Black student pushes back when her suburban school asks her to colonize Africa

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A student at a suburban school district in Minnesota says her high school’s social studies teacher asked her to participate in an assignment where the goal was to colonize Africa. Wayzata high school where she attends has less than 7% black students, and as one of them, she wasn’t having it.

She put her school on blast in a Facebook post saying “so im in world history and our teacher tells us we playing a game. I thought it was sweet till he passes this out!!!”

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The game came from a learning unit called “Race for Colonies in Africa and Education” produced by a teacher-led curriculum provider called The Center for Learning who says their mission is to “help teachers succeed in the classroom.”

The rules of the game: “Today, you are going to enter a race for colonies in Africa: however, you must claim colonies in the order below and with the limitations noted. Your goals are to get the best land, minerals, and resources that you can. Good luck.”

Apparently curriculum vetting in Minnesota is so poor no one saw how such a lesson would offend black students.

It isn’t the first problem with curriculum in the Northstar state. Last year Minneapolis Public Schools had two issues that generated public protest.

The first happened when a middle school student refused to play a social studies computer game that virtualized slavery. In that game students were asked to take the role of a slave girl who won points by being appropriately deferential during encounters with racist white southerners.

In another incident parent activists shut down school board meetings demanding Minneapolis school officials end their contract with a curriculum company that sold the district a reading series full of racially insensitive portrayals of people of color.

“Why is this okay? How does no one see the problem with this?! Literally telling a room full of white kids to go “colonialize” and take what they want is not a game and it’s not funny,”the Wayzata student wrote.

“[T]here are way more productive and less damaging ways to learn this BS. Why is this real life?”

Making matters worse, her white peers weren’t supportive. “I refused to play and my teammates caught attitudes,” she says.

Thus is the state of integration in America.


This post was republished from the Black Advocates for Education blog.

Poverty Alone Does Not Explain Flint and Detroit

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Politics at the national and local levels revealed difficult cultural truths this week. Ta-Nehisi Coates squinted at the presidential race, when he mulled over the sincerity and insight of Bernie Sanders. The self-declared socialist presidential candidate responded to a question about reparations for Black Americans, saying the idea was implausible. Coates famously advocated reparations in a 2014 Atlantic Monthly cover story, after the idea had been dormant for decades. He pegs Sanders as insincere about political feasibility:

For those of us interested in how the left prioritizes its various radicalisms, Sanders’ answer is illuminating. The spectacle of a socialist candidate opposing reparations as “divisive” (there are few political labels more divisive in the minds of Americans than socialist) is only rivaled by the implausibility of Sanders posing as a pragmatist. Sanders says the chance of getting reparations through Congress is “nil,” a correct observation which could just as well apply to much of the Vermont senator’s own platform.

The election of 2016, so far, has been an object lesson in how the American populace prioritizes and vocalizes its radicalisms, with Sanders on the socialist right side of the spectrum and Trump on the quasi-fascist right. Mainstream politics, however, seems much less comfortable grappling with the not-so-radical demands of the Black community. Here’s the New York Times editorial board this morning, discussing the systematic poisoning of the residents of Flint by its government:

[The emails of] Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan show a cynical and callous indifference to the plight of the mostly black, poverty-stricken residents of Flint, who have gone for more than a year with poisoned tap water that is unsafe to drink or bathe in. There is little doubt that an affluent, predominantly white community — say Grosse Pointe or Bloomfield Hills — would never face such a public health catastrophe, and if it had, the state government would have rushed in to help.

Institutional racism is when a presidential candidate can advocate unprecedented, and wildly implausible, class-based wealth distribution as the solution to America’s woes, while dismissing race-based distribution as “divisive.” White supremacy is when white officials ridicule Flint’s black residents for expressing concerns about their tainted drinking water, while the state’s Republican governor ignores those concerns for a year.

There are obvious parallels with schools, which Rebecca Sibilia analyzed, drawing connections between the systemic failures in infrastructure that stretch from public works to public schools. I agree with her outrage, but I wish more education commentators would be direct about the racism that underpins these instances. Flint, and the state of Michigan, represent an example of how class and poverty alone cannot account for the kind of injustice experienced by Black communities nationally. As Louise Seamster and Jessica Wilburn point out, writing at The Root, more than half of all of Michigan’s Black citizens have lived under state-controlled emergency management in the last decade, whereas only two percent or white citizens have:

EFMs are supposed to take over cities based on a neutral evaluation of financial circumstances—but majority-white municipalities with similar money problems have not been taken over. Flint’s poisoning is one effect of the systematic stripping of black civil rights in Michigan.

While the state has relied on emergency management as a panacea in Black communities – including the embarrassingly mismanaged Detroit pubic schools – the state almost never strips White residents of their electoral sovereignty in the interest of civic improvement. As I said on the blog last year, talking about state control in reference to education reform:

somehow we have arrived at a point wherein placing value on student achievement results is mutually exclusive to respecting the voting rights of African-American communities. There is no education reform in a world where the values of voting rights and student achievement are in conflict, for it forces communities to balance their current sovereignty against their children’s future.

The next generation of school improvement – and community development – must treat local sovereignty, community self-determination, and measurable improvement as powerfully reinforcing, not mutually exclusive. The alternative is many more Flint water systems and Detroit public school systems.

This post originally appeared at justinccohen.com.

MY PERSONAL JOURNEY: BEING #BLACKINBROOKLYNTECH

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by Mika

To see my alma mater trending on social media through the hashtag #BlackInBrooklynTech because of race related issues is disappointing but absolutely not one bit surprising. For those of you who are not familiar with Brooklyn Technical High School, let me get you a little more acquainted. The school is 1 of 9 “specialized” high schools in NYC (1 of the first 3); these specialized high schools are highly competitive and students must pass the SHSAT (specialized high school admissions test) to get into any of the 9 schools. The exam is very much similar to the SAT’s that you take to get into college (from what I remember at least). It’s an opportunity that is open to everyone (in regards to taking the actual exam) but not properly introduced to everyone; particularly black and hispanic students.

11960204_10154243273848957_7462516296723001291_nI knew from the moment that I received the letter saying that I passed the SHSAT my life was going to change. I just wasn’t sure if it would be for the better or worse. I definitely had my inhibitions about going to Tech. I was just a little girl from Harlem that wasn’t too open to getting out of her comfort zone and being around literally thousands of kids everyday that had almost nothing in common with me (or wanted to even try to). Of course I had to suck it up for the sake of my future, I guess. At one point I had to tell myself that there was nothing wrong with change.

My 4 years of being at Tech in one word was awkward. I went from being in a middle school where everyone accepted me with open arms, to being in an environment where people kind of gave me the side eye for being there. I did get my own little taste of the racism while in Tech. From people obviously talking about you in their foreign languages and laughing right at you to looking around the classroom uncomfortably when your teacher lets you pick your own group for an assignment. I honestly would rather be assigned than receiving a pity group invite.

You know how people make racist “jokes” but it’s just suppose to be a “joke”? That happened a lot too. According to my non black peers I lived in the projects (I actually grew up in a brownstone), I probably witnessed a drive by (I lived in Harlem, yes, but it wasn’t the set of a late 80’s West Coast Gangster movie) oh and me affording Juicy Couture, and other brands that were popular during my high school year’s, was just so unbelievable that my parents must have been drug dealers. That was the kind of ignorance that I dealt with on a day-to-day basis. But me being me, I brushed it off and went about my day the best way that I knew how. Unbothered.

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After many failed attempts at trying to connect to other students especially non black, I threw in the towel. I wasn’t going to force people to like me. That’s fine.The issues didn’t stop at the students though; there were definitely some administrators and teachers that were not discreet in showing their racial preferences. I remember crying to my parents my sophomore year, wanting desperately to transfer schools because I felt like such an outcast. During my time being #BlackinBrooklynTech wasn’t a day jam-packed with blatant racial slurs but more so a feeling of extreme awkwardness and feeling outcasted. I’m actually happy now that I made it through because it made me a stronger person. Whether or not people of other races and cultures decided to even look my way, it at least exposed me to something different.

Fast forward to senior year, during college application season, I remember the snickers and giggles I would get when telling peers that I was applying to Howard University while everyone else was aiming for the Ivy Leagues. Harvard? No, Howard. Yes, a black school. And I absolutely do not regret that decision either.

Tech Students have been sharing their run ins with racism on social media; I want to say I can’t believe it but I can. These are things that are now being said to their faces but I’m sure these thoughts have been around for years. Brooklyn Tech’s troubles with racism being publicly discussed now makes me feel kind of foolish for just brushing off the things that bothered me during my years at Tech. I commend these students for taking a stand and making a change instead of standing around and letting the issues with race spiral even further out of control. The decrease in the number of black students enrolled over the years seems to correlate with the increase of blatant racism experienced as a black student in Brooklyn Tech.

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I pray that my alma mater does get this under control, for it does have many great opportunities to offer to students. I encourage students to keep pushing to be heard and unlike myself and my peers to not let their voices go unnoticed. Tech finally being confronted about it’s struggles with racism has been a long time coming but I believe that these students coming out and publicly speaking against it is a great start. There is no reason why ANY student should walk the halls of a 10 story school building for 4 years and feel alone, unwanted and victimized.

Check out NBC’s article about what Brooklyn Tech students have been saying in reference to the school’s continuous struggles with race related issues.

 

This post is republished with permission from astoldbymika.com.  MIKA, is a self-proclaimed beauty & self-help book enthusiast, hip-hop connoisseur and lover of all things wo-man.