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March 15, 2016 Off

Bias, Bullying and Bad Behavior in Politics: What’s the Takeaway for Youth?

Group of Friends SmilingThe polit­i­cal dis­course has reached a point where we have to ask our­selves: What should we tell our children? 

Young peo­ple watch and emu­late what adults say and do. For that rea­son, many adults—parents, neigh­bors, teach­ers, care­givers and yes, even politicians—are role mod­els to chil­dren.  These values—using accu­rate and appro­pri­ate lan­guage, stand­ing up for one’s beliefs, check­ing our­selves when it comes to bias and stereo­types, dis­agree­ing with­out being disagreeable—are imparted  by direct teach­ing and mod­el­ing through words and deeds.  In fact, many would argue that what we do has a much deeper impact than what we say.

The cur­rent polit­i­cal climate—which has been per­me­ated with hate-filled lan­guage, bias and bullying—is counter to what so many adults are try­ing to teach young peo­ple. We have wit­nessed stereo­typ­ing of many groups includ­ing women and immi­grants, threats to ban Mus­lims from liv­ing in the coun­try and pro­nounce­ments that Islam “hates” Amer­ica, mock­ing of dis­abled peo­ple and polit­i­cal can­di­dates attack­ing one another based on their phys­i­cal appear­ance.  Recently, at a cam­paign event, a sup­porter, unpro­voked, punched a pro­tes­tor in the face, say­ing “next time, we might have to kill him.” While this may seem like an iso­lated inci­dent, it’s the tenth cam­paign event in which there has been violence.

Things have got­ten so heated that one can­di­date vowed to stop the behav­ior, relent­ing that “my kids were embar­rassed by it.”

Has this polit­i­cal dem­a­goguery had an impact on young peo­ple? Has it trick­led down to the youngest among us? Of course it has. Mus­lim chil­dren are express­ing fear and sad­ness, ask­ing their par­ents if they are going to have to leave the coun­try after the elec­tion.  Recently, an Indi­ana high school bas­ket­ball game erupted into scream­ing and insults; the pre­dom­i­nately white team yelled at the oppos­ing play­ers and fans, who were a pre­dom­i­nately Latino team, chant­ing “no com­prende,” “speak Eng­lish” and “build the wall” (refer­ring to the pro­posal that a wall be built on the Mex­i­can bor­der to keep immi­grants out).  Latino and other immi­grant chil­dren worry that they may be deported when there is a new pres­i­dent in the White House.

Elec­tion years usu­ally present great oppor­tu­ni­ties for edu­ca­tors to expose stu­dents to civics and the Amer­i­can elec­toral process. How­ever, this year has left many feel­ing hes­i­tant and unsure about how to raise the topic; and specif­i­cally, how to approach the neg­a­tive and biased dis­course that’s over­taken the cur­rent debate. One angle edu­ca­tors can take is to turn the rhetoric into a teach­able moment by address­ing the following:

  • Under­stand Lan­guage. Pro­vide stu­dents with an under­stand­ing of the lan­guage of bias so they can make sense of what is going on and how to talk about it. This includes under­stand­ing the dif­fer­ence between bias (thoughts and atti­tudes) and dis­crim­i­na­tion (actions), how stereo­typ­ing can lead to bias, and the var­i­ous forms that bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion can take (e.g. racism, Islam­o­pho­bia, sex­ism, homo­pho­bia, anti-Semitism, etc.)—from inter­per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the insti­tu­tions in our society.
  • Chal­lenge Bias. When biased lan­guage and stereo­types are used—in the polit­i­cal debate or elsewhere—point it out and find ways to chal­lenge it.  This sends an impor­tant mes­sage to young peo­ple about not being a bystander to injus­tice and it also gives you an open­ing to dis­cuss cur­rent events.  This can be done with­out endors­ing or crit­i­ciz­ing par­tic­u­lar candidates.
  • Think Crit­i­cally. Help stu­dents think crit­i­cally about what they are hear­ing and see­ing. This means mod­el­ing and teach­ing them to ask ques­tions that get to under­ly­ing motives and causes, as well as under­stand­ing how per­spec­tive shapes points of view. It also includes teach­ing young peo­ple not to take “facts” and infor­ma­tion at face value just because adults in posi­tions of power make an asser­tion. Inspire stu­dents to ques­tion the facts and do their own research.
  • Be An Ally.  Most impor­tantly, encour­age your stu­dents to act as an ally when they see bias and bul­ly­ing by pro­vid­ing exam­ples and help­ing young peo­ple prac­tice the var­i­ous ways to show ally­ship.  Show­ing them that there are many ways to be an ally by mod­el­ing it your­self is an impor­tant reminder that sup­port­ing the tar­get, “stand­ing up,” and not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the bias are some of the var­i­ous ways to do some­thing and not feel powerless.

Politi­cians and can­di­dates come and go—however, the impact edu­ca­tors can have on stu­dents will make a dif­fer­ence with the next gen­er­a­tion and beyond.


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August 25, 2015 1

When Hateful Speech Leads to Hate Crimes: Taking Bigotry Out of the Immigration Debate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

When police arrived at the scene in Boston, they found a Latino man shak­ing on the ground, his face appar­ently soaked in urine, with a bro­ken nose.  His arms and chest had been beaten.  One of the two broth­ers arrested and charged with the hate crime report­edly told police, “Don­ald Trump was right—all these ille­gals need to be deported.”

The vic­tim, a home­less man, was appar­ently sleep­ing out­side of a sub­way sta­tion in Dorch­ester when the per­pe­tra­tors attacked.  His only offense was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The broth­ers attacked him for who he was—simply because he was Latino.

In recent weeks anti-immigrant—and by exten­sion anti-Latino—rhetoric has reached a fever pitch.  Immi­grants have been smeared as “killers” and “rapists.”  They have been accused of bring­ing drugs and crime.  A radio talk show host in Iowa has called for enslave­ment of undoc­u­mented immi­grants if they do not leave within 60 days.  There have been calls to repeal the 14th Amendment’s guar­an­tee of cit­i­zen­ship to peo­ple born in the United States, with alle­ga­tions that peo­ple come here to have so-called “anchor babies.”  And the terms “ille­gal aliens” and “ille­gals”— which many main­stream news sources wisely rejected years ago because they dehu­man­ize and stig­ma­tize people—have resurged.

The words used on the cam­paign trail, on the floors of Con­gress, in the news, and in all our liv­ing rooms have con­se­quences.  They directly impact our abil­ity to sus­tain a soci­ety that ensures dig­nity and equal­ity for all.  Big­oted rhetoric and words laced with prej­u­dice are build­ing blocks for the pyra­mid of hate.

Biased behav­iors build on one another, becom­ing ever more threat­en­ing and dan­ger­ous towards the top.  At the base is bias, which includes stereo­typ­ing and insen­si­tive remarks.  It sets the foun­da­tion for a sec­ond, more com­plex and more dam­ag­ing layer: indi­vid­ual acts of prej­u­dice, includ­ing bul­ly­ing, slurs, and dehu­man­iza­tion.  Next is dis­crim­i­na­tion, which in turn sup­ports bias-motivated vio­lence, includ­ing hate crimes like the tragic one in Boston. And in the most extreme cases if left unchecked, the top of the pyra­mid of hate is genocide.

Just like a pyra­mid, the lower lev­els sup­port the upper lev­els.  Bias, prej­u­dice and discrimination—particularly touted by those with a loud mega­phone and cheer­ing crowd—all con­tribute to an atmos­phere that enables hate crimes and other hate-fueled vio­lence.  The most recent hate crime in Boston is just one of too many.  In fact, there is a hate crime roughly every 90 min­utes in the United States today.  That is why last week ADL announced a new ini­tia­tive, #50StatesAgainstHate, to strengthen hate crimes laws around the coun­try and safe­guard com­mu­ni­ties vul­ner­a­ble to hate-fueled attacks. We are work­ing with a broad coali­tion of part­ners to get the ball rolling.

Laws alone, how­ever, can­not cure the dis­ease of hate.  To do that, we need to change the con­ver­sa­tion.  We would not sug­gest that any one person’s words caused this tragedy – the per­pe­tra­tors did that; but the rhetor­i­cal excesses by so many over the past few weeks give rise to a cli­mate in which prej­u­dice, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and hate-fueled vio­lence can take root.

Rea­son­able peo­ple can dif­fer about how we should fix our bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem, but stereo­types, slurs, smears and insults have no place in the debate.

Immi­grants have been a fre­quent tar­get of hate, and unfor­tu­nately, prej­u­dice and vio­lence are not new.  Many of our ances­tors faced sim­i­lar prej­u­dice when they came to the United States. In the 1800s, the attacks were against Irish and Ger­man immi­grants. Next was a wave of anti-Chinese sen­ti­ment cul­mi­nat­ing with the Chi­nese Exclu­sion Act in 1882. Then the hatred turned on the Jews, high­lighted by the lynch­ing of Leo Frank in 1915.  Then came big­otry against Japan­ese immi­grants and peo­ple of Japan­ese dis­sent, which led to the shame­ful intern­ment of more than 110,000 peo­ple dur­ing World War II.  Today, anti-immigrant big­otry largely focuses on Lati­nos.  The tar­gets have changed, but the mes­sages of hate remain largely the same.  It is long past time for that to end.

ADL, as a 501(c)(3), does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for elec­tive office,but we have a sim­ple mes­sage for all pol­i­cy­mak­ers and can­di­dates:  There is no place for hate in the immi­gra­tion debate.  There is noth­ing patri­otic or admirable about hatred and hate-fueled vio­lence.  The only accept­able response to hate crimes is unequiv­o­cal, strong con­dem­na­tion.  And the same is true for the bias, prej­u­dice, and big­oted speech that have recently per­me­ated the immi­gra­tion conversation.

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March 17, 2014 Off

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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