex­ico, and com­mem­o­rates Mex­i­can forces defeat­ing French occu­pa­tional forces in the Bat­tle of Pueblo in 1862. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is tra­di­tion­ally a cel­e­bra­tion of Mex­i­can cul­ture, her­itage and pride. When done thought­fully, the hol­i­day can be an oppor­tu­nity to explore issues of free­dom, cul­ture and iden­tity. It also can be a time when youth receive ini­tial impres­sions of a cul­ture they may not have expo­sure to and when stereo­typ­i­cal mes­sages about Mex­i­can peo­ple are often reinforced.

Here are a few sug­ges­tions that will help cre­ate a respect­ful class­room envi­ron­ment for cel­e­brat­ing Cinco de Mayo.

  • Ensure that class­room con­tent – images, books, etc. – relat­ing to Cinco de Mayo does not pro­mote or rein­force stereo­types about Lati­nos, espe­cially Mexicans.
  • Seek out cur­ric­u­lar con­tent that edu­cates stu­dents about the rich diver­sity of Mex­i­cans and Mex­i­can Americans..Expand your focus beyond the three Fs: fes­ti­vals, fash­ion and foods to avoid triv­i­al­iz­ing the culture’s rich his­tory and people’s experiences.
  • Avoid using images and dec­o­ra­tions which rein­force one-dimensional por­tray­als of Mex­i­cans. Cinco de Mayo is not about som­breros, pon­chos and other stereo­typ­i­cal ele­ments of Mex­i­can culture.
  • Be proac­tive by address­ing issues of stereo­typ­ing when­ever they arise, cre­at­ing “teach­able moments” to dis­cuss issues of stereo­typ­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion. If a stu­dent or col­league invokes stereo­types, either out of igno­rance or to get a laugh, address it when you see it.

Help­ing youth develop an aware­ness of the rich his­tory and impor­tance of Mex­i­cans in the United States is a wor­thy endeavor. Com­bat­ting bias in youth by chal­leng­ing stereo­types is a life-skill that will serve them through­out their lives. Visit our ADL Edu­ca­tion web­page to down­load cur­ricu­lum on a range of bias-related topics.

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