racism » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘racism’
March 11, 2016 1

Turning Current Events Instruction Into Social Justice Teaching

Jin­nie Spiegler
Direc­tor of Cur­ricu­lum, Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Edutopia

Mar­riage equal­ity, refugees seek­ing safety in Europe, the Con­fed­er­ate flag, police shoot­ings of black and Latino men, the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Cait­lyn Jen­ner, ISIS, and immi­gra­tion are just a few of the news sto­ries that inhab­ited the head­lines this year on our phones, lap­tops, and news­pa­pers. Unlike 20 years ago when teach­ers and par­ents had to inten­tion­ally raise cur­rent events top­ics with young peo­ple, nowa­days stu­dents are already part of the con­ver­sa­tion. Through their smart­phones, social media out­lets, and over­heard con­ver­sa­tions, they know what is hap­pen­ing. And yet, do stu­dents really under­stand the head­lines they see? Do they have the chance to grap­ple with the infor­ma­tion, or is it sim­ply seep­ing into their psy­che with no oppor­tu­nity to ask ques­tions, dig deeper, or explore how they feel about it?

Most edu­ca­tors feel a sense of respon­si­bil­ity to talk with their stu­dents about what’s going on in soci­ety and the world. Indeed, it’s the rea­son that many decided to become teach­ers in the first place. With top­ics both large and small — from the Supreme Court rul­ing on mar­riage equal­ity to the lack of diver­sity in the Acad­emy Awards, from racism in polic­ing to the school dress codes con­tro­versy — teach­ing about cur­rent events has enor­mous ben­e­fits for stu­dents. And it almost always has a social jus­tice lens with which to learn, ana­lyze, and discover.

Whether teach­ers have a few min­utes, one class period, or an entire unit to spend on a cur­rent event topic, the oppor­tu­nity is ripe with learn­ing poten­tial. Stu­dents’ high inter­est and moti­va­tion lay the ground­work for being an informed cit­i­zen and talk­ing at home with par­ents and fam­ily mem­bers. Cur­rent events dis­cus­sions offer ample oppor­tu­nity for skill build­ing (e.g. vocab­u­lary devel­op­ment, read­ing and writ­ing infor­ma­tional and ana­lyt­i­cal text, oral expres­sion, crit­i­cal analy­sis — all part of the ELA Com­mon Core Learn­ing Stan­dards). Stu­dents can build and prac­tice their social and emo­tional skills, and these top­ics often present an oppor­tu­nity to con­nect the present with the past. Finally, because so many cur­rent events top­ics shed light on human and civil rights, teach­ers have an excel­lent con­ver­sa­tional bridge as well as a lens for address­ing equity and jus­tice, a topic that so many young peo­ple are hun­gry to discuss.

As you reflect on what and how to bring cur­rent events top­ics into your class­room, con­sider the following:

1. Thought­fully con­sider who is in your classroom.

All cur­rent events top­ics have the poten­tial to raise sen­si­tive issues for stu­dents, espe­cially around iden­tity. Whether the topic brings up race, reli­gion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, immi­gra­tion, etc., think about the com­po­si­tion of your stu­dents. The young peo­ple who might iden­tify with the topic per­son­ally will likely have a range of thoughts and feel­ings about dis­cussing the topic: relief, embar­rass­ment, annoy­ance, pride, excite­ment, or noth­ing at all. Do not assume that all of the stu­dents in that iden­tity group know about or are inter­ested in talk­ing about the topic at hand, and be care­ful not to put those stu­dents in the posi­tion of being the “author­ity” or main pos­ses­sor of knowl­edge on the topic. Do not ask or expect them to speak for all stu­dents in this iden­tity group. If you antic­i­pate that the topic could be very emo­tional for some stu­dents, con­sider speak­ing with them prior to the lesson.

2. Explore opin­ions and perspective.

Most news top­ics raise con­tro­ver­sial issues with dif­fer­ent points of view. Use the topic as an open­ing to help stu­dents under­stand what they believe and why they believe it. Pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties to talk about and write their opin­ions on the issue. Engage them in read­ing about and lis­ten­ing to the opin­ions of oth­ers — their class­mates as well as op-ed colum­nists and sub­ject mat­ter experts. This can and should com­pli­cate their think­ing and pro­pel them to ques­tion, change, and/or sharpen their points of view, and artic­u­late those posi­tions with evi­dence. Dis­cus­sion, debate and dia­logue should be foun­da­tions for these conversations.

3. Make the anti-bias, social jus­tice theme explicit and clear.

What­ever the sub­ject is, bring to the cen­ter of the dis­cus­sion the spe­cific aspect of diver­sity, bias, or injus­tice that it raises. For exam­ple, when dis­cussing home­less­ness, explore the stigma and stereo­types of home­less peo­ple in the U.S. You may also need to pro­vide some foun­da­tional skill devel­op­ment in under­stand­ing the lan­guage of bias, or give back­ground infor­ma­tion in order for stu­dents to under­stand a cur­rent con­tro­versy (e.g. under­stand the his­tory of and dis­crim­i­na­tion against Native Amer­i­can peo­ple, includ­ing the his­tory of mas­cots and sym­bols in sports, in order to make sense of the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ name controversy).

4. Make the les­son inter­ac­tive and use technology.

As much as pos­si­ble, cre­ate inter­ac­tive and engag­ing activ­i­ties that also develop skills and expand knowl­edge. This could take the form of debates, mock tri­als, stu­dent sur­veys or inter­views, small-group dis­cus­sions, role plays, teach-ins, or a sim­pler activ­ity. Take advan­tage of stu­dents’ inter­est and acu­men in the dig­i­tal world by inte­grat­ing stu­dent blogs, pho­tog­ra­phy and video, and social media plat­forms, and by fol­low­ing spe­cific hash­tags, info­graph­ics, and analy­sis of how social media has helped to facil­i­tate cur­rent activist efforts.

5. Do something.

Top­ics in the news can eas­ily lead to despair, anger, and hope­less­ness. Espe­cially for young peo­ple, it is crit­i­cal that we give them the per­spec­tive and tools to do some­thing about the injus­tice they see in the world. Expos­ing stu­dents to the wide range of responses to injus­tice, includ­ing activism strate­gies both past and present, goes a long way toward their turn­ing these neg­a­tive emo­tions into pos­i­tive actions. If pos­si­ble, work together on a class project, and encour­age stu­dents to get involved in larger efforts on issues that are impor­tant to them.

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

November 16, 2015 6

Understanding Mizzou and Ourselves

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Recent events at the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri have prompted seri­ous intro­spec­tion. With the deep hurt and rage caused by the death of an unarmed black 18-year old, Michael Brown, serv­ing as the back­drop to per­sis­tent man­i­fes­ta­tions of racism on Missouri’s flag­ship cam­pus, young peo­ple of color and their allies are demand­ing more of our edu­ca­tion and other insti­tu­tional sys­tems. They have sounded a cry for jus­tice that rings far beyond Mizzou.

Stu­dents are not only speak­ing out against overt exam­ples of racism. They are say­ing that the bias they expe­ri­ence is both more sub­tle and more per­va­sive. They are try­ing to tell us that racism sim­mers con­stantly beneath the sur­face of their inter­ac­tions on cam­pus, even when oth­ers do not see it.  Their voices deserve to be heard clearly and taken seri­ously. Their con­cerns require our atten­tion because they reflect deep his­tor­i­cal roots. Their res­o­lu­tion will have impli­ca­tions far beyond Mis­souri and the col­lege campus.

Indeed, the struc­tural inequities in soci­ety high­lighted by stu­dents at Mis­souri exist at all lev­els of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem, includ­ing K-12 and post­sec­ondary schools. Sys­temic injus­tice man­i­fests itself in schools that remain deeply seg­re­gated more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion – not only sep­a­rate but grossly unequal.

This is not an opin­ion but an unfor­tu­nate fact.  We can see this in the huge dis­par­i­ties in school fund­ing and resources; the lack of diver­sity in our teach­ing force as well as the cur­ricu­lum; a dis­ci­pli­nary sys­tem that dis­pro­por­tion­ately pun­ishes stu­dents of color, and a raft of other poli­cies and prac­tices that feed racial and socioe­co­nomic achieve­ment gaps and other neg­a­tive outcomes.

Today, almost three quar­ters of African Amer­i­can stu­dents and eight in ten Latino stu­dents attend majority-minority schools. More­over, roughly four in ten of those stu­dents attend schools that are more than 90 per­cent seg­re­gated.  Schools with the high­est minor­ity pop­u­la­tions are less likely to offer high level sci­ence and math classes.  We see that, on aver­age, their teach­ers are paid sig­nif­i­cantly less annu­ally than schools in the same dis­trict with the fewest minor­ity stu­dents.  Their teach­ers are less likely to be certified.

Achiev­ing diver­sity in edu­ca­tion is crit­i­cal. Diverse schools are cru­cial to the devel­op­ment of a soci­ety that hon­ors inclu­sive­ness. We need plu­ral­is­tic edu­ca­tional envi­ron­ments so that stu­dents can explore a full range of ideas, per­spec­tives and expe­ri­ences and to rethink their own premises and prej­u­dices. Test­ing their own hypothe­ses against those of peo­ple with dif­fer­ing views is the essence of education.

But the solu­tion can­not come merely by cre­at­ing more inclu­sive learn­ing envi­ron­ments in higher edu­ca­tion.  We have to dig deeper, and find ways to acknowl­edge and address the under­ly­ing struc­tural inequal­ity. Struc­tural racism and uncon­scious bias per­me­ate so many aspects of Amer­i­can life, not only in our schools, but more broadly through­out our insti­tu­tions.  This very real frus­tra­tion is what fuels the #Black­Lives­Mat­ter move­ment.  Dig­nity, equity and oppor­tu­nity can­not be abstrac­tions for any seg­ment of our soci­ety – they need to be the com­mon denom­i­na­tors of every Amer­i­can dream.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded over 100 years ago to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. This time­less mis­sion has fueled our con­stant com­mit­ment to stop anti-Semitism and big­otry in all forms and to secure civil rights and social jus­tice for all peo­ple.  Through­out the 1950’s and 1960’s, this mis­sion inspired our ded­i­ca­tion to the strug­gle for civil rights, fight­ing along­side our broth­ers and sis­ters in the African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity to achieve land­mark vot­ing and anti-discrimination leg­is­la­tion. We made enor­mous strides in those years, and those civil rights laws pro­vide impor­tant legal safe­guards that per­sist today.

But now, we and other civil rights orga­ni­za­tions must address the real­ity that laws are some­times eas­ier to change than atti­tudes, and that both sub­con­scious and overt racism per­sist in Amer­ica.  Unfor­tu­nately, we can­not just wish away the struc­tural racism and uncon­scious bias that per­me­ate so many aspects of Amer­i­can life, includ­ing our schools and other insti­tu­tions.  In this moment, we need to acknowl­edge the real­i­ties around us and recom­mit our­selves to this work.

Of course, the bur­den of address­ing racism and bias must not fall solely on the shoul­ders of com­mu­ni­ties of color or other minor­ity groups.  All seg­ments of soci­ety have a respon­si­bil­ity to lis­ten care­fully to the voices and frus­tra­tions of this gen­er­a­tion of activists who want what we all want—a more just soci­ety. We are pre­pared to take on this chal­lenge and to renew our effort to ensure jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all.

Tags: , , , , , ,

September 11, 2015 1

Marching for Fairness – the NAACP Journey for Justice

After par­tic­i­pat­ing in the his­toric vot­ing rights march from Selma to Mont­gomery on March 21, 1965, Rabbi Abram­son Joshua Hes­chel famously said:

“For many of us the march from Selma to Mont­gomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walk­ing is not kneel­ing. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even with­out words, our march was wor­ship. I felt my legs were praying.”

Sandmel

ADL Direc­tor of Inter­faith Affairs Rabbi David Sand­mel and NAACP Pres­i­dent and CEO Cor­nell Brooks on the road to Wash­ing­ton DC as part of the Jour­ney for Justice.

 

That march played a sig­nif­i­cant role in prompt­ing Con­gress to enact the land­mark Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) – per­haps the most impor­tant and effec­tive civil rights leg­is­la­tion ever passed.   In the half cen­tury since then, the VRA has secured and safe­guarded the right to vote for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans. Its suc­cess in elim­i­nat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tory bar­ri­ers to full civic par­tic­i­pa­tion and in advanc­ing equal polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment is undeniable.

Some­times legs pray.

And some­times legs carry you to Wash­ing­ton DC to demand progress toward jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all.

Today, fifty years after the pas­sage of the VRA, and two years after a deeply trou­bling Supreme Court deci­sion that essen­tially gut­ted the heart of the leg­is­la­tion — marchers are on their way to Wash­ing­ton to demand vot­ing rights pro­tec­tions again.  The NAACP has orga­nized America’s Jour­ney for Jus­tice, which started in Selma on August 1.  The Anti-Defamation League is one of the sup­port­ing orga­ni­za­tions for the 1000-mile march, as we had sup­ported the orig­i­nal Selma to Mont­gomery march.  Then-ADL National Direc­tor Ben Epstein wrote,

“We walked together—more than 3,000 Amer­i­cans: Negroes and whites, min­is­ters, rab­bis, Catholic nuns, stu­dents, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of orga­ni­za­tions, those who belonged to no group other than the human race—all in peace­ful demon­stra­tion against blind vio­lence, in ‘gigan­tic wit­ness’ to the con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed right of all cit­i­zens to reg­is­ter and vote.”

Jour­ney to Jus­tice cul­mi­nates in an Advo­cacy Day on the Cap­i­tal Hill on Sep­tem­ber 16.  Marchers and their sup­port­ers will have dozens of meet­ings with Mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Sen­ate.  The prin­ci­pal focal point for the lob­by­ing will be the need to address the dev­as­tat­ing impact of Shelby County v. Holder, a 2013 Supreme Court deci­sion which gut­ted a key pro­vi­sion of the VRA, dra­mat­i­cally lim­it­ing its effec­tive­ness and reach.

Last Novem­ber – the first major elec­tion since Shelby County – there were new restric­tions on vot­ing in 15 states, endan­ger­ing vot­ing rights for hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans. From voter ID laws that threaten to dis­en­fran­chise African Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos, stu­dents and elderly vot­ers, to cuts to early vot­ing and oner­ous require­ments for voter reg­is­tra­tion, the right to vote is in peril.

The proper response to the Shelby County deci­sion is the bipar­ti­san Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act of 2015 (S. 1659/H.R. 2867).  The VRAA reasserts appro­pri­ate fed­eral over­sight over efforts to change state and local vot­ing laws and pro­vides addi­tional safe­guards for voting.

Since, 1965 reaf­firm­ing the nation’s com­mit­ment to full vot­ing rights for all has never been con­tro­ver­sial.  Each time the VRA came up for reau­tho­riza­tion it has received over­whelm­ing, bipar­ti­san Con­gres­sional sup­port.  The last time Con­gress extended the VRA, in 2006, it did so after an exhaus­tive hear­ings on vot­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and the impact of the VRA – result­ing in thou­sands of pages of doc­u­men­ta­tion.  The leg­is­la­tion passed over­whelm­ingly: 390 to 33 in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and 98–0 in the Senate.

As we have com­mem­o­rated the 50th anniver­sary of the Vot­ing Rights Act (VRA) this sum­mer, we have been reminded just how far we have come – how impact­ful the VRA has been in ensur­ing the rights of all Amer­i­cans to have their say in our democ­racy.   Jour­ney for Jus­tice marchers and their sup­port­ers are demon­strat­ing that Con­gress must do more than merely com­mem­o­rate anniver­saries of his­toric civil rights vic­to­ries.  They must act.  Now is the time for Con­gress to act to restore the pro­tec­tions of the VRA and secure the right to vote for all Americans.

 

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