A cover story in New York magazine asks the question “Can racism be stopped in the third grade?” A better question might be “Does racism exist in the third grade?” but author Lisa Miller already knows the answer to that question. Drawing on microcosmic evidence provided by Mariama Richards, director of progressive and multicultural education at all Fieldston, a private school in tony Riverdale, N.Y., Miller offers up proof positive:
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.
If you don’t find these microaggressions symptoms of racial bigotry — for that matter, if you don’t consider the acts microaggressions — it’s high time you stopped at your local branch of the Office of Political Correctness and had your privilege checked. Racism starts early, in some cases in toddlerhood. In March, a black Indiana state legislator concluded that the 18-month-old son of a white colleague must be racist because he seemed to be afraid of her.
So having diagnosed the problem at Fieldston, Richards, who is black, has come up with a proposed solution for the ages — specifically the 1950s: Once a week, students in the elementary school as young as 8, are to be segregated according to their race. You read right. Brown v. Board of Education be damned:
In 45-minute sessions, children would talk about what it was like to be a member of that race; they would discuss what they had in common with each other and how they were different, how other people perceived them, rightly or wrongly, based on appearance. Disinhibited by the company of racially different peers, the children would, the school hoped, feel free to raise questions and make observations that in mixed company might be considered impolite. The bigger goal was to initiate a cultural upheaval, one that would finally give students of color a sense of equal ownership in the community.
But not to worry. Richards assures concerned parents that “it is absolutely not her intention … to lay on 8-year-olds a burden about white privilege or white guilt. ‘They have done nothing — nothing,’ she emphasizes. All she hopes to do is to get a bunch of white kids in a room to recognize that they’re white. And perhaps to ask themselves, if they’re ready for it, ‘Hey, what does that mean?'”
What could possibly go wrong?
(h/t Naomi Schaefer Riley)
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