The Dangerous Standard for Black Beauty

Editor’s Note: If you read this article, you will see that the article does not profess that multiracial or fairer skinned black women are or should be a true standard of beauty. The premise is quite contrary. It focuses on the serious error of societal colourism and the damage such erred thinking has on beautiful men, women and children of all shades, hues, ethnicities and races. Project RACE fully believes in and celebrates the beauty and value of all people.

The choice to have European-looking Zoe Saldana play Nina Simone in place of a broader-nosed, darker-skinned actress was seen as the most recent attempt to erase blackness in the media.  Despite the fact that Simone was a darker-skinned woman, Saldana, with her olive-hued skin and pointier nose was chosen, which lead to detractors arguing that Simone was being used as the standard for “acceptable blackness”.

Colourism is not only limited to media representation. The natural hair movement has also been called out for it’s lack of representation of black hair. The movement that’s supposed to support and uplift black women owning their blackness by wearing their natural hair has been accused of deifying hair with a looser curl texture over denser, more “kinky” hair types. 

Earlier this month Pax Jones, the woman who launched the Unfair and Lovely campaign – a photo series aimed at combating the media underrepresentation, violence and dehuminisation of dark-skinned people – spoke out about the face of the black feminism being biracial and light skinned.

She cited light-skinned and biracial women like Zendaya Coleman and Amandla Stenberg being used as the champions of black feminism at the cost of darker-skinned black women.

Hall argues that the repackaging of black beauty causes women to desire whiteness or have a connection to it and causes damage to the how young people see themselves.

Additional reporting:  National Geographic

photo: nomorerace.wordpress.com

Medical Monday

Neuroscientists May Have Discovered How Our Brains Can Overcome Racial Prejudice

If the public response to the shooting deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner has made one thing clear, it’s that many consider the U.S. to be far from a post-racial society. America has certainly made progress since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the number of interracial marriages has surged, the education achievement gap between races has shrunk (class matters more now) and we’ve elected a black president into office twice.

Fifty years later, however, we’re still living in a world where unarmed young black men fear being slain by the police; a world in which data shows how skin color overwhelmingly affects one’s chance of getting handcuffed, arrested, convicted and sentenced to death row. It’s not hard to see why so many Americans feel that, despite all we’ve achieved, overcoming racism for good is an impossible endeavor.

Demonstrators gather in Philadelphia on Dec. 3. Image Credit: Mark Makela via Getty

But recent research from neuroscientists suggests there is indeed hope for change, and it may not be as impossible as we imagine. According to the science, being a part of a diverse group — connected by a bond that isn’t race — may help our brains perceive everyone in that group as part of “your people,” regardless of racial makeup. If we know an individual is part of our group, our brains seem to react to the individual as being part of our group first and foremost — not an “other.”

These findings may have important policy implications, from considering the demographics of our police forces, as Attorney General Eric Holder recently suggested the Ferguson Police Department should, to the way schools admit students and how we plan our cities in general.

The science

Psychologists have long known that humans have a propensity to distinguish between people who are like us — members of our “in group” — and those who aren’t.

But the concept of a group is rather flexible. According to Lehigh University psychologist Dominic Packer, we should think of a group basically as a psychological state.

“A group exists when a set of people start to feel like a group,” he said.

So while it’s become the norm to form groups along racial, ethnic and religious lines, these distinctions aren’t special — they’re just convenient. Knowing this, a team of researchers, including Packer, and led by New York University social neuroscientist Jay Van Bavel, used neuroimaging tools to see how our brains reacted to forced changes in groups.

They examined whether people of mixed races feel closer to each other when they’re on the same team. To do this, Van Bavel’s team expanded on a basic setup that similar studies have used: Researchers assign white study participants to different teams, one of which is mixed race, and tell everyone to memorize the faces of their teammates and opponents. Researchers then measure participants’ neural activity while they perform simple tasks

In a 2008 study, participants watched photos of other participants’ faces flash across a screen for two seconds apiece. They first had to categorize the faces based on team membership and again based on race, and then rate their like and dislike of other participants on a scale of 1-6. While participants performed the identification tasks, researchers used neuroimaging tools to measure their response rates and observe activity changes in different areas of their brains.

Images showed that the amygdala, a key part of the brain for emotion, flared up in the brains of white participants when they viewed photos of their team members, regardless of race. In this context, researchers believe that amygdala activity reacted to what was most important and worthy of participants’ attention: their team members. When race isn’t relevant to group formation, Van Bavel explained, the brain seems to ignore racial differences to focus on what matters: whoever is in your group.

In a follow-up 2011 study, Van Bavel saw something surprising happen in a region of the brain called the Fusiform Face Area (FFA), which is critical for facial recognition. Shortly after getting their team assignments, participants performed a similar face-identification task and exhibited markedly heightened activity in FFA in response to members of their own team. Basically, people quickly identified their team members as people they should remember and disregarded non-team members as faceless outsiders to lump together.

In subsequent studies, Van Bavel changed up the basic group structure. For example, in a 2012 study, he made someone from each team a spy, a role that involved interacting with the opposing team. As Van Bavel suspected, the most gung-ho team members (based on a self-assessment) had the strongest recollection for in-group faces whereas the spies had heightened memories for the faces of people on other teams.

Demonstrators take over a bridge in New York to protest the decision in the Eric Garner trial. Image Credit: Associated Press

What it all means

Taken together, these conclusions suggest that once we’re part of a group, our brains tell us to think, act and feel like a member, regardless of the group’s racial makeup. Essentially, spending time in other groups creates brain-based bonds that may make people more likely to see others as distinguishable individuals, as opposed to just part of a group. This is a critical component to eliminating racial prejudice because distinguishing individuals is the first step toward connecting with another human.

“Responses to race that we think of as burned pretty deeply into the brain may be hard to override or regulate,” Van Bavel said. “But it seems that if we can see a member of another race as part of our in-group, then we can reorient how we see the world and interpret people, which may help overcome biases.”

Why this could be big

Van Bavel’s findings contradict a well-observed psychological phenomenon with real-life implications called “own-race bias,” which says people are better at remembering same-race faces than others. In terms of criminal justice, own-race bias translates to misidentifying suspects in police lineups, which leads to false convictions. In fact, as of a few years ago, around 40% of falsely convicted death-row inmates were victims of cross-race identification errors.

There’s no easy, or even identifiable, way to uproot systemic inequality. And there’s certainly a wide gap between brain activity and public conduct. But, at the very least, knowledge that we can create brain-based bonds useful for overcoming prejudicial feelings is reason enough to keep plugging away at the problem.

“It’s quite hopeful that creating minimal groups can completely trump something like racial bias,” said Emile Bruneau, an MIT neuroscientist from MIT who’s worked with Van Bavel on other research, “and that group difference can be eliminated if people focus on something else. [Van Bavel’s research] shows how flexible the brain is, and that flexibility is something we can hang hope on.”

Source: Science.Mic

When No One Gets It

When No One Gets It

I read Nicholas Kristof’s column every week in my Sunday New York Times. I would say that it’s a very fair assumption that Kristof never reads my writing. That’s OK, but it doesn’t mean he gets an editorial pass.

Kristof has been writing a series titled “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.” I’ve agreed with some of the things he has written and disagreed with others. I think he basically is trying, like other writers to find some kind of solution, make some sense out of what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, when Michael Brown, who was black, was shot and killed by a white cop. You know the story.

The series ended with Part 5. Kristof has summoned everyone who has ever had anything historically quoted about race for his column. He ends with this: “There are no easy solutions. But let’s talk.” Fine.

We should talk, although I’m not sure that anyone has any easy or hard solutions. Races have been polarized for so long in this country that getting to an “even” point seems impossible, no matter if we are talking about African-Americans, white people, the multiracial population, or any other groups or individuals. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that I disagree with Nicholas Kristof on his idea of a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine race in America.” What I really am opposed to is his recommendation that it could be led by the likes of President Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, and Oprah Winfrey. Huh? These are people who would not be stopped for any traffic ticket because they have drivers. I seriously doubt that George W. Bush ever worried about financial problems, job application discrimination, or police brutality. Bill Clinton may have talked about the problems more, but I bet he feels pretty safe in his office in Harlem.

Oprah Winfrey. Sigh. Everyone loves Oprah—except me. It’s because I’ve seen the other side of Oprah and it wasn’t pretty. I received a phone call many years ago from one of her television show producers. They were going to do a show on the lives of multiracial children and wanted to see if we could provide some kids. I told the producer that we offer the positive side of being multiracial, and would only consider talking to our member parents of multiracial children if the show was going to give the positive, or at least 50 percent positive evidence of the good reasons to celebrate multi-anything. We went back and forth for weeks and the bottom line was that Oprah Winfrey was planning a “tragic mulatto” show, and wanted only children and families with identity problems. We declined. Of course they got kids to appear on the show and answer Oprah’s well thought out and negative questions. I still shudder when I see O Magazine.

Do I have the answers? Of course not, but I think I could choose a better roundtable for the discussion than Nicholas Kristof.

Susan Graham

Racism in South African Schools

South African Public School Accused of Racist Treatment Toward Black, Mixed-Race Students

 

south african schoolSouth Africa’s Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has found a public school guilty of hate speech toward black and mixed-race pupils.

Children at the school alleged staff members called them racist names, such as baboons and monkeys.

After an 18-month investigation, staff members and the head teacher were found to have exposed students to dehumanizing and racist treatment.

Representatives of Dr Viljoen Combined School told the BBC they would not “comment at this stage.”

They said they had not seen the report and would refer the matter to the school’s governing body.

Representatives of the Free State Department of Education, responsible for the school, say they will study the report and would hold their own investigation before taking any potential disciplinary action.

The SAHRC is an independent body set up after the end of white-minority rule in 1994 to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and hold public institutions accountable.

Frank and Open Discussion

Pupils at the school in Bloemfontein said teachers told them to go back to the black schools in the townships because their parents could not afford to pay school fees, and that they would never succeed in life and would end up like their parents who work in chain stores.

Such reports raise uncomfortable questions about transformation in former South African President Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation, says the BBC‘s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

Many have called for a frank and open discussion about why racism and inequality still exist, the correspondent says.

The commission made various recommendations for the school and the Free State education department:

Both institutions should develop procedures for countering racism.

The school’s governing body should establish policies and guidelines to counter racism and submit them to the SAHRC for review within the next 12 months.

The school and department should increase teachers’ and pupils’ understanding of racism.

Read the full story at bbc.co.uk

Soccer and Racism

 

Fifa accused of not taking racism seriously enough at World Cup

• Governing body’s own anti-racism head says efforts too weak
• Concern over failure to appoint observers at each match

 

Piara Powar, director of FARE, confirmed that Fifa had received a proposal to have three anti-racism

The head of Fifa’s anti-racism task force has voiced his disappointment at the failure to appoint staff trained to record

discriminatory abuse in World Cup stadiums in the wake of a series of contentious incidents.

Fifa did not take action over offensive chanting by Mexican fans, racist chanting at matches

involving Russia and Croatia, or “blacked up” fans who were pictured at the Germany v Ghana game.

“There is no reason why someone should be entering the stadium clearly displaying their intent.

We at Fifa and the local organising committee should be doing a much better job,” said Jeffrey Webb,

the Concacaf president and also a member of Fifa’s executive committee. He said a proposal to have

three officials at every match trained to spot and record evidence of anti-discriminatory behaviour

had been knocked back by Fifa and the organising committee.
Source: The Guardian

Category: Blog · Tags: , ,

Millennials and Racism

Why Do Millennials Not Understand Racism?

They think if we ignore skin color, racism will somehow disappear.

140515_POL_BWMillenials
Millennials see racism as a matter of different treatment, justified by race, that you solve by removing race from the equation.

 

When you hear MTV, you don’t think “research.” But, for the last few years, the music television channel has been building a public affairs campaign to address bias called “Look Different.” Aimed at millennials, it seeks to help them deal with prejudice and discrimination in their lives. And as part of the project, MTV has worked with pollsters to survey a nationally representative sample of people ages 14 to 24 to measure how young people are “experiencing, affected by, and responding to issues associated with bias.”

Overall, MTV confirms the general view of millennials: Compared with previous generations, they’re more tolerant and diverse and profess a deeper commitment to equality and fairness. At the same time, however, they’re committed to an ideal of colorblindness that leaves them uncomfortable with race, opposed to measures to reduce racial inequality, and a bit confused about what racism is.

All of this is apparent in the findings. Ninety-one percent of respondents “believe in equality” and believe “everyone should be treated equally.” Likewise, 84 percent say their families taught them to treat everyone the same, no matter their race, and 89 percent believe everyone should be treated as equals. With that said, only 37 percent of respondents (30 percent of whites and 46 percent of minorities) say they were raised in families that talk about race.

For this reason, perhaps, a majority of millennials say that their generation is “post-racial.” Seventy-two percent believe their generation believes in equality more than older people, and 58 percent believe that as they get older, racism will become less of an issue. It’s almost certainly true that this view is influenced by the presence of President Obama. Sixty-two percent believe that having a black president shows that minorities have the same opportunities as whites, and 67 percent believe it proves that race is not a “barrier to accomplishments.”

It’s no surprise, then, that most millennials aspire to “colorblindness.” Sixty-eight percent say “focusing on race prevents society from becoming colorblind.” As such, millennials are hostile to race-based affirmative action: 88 percent believe racial preferences are unfair as a matter of course, and 70 percent believe they are unfair regardless of “historical inequalities.” Interestingly, the difference between whites and people of color is nonexistent on the first question and small (74 percent versus 65 percent) on the second. But this might look different if you disaggregated “people of color” by race. There’s a chance that black millennials are more friendly to affirmative action than their Latino or Asian peers.

For all of these aspirations, however, millennials have a hard time talking about race and discrimination. Although 73 percent believe that we should talk “more openly” about bias, only 20 percent say they’re comfortable doing so—despite the fact that a plurality of minorities say that their racial identities shape their views of the world.

What’s more, for all of their unity on tolerance and equality, white and minority millennials have divergent views on the status of whites and minorities in society. Forty-one percent of white millennials say that the government “pays too much attention to the problems of racial minority groups while 65 percent of minorities say that whites have more opportunities.” More jarring is the 48 percent of white millennials who say discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against racial minorities. With that in mind, it’s worth a quick look at a 2012 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, where 58 percent of white millennials said that discrimination against whites was as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.

It’s hard to say which is the “true” number, but there’s no doubt that a substantial plurality of young white people believe their race is a disadvantage, which is ludicrous given the small number who say that they’ve felt excluded because of their race (10 percent) or say that they’ve been hurt by racial offenses (25 percent).

But while this reaction doesn’t seem to have a basis in reality, it makes perfect sense given what millennials writ large believe about racism. Let’s go back to the results on colorblindness and affirmative action. Seventy-three percent believe that “never considering race would improve society,” and 90 percent say that “everyone should be treated the same regardless of race.”

From these results, it’s clear that—like most Americans—millennials see racism as a matter of different treatment, justified by race, that you solve by removing race from the equation. If we ignore skin color in our decisions, then there can’t be racism.

The problem is that racism isn’t reducible to “different treatment.” Since if it is, measures to ameliorate racial inequality—like the Voting Rights Act—would be as “racist” as the policies that necessitated them. No, racism is better understood as white supremacy—anything that furthers a broad hierarchy of racist inequity, where whites possess the greatest share of power, respect, and resources, and blacks the least.

Millennials have grown up in a world where we talk about race without racism—or don’t talk about it at all—and where “skin color” is the explanation for racial inequality, as if ghettos are ghettos because they are black, and not because they were created. As such, their views on racism—where you fight bias by denying it matters to outcomes—are muddled and confused.

Which gets to the irony of this survey: A generation that hates racism but chooses colorblindness is a generation that, through its neglect, comes to perpetuate it.

Source: Slate

Racism in Soccer

 

 

English soccer referee accused of racism after penalizing wrong player during game

Andre Marriner came under fire when, during a weekend match between London’s Chelsea and Arsenal teams, he penalized Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs instead of a Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who actually committed the offense. Both players have mixed race backgrounds.

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR ?LIVE? SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS.GLYN  Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs reacts after being penalized for something another player had done.

An English soccer referee has been accused of racism after he mistakenly sent off the wrong mixed race player.

Social media erupted after Andre Marriner dismissed Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs for handball instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who committed the offense.

Both players are mixed race.

Twitter users accused the hapless official of getting confused because of the players’ skin color.

“The ref can’t differentiate between Gibbs n Ox. Surely there’s a racist undertone,” tweeted @tharmahomed.

One former soccer player, Stan Collymore, tweeted: “All look the same those mixed race boys”.

EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications Shaun Botterill/Getty Image Soccer referee Andre Marriner (second from right) shows Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal a red card during a Saturday match.

Other former players also questioned Marriner’s action on television broadcasts, though many were quick to defend the referee against the grounds of racism, instead saying he made a bad decision.

One former Arsenal player, Kenny Sansom, said, “I don’t think it’s racism.”

The incident happened during the biggest game in the English Premier League at the weekend, Chelsea versus Arsenal, two London teams.

Chelsea won 6-0.

 

Source: New York Daily News

Racism and Aging

 

Racism may accelerate aging on a cellular level, study finds

 

Jovan Washington, left, Cecil Boyce and Louis Estrada were interviewed in 2012 in New Haven, Conn., where they talked about the negative stereotypes attached to young African-American men. A new study shows a link between experiencing discrimination and accelerated aging in black men. Photo by Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Can experiencing discrimination lead to premature aging? Researchers think there could be a connection.

According the Centers for Disease Control, African-American men die six to seven years earlier than white men. But no one is exactly sure why. David H. Chae, a social epidemiologist at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, thinks the psycho-social strain of discrimination may explain the disparity.

“We can all relate to how the experience of being treated unfairly impacts us physiologically,” he said. “There’s a cascade of biochemical reactions. Your heart rate rises, your muscles clench.” Dealing with prejudice — and all its effects on your life — is inherently stressful, he said, and that may lead to accelerated aging.

Chae and his colleagues published a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last week, that looked at 92 African-American men between the ages of 30 and 50 to determine if racism might be one of the culprits behind premature aging.

To understand your biological age, biochemists examine telomeres, repetitive sequences of DNA at the ends of our chromosomes. Specifically, Chae and his colleagues looked at telomere length from leukocytes, or white blood cells, an indicator of general systemic aging.

Telomeres are like the plastic caps on your shoelaces, said Rita Effros, professor of pathology at University of California Los Angeles. When cells divide and DNA replicates, it can’t quite copy the ends of the chromosomes, she said. Telomeres keep your chromosomes intact, she said, but over time they shorten, losing 50 to 100 base pairs a year. A newborn baby’s telomeres may have 12,000 base pairs, but by the time he is 80 years old, his telomeres may be as short as 5,000 base pairs.

“[Telomeres] keep wearing down gradually until it all unravels,” said Dr. Lisbeth Nielsen, at the National Institute of Aging, part of the National Institute of Health. That eventually leads to cell death, she said.

But if it gets too short, that “unraveling” means the cell dies leaving the body vulnerable to a host of age-related diseases like diabetes, cancer and Alzheimers. A telomere’s truncated length is an indicator that something is wrong, Effros said.

“When telomeres get critically short, the cell stops being able to divide,” she said. And if an immune cell, which protects your body from infections, needs to divide, but can’t? That’s when you’ve got a problem, Effros said.

And recent studies have found that telomerescan be shortened by cortisol, the hormone released when a person undergoes stress. Think of being cut off in traffic, narrowly avoiding an accident, Chae said. Your heart rate rises and your muscles contract, but once the danger is over, you calm down.

Scientists are finding that the cortisol your body produced under stress takes a significant toll on your cells.

Could the constant stress of dealing with discrimination change the way the body functions? To find out, Chae and his colleagues asked African-American men about a gamut of racial discrimination in their lives. Some reported harassment from police, discrimination in the workplace or extra scrutiny while shopping, for example. Other men reported never experiencing racial prejudice.

But what was important was how these men internalized those experiences, Chae said. They used a computerized tool called the black-white implicit association test to measure how these men viewed their own race, showing either an “anti-black bias” or a “pro-black bias.”

Chae found that men who experienced more frequent discrimination and internalized an anti-black bias had shorter telomeres than men who faced prejudice and still had positive views of their race. Even when controlling for other factors — chronologic age, socioeconomic status, overall health — those who internalized the experience were one to three years older biologically than those who had not.

The study has limitations. For one thing, it’s small. Larger studies are needed, said Nancy Krieger, a social epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and Chae’s former advisor.

And telomere lengths measured here aren’t “critically short,” Effros said, especially compared to the decade worth of shortening, for example, that an immune disease like HIV can produce. But, she added, if these men continue being stressed, their telomeres could get to that critically short length.

Also, numerous factors contribute to the shorter lifespan of African-American men, like poverty and how it affects access to healthcare or nutrition. But Krieger thinks that studies like this one make the connection between socioeconomic disparities and our health.

“This is part of biological pathway that translates social adversity into poor health,” Krieger said.

Source: PBS NEWSHOUR

Racism in City Council

  Troy City Council members don’t seem to get along

 

TROY – Rodney Wiltshire is the incoming city council president in Troy. But he said being in charge hasn’t been easy so far. Out of the eight other council members, Wiltshire said most of them are open to the change.

“I’ve had other council members that have been very abrasive and have said I don’t want to address you and I don’t want to work with you in that manner,” Wiltshire said.

Wiltshire said he’s the first African-American or biracial male to ever hold the post of council president in Troy. Plus he’s young. He said both may have something to do with all the disrespect coming from some of the council members.

“It is definitely personal. Change is hard. But there are definite personal issues that some of the council members have with me,” Wiltshire said.

It’s under that atmosphere, Wiltshire said, he’s been trying to communicate with the other members to set up committee assignments and other internal council business.

However, the anger was mounting.  He voiced his frustration in an email. NewsChannel 13 obtained a copy of the emali from a source in Troy. In it, Wiltshire used the ‘N’ word referring to himself by saying “I’m not his boy, or the house (‘N’ word).”

“It was a private email that was sent to a few people. It was concerned with the people that it was sent to,” Wiltshire said.

He refused to comment any further on the slur. One of the email recipients, Councilman Gary Galuski, said while the word was inappropriate. He agrees the email was private and had nothing to do with the business of the people of Troy.

Source: WNYT.com

Facing Racism

 

Facing Racism

Adding the element of race to a discussion makes people uncomfortable.  It is as if some illusive, powerful force has entered and takes up all the air. For all the hope we hold as our national image, we can be a hard place. In fact, we have a horrible and unhealed history. It becomes difficult to move forward because we are not expanding our understanding. It is a rare moment….and one of true opportunity…when someone opens a door to welcome a different perspective and a dialogue is entered that can hold multiple truths of those whose life experiences are vastly different.  Yet, educators cannot avoid these face to face encounters…in fact, we must seek them out… if we aspire to create environments safe for all students and produce a generation of young adults who will lead well in a multi-cultural, multi racial world.

What must it feel like to be judged by our appearance? Most of us have had an experience with otherness. We were the farm child at the centralized school, the girl who wanted to play hockey, the boys’ sports, we were the only Jewish family in a community, or we were the lone black child on a bus or the Asian child struggling to learn English. Remember when people feared that a Catholic president would turn the country over to the Pope? There may be some among us who have always been the majority. We live in a country in which good-looking people are elevated to hero status, especially in high schools. Taller people have traditionally risen to higher ranks of leadership than shorter people.  Men have been accepted into top positions more than women. Many have worked to break those barriers but barriers are strongly embedded in our culture.

While NBC and other news outlets report on the recent incidents in which persons of color were held and questioned because of purchases they made at Macy’s or Barney’s, our students are watching.  Why did suspicion arise over those purchases? The youth of America are watching as even well known personalities are held for questioning for simply purchasing an expensive item. They watched while the television reported how Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. Now, another Martin in Florida raises race and bullying. Our students are watching as Richie Incognito tosses racial insults into the Miami Dolphins rookie hazing and the team and the sport struggle to determine what is in bounds and where the lines are drawn.

Is it possible that profiling only takes place in big ways, like what makes national news? Is it possible that only people outside of education make judgments about persons of color?  Is it possible we are truly color-blind when working with children?  “Today, the color-blind ideology provides a veneer of liberality which covers up continuing racist thought and practice that is often less overt and more disguised (Feagin, as cited in Derman-Sparks & Ramsey 2006. p.33).

The beginning of an anti-racist journey for adults starts with a breaking of the silence. Derman-Sparks and Ramsey say,

It is about people recognizing the reality and implications of their white racial identity and undoing their learned racial superiority and entitlement.  It is about overcoming fears about losing connections with family, colleagues, and friends because of these choices.  However, the anti-racist white journey is also about becoming more whole, healing the wounds of alienation and dehumanization that racism creates, and opening up to the richness of human diversity in our country and around the world (2006. p.21).

These words may be difficult to digest for some.  But we must face the issues of racism in ourselves and in our schools.  We cannot simply turn the channel and go on about our business.  Perhaps, the intertwining of poverty and race will force us to enter this seemingly treacherous territory.

Beginning with the ending of legal segregation, and further strengthened by the election of America’s first African American president, many White people argue that White dominance and racism are a thing of the past (2011. p.39). However, recently Time.Com reported that the father of Ted Cruz who is a member of the Tea-party, openly called for our President to “go back to Kenya.”  While we can dismiss this as pretty typical politics, it would be quite a good thing if the biases and prejudice within them were not part of our present.  Racism is not a thing of the past.

And each of us is a more courageous leader if we wrestle long with ourselves to know whatever bias lives in us.  We have children watching and waiting for us to do something.  We cannot ignore the revelations that appear in the news.  They are our opportunities.  These are difficult steps to take and guidance along the way is essential.  No matter the process chosen, the first steps have to be to open the doors for the adults to begin to examine their own bias, or ignorance, or prejudice.  If we do not begin in earnest, to face the truth about our societal beliefs about being white or black or Asian, we cannot lead schools that are safe for children of color and we will not be preparing our students for lives as adults in welcoming, multi-cultural world.

In Derman-Sparks’ and Ramsey’s second edition, they say, “Still, the United States is not a post-racial society.  We have a long way to go to fulfilling the dream of ending all forms of institutional and individual racism” (2011.p.36).  It is in us and our schools.  We are not suggesting that we are bigots. But we are suggesting that we need to lead into this territory because others probably won’t.  Even if we do it awkwardly at first, it is still the leader’s path.

Source: Education Week