Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Teacher Shackles a Student on a Slave Ship. Do We Need to have discussions about Race in America?

What is happening in America? A teacher binds Black students with duct tape to emulate a Slave Ship. Is this helpful role playing or more Race Issues in New York and across America? It is time we have discussions about Race across America!
LoHud.com reports:
Residents question teacher's actions
HAVERSTRAW - Residents of this racially diverse village said yesterday that students should be taught about slavery but they questioned a middle school teacher's lesson plan. During a Nov. 18 seventh-grade history lesson on slavery, the teacher, Eileen Bernstein, who is white, selected two black students, taped their hands and feet and had them crawl into the space under a desk to simulate what it must have been like for slaves transported in ships' holds during the voyage to America. The mother of 13-year-old Gabrielle Shand, who was one of the two black students selected by the teacher, complained to school officials that the lesson was insensitive and left her daughter shocked and upset. Christine Shand said yesterday that she hadn't talked to anyone at the school since a meeting Thursday, in which school officials apologized. In retrospect, the teacher "realizes that that was not a good choice, and we've rectified the situation in terms of not using that simulation again," Haverstraw Middle School Principal Avis Shelby said.
Gabrielle was too upset to go to school yesterday, her mother said.

29 comments:

Analisa said...

I think this teacher was probably well-meaning, but because she is white she didn't understand the damage she was doing. Teachers need guidance when they're putting together a lesson plan on race/racism and the history of slavery - particularly if they're white. You may have the best intentions in the world, but if you don't understand how minorities experience racism in their daily lives, you're liable to do more harm than good. I think teachers need to educate themselves first - talk to other teachers and administrators (who are minorities) about what works and what doesn't. Invite minority leaders from your community to speak to your class. It's also important to teach kids about tolerance and sensitivity to disparate groups. Teachers need to go through some kind of training in cross-cultural understanding. Here's a good place to start:

http://www.tolerance.org/teach/?source=redirect&url=teachingtolerance

The Arizonian said...

Analisa,

I would teach acceptance as opposed to tolerance.

Tolerating is merely "putting up" with something and still breeds animosity.

Acceptance, on the other hand, allows one to deal with it, and to work with it. It seems to be a calmer approach.

I use to 'tolerate' what I believed were stupid people (i work retail ATM) and still despised them every time I turned around.
But then one day....
I finally accepted that some people are intellectually beyond reach, and that I would have to work with them as opposed to around them.
I am calmer at work now.....

Just my opinion.....

Dee said...

Analisa,
I agree. I´ve been reading the comments associated with the article and yours are the most profound.
I think you must be a very good teacher!

Dee said...

AZ,
Very good point but a difficult task to accomplish. How do you accomplish teaching acceptance with so many outside influences and obstacles?
I agree with Analisa also that Teachers need to go through training to accomplish this.
I took a class a while back titled "How to manage a diverse workforce." There was role playing in this class. Some of the members were absolutely resistant to the training and came across very angry, one person almost violent. How do you teach tolerance and acceptance when one has been taught the opposite all of their lives?

Anonymous said...

Most Americans have been taught acceptance of minorities by their parents and teachers to the point where PC is nearlly denying the freedoms and rights of others. But that is another topic altogether.

Why worry about the few racist Americans in this country? If they were the majority, I could understand it but they are not! You cannot change everyone's behavior anyway. If they become violent or break a law, we have our criminal justice system to deal with them. There is way too much harping in here about what the fringe groups and individuals do and say rather than what most Americans do and say.

We don't need to be reminded constantly about what racist whites do while ignoring the racism on the part of minorities. Living in the past serves no purpose either. We are all quite aware of the PAST and don't need constant reminders because this is no longer the past and the behaviors have changed to the point where racism is no longer rampant in our country. Of course how else can the victim mentality be kept alive, right?

As far as illegal immigration goes that is a whole different issue from racism also.

The Arizonian said...

Dee said:
"How do you accomplish teaching acceptance with so many outside influences and obstacles?"

I would word that as:
How do you accomplish teaching __________ with so many outside influences and obstacles?

That has been the conundrum for years in regards to any kind of social engineering.

Religion has been dealing with this question for years, as well as parents.
Just some small examples:
Abstinence
Drug use
Smoking
"Morality"
Etc.
But, teaching acceptance starts in the home. Ever see American History X? It was fiction, but it pointed out something easily overlooked. Much like how it is easy to spot someone who has had too many drinks (Skinheads), as opposed to someone that may have had just one too many (subtle sayings).
Was his dad racist in the movie? Or just frustrated and used subtle racial incantation?
If you recall, his dad got a new partner on the force that he disapproved of. He said how this new partner wasn't very good at his job, and the only reason he got the job was "affirmative-BLACKtion". He, maybe unknowing of the consequences, mixed a legitimate concern (his safety with a sub-standard partner) with a policy designed to 'diversify' the work force. Then, he is killed on the job by a 'black' guy, sealing the last piece of the puzzle in his son's (Ed Norton) mind.
His son's philosophy was simple: Blacks = Evil....

But the bulk of the story is about learning otherwise, and redemption.
But it could have all been prevented by the parents, by watching their words.

The Arizonian said...

While looking for some data I stumbled across something interesting....
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime-victims/reducing-crime/hate-crime/
From Britain:
In the 2006-07 fiscal year "police reported 5,619 hate crimes in which someone was injured, 4,350 hate crimes without injury, and 28,485 cases of racially or religiously motivated harassment.
There were also 3,565 cases of criminal damage related to hate crimes."
http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2007/table_01.htm
From the FBI, 2007:
" * In 2007, 2,025 law enforcement agencies reported 7,624 hate crime incidents involving 9,006 offenses.
* There were 7,621 single-bias incidents that involved 8,999 offenses, 9,527 victims, and 6,962 offenders.
* The 3 multiple­-bias incidents reported in 2007 involved 7 offenses, 8 victims, and 3 known offenders. (See Tables 1 and 12.)"

Assuming this was the same year:
Britain: 38454 hate crimes (criminal damage excluded from this total)
US:9,527 victims of hate crimes.

Britain's pop. is estimated to be 60 million right now.
So 1 in 1,560 is a victim of hate crimes.

The US pop. is estimated at 301 million.
So 1 in 31,594 are a victim of hate crimes.

To put this in contrast, Cancer.org estimates there will be 1.4 million NEW cases of cancer in 2008.
So roughly 1 in 209 will get cancer.

Also, MADD reports that in 2007 12,998 people died in drunk driving accidents.
So 1 in 23,157 will die due to drunk driving.

This doesn't really mean anything, just putting some contrast on various other important issues.

Anonymous said...

So in the U.S. 1 in 31,564 are victims of hate crimes? Gee, to hear Dee and others in here talk you would think that there is an epidemic going on. Not so, as the statistics show! Yes, one hate crime is one too many but humans will be humans and that will never change so no use beating your brow over it.

Dave said...

I read and re-read this story elsewhere, and since have been trying to conceive how this teacher would come to a conclusion that her lesson plan would work, or make sense. I can't see it. It's a no brainer to me. How thoughtless, insensitve, and dare I say, stupid, would you have to be to decide to "just go with it", just shackle a few black students, to ilustrate slavery? Even after a few minutes before thinking of doing this, but not actually doing it, wouldn't it be clear? Shouldn't it be clear, regardless of the race of the teacher? Just outrageously sad. I am not a teacher, but I could think of other options right away.

Analisa said...

You're right, Dave. What she did was a form of abuse. The sad part is that she probably thought she was doing some good: that is, giving her students a visceral feeling of what it was like to be a slave during that period. But it was grossly insensitive to choose a black student - or to do this to any student. Just unacceptable.

Analisa said...

Just some thoughts on the issue of racism...

You know, we'd all like to believe that we are good people. It would be so nice to think that racism has magically disappeared, and we now live in a 'post-racial' world. Why do we cling to this illusion which, as every minority knows, is a complete myth? (we have a long history of racism in America.) Well, for one thing, it makes us comfortable...we don't have to deal with guilt and other messy emotions. Nor do we have to worry about changing our behavior. But, the truth is, racism is in the air all around us. If you are white, you can simply choose to live in denial. But if you're a minority, you don't have this luxury. White people don't understand just how often minorities have to deal with people's unconscious biases, nor how deeply it cuts. I understand it because my mother and my boyfriend deal with it all the time, so I can't ignore it.

Now, we all have biases of one sort or another. So, the only way we can keep from hurting each other unnecessarily is by being honest with ourselves about any unconscious biases we may have. We should at least try to heed our better angels. The truth is, sometimes we do behave in a prejudiced fashion, whether it is intentional or not (unconscious bias). If we are compassionate people, we don't want to add to the weight of all the racism that minorities have to deal with on a daily basis. The truth is that we need each other, because we are all vulnerable and human. So, let's not go about causing unnecessary pain. We can't afford to live our lives unconsciously, creating wounds in other people that fester. So, let's live consciously and be aware of the harm that racism does to people's souls. I'm not talking about guilt here -- just awareness mixed with a good measure of compassion. Thank you for reading.

Anonymous said...

"All the racism that minorities have to deal with every day." Perhaps some but not MOST. Stop the exaggerations! As I said, this is 2008 not 1950 Selma, Alabama.

Dave said...

Analisa,

That was beautiful and just brilliant! I hope you don't mind I added you on my bloglist. It just makes the anonymous comment under yours, shrink to nothing.

How much more valuable to take a message of acknowlegement that we all fall short of our ideals, and that we are all valuable people (your message), as opposed to trying to minimize the experiences of those in our country who are minorities, or viewed as minorities, as mere exaggeration, from someone who obviously doesn't even know what it feels like to be a minority? (This is your cue, anonymous, to defend yourself.)

The Arizonian said...

Analisa Said:
"White people don't understand just how often minorities have to deal with people's unconscious biases, nor how deeply it cuts."

I've always been curious of these 'white people'.....
What exactly does that mean? Every group of people have a tendency to reject and ridicule that which they don't understand. No group, I mean NO GROUP, is exempt.

Just look at the Middle-East.....
Look at Europe......

I come from a long line of these 'white people' (and many other BTW) you speak of. Guess what, we have been slaughtered, enslaved, stolen from, ridiculed, yadda yadda yadda.

People's words have only as much power over you as you give them.

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I don't have to be a minority to know that what is being claimed in here are exaggerations. I work with minorities and know many personally and they tell me that they are no more discriminated against than white people are in this country anymore. Times have changed. Only those with a victim mentality for themselves or for illegal aliens want to live in the past so they can justify the disrespect of our immigration laws.

concerned citizen said...

ANALISA, DAVE-PLEASE DON'T PLAY THE VICTIM AND YOU WON'T BE TREATED AS SUCH. SOMETIMES, VICTIM BECOMES YOUR IDENTITY. DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN TO YOU.

Dave said...

Anonymous,

The difference between Analisa's comments and yours, is that she acknowleges that we all need to look at our biases, minorities included, whereas you want to take statements from some minorities in your life, to make generalizations about the state of being a minority in this country. You say you don't have to be a minority to know what it's like, but apparently you do.

Anonymous said...

Dave,

Of course we all need to examine our consciences for biasness against any ethnic group, that is just a given. But that won't necessarily change how one feels about a certain ethnic group. I don't worry about how someone else feels. I am only responsible for my own feelings and I am not biased against any ethnic group. I do have a dislike for certain individuals because of what they stand for however and I am sure that is true of everyone.

I stand by what I said based on what Blacks, Hispanics and Asians have told me and how we bend over backwards to appease minorities these days. There isn't one ethnic group in this country that isn't viewed negatively by "some" individuals. There is nothing we can do to change that.

concerned citizen said...

DAVE,
I AM A MINORITY AND HAVE NEVER FELT
ANY PREJUDICE DUE TO THE COLOR OF MY SKIN. LEARN TO LIKE YOURSELF AND
OTHERS WILL TAKE YOUR CUE. PLEASE DON'T PLAY THE VICTIM AND THOSE AROUND YOU WILL RESPECT YOU FOR WHO YOU ARE AND WILL RESPECT HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOURSELF. JUST GIVE IT A TRY, IT WILL TURN YOUR LIFE AROUND.

Dave said...

anonymous said: There isn't one ethnic group in this country that isn't viewed negatively by "some" individuals. There is nothing we can do to change that.

Ah, but there are (things we can do to change that). It's called Education. Enlightenment. Lead by example. Things we can do to minimize oppression and hate, and to be aware of our own biases (referring to Analisa's past comment.)

Concerned citizen, thanks for the message, but I AM a minority, and HAVE felt prejudice and oppression for my skin color/perceived ethnicity, off and on, for most of my life. It's great that you haven't experienced that. Doesn't negate it's existence, though, nor does mean I don't like myself or insist on playing the vicitm role. How interesting that you think things will get better if I only learn to change my view, as if it's that simple. PS. there is no need to use all caps with me.

Dee said...

Gosh Anon,
When you said this, I just got this picture of you asking your co-workers this question:

Anon: are you discriminated more than white people in this country?
Minority: No Mr. Anonymous!

Anon asking the question

Anonymous said...
I work with minorities and know many personally and they tell me that they are no more discriminated against than white people are in this country anymore.

Analisa said...

Ha,ha...thanks for the good giggle, Dee! ;-) Well I could be wrong, but something tells me that "concerned citizen" is just about the blondest, most blue-eyed minority ever - probably about 6 feet tall, too...he,he. Most minorities I know are proud to mention that they are black or Hispanic, Asian American, Native American (usually mention their tribe if they are), or mixed race (yours truly).

Analisa said...

Dave,

I feel honored to be added to your bloglist - I have added you, too. Thank you for your kind words, Dave. You have answered the ANTI's insensitive remarks far more eloquently than I can manage tonight. It just makes me sad to listen to them... to tell you the truth, I'm not sure how much more of it I can take. But, as I've said before, the undocumented peoples are my heros for their courage and dignity in the face of oppression. You, Dee, Czech and Yave (& all the PROs) are my heros, too. You make it all worthwhile.

en la lucha,
Analisa

Anonymous said...

Dave,

Schools teach tolerance and so do most parents but you can't reach everyone. Some people are just racists against others no matter what they are told or taught.

As I said, yes we should look at our own biasness and change "if" we have any. I don't! Illegal immigration doesn't count either. That isn't biasness, it is honoring and respecting our laws.

FTP said...

Illegal aliens are your heroes for breaking your own country's immigration laws? What kind of an American are you????

FYI said...

From an immigration lawyer:

"'Being illegally present' is not a misdemeanor. Overstaying a visa is a civil violation, not a crime."

Anonymous said...

It is a Federal offense and offenders are subject to deportation. Thats all that matters. Re-entering is a felony offense.

Dee said...

FYI was right Anon.
Stop trying to change the subject!

The Arizonian said...

Sorry if I don't trust anything a lawyer says..... lol.....

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