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June 19, 2015 0

Murders in Charleston Again Demonstrate the Tragic Impact of Hate Violence

The hor­ri­ble mur­ders of nine parish­ioners dur­ing a June 17 evening prayer meet­ing at the his­toric Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Car­olina seem like a night­mare.  But they were real – hor­rific and sense­less.  And they were hate crimes.  The nature of the shoot­ings, the spe­cific loca­tion, the tar­geted vic­tims, state­ments allegedly made by the sus­pect, and a Face­book pro­file of the sus­pect wear­ing white suprema­cist sym­bols all indi­cate this tragedy was moti­vated by racial bias.

It is note­wor­thy that these race-based mur­ders hap­pened in one of only five states that has yet to enact a hate crimes law.  The time has come for that to change.

AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton

AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton

Obvi­ously, con­victed mur­der­ers already face the most severe penal­ties under the law in every state.    But hate crimes laws have a sig­nif­i­cance that extends beyond the tougher sen­tences they per­mit.  They are a strong soci­etal response to crimes specif­i­cally intended to intim­i­date the vic­tim and mem­bers of the victim’s com­mu­nity.  By mak­ing mem­bers of minor­ity com­mu­ni­ties fear­ful, angry, and sus­pi­cious of other groups – and of the power struc­ture that is sup­posed to pro­tect them – these mes­sage crimes can dam­age the fab­ric of our soci­ety and frag­ment communities.

The FBI and law enforce­ment offi­cials rec­og­nize the spe­cial impact of hate crimes.  The FBI has been col­lect­ing hate crime data from the 18,000 police agen­cies across the coun­try since 1990.   In 2013, the most recent FBI data avail­able, almost 6,000 hate crimes were reported by over 15,000 police depart­ments – almost one every 90 min­utes of every day.  Race-based hate crimes were most fre­quent, crimes com­mit­ted against gay men and les­bians sec­ond, and religion-based crimes were third most fre­quent, with anti-Jewish crimes a dis­turb­ing 61% of all reported religion-based crimes.

Fed­eral and state hate crime laws are an impor­tant demon­stra­tion that our soci­ety rec­og­nizes the unique impact of hate vio­lence.  45 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia now have enacted hate crime laws, many based on the ADL Model Law drafted in 1981.  The only five states with­out a penalty-enhancing hate crime law are Arkansas, Indi­ana, Geor­gia, Wyoming – and South Carolina.

Attor­ney Gen­eral Lynch has announced that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice has opened its own hate crime inves­ti­ga­tion of this ter­ri­ble crime – under fed­eral crim­i­nal civil rights laws, includ­ing the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act.  That essen­tial fed­eral statute is an impor­tant bul­wark, but it is not a sub­sti­tute for state hate crimes laws.   South Car­olina is in mourn­ing now, as we all are.  One of the most con­struc­tive ways for the state to move for­ward would be to join 45 other states who already have hate crimes laws.

We need to be real­is­tic.  We can­not leg­is­late, reg­u­late, or tab­u­late an end to racism, anti-Semitism, or big­otry.  Com­ple­ment­ing fed­eral and state hate crime laws and pre­ven­tion ini­tia­tives, gov­ern­ments must pro­mote early learn­ing and con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion against bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion in schools and the com­mu­nity.   Strong, inclu­sive laws, and effec­tive responses to hate vio­lence by pub­lic offi­cials and law enforce­ment author­i­ties, how­ever, are essen­tial com­po­nents in deter­ring and pre­vent­ing these crimes.  

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June 19, 2015 0

The Rachel Dolezal Teachable Moment

Abstract Colorful Group Of People Or Workers Or Employees - ConcRachel Dolezal, Pres­i­dent of the Spokane, Wash­ing­ton chap­ter of the NAACP  (National Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple), made head­lines and became the top trend­ing item on Twit­ter last week when it was dis­cov­ered that she had been pos­ing as Black for many years. In her inter­view on the Today Show, she con­tin­ued to assert: “I iden­tify as Black.” These events have sparked strong emotions—anger, con­fu­sion, sym­pa­thy, shock, curiosity—and have fueled a lively pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion about Black­ness, iden­tity, cul­tural appro­pri­a­tion and what it means to be an ally.  All of these con­cepts are ones we address in anti-bias edu­ca­tion work.

Iden­tity is an extremely impor­tant con­cept for peo­ple to under­stand and grap­ple with, start­ing at a young age. Know­ing who you are, what groups you belong to (race, gen­der and gen­der iden­tity, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, reli­gion, etc.), your his­tory and how your fam­ily makes mean­ing of the mul­ti­fac­eted nature of your iden­tity are crit­i­cal for self-esteem devel­op­ment. When we know who we are, we can build bridges with oth­ers with whom we are both sim­i­lar and dif­fer­ent.  The con­cept of race is largely under­stood as socially con­structed rather than solely based on genet­ics and biol­ogy. The racial group to which one belongs is a com­plex set of fac­tors includ­ing phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics, fam­ily lin­eage and ethnic/cultural upbring­ing. Rachel Dolezal did not grow up Black even though she claims to be Black.

The term cul­tural appro­pri­a­tion has been raised quite a bit in this con­ver­sa­tion. Some peo­ple say that Rachel Dolezal is appro­pri­at­ing Black cul­ture because of her hair style, com­plex­ion, life choices and insis­tence that she’s Black. Cul­tural appro­pri­a­tion is when peo­ple use spe­cific ele­ments of a cul­ture (e.g. ideas, sym­bols, styles) with­out regard for the impact to that cul­ture and it usu­ally hap­pens when a per­son or group exploits the cul­ture of another group, often with lit­tle under­stand­ing of the group’s his­tory, expe­ri­ence and cul­tural norms. Accord­ing to Maisha John­son, it is prob­lem­atic for a vari­ety of rea­sons includ­ing triv­i­al­iz­ing his­tor­i­cal racial oppres­sion, per­pet­u­at­ing stereo­types and let­ting priv­i­leged groups ben­e­fit or profit by using other people’s cul­ture. Is Rachel Dolezal appro­pri­at­ing Black cul­ture or is some­thing else operating?

Based on her pro­fes­sional inter­ests and choices, it seems clear that Rachel Dolezal has a pas­sion for social jus­tice and could have been an ally as a white woman.  There have been exam­ples through­out his­tory of peo­ple out­side a par­tic­u­lar iden­tity group being allies to oth­ers. Count­less white peo­ple have been allies to African Amer­i­cans in the civil rights strug­gles of the 1960’s and today–some even died for the cause.  Dur­ing the Holo­caust, non-Jews helped Jews escape at tremen­dous risk to them­selves. GLSEN spon­sors Ally Week in which straight allies make com­mit­ments to equal­ity for LGBTQ peo­ple.  For more than 10 years, ADL has edu­cated youth and adults across the coun­try to become bet­ter allies and still more works to be done. We need to teach our chil­dren that it is an impor­tant to be an ally, no mat­ter who you are.

What can we learn from this dia­logue and how can we turn it into a teach­able moment for young peo­ple?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Edu­cate youth to explore who they are cul­tur­ally and racially and in all of their com­plex­ity, affirm­ing their iden­tity through books, cur­ricu­lum and all that we expose them to.
  • Point out when you see cul­tural appro­pri­a­tion and high­light why it’s wrong; at the same time. pro­vide young peo­ple with real cul­tural expe­ri­ences with peo­ple from dif­fer­ent groups.
  • Pro­vide exam­ples for and encour­age young peo­ple to use respect­ful ally behav­ior and chal­lenge ally behav­ior that crosses the line into dis­re­spect­ful or unhelpful.
  • Show youth that the world would not have changed with­out allies and that being an ally is a skill devel­oped through prac­tice and hard work.


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March 17, 2014 0

Teachers Teasing Youth is No Joke, It’s Bullying

A teacher raises his hand in A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Insti­tute train­ing and says, “I like to kid around with my stu­dents.” He says, “I like to have fun in my class so they are more likely to come to me when they need help.”

He calls one stu­dent his “favorite Mex­i­can,” another stu­dent “Dopey” and the only African-American stu­dent “MLK” (short for Mar­tin Luther King Jr.) This well-intentioned teacher has no idea he is bul­ly­ing his stu­dents, and race is a factor.

Bul­ly­ing is the repet­i­tive mis­treat­ment of oth­ers where there is an imbal­ance of power. The teacher in this exam­ple uses these nick­names often and, whether he real­izes or not, he is not a peer. He is the most pow­er­ful per­son in his classroom.

There is a fine line between harm­less jokes and bul­ly­ing behav­ior, and this exam­ple describes a good teacher on the wrong side of the line.

Using a student’s racial or eth­nic iden­tity is not a harm­less act, even if the inten­tion was never to do harm. Con­sider the impact of using identity-based humor in an edu­ca­tional set­ting. What mes­sage does the tar­geted stu­dent receive about the stan­dard of respect for teach­ers? What is the mes­sage about the accept­abil­ity of stereotyping?

Whether it is intended or not, the edu­ca­tion youth receive about the social accept­abil­ity of bias and right behav­ior is learned through every inter­ac­tion. Of the 28 per­cent of stu­dents who reported being bul­lied, 17.6 per­cent said they were made fun of, called names or insulted. For these stu­dents, jokes are no laugh­ing matter.

There is a land mine of pos­si­bil­i­ties when teach­ers choose to tease their stu­dents, because it can be con­sid­ered bul­ly­ing and con­tribute to a hos­tile envi­ron­ment. Here are some ideas for edu­ca­tors to con­sider:

  • Cre­ate a fun envi­ron­ment that does not place a stu­dent at the cen­ter of the joke. Do not sin­gle stu­dents out, or make them feel afraid to speak up out of fear that the joke will be on them
  • Do not per­pet­u­ate stereotypes—ever—and chal­lenge them when you hear them from oth­ers. Youth look to adults to get cues about what is socially over the line. Using stereo­types is def­i­nitely over the line and can fos­ter an unsafe class­room envi­ron­ment for stu­dents who are “different”
  • Be a role model, not a friend. Teach­ers have the power to influ­ence, so use it to pro­mote a higher social standard
  • Do not shame stu­dents who express or react to what you believe is harm­less teas­ing. Responses like, “Don’t be so sen­si­tive!” can fur­ther demean a stu­dent who may be appeal­ing to a teacher for support.
  • Solicit feed­back from stu­dents about their com­fort in the class­room. It will help you  make sure  they feel respected by everyone.



Cuando los mae­stros hacen bro­mas a los jóvenes, no es chiste es intimidación


Un mae­stro lev­anta la mano en un entre­namiento de A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE ® Insti­tute  y dice: “Me gusta bromear con mis alum­nos”. Afirma que “Me gusta diver­tirme en mis clases y así los alum­nos son más propen­sos a venir a mí cuando nece­si­tan ayuda”.

Él llama a uno de sus alum­nos mi “mex­i­cano favorito”, a otro “Atur­dido (Dopey)” y a su único estu­di­ante afroamer­i­cano lo llama “MLK” (ini­ciales de Mar­tin Luther King Jr.). Este  bien inten­cionado mae­stro no tiene idea de que está intim­i­dando a sus alum­nos, y la raza es un factor.

Bul­ly­ing es el mal­trato repet­i­tivo de otros cuando hay un dese­qui­lib­rio de poder. El mae­stro de este ejem­plo uti­liza estos apo­dos a menudo y, se dé cuenta o no, él no es un par. Es la per­sona más poderosa en el salón de clase.

La difer­en­cia entre bro­mas inofen­si­vas y com­por­tamiento intim­i­dador es muy leve, y este ejem­plo describe a un buen mae­stro en el lado equiv­o­cado de la línea.

Usar la iden­ti­dad racial o étnica de un estu­di­ante no es un acto inofen­sivo, aun si no existe la inten­ción de hacer daño. Con­sidere el impacto de usar humor basado en la iden­ti­dad en un entorno educa­tivo. ¿Qué men­saje recibe el estu­di­ante víc­tima del humor sobre la norma de respeto a los mae­stros? ¿Cuál es el men­saje acerca de la acept­abil­i­dad de los estereotipos?

Sea inten­cional o no, la edu­cación que los jóvenes reciben sobre la acept­abil­i­dad social del pre­juicio y el com­por­tamiento cor­recto es apren­dida en cada inter­ac­ción. Del 28% de los estu­di­antes que infor­maron estar siendo intim­i­da­dos, el 17.6%  dijo que se burla­ban de ellos o los insulta­ban. Para esos estu­di­antes, las bro­mas no son algo gracioso.

Cuando los mae­stros deci­den bromear con sus alum­nos hay una gama infinita de posi­bil­i­dades, ya que esto puede con­sid­er­arse intim­i­dación y con­tribuir a un ambi­ente hos­til. Aquí pre­sen­ta­mos algu­nas ideas para que los edu­cadores ten­gan en cuenta:

  • Cree un  ambi­ente diver­tido que no coloque a un estu­di­ante en el cen­tro de la broma. No señale estu­di­antes especí­fi­cos o los haga sen­tir miedo de hablar por temor a ser el sujeto de la broma
  • No per­petúe estereoti­pos —nunca— y desafíe­los cuando escuche a otros usar­los. Los jóvenes obser­van a los adul­tos para obtener pis­tas sobre lo que es social­mente ina­cept­able. Uti­lizar estereoti­pos es defin­i­ti­va­mente incor­recto y puede fomen­tar un ambi­ente inse­guro para los estu­di­antes que son “diferentes”
  • Sea un mod­elo a seguir, no un amigo. Los mae­stros tienen el poder de influir, así que util­ice su poder para pro­mover un mayor nivel social
  • No avergüence a los estu­di­antes que se expre­san o reac­cionar ante lo que usted cree son bro­mas inofen­si­vas. Respues­tas como, “¡No seas tan sen­si­ble!” pueden degradar más aún al estu­di­ante que recurre a un pro­fe­sor en busca de apoyo.
  • Pida a los estu­di­antes retroal­i­mentación sobre su sen­sación de como­di­dad en el salón de clase. Le ayu­dará a ase­gu­rarse de que se sien­ten respeta­dos por todos.


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