May 31, 2015

Racial harmony in the third grade

By Meriem L. Hubbard Senior Attorney

A story in the New York Post reports that a $43,000 per year school in Riverdale, New York, requires third graders to identify their race on a questionnaire and attend weekly sessions with people of their own race.  Why?  Because the school uncovered “miscroagressions” like these:  “A girl puts her hands in another girl’s hair; a boy asks his Asian friend where he’s really from.  A number of years ago, a white student in a fourth-grade biography unit delivered a presentation on Jackie Robinson while in blackface.”

At the weekly sessions children are asked to discuss how they see other people, how people see them, and what assumptions they make based on appearance.  They are told to observe kids of other races and share their thoughts.  And they talk about prejudice and racism.

Whether or not the slights that lead to Riverdale’s “affinity groups” are racist, or just kids being kids, dividing young children into groups by race should not be the first idea that comes to mind.  Segregation re-emphasizes racial differences; it does nothing to teach children how to live in an increasingly multi-racial and multi-cultural society.

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