Carolyn C. Smith
The diversity of the population across the nation has created problems which are the same for all communities. When we open our newspapers, read educational magazines and listen to the nightly news, the headlines about education are all the same: poverty, crime, academic performance, school safety, substance abuse and parental involvement. These issues are not confined to any particular community nor ethnic group. These communities can be inner city or suburban, large or small, rich or poor, the same question prevails: “What can we do for our children?”
The major difference involving all communities is that inner city school receive more space in these publications for the negative things that are happening in their communities, while the suburban communities receive space for the positive things they are doing. When negative things do happen in the affluent neighborhoods, it is the minorities or that community who are usually blamed.
We live in a democratic society where interest citizens must put forth every effort to produce an educational system that nurtures the respect of the public. We as professional educators, parents, community leaders, and entrepreneurs must come together to foster the type of environment that we will feel comfortable to live in.
We as American are always looking for new ways to approach the same problem. Many times we have the solution to the problem in the palms of our hands, but bureaucracy of red tape keeps us from acting quickly or getting to the core of the problem.
Through the years certain ethnic groups have been stigmatized to be low achievers, trouble makers, and other negative titles which promote failure in society. Recently the subject of racism has hit the surface like a ton of bricks. Regardless as to how the victims feel because of the action, there is always a legitimate reason as to why the person said or did what he did. It appears that society has a bag of excuses for every given statement or action. The minority is usually on the receiving end of racial remarks thus making matters worse.
This unit will be concerned with developing strategies which will explore the attitudes and behaviors that students can used in a positive manner when they are the direct victim of racial remarks and situations.
When this unit is complete the students will be able to:
1. identify and give examples of the meanings of racism and discrimination.
2. know how to use appropriate behavior in and out of the school environment when dealing with racial and nonracial tensions.
3. know what economic, social, political and personal factors to use to reduce conflicts with racism.
4. identify barriers which are associated with children at risk and what they can do to reduce and/or eliminate these barriers.
The unit is designed to integrate all subject areas of the K-8 curricula of the New Haven Public Schools. The completed unit can be used in full or in parts as a supplement for academic instruction as the teacher sees fit for a particular grade level as well as special disciplines such as art, music, and physical education.
A growing conviction that the United States faces a crisis in black-white relations has inspired several writers to revisit the race question in search of new perspectives and solutions. Major studies or current public opinions offer some grounds for hoping that racial equality and harmony can be achieved on the basis of shared commitment to a set of traditional American values or the so call American dream. Most Blacks and Whites agree in principle that everyone in this society should have a fair chance to get ahead. One of President Clinton’s statement is, “If you work hard and play by the rules you should be given a chance to go as far as your God-given ability will take you.”
Far From The Promised Land
Blacks are beginning to loose faith in the American dream because there are too many factors which do not lend themselves to justice for all. Although some Blacks are in positions which they feel that they are treated equally in the ideal itself, a larger number are not hopeful that it can ever apply to them. Disillusionment with the prospect for equal opportunity is more advanced among the relatively successful members of the Black middle class, who believe that they still face day to day discrimination. The poor, to a surprising extent, blame their lack of success on their own shortcomings. Unless the dream can be shown to work for Blacks, the nation is in danger of losing its soul and disintegrating. Despite the dream’s limitations, especially its invitation to self-seeking and callous attitudes toward those who fail to get ahead, studies view the only conceivable basis for a just and harmonious America. Without it, whites will revert to racism and blacks will embrace a divisive ethnic separatism. We all remain hopeful that the implications of the America dream can be reemphasized to inspire an effective assault on racial inequality and disunity.
An essay written by Bell Hooks titled “Killing Rage” is an angry book that pulls no punches. The essay recalls the author’s intense fury when a white man, assigned the same first class seat on an airliner as Hook’s Black female traveling companion, pulled rank to get the already seated companion consigned to coach class. This was on a day filled with incidents of white rudeness and insensitivity. Hooks uses her reactions to such experiences to explain and justify black rage against white arrogance and abuse. She takes the press and television to task for their assumption that when blacks get angry and strike back, they are being “pathological.” Although Hooks disassociates herself from what she considers to be the dominant values of the black middle class, her reactions to discriminatory treatment might have provided supporting evidence that middle class blacks feel the sting of racism more directly and acutely that do the more isolated members of the lower class. A poor black woman would hardly ever be in a position to be bumped from first class.
Many Blacks have been eagerly embracing the American dream of wealth and power which is an obstacle to racial justice rather than an avenue for equality.
Coalitions for radical change between blacks who have become aware of their true situation and other people of color in this society who also suffer from “neocolonial” which supremacist dominate must be dealt with now. It is time that Blacks and Whites make alliances to combat racism.
According to (Marable 1989) the concept of race is based on changing power relationships rather than on biological fact. It calls for cooperation between Blacks, Latino, and Asian American. If Blacks and Whites are caught up in the ideology of the American dream then Marable refers to this move as a “left of center paradigm” as an alternative means to express conservatism and would not be well received by many people of this society.
Is racial discrimination a serious problem in American society? If so what are we going to do about it? There has been a problem with discrimination since the beginning of times. The above two questions have been addressed for the past 80 years, yet there is no sound solutions for them.
The traditional and still dominant understanding of the relationship between race and liberalism in American political culture holds that consensual liberal value have worked over time to combat and ameliorate inherently non-liberal practices of racial discrimination in America society. One might argue that the policies of race have systematically worked to shape American political culture by reinforcing the dominance of exceptionally conservative varieties of liberalism within the sociopolitical mainstream. Specifically, racial policies have served to constrict the scope of American political life by undergirding a particularly narrow conception of the meaning of citizenship, or a relatively misunderstanding of the conditions necessary to establish a legitimate standard of civic equality in a liberal democratic society.
If we were to take a look at the Urban League, we can readily see how major events of this organization has changed the lives of many African Americans during the last 80 years. During the years of 1816 through 1830, this organization’s first role was to provide some means of socialization for black migrants to adhere to the social and work habits required by the industrialists. It was during this era that it also tried to find jobs, shelter, health provisions, recreational fulfillments for blacks who had migrated from the south to the north in hopes of improving their living conditions and to obtain equality in this land of great opportunity. Although times were better for most Blacks, those years found racial attitudes very difficult to change. The opportunities for social progress were inconceivable because there were those persons who made the laws and they were not ready to equalize this nation. However, during the late 1930s through 1850s the organization developed pushed harder for civil rights of Blacks. Other organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began to join forces with the Urban League addressing racial issues. Today, there are hundreds of organizations who have as their main focus a vision to provide equal opportunity for ail in this United States of America, the land of opportunity.
The Washington Bureau of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established on June 1, 1941 for the purpose of correcting and fighting racial discrimination and social injustices perpetrated against Blacks. Today this organization continues to fight for the civil rights of Blacks and other minority ethnic groups.
There is evidence that there is racial discrimination in the housing market. In many cities throughout the country, agents with an increased number of housing units in their files will not inform blacks about available housing. Racial composition of the existing neighborhoods within a given city makes one wonder what are the contributing factors of ethnic groups of certain neighborhoods. However, there is evidence that agents act based on their perceptions about the preferences of their black and white customers.
Moral implications for public school policies of the racial discrimination that exist in this American society are unbelievable. The case of Brown vs the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas was one of the first legal document which brought educational discrimination to the forefront. The plaintiffs were Negro children of elementary school age who reside in Topeka. They brought this action in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas to enjoin enforcement of a Kansas statute which permits, but does not require, cities of more than a population of 15,000 to maintain separate school facilities for Negro and white students. The Topeka Board of Education elected to create segregated elementary schools while other public schools in the community operated on a nonsegregated basis. The initial ruling of the case was based on the fact that Negro and white schools were substantially equal with respect to buildings, transportation, curricula, and educational qualifications of teachers. That was over 40 years ago and we are still dealing with discrimination in the public schools. In most cases, the courts across the country are finding that schools where there is a large minority population, those schools are inferior to the schools where there is a large white population.
One of the most recent cases in the state of Connecticut is Sheff vs O’Neill. The suit which was filed in 1989 against the state by 17 parents and school children from Greater Hartford, charges that the racial isolation between Hartford and its suburbs creates inequities in the schools that violate the state constitution’s guarantee to an equal education. Will we ever have the right to attend the school of our choice without going through a mass of legal red tape? Will we ever be able to join hands, share the same classrooms, share the same cafeteria, and share the same teacher, and administrator with a feeling of true equity? If we are still searching for the answers to the same old questions after 40 years, the answers to those questions are No!, No!, No!
Ethnic groups not only have to deal with racial discriminations. They also have to brace themselves for racial slurs. Information about speech play in the form of positive and negative nicknames calling and labeling, shucking, stuffings, ribbing, rapping and more are seen in cartoons, magazines, newspapers and heard on the television and radio. Although it has not been mentioned, I’m sure that racial slurs will soon become popular on the internet.
The social and psychological effects of these types of remarks have a lasting emotional feelings on the persons who receives these statements. Within an ethnic group, the racial slurs may not be as deep rooted because that culture or family may use some name calling and labeling to show affection. Outsiders most frequently use name calling as racial slurs and insults.
Minorities have been accepted into a group only for the purpose of meeting a state or federal guidelines of a particular program. If this is not the case, then the inferences are that the guidelines are written to benefit a certain group of people and that group just happens to be of a minority culture. Regardless of the reason, the minority can end up as a winner or a loser.
Religion is often part of attempts at cultural domination through schooling. Even in countries with a single religion, differing sects will attempt to impose their point of view in the schools. Religion is a major source of political conflict in the United States as well. Problems regarding culture and religion date to the beginning of the common-school movement in the 18th century. Many educators and researchers argue that the primary reason for establishing the common-school system was to ensure that the Protestant republican culture would prevail over the Catholic immigrant culture. Resisting this attempt at religious and cultural domination, Catholics organized a system of schools that more closely reflect the cultural values of new immigrant groups. Through out the 19th century and into the 20th century, both Catholics and Protestants often referred to the schools in the United States as “Protestant schools”.
By the middle of the 20th century, political elites were no longer primarily Protestant but included a mixture of religious groups. Consequently, there was a growing movement to remove ail religious content from the schools and achieve religious neutrality. In part, these changes in attitude resulted in the school prayer and Bible decisions by the U. S. Supreme Court in the 1980s. These decisions declared it unconstitutional to read the Bible in schools for religious purposes and to conduct school prayer.
Some religious groups were infuriated by the Supreme Court decisions. They argued that American public schools had always emphasized Christian morality. Multicultural religious education has neglected the fundamental reality of race in American society. The sociohistorical denominations of Euro-American racism has failed to note its attitude to victimize people of color. As we take a look at Jewish, Christians, Chinese Protestants, Asians Buddhist, African America Christians we are confronted with the issues of marginality, identity, and community. Here again we can see that various cultures are suffering because of the rights of others.
As we look at the conflicts in the religions of the citizens of America, you can’t overlook the fact that there are dark clouds plaguing black churches in the south. The frequency of the number of churches being burned throughout the country has the Federal government involved in trying to solve the problems. Are these acts the plans of a national terrorist group, or are they the rippling affects of arsonists who are aroused by what is happening in their neighboring states? The Federal Bureau of Investigation have pledged to use every agent at its disposal to bring to just anyone who dares to burn a church, mosque or synagogue. If those persons are caught, what penalty will they have to pay? Will true justice be served? Again, the questions is, “Why do we have to suffer for the rights of others?”.
Value is defined as the relative worth, importance, or usefulness of a person or thing. It is the beliefs, standards, principles, or ideas of a person or persons. Children learn at a very early age that they must share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, and don’t take thing that aren’t theirs. As these students enter kindergarten, those behaviors are enforced over and over again. However, over the years the American values have changed. The following are a few of those values which have changed and will be later discussed in the development of this unit.
* The concept of duty. Less value is placed on what one does to others as a matter of moral obligation.
* Respectability—Less value is placed on symbols of correct behavior for a person of a particular social class.
* Social morality—Less value is placed on observing society’s rules.
* Expressiveness. Higher value is placed on forms of choice and individualism that express one’s unique inner nature.
Although there are values which are changed, there are some which are still written as they were years ago. However, through the years there are controversial effects of their interpretations. Those unchanged values are listed below.
*Freedom Values—political liberty, free speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religious worship, and other freedoms from constraints to the pursuit of private happiness.
* Equality before the law. There is high value on having the same rules of justice apply to one and all, rich ad poor, black and white. (A discussion of Brown vs. Board of Education, Sheff vs. O’Neill)
* Equality of opportunity. The practical expression of freedom and individualism in the market place, which help to resolve the tensions between the values of freedom and equality.
* Fairness. There is much value placed on people getting what they deserve as the consequence of their individual actions and efforts.
* Democracy. A belief that the judgment of the majority should form the basis of governance.
*Caring beyond the self. There is high value placed on a concern for others such as family or ethnic group, neighborhoods, and the community.
Each of these values, changed or unchanged, has a rich and complex heritage that is not is misinterpreted by the citizens of this American society because of the diverse population.
(After each of the values is discussed, using current documents such as newspaper articles, books, or personal experiences to provide pros or cons of the stated values.)