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Let's Talk About It: Race

Let's talk about race within schools.

Original Source- Brooklyn Friends

We often do not agree with each other on most issues and topics today and it’s no exception when it comes to how each of us perceives race. The importance of how we perceive race within schools is something we must explore deeper. Through the years, humans have been debating whether race matters or not. Meaning, some people will look at race as an important aspect to look at when it comes to how race affects people’s lives. Race is a way to represent each other’s culture and shows representation of a group or community for students within schools. As we look at each segment of how we perceive race, try to gain an understanding of how each person’s experience can affect what they believe in when it comes to race within American schools.

Does race matter? (Alex Kajitani)

When it comes to race, we will first explore whether race matters or not within American schools. When it comes to this topic, there can be many perspectives but there are two perspectives I would like to bring up. The first perspective comes from a TED Talk with a man named Alex Kajitani who argues race does matter. Alex Kajitani's family comes from Japan, meaning he came from Japanese descent but Kajitani also grew up in a Jewish environment. Kajitani is a teacher and he understands the environment within schools and the situations that can occur. What Kajitani brings up is that adults are too afraid to talk about the idea of race because it’s a sensitive topic to discuss. An example Kajitani brings up are from his students; one day, a student, named David, ran in telling Kajitani that he was sorry because he did not do his homework. Kajitani responded pretty generously, saying it’s fine but he was curious about why he couldn’t complete his homework. His student responded that his uncle was deported and it caused him to not concentrate. Another example would be a time when one of Kajitani’s students had a chance to go to an all-expense paid for Space Camp. It was all happiness and joy until one student asked if they needed papers. Kajitani assumed that you indeed might need papers and as soon as he said that, half of the class sighed in disappointment. Race matters to these students and likewise for every other student out in the world. 

Does race matter? (Mellody Hobson)

The other perspective when it comes to the topic of "if race matters" is from another TED Talk by Mellody Hobson. Hobson argues that race does matter but it shouldn’t. Hobson brings up the term “color blind,” meaning to “pretend that we don’t notice race.” But Hobson also brings up the idea of being “color brave,” meaning to fully realize race and to be aware of it. Hobson, then, brings up her friend, John Skipper, who works for ESPN. Hobson says that people would ask Skipper, “Do you want me to hire the minority, or do you want me to hire the best person for the job?” and Skipper says “Yes” every time they ask him the same question. The context of this statement shows that even though it is good to realize or to recognize race, it should not matter. Based off the story of John Skipper and ESPN, color brave is to be aware of race but the color of your skin should not only matter. Mellody Hobson states race does matter but race shouldn’t be the only thing we look at.

Culture Within Our Schools

Discussions about race can be brought up when it comes to many different things, especially culture in the American school system. Cultures are customs or lifestyles one particular group of people have. A perspective I would like to discuss about is from the article “Why I’m Not Involved: Parental Involvement From a Parent’s Perspective” by Jung-ah Choi, which gives a mother’s view of culture within American schools. Jung-ah Choi brings up the topic of her 7-year-old son’s culture being different from his schools. You see, Choi was told by her son’s teacher that he was a great student but he had a problem with his behavior. Choi son’s teacher would say that he would break the “do-not-pop-the-bubble-policy,” meaning the kids are not allowed to touch one another whatsoever. At first, Choi felt discouraged by the new rule but then later figured that it’s nothing to be feared of. Choi grew up in South Korea and was taught different values compared to the United States. Like Choi states, “A rule like ‘do not touch other children’ may sound neutral, favoring no students over others, but consider this: at home, I teach different values,” meaning she has a different culture compared to the school that her son attends. She never taught her son to not touch anyone or to keep personal space a number one priority. Choi taught her son love and affection for one another because it goes with her family’s belief. South Korea does not value “personal space” like America does because, in their eyes, it is considered child neglect. Choi might live America, but it doesn’t seem that her values are different because she moved to America. When it comes to race within schools, Choi's perspective is that some schools in America need to understand that there are other cultures within their schools and they should consider that fact.

Symbolism Within Schools

Race within schools cannot be mentioned without bringing up symbols within American schools. Throughout history, there have been many symbolisms of historical figures that are sometimes praised for their right doings but others do not see some historical figures as great figures. The article, “Removal of the Jefferson Davis Statue Falls Short” by Adam Hamze references that there was a statue of Jefferson Davis that was a great step for getting rid of something that can be referred to as a racial symbolic figure. Jefferson Davis did not represent the community within the college it was present in but, as I stated before, it was replaced with Woodrow Wilson. Now, Woodrow Wilson is not a racial figure but he also does not represent the community within the college. Hamze states it’s not a bad direction but it’s still not the correct direction they would want to take. Instead, Hamze provides a recommendation of what the statue should be of and his candidate was Herman Marion Sweatt. Sweatt might not seem like an important figure but based off what Hamze says, he is a very important figure to this college community. Turns out, Sweatt is the first black student to attend the University of Texas. After a gruesome legal battle, Sweatt was able to attend the University; therefore, he was the first black student to come to this University. Therefore, Hamze protects his claim that Sweatt will definitely better represent the college community. From Hamze's perspective, race is important when it comes to representation of a community. Hamze shows this by protecting his idea of a statue of Herman Marion Sweatt, a man of color who stood up for his race, then a white man who would be placed there only for “symmetry.” Overall, Hamze perspective on symbolism within American schools is understandable and is something we all experience within different contexts.

What's your perspective?

Overall, Race within schools is an important topic to discuss but it is also important to understand and explore the different perspectives on this topic. We’ve got an insight of two TED talkers referencing the topic “does race matter?” We understand both of their views and their understanding of race. We also explored the idea of culture within schools. We did this by looking into Jung-ah Choi’s perspective by comparing her lifestyle and the school expectations to change that lifestyle to fit their school system’s views. Choi protected the idea that schools should definitely consider another race’s lifestyle and understand their perspective of their culture. Finally, we see race when it comes to symbolism within schools. We understand Adam Hamze’s perspective of the statue of Woodrow Wilson as a great step for replacing a racial symbolic figure of Jefferson Davis but it was not the right direction. Instead, the right direction is to replace the statue with Herman Marion Sweatt who was the first black student to attend the University of Texas. Within the topic of race and based off these perspectives, I think it is pretty clear that race does matter when it comes to people’s ethnic background, culture, and their representation. Thinking about it, it’s not much of an issue but I see it more as an expression. Does race matter? Yes, it does from what I understand based off of these perspectives. But I also understand that it does not matter at the same time. Notice how all these perspectives of race are related by how one simply is and not how they deal with racism overall. These perspectives play with the issue "does race matter" when it comes to who you are, not how you are treated by others. So, I would love to leave off asking you a question. When it comes to the topic of race, not racism, what is your perspective? I have presented at least four different perspectives when it comes to this important topic. If so, why does race matter for you?

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