Monday, June 07, 2010

Update from the Stranger Slog on the Mudede Incident

The Stranger Slog, where Charles Mudede writes, spoke to district lawyers about the incident at Lowell over a hair product Mr. Mudede's child had in her hair and the allergic reaction a teacher had and what followed from there. From the Slog:

The school district declined an interview request from Mudede because he is the student's father and attorneys are involved. But two school district attorneys agreed to speak to me.

"The district agrees that it is not acceptable for a teacher in our district to ask a student to leave a classroom for the reasons that this child was asked to leave,” says Kevin O’Neill, senior assistant general counsel for Seattle Public Schools, the attorney who is handling the case of Mudede’s daughter.

The district’s position, in a nutshell, is that the teacher erred by kicking out the student, but race wasn’t a factor and an investigation is underway. However, O’Neill also says he doesn’t know what exactly happened or “the reasons that this child was asked to leave.” Until the investigation is complete, he says, it’s unclear what was offensive about the hair product that reportedly made the teacher sick, why the district hadn’t done anything for three days, whether an incident like this had ever occurred before, whether anyone had spoken to the teacher about the incident, whether school district rules prohibit any cosmetics, or what current or future steps are required for the investigation.

The Stranger questions how the district is so firm that this is not about race but yet the district hasn't completed its investigation. What the district says:

“Based on preliminary information I have, it is clear that the removal of the student, as inappropriate as it was, had to do with a health issue and not a racial issue,” he says. “To the extent of the health issues, what was said to the child, the circumstances, that is a matter that is still under investigation. Based on our preliminary investigation, it isn’t a result of racial animosity, as far as I understand.”

According to O'Neill, the district is encouraging the family to return the child to school. What is Mr. Mudede's comment?

However, Charles notes that he and his wife haven’t wanted to return their child to school “until the teacher had medical proof that our daughter's hair or something in her hair was to blame for the [teacher’s] nausea. The last thing you want to happen to your daughter is for a teacher to faint or vomit at the mere sight of her.”

According to the Stranger Slog, the parents only got involved after the school had done nothing to address their concerns for 3 days. The district says:

“What I understand is that the principal wasn’t aware the student was sent into another classroom,” says Faye Chess-Prentice, a school district attorney who handles personnel issues and was interviewed separately. “She said she was unaware of it. That might be why there is a delay, but that is just an assumption on my part.”

Until we know when the principal was made aware of the incident, it is hard to know if the inaction was just on the part of the teacher. Did Mr. Mudede let the teacher know of their acute discomfort over her actions? Did the teacher think she had addressed the issue already and didn't tell her principal? Does a teacher have to report every unhappy parent's concern to her principal?

I think that Mr. Mudede's comment about not wanting his child to cause the teacher to faint or vomit at the sight of her was coy and uncalled for. Why he would want to make a bad situation worse is unclear (and this is a guy who deals in words).

In the end, though, the lesson needs to be for those in charge to get out in front of issues like this. Not let them go or fester or hope they blow over.

84 comments:

seattle citizen said...

"Based on our preliminary investigation, it isn’t a result of racial animosity, as far as I understand.”

My understanding is that prejudice and bigotry are when someone just doesn't like another "group" of people. Racism, on the other hand, combines prejudice with POWER.

Racism doesn't have to have a component of animosity: the teacher could have acted purely on her understanding of her health issue and still been acting in a racist way because her power as teacher (institutional power) perpetuated, in its singular action against a biracial child, long-standing patterns of non-white children being singled out, generally.

To me, this further illustrated the disconnect between what Mudede is experiencing and what the teacher/school/district sees: Mudede sees his child being called out for her hair, the district sees an unfortunate handling of the incident without any racial tinge (even before the investigation?)

Racism, particularly intsitutional racism, is not so blatant as to be driven by "animosity." It continues in subtle ways, such as, perhaps, unconsciuously calling out one kid because of her hair conditioner (I'm still waiting to see the investigation that affirms no other children were wearing chemical products or allergens, or a deeper acknowledgement that Black hair is often in need of more moisturizers than that of Whites.

Sarovar said...
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Ben said...

"The district agrees that it is not acceptable for a teacher in our district to ask a student to leave a classroom for the reasons that this child was asked to leave,” says Kevin O’Neill, senior assistant general counsel for Seattle Public Schools

Followed by...

O’Neill also says he doesn’t know... “the reasons that this child was asked to leave.”

I see. So, while it's clear the student shouldn't have been asked to leave for the reason she was asked to leave, it's unclear why the student was asked to leave.

This is all absurd. It is common practice at TM (and every other school?) for teaches to have students sit in other classrooms as a result of disciplinary (and other?) problems. Are you telling me that in all of those cases, the principal is informed? Why on earth would the principal need to be informed.

seattle citizen said...

Ben,

It is common practice for teachers to take a students for a bit for a variety of reasons. Probably a good thing. Perhaps, tho', it is sometimes done for not-so-good reasons: "This kid is too LOUD and could you take her for a bit?" or "This kid is too HYPER..."

At any rate, look for more codes, rules, procedures on this that will not be followed because educators often act on the fly, don't have time for sometimes silly follow-up, and no principal would follow up anyway because it would be silly.

seattle citizen said...

Sarovar, I'm sorry you were attacked. In my opinion, you were attacked by a bigoted (and violent) person, but you were not a victim of racism, because there was no power of the state or institution or organized program by those in power to, over time, limit your life due to your race.

There are haters and violent people everywhere, but not all of them have the power of the state or the culture to inflict systemic damage over time. (In the opinion of this "guilty white liberal." You're kind of a hater, too, ain't ya, Sarovar?)

SPS North said...

I absolutely side with the school district on this issue. The child shouldn't have been asked to leave the classroom - there were other accommodations that could have been made. Bad choice on the part of the teacher. However, I hardly believe this was an act of racism. I don't buy that for one minute.

If you've read any of Mudede's past writings you will see that he includes a racial slant in almost everything, and he frequently makes digs at whites. From what I glean via his writing, I think it it Mudede that may be the racist.

Sometimes you fear in others what you see in yourself.......

seattle citizen said...

I disagree, SPS North, I think some of Mudede's writings are an attempt to daylight prejudice and racism, which often is dismissed, ignored, down-played...

He writes all sorts of things, many of which are existentialist in general, and not having to do with race. Where I have seen race in his writings, they seem to be trying to daylight that which is, in Mudede's eyes, often overlooked.

Sarovar said...
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seattle citizen said...

Just as I thought, Sarovar. Good luck with that.

seattle citizen said...

I didn't "judge" you; I wrote "in my opinion." Or is opinion and discourse about ideas a foreign concept to you?

Sarovar, you're no better then any other bigot or prejudiced person, are you? "Guilty white liberals..." might as well substitute any other color or political persuasion in there. You're just a bigot yourself.

Sarovar said...
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Sarovar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
seattle citizen said...

Yeah, and you hate "guilty white liberals," so I guess we have nothing more to talk about. Happy trails!

Sarovar said...
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hschinske said...

Please don't feed the trolls.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sarovar, you need to exit stage left. We're not here to argue your life. This blog is about education. You have now been warned.

Sarovar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarovar said...

"This blog is about education." ... "as long as you agree with our opinions"

avid said...

"Sarovar... you were attacked by a bigoted (and violent) person, but you were not a victim of racism, because there was no power of the state or institution or organized program by those in power to, over time, limit your life due to your race."

Not a victim of racism because [abstract and torturous definition of racism inserted here] hasn't been met?

I'm surprised, seattle citizen, that you're not aware how offensive this sounds.

Someone who has been attacked for being Indian, really doesn't need to be lectured by you about what constitutes racism, like they're in a Sociology 101 class.

Listen more and declare less.

seattle citizen said...

Sarovar, I write all sorts of things on this blog that are wrong, opinionated, off-topic...but I do really try to not just attack people. I apologize for attacking you, but I think what is annoying is the anger, the scatter-shot spraying of invective. I mean, you and I evidently have differing opinions about racism. At least I'm trying to address it, whether I'm right or wrong. I'd have no problem discussing racism and hearing your ideas about it but to be slammed for even opening my mouth?

seattle citizen said...

avid, I'm trying to define a difference between prejudice and racism (as I see it.) If it sounds like I'm lecturing, I apologize, but how can we discuss it if we don't discuss is?
Furthermore, I don't need to be spewed at and dismissed by Sarovar for being a "guilty white liberal."

Sarovar said...

"I'm trying to define a difference between prejudice and racism"

Individuals do not get to change the fundamental definitions of words to suit their agendas.

The "redefintion" you propose is a classic example of the kind of thing Orwell was addressing in "1984" with the concepts of NewSpeak and DoubleThink.

seattle citizen said...

So Sarovar, do you believe their is any difference between prejudice and racism? I think the power of a state or group, the organized aspect, adds something.

Why is it orwellian to ADD to the definitions, to try to further deliniate these things?

seattle citizen said...

and what "agenda" could I possible have in trying to parse this out? Do you think I am trying to bury an emotional reality with words? Do you think I am trying to assuage my "guilt" by over-intellectualizing? Perhaps I am, it's a fault, but I can't see how finding differences between individual's ideas and opinions and those organized by "the state" or by other groups is bad.

Sarovar said...

"Prejudice" is "pre-judging".

"Racism" is hating someone or treating them negatively simply because of their race.

The guy who stabbed me did not "pre-judge" me in any way. All he did was shout racist stuff at me while he stabbed me. DUH.

Why is this so hard for people like you to understand? The meaning of the words is obvious and is RIGHT THERE in the words themselves!!!!

Sarovar said...

"Do you think I am trying to bury an emotional reality with words?"

YES.

"Do you think I am trying to assuage my "guilt" by over-intellectualizing?"

YES.

seattle citizen said...

Sarovar, in search of definitions that might help me understand why you and I are having this disconnect, I found on this website,
http://www.answers.com/topic/racism
some material from Wikipedia that might shed some light on where I get my crazu ideas. I admit that maybe it's overintellectualizing (so sue me) but to me it's helpful to look to more profound aspects of discrimination (not to diminish the individual acts):
"Some sociologists have defined racism as a system of group privilege. In Portraits of White Racism, David Wellman has defined racism as "culturally sanctioned beliefs, which, regardless of intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities”.[6] Sociologists Noël A. Cazenave and Darlene Alvarez Maddern define racism as “...a highly organized system of 'race'-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/'race' supremacy. Sellers and Shelton (2003) found that a relationship between racial discrimination and emotional distress was moderated by racial ideology and public regard beliefs. That is, racial centrality appears to promote the degree of discrimination African American young adults perceive whereas racial ideology may buffer the detrimental emotional effects of that discrimination. Racist systems include, but cannot be reduced to, racial bigotry,”.[7] Sociologist and former American Sociological Association president Joe Feagin argues that the United States can be characterized as a "total racist society" because racism is used to organize every social institution[clarification needed].[8]

- :"Police harassment and brutality directed at black men, women, and children are as old as American society, dating back to the days of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. Such police actions across the nation today reveal important aspects of . . . the commonplace discriminatory practices of individual whites . . . [and] white dominated institutions that allow or encourage such practices.."[9]

Sarovar said...

What is this nebulous "state and institutional" power anyway?

The state does not reward or protect racism anymore.

Look at Texas, supposedly the most "racist" state. Several years ago, when those white KKK rednecks attacked the black man James Byrd, Jr., and dragged him to death behind their pickup truck, the state did not give the white men any medals, parades, awards, or commendations.

The State of Texas sentenced two of them TO DEATH and the other one to life in prision.

seattle citizen said...

So my apologies, Salovar. I guess I did "lecture" and dismiss your experience. But in my defense, I was looking at the bigger picture and not the individualized racism you experienced.

Sarovar said...

""Some sociologists have defined racism as a system of group privilege. In Portraits of White Racism, David Wellman has defined racism as "culturally sanctioned beliefs,..."

Blah blah blah. I'm not white.

I'm of Indian heritage and the only racism I have ever experienced has been from blacks (not just this violent incident but many many incidents of verbal racism).

seattle citizen said...

Sarovar, I would give the example of a classroom (to bring it back to education somehow):

One student doesn't like [insert group here], calls someone names (and I'm not trying to minimize this, I'm just writing). The other students, all sorts of them, look on. The victim is hurt, is upset.

But the teacher: If the teacher had these animosities towards that group, and allowed his/her feelings to affect how he/she interacted with the student, THAT is institutional power because there is the power of the school behind it: It could effect the student's future; it could, for the other children, sanction with the school's authority the ideas this teacher has; the child could feel there is no recourse...

So in that model the institution, the power of it, sanctions (consciously or not) the actions of the bigoted teacher

Sarovar said...

"So in that model"

But your "model" is purely theoretical, and has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of this situation of the teacher being sickened by a hair care product that has been clearly and definitively shown to contain many known allergens.

seattle citizen said...

It's not theoretical, Sarover, teachers, cops, judges, realtors...all have within the the power to enforce, and reinforce, cultural biases.

If a teacher (in my opinion....in my belief...) uses the classroom (consciously or unconsciously) to uphold discrimination, that's not theoretical. It's happened often and still happens.

Whereas any child can harbor dislike or hatred of any other "group" but can't really enforce or reinforce cultural, economic, or other societal structures (except the structure of an acceptance of hate as par for the course)

In my opinion.

Sarovar said...

Do you think that the overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of violent crimes committed by blacks contributes to and is responsible for some of what you call "racism"?

Charlie Mas said...

First, the whole problem with this situation is rooted in poor communication.

The teacher should have advised the family of the situation. It's very possible that she didn't.

On one day the teacher had a strong allergic reaction to one or more of the chemicals in the hair treatment. The student spent part of that day in a neighboring class.

The family should have been contacted and advised of the situation. It does not appear that they were. That's the first misstep.

It is possible that the teacher could not make that contact because, I have heard, the teacher fainted that day and went to the hospital. I can't say how much time that took out of the afternoon and evening, but it may have contributed in the failure to make a call.

The student returned to class the next day with the product in her hair. The student spent all of that day in the neighboring class.

Again, a call should have gone home. I don't know if it did or not, but the family heard about it from the child and jumped to a number of conclusions on their own - apparently in the absence of much, if any, evidence. At this point (it appears) the family made their demand and closed off discussions. Another misstep.

There are a number of questions here:

1) What communication should the family have gotten?

2) What communication did the family get? This remains a mystery as the family has not been clear about the number or nature of their contacts with the teacher, school, or district.

3) Was the time the child spent in the other class regarded by anyone - the allergic teacher, the student, the other students, or the other teacher - as a disciplinary act?

4) Was the removal of the student seen by the District as a disciplinary act?

5) The family is gravely concerned about the child having been singled out. Their concern, in particular, is about the child having been singled out for a racial difference: having hair different from the other students in the class. Do any of the parties see it that way or it that perception in the parents alone?

6) The family regards the event as traumatic for the child. Was it so traumatic as to be actionable? Aren't students singled out all the time?

7) It is unclear what the family wants. Do they want the child to return to the class? If so, then why are they holding the child out? Their demand is for medical evidence of the teacher's allergy. Do they have a right to that? What difference would it make?

8) The Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook does include rules that would prohibit students from bringing allergens into the classroom. This could, after the fact, be seen as a disciplinary action to enforce that rule. Will the District assert this? Will the teacher?

seattle citizen said...

The racism of which I speak are such as those from history, that don't seem to have "overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of violent crimes " as their causation.

Africans brought into the state-sanctioned institution of slavery (1620-1865; Jim Crow 1865-1964) were subjected to a massive campaign against them, helped by law, by separation of educational facilities etc.
Native Americans were likewise subjected to institutionalized racism: "savages"; "ignorant" etc, with "treaties" made that were only valid in the eyes of those who wrote them for their own benefit - they called people "chiefs" (illogically); assigned specific numbers of people to these "chiefs" (again, illogically) and had these people sign names transferring property: Institutional racism.
Chinese Americans were led at gunpoint to ships in Seattle's harbor in 1887.
Japanese citizens were removed from their property under Executive Order 9066, whereas Germans and Italians were not.
None of these people were "violent," which caused the "racism" against them; they were victims not only of personal bigotry but worse: the power of the state sanctioned the inequitable treatment of these human beings.

emeraldkity said...

This is APP, a gifted classroon correct?

Is it safe to assume that a teacher who has been teaching gifted students for some years, is at least of average intelligence and skills of observation?

It hasn't been clearly established as to the complexions of the other students in the class, & I can't go by Mudedes figures since he doesn't have the class size correct- but let's assume that, he is correct in saying their daughter is the only student with a black parent.

Lets also assume he is correct in saying that racism is behind the removal of the student from the classroom .

Why are we employing teachers who are so out of touch with their students that they do not look at them enough to notice if they are engaged or bored, sad or angry or even to note their appearance until the end of the school year?

With all the people out of work. I think we can find a sharper crayon in the box.

TechyMom said...

Let's be clear here, the teacher also has rights under the ADA to not be discriminated against because of her disability. And yes, severe allergies that make you pass out at work are a disability. The school is supposed to make reasonable accomodations to allow her to be employed there, and asking her students to use unscented cosmetics is one such accomodation.

I've seen quite a few comments (mostly in the Stranger, but some here too) along the lines of "if you can't stand perfume, you shouldn't be a teacher". That sort of attitude is exactly what the ADA is supposed to combat. There is more than one type of discrimination out there in the world.

dan dempsey said...

I am with Ben....

Whoa Here ...

I am still thinking this is an education discussion. Here is my Beef:

"The district agrees that it is not acceptable for a teacher in our district to ask a student to leave a classroom for the reasons that this child was asked to leave,” says Kevin O’Neill,

Seems to me there might be a reason singular.

Super ... District does not know what happened but makes the above comment.

Valiant legal attempt at CYA that may not even be needed but let us tar the teacher for the hell of it.

"O’Neill also says he doesn’t know what exactly happened "

So like .. dudes ... when might we be expecting the O'Neill and the district to know what happened?

Is the principal incompetent? Is the teacher a liar? Are all the students deaf and dumb and incapable of reporting?

This reminds me of the Key Press legal appeal of Dorn's decision to drop Discovering from the recommended list of math texts. It was written by lawyers who did not know BOO about math. .... and they lost.

Does O'Neill know much and after this many days how will he ever know more? I mean I am asking... "Why, with the level of JSCEE bureaucracy we are paying for, do these JSCEE folks know so little?"

The appeal of the Spector math decision and the racial tie breaker loss at the US Supreme Court seem to be the Tip of the Iceberg. Quite a culture of legal incompetence is in place at the district office.

Fire Gary Ikeda unless he is already gone.

Ben said...

"Why are we employing teachers who are so out of touch with their students that they do not look at them enough to notice if they are engaged or bored, sad or angry or even to note their appearance until the end of the school year?"

So it would have been better if the teacher had been troubled for the whole school year by the ingredients in a student's hair care products?

Sarovar said...

I'm not defending the treatment of native americans, seattle citizen, but if you think that they were not violent and did not war against each other and commit barbaric acts of torture against their tribal enemies, then you are terribly naive of the complete facts of history.

Sahila said...

Racism and bigotry is inherent in the psychological makeup of every single person on this planet, regardless of skin colour/ethnic identification...

Its a basic, primal psychological mechanism we all have and engage in... we create 'difference', make life about 'them and us' to give ourselves an (illusory) sense of safety, cohesion, belonging, superiority and power...

Is it natural? Yes... we're animals like all of nature and this phenomenon is part of the natural world (most 'higher order' animals display this behaviour/territoriality/tribal-herd instinct)

Is it right that we're still doing this after how many millions of years of evolution? No... but since when does something not being right mean that people dont engage in it?

The point of advancement comes when we recognise this is a basic part of our make-up and then we choose not to act on that basic separation/self preservation instinct...

seattle citizen said...

Sarovar, of course some Native Americans went to war and committed acts of "barbarism," as has just about every other "sort" of people on earth (it's said that scalping was actually an imported tactic they learned from the Europeans, but I don't have time to verify or cite on this)

But the violence wasn't the instigation of the organized, state-sanctioned taking of their land by the government. THAT was instigated by greed, and by a long history of "manifest destiny," an idea taught and propagated that suggested Europeans were somehow better and should control all the "savages" and those "3/5 humans."

(Some of the local Native groups were actually quite amicable with the incoming europeans, interacting, trading, helping each other...it's only when the state came, in the form of one Isaac Stevens, that the s*** hit the fan: He was, all at once, the first Governor of the new Territory; the Indian Agent for the feds, who conducted on-the-fly treaty meetings with the local NAs; The surveyor for the potential northern railroad across the country, bringing Industry to the heathen country; and the Railroad was being planned by the War Department, better to subjugate obstinate Native Americans and brings manifest destiny to the savages. Stevens was the perfect representation of racist imperialism.

Charlie Mas said...

Nearly everyone works in an industry with its own jargon. Each of us, while at work, uses words that have a different meaning in the context of that business than those words have in the oridary context. This becomes the source of a lot of miscommunication when the word is used with its special meaning by the professional and is heard with its ordinary meaning by the client.

It happens all the time.

That appears to be the problem here. seattle citizen has meanings for the words "prejudice" and "racism" that work in the context of academia but are markedly different from the meanings of the words when used in ordinary daily life.

It's not that one definition is any more correct - or even precise - than the other. The difference is context.

In the context of this blog, which most of us regard as the context of ordinary daily life, racism does not require the power of the State or the Culture behind it. It only requires someone to perceive and respond to individuals as members of their (perceived) racial group instead of as individuals. The perception is generally negative (but not always or entirely).

So, when one person does harm to another person and the rationale for doing that harm is based in the victim's (perceived) race, that - in the context of ordinary daily usage - is racism. While it may not qualify as racism in some academic circles, it will suffice for the daily lives of non-academics.

Charlie Mas said...

Accusations of racism are emotionally charged. It is a dreadful label to apply to anyone and all thinking, caring people - not just guilty white liberals - are horrified by it.

Here's the problem with most of those accusations. Most of them do not actually rise to the level of racism. Most of them are actually the result of ethno-centrism.

Sorry for the big word. Let me put it another way. Most folks make the mistake of thinking other folks are like them. They grow up in their culture and, if it is the dominant culture in their society, they never question their culture or see their culture from the outside. Their culture appears to them to be the norm. A sort of default state. And every other culture is a deviation from that norm.

This is why we refer to "ethnic restuarants" as if there were any restaurants that were not ethnic. All restaurants are ethnic restaurants. You just might not recognize it if the restuarant reflects the dominant culture instead of a smaller culture in the society. In Mexico a taco place probably would not be seen as an "ethnic restaurant" but McDonalds would.

So, when people - innocently for the most part - forget that their culture is not the universal norm, they commit small acts of thoughtlessness. The victims of these acts of thoughtlessness are members of other cultures who are put at a disadvantage because the playing field slopes against them. There usually wasn't an intentional effort to take an advantage, but it happened nevertheless.

Usually all that is necessary is for the person who was put at the disadvantage to speak up and point out the problem. "Hey, you might not have realized this, but you have scheduled my team to bowl on a Saturday. A member of my team is Jewish and he doesn't roll on Shabbos. Could you please re-schedule our match for another day?"

It's unwise to presume evil intent. Usually it's just a matter of people not knowing that they're created a problem for you.

Why doesn't Seattle Public Schools offer a halal breakfast? Not because they hate Moslems and don't want them to eat in the morning. More likely its because they don't realize they missed out on that.

none1111 said...

emeraldkity said: "Lets also assume he is correct in saying that racism is behind the removal of the student from the classroom."

What?! Why on earth would you assume that? In light of all the information posted and discussed, that is almost certainly NOT the case.

The situation could have been handled better by ALL parties involved. But I know the 2nd grade teachers personally, and there is no racism in their actions or in their hearts.

ek continued: "Why are we employing teachers who are so out of touch with their students that they do not look at them enough to notice if they are engaged or bored, sad or angry or even to note their appearance until the end of the school year?"

Where did this come from?!

ek finished with: "With all the people out of work. I think we can find a sharper crayon in the box."

This entire conversation has gone rancid. Now we have people insulting individual teachers in ways that not only are untrue, but make no sense whatsoever. The teacher involved is not only diligent and caring of her kids, but very intelligent and thoughtful across the board.

Everyone needs to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and stop making ridiculous assumptions.

Sarovar said...

Never let the facts get in the way of a good Seattle liberal lynch mob.

none1111 said...

Charlie wrote it best.

Just scroll back up 2 and 3 posts above. If you only read it once, go back and read it again. Great words Charlie.

seattle citizen said...

none1111,
I don't want to get all academic again, but I will anyway: You write that "I know...there is no racism in their actions or in their hearts."

This always throws me, because I know that I am guilty of prejudice or ethnocentrism or racism, not on a regular basis but occasionally - as Charlie wrote, it is sometimes "innocent," in that I intended no slight, but when I use by ingrained data bank of cultural expectations and think to myself, "well, that's a crazy thing that person did," and act on that somehow, well, I've been prejudiced.

My point isn't that the teacher in this instance was "racist" or whatever, but that I think we all carry around preconceptions about "the other" and sometimes act on them, even innocently.

So a blanket statement such as "she's not racist," while true in the sense that she might not be a flaming hater, clouds over what I think is the fact that all of us have these preconceptions and sometimes act on them (and when we have the dominant group behind us...that's BIG trouble)

Sarovar said...

"(and when we have the dominant group behind us...that's BIG trouble)"

And just what do you think would happen to white liberals like you if blacks became the majority or "dominant group" (two very different things)?

Detroit provides a good real-world example for you.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't pretend that racism doesn't exist. Of course it does. Real, intentional racism committed by people of all races as individuals and committed by people of all races as agents for the State or the Culture.

You don't have to be White to be a racist. You just have to be an asshole.

All I would ask is that the victims of racism learn to distinguish between acts of unintentional, thoughtless ethno-centrism and acts of actual deliberate racism. Then, by all means, call attention to the racist acts. Shine a bright light on them for everyone to see. Make a federal case out of them.

But for people who are guilty of nothing more than being unaware or un-informed, just teach them and ask them to be more thoughtful in future. Then be patient as they learn to modify their behavior.

For example, when discussing broad topics I'm always very careful to write about students' "families" rather than writing about their "parents". The person at home who cares for and advocates for a student may not be the student's parent. More inclusive language is preferred. It's not a hard substitution to make and it means a lot to the non-parents who look after children.

If someone persists, however, in their exclusive behavior then they can no longer claim to be unaware or un-informed. Then it can be regarded as an intentional and deliberate effort to put someone at a disadvantage. Then it can rise to the level of racism.

Keepin'On said...

Ok, pardon me, but does anyone else have a problem with the fact that this incident, which involved an writer from The Stranger and his daughter's hair, has received a total of over 170 comments, and two posts so far.

The rape of a developmentally disabled student at Roosevelt high school by a sex offender enrolled in the school received 2 posts and 40 total comments.

Umm, priorities a bit out of kilter here?

Sarovar said...

Keepin on - the rapist wasn't white, therefore good white Seattle liberals ignore it. Too many inconvenient facts involved that do not fit their preconceived narrative and agenda.

seattle citizen said...

Yeah, Keepin' on, I've noticed and been thinking about that too...I feel badly that I haven't given that issue the same attention...

Charlie Mas said...

So now we create an artificial cultural context: the classroom. And this classroom has one set of rules for everyone in it, regardless of the multiple cultures at home.

Many of the cultural expectations of the classroom reflect the dominant culture and, therefore, disadvantage people of other cultures. The expecation is that students will sit still in their desks - this works against members of kinetic cultures. The expectation is that students will not chat with their neighbors - this works against members of highly social cultures. There are all kinds of expectations - social norms - imposed in a classroom which are different from the social norms of other contexts and cultures.

The people who created the classroom culture - educated White women - probably don't realize how slanted the classroom culture is against those unlike them. I don't think they were intentionally racist or sexist or classist, but that's the outcome. The remediation begins by acknowledging the problem. And we aren't there yet.

Sahila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said...

The disabled rape victim isn't the daughter of a newspaper writer.

In the rape case there are clear good guys and bad guys. The victim is wholly innocent. The offender is wholly guilty. The extent of the school's responsibility is the only grey area. The various protections afforded each of the parties by law is the only conflict.

In this case it's less clear who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. The child is wholly innocent, but the degrees of guilt in the teacher and the family are unclear. The whole chronology is a grey area. There are conflicting rights all over the place - the right of the student to a seat in the class, the right of the teacher to a healthy work environment, the family's rights to know what's going on with their child at school, the teacher's right to privacy of her health records, lots of conflicting rights.

There's just more to discuss with this story. On top of that, the cry of "Racism!" will draw just as big a crowd as a cry of "Rape!".

dan dempsey said...

Right on Keepin' On ...

But how many of the over 170 comments were about education as in learning academic content?

Not that other things are not important but 170+ comments ...


Whoa Here ...

I am still thinking this is an education discussion.

Hair Care????

Melissa Westbrook said...

One reason we haven't discussed the Roosevelt incident more is that again, we don't have all the facts. I'm working on that right now. I've done a couple of interviews and I hope to get it wrapped up today or tomorrow.

emeraldkity said...

none1111- I can't post emoticons on this blog- but it was Tongue in cheek!

I was being facetious- to make a point- which some apparently missed.



I very concerned about the way the district/parents are notified not only about sexual offenders in the neighborhoods, but in the buildings.

Safety has to come first- if students are not safe- they cannot learn.

wseadawg said...

SC, I normally agree with you, but on this one, I agree with Sarovar and Sahila. Your definition is the cobbed together, apologist version of racism academics have ground through their sausage-maker for decades to justify their dissertations (I suppose). But your definition will never fly with Italians, Irish, Polish, or many other non-white groups who got the same heel from the upper classes jammed in their faces while they struggled to survive. Yes, slavery was state sanctioned, I get that. And was racism (and ignorance) behind it all? Absolutely. Will that likely remain America's greatest shame for centuries yet to come? Probably.

But the definition you employ is tortured and forms the well from which much confusion, white guilt, and the notion that "blacks can never be racist" comes from. Malarkey.

Tell that to the West Seattle kid who was beaten, urinated on, burned with cigarettes and had a knife put to his throat last weekend, while being held captive and tortured for 4 hours while being called "white boy" told his torture was because of his (16 year old, remember) "enslaving their people."

Sorry, but this is the stupidity and brutality that springs from such definitions that seek to shift all blame away from personal accountability and blame the supposedly "powerful" for their own face being punched and teeth knocked out ostensibly for being white and mistreating somebody's great grandfather. Sorry, but it doesn't fly.

On the other hand, it sends a dangerous message, if not a license, for one group to mistreat another brutally to avenge perceived historic sleights. We don't have to look far to see this play out. See most of Africa and the Middle East, along with the the Balkans, Georgia, Chechnya and the list goes on and on.

Charlie's right: You just have to be an asshole to be racist, not any particular color. And it's a personal trait or position. No state has anything to do with it.

Don't let people off so easy.

wseadawg said...

Having said all that, what you're primarily talking about is compliant, tacit and/or institutional racism.

Maybe the district's protocols and response smack of that, but it all started with the encounter in the classroom between an incompatible hair product (not a person, not a kid..), but a hair product the kid was wearing and a teacher's hyper-sensitive olfactory processes.

Yes. It was that simple.

Sahila said...

OT but there's no current, active thread to put this on...

http://www.petitiononline.com/S3B62010/petition.html


go here and sign… its a start in turning SPS around… first the Superintendent (tho why we’re not demanding she be fired I dont know), then remove the rubber stampers on the Board, to be replaced by people who aren’t owned by the corporate players, people who know what they’re doing educationally and managerially… who know our kids are not mass-produced widgets or numbers, or faceless inanimate pieces on a chess board, to be moved around willy-nilly …

Staff at four Seattle schools have already voted ‘no confidence’ in Maria Goodloe-Johnson and we expect other schools to follow suit…

A group of parents (representing the various interest groups/communities in SPS and calling ourselves the Seattle Shadow School Board/Seattle Education 2010) are circulating this petition, with a view to presenting it to the Board at its meeting on June 16th; we’re also planning a rally before that meeting…

If you want to know more/be involved, call me on 206 679 1738….

seattle citizen said...

wseadawg, I'm confused about why you think my definition of racism (and it's certainly not the only one) is "tortured."

Why would be definition NOT include Italians, Poles and others "ground under the heel of upper classes?"

Why is it apologist to try and figure out the roots and branches of such a thing as racism? Why does it foment the guilt etc?

I'm confused: You agree that there is institutional racism and yet my definition is an apologistic, tortured one? I'm missing something.

none1111 said...

SeaCit, I was going to reply to some of the specifics, like making up your own definitions of culturally-charged words, but honestly, Charlie and wseadawg already did a better job than I would have. Thanks guys.

I hope Mr. Mudede puts his thinking cap back on soon and puts his daughter back in class (without the in-hair product!). The longer she's out, the longer she suffers. It doesn't sound like the kids paid much attention to the situation until dad started yelling "fire!" out to the world. Now she and the teacher are both suffering needlessly. To bad they didn't use common sense to come talk with the teacher directly before lawyering-up. What a mess.

none1111 said...

emeraldkity:
Sorry I misread your post. It did sound out of character for you, but it really didn't read as tongue in cheek to me either.

You can always go old-school with emoticons. ;-)
:-)
:-O

hschinske said...

Accusations of racism are emotionally charged. It is a dreadful label to apply to anyone and all thinking, caring people - not just guilty white liberals - are horrified by it.

Charlie, that attitude right there is PART OF THE PROBLEM. If you think of racism solely as a dreadful thing that dreadful people do, then you'll never get rid of it, because everyone will be more concerned about not being labeled a racist than about not doing anything racist. Choosing to call one level of problem merely "thoughtless ethnocentrism" masks its connection with a broader culture in which racism is widely tolerated.

seattle citizen has meanings for the words "prejudice" and "racism" that work in the context of academia but are markedly different from the meanings of the words when used in ordinary daily life.

seattle citizen is using a distinction (between prejudice and prejudice + power) that has been around for a good thirty-five years and is part of the fabric of a lot of people's thought in ordinary daily life. I'm surprised more people aren't aware of it. It seems to me to be as basic a concept as, say, "conspicuous consumption" (which also started out as something an academic said about ordinary life).

Helen Schinske

seattle citizen said...

none1111 -
Please tell me where I "made up" a definition of racism. I'm stating my ideas, not quote oxford. Please show me this supposed definition I "made up."

Charlie,
I reacted differently to this quote Helen copied
"Accusations of racism are emotionally charged. It is a dreadful label to apply to anyone and all thinking, caring people - not just guilty white liberals - are horrified by it."

To me, this statement hints at not bringing up possible racist things because we are "horrified..by this dreadul label." It hints at sublimating the thought when ew have a question: "Is what you (he, her...) did racist?" To me, that's a dangerous thing, worrying too much about horrifying someone with the accusation. Not that we should throw it around, but the emotional charge the accusation carries shouldn't keep us from bringing it up.

Getting past the emotional charge is always difficult, and I hope I can make that step sometimes.

Sarovar said...

I will write it again since it got deleted for whatever reason (probably it struck too close to home for some of you):

The black man who attacked me while shouting racist epithets while stabbing me did not need any institutional power or state power in order to "qualify" as being "racist" instead of "bigoted" or "prejudiced".

He did not "pre-judge" me, he attacked me and nearly killed my by stabbing me.

He did not need any "power" other than the power he already had - the power of using his knife to stab me while he shouted racist insults at me.

I have now destroyed the validity that Orwellian NewSpeak DoubleThink "academic" ivory-tower namby-pamby re-definition (which doesn't even appear in any dictionary) of the word "racism" using only logic and facts.

Why is it so hard for you white liberals to call other races out on their obvious racism? Don't you realize how ridiculous it makes you seem?

Working Together said...

OT but I've been thinking about charter schools, particularly Geoffrey Canada's Promise Schools, and wondering if Melissa or Charlie we can have a discussion on them on a new thread? I know some people are against them and I'd like to hear more about why, as recent research looks like charters are linked with some real gains. If we have so many concerns about this district's governance, is it time to back nonprofit charters being allowed in Washington(perhaps narrowly craft a law so for-profit corporations cannot do charters, just non-profits).

wseadawg said...

SC, I'll go with the definition from my dictionary I read long ago. Racism is believing one race is superior or inferior to another.

Combine it with whatever you want, but I think that about nails it.

Sarovar said...

Here's the other thing I think is REALLY STUPID about that "academic" definition of "racism": it falls totally apart in a logical sense when it is applied other countries other than the United States.

For instance, in my parents' original home of India, there is a strong cultural racism of just about every group. North Indians (lighter skinned mostly) are terribly racist towards the usually darker skinned South Indians. AND then there is the racism from South Indians towards North Indians! Amazing how that works, isn't it?

SO according to your "academic definition" of "racism", it is technically impossible for me (a so-called "person of color") to be "racist", UNLESS I AM IN INDIA.

To take the point further, and risk invoking "Godwin's Law", the logical conclusion is that it was impossible for a Jewish person to be "racist" in Nazi Germany, since they did not hold any "state power" or "institutional power", BUT as soon as the State of Israel was created, then the same Jewish person who was not "racist" can immigrate from Nazi Germany to Israel, and magically be transformed into a "Racist" through the agency of "state power", simply because they crossed an international border.

Don't you see how totally illogical your redefinition of "racism" is?

old salt said...

It seems that the debate is whether racism is something you can commit by having a limited amount of knowledge about another race.

It also seems that there is an assumption that everyone from the same race will have a common experience, upon which we can base assumptions about what one should know, to avoid showing racism.

I did not know the hair care requirements of an African American girl's hair. (Interestingly I have lived among African women who shave their hair very close to their heads & then cover their heads. They would find uncovered heads offensive. So I am not sure whether hair care is a cultural or a racial attribute.)

How much knowledge of other races should you have so that you are not racist. Would that knowledge include cultural & religious variations within the same race. So should you know racial or cultural sensitivities of African children as well as African American children? What about those specific to Muslim Africans vs African Jehovah's Witnesses? Would it be racist to use US/African history to decide how to interact with a Haitian American? Or would it be racist not to?

Is it possible to have enough knowledge of the racial experience of each person you come in contact with, to be able to predict what will trigger hurt or bad memories?

Should you be able to make those predictions just by looking at that person?

Perhaps that is the expectation. But I hope that if I make a racist transgression through ignorance, that the person I hurt would be willing to tell me about their experience & their feelings, so that I could heal that relationship & go better informed into a diverse world.

wseadawg said...

Working Together: You'll probably get hammered for mentioning Charters, because so many of them are corporate profit and propaganda machines disguised as schools. But that doesn't mean some aren't good, and/or that there aren't lessons to be learned from them - Good and Bad!

When you're able to separate the politics and ulterior motives of so many charter supporters from the basic design or idea (which is tough), the idea that some schools that can operate being accountable only to the population within them is an attractive idea. But that's, in Seattle, what our alternative schools do a great job of already, without competing with other schools for resources, without busting unions, and without elbowing the local community and parents out of the way with the well heeled corporatists and philanthropists' (yeah, right) money behind them.

The recurring problem with Charters is their lack of transparency, high attrition rates, and overall failure to improve the educations of many at-risk kids, despite having far more resources than the average public school, and tons of sponsors as well.

They deserve the be looked at and considered on their merits and shortcomings, but the current administration, along with the prior one, sold people a bill of goods on how great they were, and would be, but the returns have come in, and overall, Charters have been a disappointment and a waste of money. Geoffrey Canada is terrific, but spends over 30k per student.

Imagine what kind of system we'd have, or anyone would have, with that kind of money. But it's not sustainable.

Sarovar said...

"Hi, I'm Sarovar, and I'm a racist in India, but I'm only bigoted and prejudiced in the United States of America."

SPS North said...

wsseadauw said "the idea that some schools that can operate being accountable only to the population within them is an attractive idea. But that's, in Seattle, what our alternative schools do a great job of already, "

Don't you mean that's what our SPS alt schools used to do? I think this was the case pre-MGJ. But now we have standardization, standardization, and did I say standardization. We have Everyday math, Writers workshop, every school starting at the same time, limited transportation (less diversity), no say in the hiring of the principal, MAP tests for all.......must I go on?

Maureen said...

SPSNorth, that is one of the things I find most ironic about MG-J's apparent agenda: If her goal really is to introduce charter schools to Seattle, she would have done well to strengthen and co-opt the alternative schools to create obvious landing spots for the charters. Instead, she is on her way to turning them all into cookie cutter neighborhood schools full of staff and families who will push back against innovation. Meanwhile Seattlites who are most open to innovation and building based management are being dispersed.

I don't know if she has just chosen to remain ignorant about what the alts are and could be or if she has a very restricted view of what charters can be. (I.e., firms that make a profit off of struggling learners vs. innovative community run schools that could act as laboratories for best practices.). Maybe both.

seattle citizen said...

Perhaps because our alternatives are formed of such tenets as "democratic classroom," and "alternative forms of assessment," they are benig removed rather than supported.

The sorts of charters we're talking about when we talk charter these days are those that are responsible merely to the standardized tests, and are not organically and locally grown, like our alternatives, but are experiments run by ed management companies.

Our alternatives are a road block to the charter and reform movement: Schools like NOVA show what can be done without standardizing, without common curriculums, without uniforms.

Josh Hayes said...

Sarover sez:

"Hi, I'm Sarovar, and I'm a racist in India, but I'm only bigoted and prejudiced in the United States of America."

Oh, now, don't sell yourself short.

This thread has lost its way: too much hatin' going on, when the fact is, nobody, NOBODY, on this blog knows exactly what happened. The whole thing has been Rashomon-ed to death. Can we just leave it alone until something actually happens involving the case?

As for me, I'm out.

Tosca said...

Today we learned that the teacher in question will be on medical leave for the remainder of the year.

Ben said...

Does that mean the student will come back now?

ArchStanton said...

Interesting. Was there an official statement or just something shared with the families of the teacher's students?

Tosca said...

All I have seen is the letter from the principal sent in kid mail for the families with children in this classroom.

I don't know if the family is aware of teacher's absence for the remainder of the year.

Charlie Mas said...

I've been thinking about this and I think I see the misunderstanding.

Everything about us is soaked in culture. Everything we say, do, eat, wear, or think is, to some extent, culturally driven.

So if someone has a negative reaction to something about us, to what extent do we perceive that as a reaction to us as an individual and to what extent do we perceive it as a reaction to our culture.

For example, if someone says that they don't like the smell of a curry to what extent should this comment be seen as culturally insensitive to all south Asians?

Mr. Mudede's complaint about the lack of cultural sensitivity was based in the fact that the teacher had an allergic reaction to a product that is specifically intended for Black hair. He interpreted her reaction to the product as a reaction to Black hair and, more broadly, to Black people.

I'm not seeing it.

Just cuz ya don't like bagels doesn't make you an anti-Semite. And an allergic reaction to a chemical doesn't make someone a racist.