ferguson » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘ferguson’
March 16, 2015

To Confront Racism, We Must Also Look In the Mirror

teenagers debateLast week, disturbing video emerged of fraternity brothers from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapter at the University of Oklahoma laughing while singing a racist chant: “There will never be a ni**** SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a ni**** SAE.”

The news comes on the heels of the recent findings from a Department of Justice investigation in Ferguson, MO which, among other things, revealed a deeply troubling series of racist emails by Ferguson officials. One email, for example, in November 2008 predicted that President Obama would not be president much longer because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

With few exceptions, people have denounced these incidents as racist. Immediately after the news broke, the president of the University of Oklahoma condemned the students’ behavior and severed all ties between the university and the local SAE chapter.  At the same time, the national SAE headquarters shut down the local chapter. Ferguson’s municipal court clerk was fired and the chief of police and two police officers resigned after the DOJ report was released.

It is certainly appropriate to condemn this racism and teach people to challenge biased language, but it is not enough.  Today, thankfully, such overt racism is much less common than in the past.  Still, there is an undercurrent of much subtler, more deeply buried bias that still flows through America.  While fewer and fewer Americans would use overt offensive, derogatory terms, many of us—consciously or not—have implicit biases (unconscious attitudes, stereotypes or unintentional actions that we direct at a member of a group simply because of that person’s membership in that group).

The implicit biases embedded in, for example, the racial disparities in the criminal justice system or the segregated nature of the college fraternity system, can be as or more harmful than this hateful and derogatory language.

From a very early age we learn to differentiate between things that are the same and things that are different: one of these things is not like the other one.  Science shows that we make the same snap judgments about other people, using what we know and what we assume to categorize things. While that gives us important tools in making sense of the world, when paired with societal biases and stereotypes it can become harmful. As a result of subtle messages throughout society, most people—whether or not they intend it, and often when they expressly do not—have some implicit biases.

Studies have found, for example, that doctors are more likely to prescribe pain medication for white patients with a broken leg than African American or Latino patients. Law firm partners, when asked to evaluate a memo written by a hypothetical associate, scored the memo lower and found more mistakes when they were told it had been written by an African American.  Another study found that, in order to get a call for an interview, applicants with typically black names (such as Jamal or Lakisha) had to send out 50 percent more resumes.

It is easy to dismiss the racism at SAE and in Ferguson as an aberration and something we would never engage in ourselves. It is much harder to deny that we have any implicit bias, especially if you take the Implicit Association Test. Because implicit bias begins at a very early age and develops over the course of a lifetime, there are ways we can parent, teach and interact with young people to counteract these direct and indirect messages:

  • Make your home, classroom and school environment as diverse as possible so that from an early age, you work to counteract negative biases. This means creating an inclusive and culturally sensitive classroom with books, classroom displays, bulletin boards, holiday celebrations, videos, stories, textbooks, etc. and make sure different perspectives are reflected in your classroom curriculum.
  • Affirm and reflect the different aspects of identity represented in your classroom and help young people deconstruct assumptions, stereotypes and labels they have about different groups of people.
  • Teach students what overt and implicit bias are and seek their participation in pro-actively doing something about it.

 


 

 

Para Enfrentar el Racismo, También Debemos Mirarnos en el Espejo

 

Hace poco tiempo apareció un perturbador vídeo de los miembros de la fraternidad del capítulo Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) de la Universidad de Oklahoma, en el que ríen mientras cantan un cántico racista: “Nunca habrá un ne***** en SAE. Puedes colgarlo de un árbol, pero él nunca podrá asociarse conmigo. Nunca habrá un SAE ne*****”.

La noticia le pisa los talones a los recientes resultados de una investigación en Ferguson, MO realizada por el Departamento de Justicia que, entre otras cosas, reveló una muy preocupante serie de correos electrónicos racistas emitidos por funcionarios de Ferguson. Por ejemplo, un correo  predijo en noviembre de 2008 que el Presidente Obama no sería presidente por mucho más tiempo porque “qué hombre negro es capaz de tener un trabajo constante durante cuatro años”.

 

Con pocas excepciones, la gente ha denunciado estos incidentes como racistas. Inmediatamente después de que aparecieran las noticias, el presidente de la Universidad de Oklahoma condenó el comportamiento de los estudiantes y cortó todos los vínculos entre la universidad y el capítulo local del SAE.  Al mismo tiempo, la oficina nacional del SAE cerró el capítulo local. El secretario del juzgado municipal de Ferguson fue despedido y el jefe del policía y dos oficiales de policía renunciaron cuando el informe de Departamento de Justicia fue dado a conocer.

Ciertamente es apropiado condenar este racismo y enseñar a la gente a enfrentar el lenguaje prejuiciado, pero eso no es suficiente.  Hoy día, afortunadamente, el racismo tan abierto es mucho menos común que en el pasado.  No obstante, en Estados Unidos todavía hay una corriente subterránea de prejuicio mucho más sutil, enterrado más profundamente.  Aunque cada vez menos estadounidenses utilizarían términos ofensivos o despectivos abiertamente, muchos de nosotros −consciente o inconscientemente− tenemos prejuicios implícitos (actitudes inconscientes, estereotipos o acciones no intencionales que dirigimos contra un miembro de un grupo simplemente por ser miembro de ese grupo).

 

Los prejuicios implícitos arraigados en, por ejemplo, las disparidades raciales en el sistema de justicia criminal o la naturaleza segregada del sistema de fraternidades universitarias, pueden ser tanto o más dañinos que este lenguaje despectivo y de odio.

Desde muy temprana edad aprendemos a distinguir entre las cosas que son iguales y las cosas que son diferentes: una de estas cosas no es como la otra.  La ciencia demuestra que hacemos los mismos juicios rápidos sobre la gente, usando lo que sabemos y lo que asumimos para clasificar cosas. Aunque eso nos da importantes herramientas para entender el mundo, cuando se une con prejuicios y estereotipos sociales puede llegar a ser perjudicial. Como resultado de mensajes sutiles en la sociedad, la mayoría de la gente −lo quiera o no, y a menudo cuando expresamente no lo quiere− tiene algunos prejuicios implícitos.

Por ejemplo, los estudios han encontrado que los médicos tienen más tendencia a prescribir medicamentos para el dolor a los pacientes blancos con una pierna rota que a los pacientes afro-americanos o latinos. Cuando se le pidió a los socios de una firma de abogados evaluar un memo escrito por un asociado hipotético, lo calificaron menos bien y encontraron más errores cuando les dijeron que había sido escrito por un afro-americano.  Otro estudio encontró que para conseguir una cita para una entrevista, los aspirantes con nombres típicamente negros (tales como Jamal o Lakisha) tuvieron que enviar 50% más currículos

Es fácil descartar el racismo en el SAE y en Ferguson como una aberración y algo en lo que nunca participaríamos nosotros mismos. Es mucho más difícil negar que tenemos algún prejuicio implícito, especialmente si tomamos la Prueba de Asociación Implícita. Debido a que el prejuicio implícito comienza en una edad muy temprana y se desarrolla a lo largo de la vida, hay maneras en que podemos criar, enseñar e interactuar con los jóvenes para contrarrestar estos mensajes directos e indirectos:

  • Haga el ambiente de su hogar, salón de clase y escuela tan diverso como sea posible, de modo que desde una edad temprana usted contribuya a contrarrestar los prejuicios negativos. Esto significa crear un aula inclusiva y culturalmente sensible con libros, exhibiciones, carteleras, celebraciones de festividades, videos, cuentos, textos, etc. y asegurarse de que esas diversas perspectivas se reflejen en el currículo de sus cursos.
  • Refuerce y refleje los diversos aspectos de identidad representados en su aula y ayude a los jóvenes a deconstruir los estereotipos, suposiciones y etiquetas que tienen sobre diversos grupos de gente.
  • Enseñe a los estudiantes qué son los prejuicios abiertos e implícitos y busque su participación para hacer algo al respecto proactivamente.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

March 2, 2015

From Selma to Ferguson: Standing Together for Justice

We_March_With_Selma

What do you know about the events in Selma, Alabama in the 1960’s? What part of that history speaks to you?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. In the history books, we know this as Bloody Sunday, where 600 peaceful protestors were met with brutality. As events unfolded, the media captured photos and film of what would later become the impetus for thousands to become a part of the movement. Dr. King and his followers focused their campaign on Alabama because of the suppression of black people’s right to vote there. They knew how important it was for the world to see the violence and to have those images on its consciousness. They knew that those who believed in equality were not going to be able to simply rest on their beliefs.

The Civil Rights Movement  needed action from the community, the nation and the government and that was the moment when it was needed most.  It is hard to imagine the level of commitment one would need to intentionally expose oneself to physical violence, but that’s exactly what Dr. King asked of them in their fight for justice and equity.  Selma is part of our shared history, and there is no denying that notable progress has been made.  Current events of the past year are a clear reminder, however, that much work still needs to be done.

Last summer, there was discussion throughout the country about Ferguson being the Civil Rights Movement for this generation. We can draw some comparisons to Selma, while recognizing that the blatant denial of voting rights in 1960 Alabama was an extreme version of racism. Nightly, we watched as news media delivered images of protestors in Ferguson who were angry and frustrated by the tragic consequences of the institutional racism which has had a significant impact on their opportunities and livelihood and the community’s safety. As they had during Selma, people from across the country were motivated to join in and become a part of something bigger than themselves.  Ferguson provided that moment when people could take action in support of the values of justice and equity we collectively hold as a nation.  Activism took on many forms, as people from diverse communities descended on Ferguson to add their support to the protest, similar to the 8,000 that came to Selma on the third attempt to make their values and beliefs heard.

Selma, Ferguson and all the other events that have raised awareness to issues of injustice serve as stepping stones to progress. It’s not enough for us to be content with the advancements we’ve made; we need to consider how to continue advocating for institutional change. Civil rights pioneer, Frederick Douglass said “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Our beliefs in equity and justice for all people mean we may have to be willing to challenge the institutions that are better served by maintaining the status quo than by challenging it.  Fifty years ago, the people of Selma faced injustice and decided it was time to stand up. We follow in their brave footsteps.  Both Selma and Ferguson provide teachable moments for educators to share history and stories, teach about bias and injustice and inspire students to take action to create positive change in the world.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

February 27, 2015

College Campuses Continue To Face Divisive BDS Campaigns

Throughout the 2014-15 academic year, a consortium of student groups have initiated campaigns on campus calling on their schools to divest from companies that they believe either profit from or aid in the Israeli occupation.BDS-campus-anti-israel

The efforts are part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a global effort to isolate and punish Israel because of its policies toward the Palestinians. While supporters of the BDS movement claim to embrace the tactic as a nonviolent way to pressure Israel into negotiations, one of the principal components of the campaign calls for a full and complete right of return for Palestinians which would result in a non-Jewish majority and erase the Jewish character of Israel. The BDS campaign is clearly a biased effort to demonize Israel and place the entire onus of the conflict on the Jewish state.

While these initiatives have failed to have any practical outcomes in terms of university investment policies, it cannot be ignored that some have had a divisive and corrosive effect on the campus climate. On some campuses, divestment initiatives have left Jewish and pro-Israel students feeling beleaguered and isolated. Other students report a tense atmosphere on campuses where students and student leaders are pressured to “choose sides” on a conflict they know little about.

So far this academic year, nearly 300 anti-Israel events have been scheduled, with about 40% of them focused on BDS campaigns. In addition, BDS resolutions have been voted in student government on or initiated by anti-Israel student groups on 11 campuses.

In the coming weeks, addition BDS activity will be coordinated on campus as part of the eleventh annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which began on February 23 and is scheduled to run through March. IAW Events have been scheduled on at least 25 college campuses in the U.S. thus far. Some campuses are scheduled to host presentations on topics such as the false Gaza-Ferguson analogy and others will set up mock “apartheid walls” on their campuses, and/or distribute mock “eviction notices.”

Below is a list of current campus BDS campaigns and resolutions which have been voted on:

  • Northwestern University – The Northwestern University student government passed a divestment resolution submitted by the student-group NU Divest on Wednesday, February 18, 2015. The vote was 24-22-3.
  • Stanford University – The Undergraduate Senate of Stanford University passed a BDS resolution submitted by the student-group Stanford out of Occupied Palestine on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. The vote on the resolution was 10-4-1.
  • University of Toledo – The University of Toledo student government ruled that a BDS resolution submitted by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine chapter was unconstitutional on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.
  • University of California-Davis – The UC Davis Student Senate passed a divestment resolution that was submitted by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on Thursday, January 29, 2015. The vote on the resolution was 8-2-2, but it was challenged and overturned by the student-led Court of Associated Students, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the Student Senate.
  • United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865 – The University of California Student Workers Union (UAW 2865) endorsed a divestment resolution on Thursday, December 4, 2014 calling on the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies that are allegedly profiting from or aiding in the Israeli occupation. The resolution also called for an end of U.S. aid to Israel and for UAW International to divest from the same corporations. The vote was 1411-749.
  • University of California-Los Angeles – On Tuesday, November 18, 2014, the UCLA student government endorsed a divestment resolution that was submitted by the campus Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. The vote on the resolution was 8-2-2.

Below is a list of BDS campaigns currently taking place:

  • University of Michigan –  The student-group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) at the University of Michigan announced plans to initiate a divestment campaign called “#UMDivest” on February 18, 2015. To go along with this, they are hosting a BDS symposium to discuss the campaign, read the resolution, and answer questions from the audience.
  • University of Houston – The University of Houston Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter announced plans to initiate a BDS campaign on February 12, 2015. The group sponsored a pro-BDS demonstration on their campus that day where the campaign was announced.
  • Ohio State University – A newly-founded group called Ohio State University Divest (OSU Divest) started a divestment campaign on January 29, 2015. They announced their campaign through a press release and state that they were calling on the University to divest from companies that allegedly harm and/or profit from harming Palestinians.
  • San Diego State University – SDSU Students for Justice in Palestine launched a divestment campaign and new group called San Diego State University Divest (SDSU Divest) on January 25, 2015. To go along with the campaign, they have been circulating a petition to current students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members that calls for divestment “from companies that profit from violence against the Palestinians.”
  • University of Southern Florida – The University of Southern Florida SJP chapter put up a pro-BDS billboard near campus to claim that 10,000 students were silenced because BDS was not enforced by the University Administration after the group allegedly collected 10,000 signatures calling on the university to divest from corporations that allegedly profit from the Israeli occupation.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,