As a thirty-something raised in the Pacific Northwest, I have always known about racism, but seldom witnessed it. I lived a very sheltered childhood, and thirty-some years later still feel a bit of shock whenever I hear of a racist incident: “That happened here? Nowadays? Really?”
My daughter’s Camp Fire group had a member who was adopted from Ethiopia. The mother and I began comparing adoption experiences. I was shocked when she told me her daughter had been experiencing blatant racism at school. Fellow second graders had been taunting her on the playground, “You don’t belong here. Go back where you came from.” The mother was about to have her second meeting with the principal to discuss the situation. Apparently the principal had drafted a letter to be sent home to parents about topic. I’m not sure whether he was asking the parents to talk to their children or saying that the school had plans to do something. I’m still waiting to hear how it all turned out.
This is the school my children might have been attending if they were not in parochial school at our church. The Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco held a press conference last week about increasing complaints of racism against Asian students in California public schools.
Our area has many Asians and Latinos, so although we have few friends of our daughters’ specific ethnicity there are many people who look like them and many more who have their coloring. Still I can’t pretend the issue doesn’t/won’t ever come up.
One resource that parents might consult and then recommend to their schools is the website www.Tolerance.org and the magazine Teaching Tolerance at www.tolerance.org/teach. Both are sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The magazine is geared toward teachers. It contains articles about different groups. One issue featured a discussion of a little-thought-of group, the Roma or Romani, who are well-represented among children adopted from Romania and often stereotyped as “Gypsy thieves”. It also contains reviews of children’s books and more importantly, suggestions and interviews with teachers. A touching article was about peer discrimination teachers face when they are the only representative of their group on the faculty or when they are “always trying to bring up that diversity thing”.
The magazine’s website also has lots of articles for teachers, including classroom simulations and activities on root causes of poverty, on teaching about Native Americans, and many other topics. It also offers a free subscription to an online newsletter of anti-bias resources.
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