Saturday, December 6, 2008

Teacher Under Fire For Misguided Slavery Lesson/White Instructor Said To Have Taped Hands And Feet Of 2 Black Middle Schoolers, Made Them Crawl Under Desk

HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. (CBS) ― Reenactments and demonstrations can be helpful teaching tools, but did a Rockland County teacher take that approach too far? She's under fire for binding the hands of black students and having them sit under a desk during a lesson on slavery.

Christine Shand says it was a terrible experience for her daughter, Gaby, descended, like most Jamaicans, from slaves.

"She burst into tears, she was crying and she was horrified," Shand told CBS 2 HD.

In a social studies class at Haverstraw Middle School, teacher Eileen Bernstein chose Gaby and another girl for a demonstration of conditions on ships that carried slaves out of Africa.

One African-American student raised her hand to volunteer for the demonstration. Gaby did not volunteer, but was chosen anyway.

"She taped their hands together, taped their feet together, and she had them crawl under the desk as if they were on a slave ship," her mother told CBS 2.

Mrs. Shand said Gaby was traumatized. She questions the teacher's judgment.

"There are other ways to demonstrate slavery. There's movies, you don't actually have to grab two kids and like put shackles on them," she said.

Wilbur Aldridge, the regional NAACP director, went with the Shands Thursday to meet Bernstein.

"She said she apologized for causing any problems for the child, but she was not apologizing for using that simulation during the class," Aldridge said.

But Principal Avis Shelby apologized, calling the slave ship demonstration a "bad decision."

"And we have things in place to make sure it doesn't occur again," Shelby added.

Mrs. Shand said she's still not satisfied and is mulling her options, worrying about how Gaby will perform the rest of the school year.

In the meantime, Mrs. Bernstein has remained in the classroom. Because it's a personnel issue, school officials won't say if she's been disciplined or reprimanded.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Election spurs 'hundreds' of race threats, crimes

The Associated Press


Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama." Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been "hundreds" of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

One was in Snellville, Ga., where Denene Millner said a boy on the school bus told her 9-year-old daughter the day after the election: "I hope Obama gets assassinated." That night, someone trashed her sister-in-law's front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs, and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door, Millner said.

She described her emotions as a combination of anger and fear.

"I can't say that every white person in Snellville is evil and anti-Obama and willing to desecrate my property because one or two idiots did it," said Millner, who is black. "But it definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with, and makes you wonder what they're capable of and what they're really thinking."

Potok, who is white, said he believes there is "a large subset of white people in this country who feel that they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them."

Grant Griffin, a 46-year-old white Georgia native, expressed similar sentiments: "I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change.

"If you had real change it would involve all the members of (Obama's) church being deported," he said.

Change in whatever form does not come easy, and a black president is "the most profound change in the field of race this country has experienced since the Civil War," said William Ferris, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. "It's shaking the foundations on which the country has existed for centuries."

"Someone once said racism is like cancer," Ferris said. "It's never totally wiped out, it's in remission."

If so, America's remission lasted until the morning of Nov. 5.

The day after the vote hailed as a sign of a nation changed, black high school student Barbara Tyler of Marietta, Ga., said she heard hateful Obama comments from white students, and that teachers cut off discussion about Obama's victory.

Tyler spoke at a press conference by the Georgia chapter of the NAACP calling for a town hall meeting to address complaints from across the state about hostility and resentment. Another student, from a Covington middle school, said he was suspended for wearing an Obama shirt to school Nov. 5 after the principal told students not to wear political paraphernalia.

The student's mother, Eshe Riviears, said the principal told her: "Whether you like it or not, we're in the South, and there are a lot of people who are not happy with this decision."

Other incidents include:

_Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head." Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

_At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool." Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. "Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written "Let's hope someone wins."

_Racist graffiti was found in places including New York's Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and "Go Back To Africa" were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.

_Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted "assassinate Obama," a district official said.

_University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. "It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork," Houston said.

_Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

_Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

_A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted 'Obama.'

_In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying "now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."

Emotions are often raw after a hard-fought political campaign, but now those on the losing side have an easy target for their anger.

"The principle is very simple," said BJ Gallagher, a sociologist and co-author of the diversity book "A Peacock in the Land of Penguins." "If I can't hurt the person I'm angry at, then I'll vent my anger on a substitute, i.e., someone of the same race."

"We saw the same thing happen after the 9-11 attacks, as a wave of anti-Muslim violence swept the country. We saw it happen after the Rodney King verdict, when Los Angeles blacks erupted in rage at the injustice perpetrated by 'the white man.'"

"It's as stupid and ineffectual as kicking your dog when you've had a bad day at the office," Gallagher said. "But it happens a lot."

Associated Press writers Errin Haines, Jerry Harkavy, Jay Reeves, Johnny Taylor and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ghetto Parties

Fried chicken for MLK?

To honor slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday, the Houston school district served a lunch of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and peach cobbler.

Several principals thought the menu was a bad choice, according to Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon.

HISD does "a lot of weird things, but this is new. Everyone's just sitting there saying 'There's new heights of insensitivity here,'" Fallon said. "The reaction we got was more, 'I can't believe they did this. Do they have a brain or just a shred of common sense?'

HISD's Terry Abbott notes that there were other items on some menus, including hamburgers.

He said HISD has offered a special menu in honor of Martin Luther King's birthday for many years. Here's the rest of the district's response:

The Food Service Department often runs a promotion in celebration of his birthday. The promotion includes posters and public-address announcements promoting the special meal served in the cafeterias, as well as his message of remembering to celebrate with the spirit of giving back to the community ...... " a day on, not a day off." A menu committee researches all promotions and has utilized the MLK Center of Atlanta as a resource for information about this famous leader. Elaine Hall, from the Archives Department at the King Center in Atlanta, has informed the committee that Dr. King's favorite meal includes fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and sweet potato pie. Fried chicken is also a favorite item for the students of HISD. Food services offers a healthier "Oven Fried" version and has featured it this past year for Grandparent's Day and as an option on their special Thanksgiving menu.
What are your thoughts on the menu selection?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dr. Phil N-Word Debate

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Monday, September 15, 2008

As Racism Wanes, Colorism Persists - NYT

August 22, 2008, 4:36 pm

By Brent Staples

A few years ago, I sat down to read Back Then: Two Literary Lives in 1950’s New York, by the novelist Anne Bernays and her husband, the biographer Justin Kaplan.

I was cruising along, as calmly as you please, when I came to an eye-opening passage about the once-famous New York lunch-counter chain, “Chock full o’ Nuts.’’

The passage read: “The owner of Chock full o’ Nuts, a white man named William Black, advertised in the tabloids for ‘light colored counter help,’ an example of nth-degree discrimination.’’

I knew that employers had once ruled out black applicants with ads that listed whiteness as a job qualification. I knew from growing up in a black community during the 1950’s and 60’s that my lighter-skinned neighbors (and even one of my relatives) got jobs at dress shops and other businesses that turned away darker-skinned applicants.

And I also knew of black families in which siblings of the same parents came into the world with dramatically different skin tones, which often meant that they experienced the color-coded world in entirely different ways.

Even so, I was surprised to learn that the longstanding preference for lighter-skinned black people had been laid out in 20th Century newspaper ads.

I’ve begun to find those ads in the archives of old newspapers near the Pennsylvania factory town where I grew up. The skin-labeling was so common in the 40’s that black job seekers used it when advertising their skills.

In the “situations wanted’’ section, for example, cooks, chauffeurs and waitresses sometimes listed “light colored’’ as the primary qualification — ahead of experience, references, and the other important data.

They didn’t do this for a lark. They did it to improve their chances and to reassure white employers who, even though they hired African-Americans, found dark skin unpleasant or believed that their customers would.

The fetish for light skin and Eurocentric features is no longer brazenly spelled out in the want ads. But a growing body of research suggests that the preference plays a huge role in decisions of all kinds. Researchers tell us that it affects how people vote; who appears in Hollywood movies and television news shows; who gets hired and promoted in corporate America; and even who gets executed for murder.

To get an overview of how colorism works, you might start with an article entitled “The Skin Color Paradox and The American Racial Order,’’ published last year by Jennifer Hochschild and Vesla Weaver in the journal Social Forces. (Volume 86, Number 2, December 2007).

Among other things, the authors coded the appearances of all African-Americans elected to the House, the Senate, or a governorship, going back to 1865. They report that “light skinned [black people] have always been considerably overrepresented and dark-skinned blacks dramatically underrepresented as elected officials.’’

The authors carried out a disturbing study in which whites were asked to evaluate candidates for a hypothetical Senate election:

[T]he findings are clear and consistent with regard to skin color. Black candidates were punished regardless of skin color in elections where their opponent was white. However, when two black candidates opposed each other, lighter skin was an important predictor of candidate popularity and voting. In this condition, the light-skinned black candidate prevailed over his darker opponent by an astonishing 18 percentage points, a larger margin than any other treatment group received. Holding the candidate platform and respondent ideology constant, the probability of casting a vote for Candidate A increased by 21 percentage points going from the dark-skinned to light-skinned black candidate.

And there’s more:

Voters’ preferences for the lighter black held regardless of the racial predispositions of the subject. Respondents also rated the light-skinned black candidate as being more intelligent, more experienced, and more trustworthy than his dark-skinned opponent. Thus, black candidates were disadvantaged by race, but the support eroded even further when the candidate’s complexion was dark.

The country is moving away from the blunt-force racism that once banished black people to the other side of the Jim Crow line. But we have entered a period of secondary discrimination — or “colorism’’ — that will be difficult to overthrow.

This point was alluded to in the 1995 report by the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, entitled “Good for Business: Making Full Use of the Nation’s Human Capital”:

Though it is mostly covert, our society has developed an extremely sophisticated, and often denied, acceptability index based on gradations in skin color. It is not as simple a system as the black/white/colored classifications that were used in South Africa. It is not legally permissible, but it persists just beneath the surface and it can be and is used as a basis for decision making, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. It is applied to African Americans, to American Indians, to Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and to Hispanic Americans, who are described in a color shorthand of black, brown, yellow, and red, respectively.

These findings have been borne out in hiring experiments. Work by the T. Joel Wade and his associates at Bucknell University shows that light skin can have a powerful impact on hiring preferences — at least when men are doing the hiring. White participants in one study recommended hiring lighter-skinned subjects more often than darker-skinned subjects when the two had identical qualifications.

And let us not forget prison and death row. Lighter-skinned black people convicted of crimes appear to receive shorter sentences than darker people convicted of comparable offenses.

The Stanford University psychologist Jennifer L. Eberhardt and her colleagues report in the grimly titled article “Looking Deathworthy” that defendants in murder cases who were found to be stereotypically black — with broader noses, thicker lips and darker skin — were twice as likely to receive the death penalty, but only when the victims were white.

The biases outlined in these studies date back to slavery and to the social dynamics that dominated places like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Slave owners often favored near-white slaves — some of whom they had fathered — and gave them prominent places in the household. After all, the owners thought, the mixed race-ones are more trustworthy — and more like us.

It should frighten us as Americans to realize that we still view one another through patterns that have a genesis in slavery. Blunt force racism may indeed be on the wane. But the battle against this more subtle and insidious form of discrimination has clearly just begun.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Forum sells 'Obama Waffles' with racial stereotype

September 13, 2008 - 4:14pm
A box of Obama Waffles is seen in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. A vendor at a conservative political forum was selling boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap. The product was meant as political satire, said Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, two writers from Franklin, Tenn., who created the mix and sold it for $10 a box at the Values Voter Summit sponsored by the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)