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March 15, 2016

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

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

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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