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Peace and Justice Summit: Education

Peace and Justice Summit: Education


Imagine that you and your family and
friends have been standing on either side of a railroad track for generations,
watching as serial trains proceed down the track. Imagine that on one side of
the train, there is a letter, an alphabet on each car. On one side of the train the
alphabets spell ‘education’; on the other side of the train the alphabets spell
‘literacy’. Imagine further that you are forbidden by law to board the train, and
therefore concomitantly you are forbidden by law to dream about, to think
about, or to reach the destination of the train. Imagine that your own innate sense
of education and literacy has been either obliterated or contaminated
substantially by your circumstances for generations. Then imagine that there
comes a time when you are finally permitted to board that train, of course
in the rear cars. And that you leave the environment on the side of that train
behind, and that no one on the train, particularly the conductor, the railroad
company or any of the other leaders of the train understand the environment
that you left behind on the side of the train. They understand only the
environment of the train’s origins and therefore the perspectives and all of
the lessons taught on that train and at that
destination are consistent with the railroad company – not yours. My name is Vanzetta Penn McPherson and
like Sophia Bracy Harris earlier this week, I am what EJI is calling ‘a local’. As a native of and resident of
Montgomery, I am – like all of the rest of us – flooded with memories of the Civil
Rights Movement, and immersed in all of the details of the accountings and
stories that you have heard and will continue to hear on this marvelous
celebration. But in spite of that flooding and that immersion, I am also very gratified and I have a renewed sense of enlightenment by EJI’s and Bryan Stevenson’s brilliant creation of the Legacy Museum
and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice because of several things: not
just the art, the sculpture, the sobriety; not just the necessity for those sites,
but also because EJI has spectacularly created and articulated the nexus
between slavery and mass incarceration. They have answered the question that so
many have posed, and that question is, “Why?” They have answered another question that
is always necessary in any analytical analysis of a phenomenon. And that
question is, “How?” This morning, there are three scholars who will enlighten all of us with their research and with their brilliance as well. Dr. Walter Gilliam is a professor in the
Child Study Center at Yale University. His research involves early childhood
education and intervention policy. And his research seeks to find ways and
implement ways to improve the quality of pre-kindergarten and child care services
and the impact of early childhood education programs on children’s school
readiness. Dr. Howard Stevenson is a Chair Professor of Africana Studies in the Human Development and Quantitative Methods Division at the University of
Pennsylvania. And in case you’re wondering, yes, there is gravitas to his surname. He is, among other things, proof that the
Stevenson gene pool contains chromosomes for both excellence and racial integrity. Dr. Stevenson’s research focuses on
negotiating racial conflicts and using racial literacy for independent and
public K through 12 schooling, community mental health centers, teachers, police, and parents, and he will tell you about the ways in which he implements his
research, and after you hear him you will understand – after you hear all of them
you will understand – why they are the recipients of impressive and substantial
grants. Dr. Margaret Beale Spencer has done and continues to do impressive and esoteric research. Her theories provide an identity-focused cultural ecological
perspective and it serves as the foundation for her gender, culture, and
context acknowledging for developmental race and ethnicity sensitive research
emphasis. All of these scholars will bring you important perspectives. They
will bring you valuable information. For those of you who have already toured the Legacy Museum, you know that one of EJI’s objectives is to establish the
connectivity between slavery and mass incarceration, with lynching, among other
things, being the middle component. So I hope that I am accurately analogizing
that nexus in what I am about to say. Think of Dr. Gilliam’s research as
slavery. Think of Dr. Stevenson’s research as lynching. And analytically
think of Dr. Spencer’s research as mass incarceration, the how
and the why. Certainly, criminal justice reform is a commending imperative in our
lives, but so too is education. No one can deny the nexus among the three. So I
invite your attention to a most enlightening panel. Thank you for being
with us this week and today. Good morning, and yes, I am Bryan
Stevenson’s brother. We’re gonna talk about that a little later. Tonight, today,
this morning, we’re here to talk about education in America, race, implicit bias
and saving our children. I’m delighted to have my colleagues here today. The order:
Walter’s going to go first, Margaret’s going to go second, I’m going to go third,
and then we’re going to have a conversation between us about about our
work. Thank you. Go forward. Is that my cue? That’s your cue. Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to be here among all of you, among dear, dear friends and
colleagues and collaborators in this important work that we’re doing
regarding our children and how our children experience the world around
them. I’m going to start off by telling you about a story. This is a
story about a little girl. Her name is Ja’eisha and this was in St. Petersburg,
Florida and the year is 2005 and she was having a rough day that day when she
went to school. She was having some things that were
concerning her and she was wearing one of those expressions on her
face – tell me if you’ve seen this before. It’s somewhere halfway between, “I’m
gonna cry,” and “I’m gonna be angry and look angry so I don’t cry.” You ever seen
that expression before out of a young child, four or five years
old? So she’s five years old. She’s in kindergarten and she had that expression on her face, and she was in the principal’s office. Police came in – St.
Petersburg Police Department, kindergarten five-year-old little girl,
came into the vice principal’s office – they’d already evacuated the classroom –
and came in and arrested her, in kindergarten. And you can see her be put
over the table, three police officers, and they went to put the handcuffs on
her, but as the story goes, the handcuffs don’t work very well when you’re five
years old. So they put the handcuffs on her ankles, and they used nylon on her hand, and carried her out to the police car, put
her in the police car, then took her from there to the police station, held her in
the police station until her mother could come and pick her up. And that
was because she was having a bad day. Now, I saw this video and people
had contacted me for comments on this, and when I saw the video, you know, a lot of things kind of went through my mind. One of the things that went through my
mind was, well, this is in an elementary school, you know, why the
St. Pete police department on a five-year-old, on a baby? Why the St. Petersburg police department? Why not school psychologists, why not the school nurse, why not somebody from the social
work department? I mean, they had all these people there, you know. Why not contact,
why not just go into the hallway and just randomly pick some adult, just
grab anybody other than the St. Pete police department, you know, and when you see this the other questions that kind of pop
into your mind too – at least for me – was, why is it that sometimes when we can see a
child with behaviors we don’t like, you know, behaviors that we as
adults might not want them to be having, why is it that with some kids, we can
look at them and we can say, “That child needs support. That child needs help.” And
with some children, we see the exact same kind of behaviors, but we say, “That child
needs to be contained, that child needs to be excluded, that child needs to be
removed, taken away from the rest of us good
people.” You know, what is that and why is that that sometimes we have these
decisions that happen sometimes just like that in the back of our head. Probably nobody sat down and thought about it. It’s just something that
clicked in the back of their head that made them decide whether this child was
this child, or this child was that child. You know, and so that’s what went through
my head when I saw the video that you’re not gonna be able to watch right now.
So I started looking into this issue in 2002-2005, of children being expelled
from preschool programs. Now, bear in mind we’re talking about children three and
four years old, these children have been talking for about one or two years. These
children have been out of diapers for about one or two years. These are babies. These are our babies. These are really young children: three,
four years old in preschool programs being kicked out of the program, expelled
from the program because somebody didn’t feel that they had the resources to
bear to be able to meet that child’s needs. And when you think about it,
expulsion is the capital punishment of the schools. It doesn’t get any more
severe than that. It’s kicking kids out completely, giving up on children. And in
this case, we’re talking about giving up on babies, giving up on children three,
four years old, So we started looking at this, you can see on the slide the
expulsion rate for grades K through 12, 2.1 per thousand children. This
is full-on expulsion kicked out of the program. For preschool children, we’re
talking about 6.7 per thousand. In other words, children are
expelled from preschool programs at a rate more than three times that of
grades K through 12 combined. And then when you look at child care programs,
it’s more than 13 times the rate of grades K through 12 combined. That’s a
lot of kids. And we can look at this data in a lot of ways. We can look at it this
way too. Here’s the Pre-K expulsion rate – the rate at which children are being kicked
out of preschool programs. This is the rate at which children are kicked out of
grades K through 12. And just for comparison, here’s the rate of
incarceration in the United States. And when you look at the amount of racial
disparity and gender disparity between preschool expulsion and adult
incarceration – almost identical. So if there is a pipeline from preschool to
prison, it’s amazing how consistent the diameter of that pipe is, all the way
through the entire process. We cannot start worrying about our children and
our families when they’re adolescents, when they’re twenties. We’ve got to be
worrying about them in preschool. We’ve got to be worrying about and thinking about
how we’re treating them all the way down to when they’re babies. So
when I started looking at things that predict
this – what accounts for, you know, whether a program is more likely to be
kicking a child out of a out of the program – we see things like, you know, the
number of children per adult, it relates to how likely a child is to be expelled. More children per adult, the more likely a child is to be expelled. How long the
program is in terms of its length of day, whether it’s a half-day program, school
day length, extended hours. Teacher job stress and teachers who screen positive
for depression expel at twice the rate. The amount of services better available
to the teacher… all these things are the best predictors that we have for whether
a child is expelled from a preschool program, but what do all these predictors,
these best predictors of whether a child is expelled from a preschool program,
what do they all have in common? None of them have anything to do with a child.
They’re not child variables. These are adult variables, these are program
variables, these are our variables about the things that we provide and the things we do not provide to our babies. And that’s what best predicts how our babies end up
getting treated. And so when you think about it, preschool expulsion is not a
child behavior, it is an adult decision. It is a decision that we make regarding
whether or not we have and want to bring to bear the services and the supports
for our children or if it’s easier and more convenient for us to just give up
on them. So who is it that gets expelled from preschool programs? So we started
collecting more of this information and we found this: in mixed age classrooms
where you have three- and four-year-old preschoolers together, a four-year-old
child’s about 50% more likely than the three-year-old child to be expelled. Now
we didn’t know exactly what to make out of that, you know. So we asked a group of
preschool teachers, pulled in a focus group and said, “In a national study,
teachers said that four-year-olds are more likely to be expelled than the
three-year-olds in these mixed age groups. Why do you think that is?” And they
thought about it, and they said, “Well, you know, it’s one thing if a child’s got
behavior problems or is aggressive and the child’s this big, but it’s different
if the child’s this big.” And then we said, “Well, why, when
you’re deciding whether to expel a child, why does height matter and how do you factor that in to the equation?” And they said “Well, you know, it’s like
this. If the child is small, then the child might be smaller than the other
children. But if the child’s a little bigger, then the child might be bigger
than some of the other children, and maybe someone will get hurt.”
And that was a clue to us that if we’re taking these teachers at their word, what
they’re telling us is this: it’s not the behavior of the child, it’s what
I imagine about that behavior, it’s what I think about that behavior, it’s all
kinds of other things that pop into our head and that’s when it really dawned on
us that this is not really about children’s behaviors. This is about the
things that go into adults’ minds when they look at kids, when they look at our
children. Black preschoolers expelled at twice the rate of white preschoolers,
boys more than four times the rate of girls. And so when you think about it
there’s really three B’s of expulsion risk in preschool: you have big, black and
boy. And the more of those that exist within
a single child, the greater the likelihood that that child is to be
expelled, to be kicked out, to be excluded to be told not to come back. And I’ve
heard preschool expulsion be described in a lot of different ways. I was giving
a talk to a group of preschool teachers and one of them said, “Well, I don’t really
like it when you call it expulsion.” And I thought to myself, “Well, I
don’t really like it when you do it,” but now not everything you think
you should say, and not everything you think you should tweet, so I didn’t say
that, I didn’t say that. So instead I said “Well, what do you like to call it?” And
she said, “Well, we call it ‘not yet ready for school readiness’.” And then
somebody else said, and this was my favorite, somebody else said, “Well, we call it
‘giving the child the gift of time’.” And that sounds pretty good. I’d like to be expelled if you’re gonna call it that. I could use a little more time in my life, you know. So
anyway, you know, no matter what you call it, it’s still kicking babies out, still
kicking babies out of preschool. So we started doing this work and I
got contacted by a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, a member of the House Education Committee named Danny Davis. Mr. Davis contacted us because he
was concerned about this issue and the disproportionality rates in terms of
gender and everything, and challenged us to look at race and gender combined. He had
a deputy chief of staff at that time, still does, named Jill Hunter-Williams
who used to be an early childhood mental health consultant for Headstart,
working on his staff. You know, the only person I know on Capitol Hill in a
senior level position that used to be an early childhood mental health consultant,
you know, and so here we had a member of Congress who cared about this problem
with a deputy chief of staff who understood the solution and in my line of work,
where we’re trying to work at the intersect of child development research
and social policy, we have a word for that rare moment when you get a member
of Congress who cares about the problem who has a deputy chief of staff who
understands the solution and the name of that rare moment that we use, this
technical term is, it is called a “hot damn moment.” And you don’t get a lot of those, you know, but when you do get one you gotta grab it, you know, and so we started working with the good congressman and he put pressure on the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to
start collecting data on preschool-aged children. Now sometimes when you hear me say Office for Civil Rights, I will say it really slow like, Office for Civil Rights. When you hear me say it slow like that please hear it as if I’m uttering the
name of an endangered species, so when you see it threatened, you’ll have known
its name because for those who might not want to care about all of our babies, the
very best way to avoid caring for all of our babies is to deny yourself of the
data that shows the inequities. Office for Civil Rights. So you can see some of the data there that they had collected on this and what the rates are. Lots of
different ways in which you can think about bias and how bias plays out. Things like research that was done by Russell Skiba, elementary school-aged children and middle school children and in the study
that he did, he had data regarding the age and grade level and gender
and race and ethnicity and he knew the behavioral infraction – what
did the child do wrong. Then he knew what happened to the child as a result of
that. What he did was, he had this data, mapped up all the other data except for
just the behavioral infraction, just the description of what the child did, gave
it to a bunch of teachers, had them rate the severity of this. How bad is this
really, if this were to happen in your classroom? Then, unmasked the data, analyzed the data and found out that even when you look at the same level of severity – the
behavior problem – when you compare children, the black child is more likely
to be sent to the principal’s office than the white child, more likely to be
suspended, more likely to be expelled – even when the behaviors are the same. And when they started controlling for socioeconomic status, even though
socioeconomic status matters in the equation, race still mattered on top of
it all. It’s not just about socioeconomic status, it’s about race too. You cannot take
race out of the equation. Phillip Goff and some folks have done some other studies
where they were looking at descriptions of children’s behaviors and they
provided this description maybe of a child’s behavior – a child who may or may
not have done the bad deed, may or may not have broken the vase, may or may not have lost the ball – had people, adults rate how guilty do you think the child
is? Do you think the child really did it? Or do you think the child didn’t do it? And they showed them different pictures of children, some black, some white, some boys, some girls, and whenever they showed them a picture of a black boy, the guilty rating
went up. It’s the same story. It’s the same story, but if there’s a black male face
that’s put with it, it just seems a little guiltier. And so that’s what they had found. Oh, and all the children in the study were between the ages of 10
and 17, in the pictures. At the end, they asked people to guess how old these
children were. They overestimated the age of the black children on average by
about four and a half years. And these children were between the ages of 10 and 17. That’s a lot of overestimating when you’re talking about children. Feeling
less pain – lots of studies showing that even young children – this is a study
by Dore – pulled in five-year-old children, seven-year-old children,
ten-year-old children. Had them rate pain, rate how much something might hurt. Pretend you stubbed your toe, how much would it hurt? You bit your tongue, hit your head?
And at five years old, they didn’t find any differences . But by the time the
children were seven years old, whenever they asked them to rate how much
something would hurt and show them a picture of a black boy and asked how
much it would hurt that black boy, the children thought that it would hurt that
black boy less than it would hurt them if they weren’t black, and less than it
would hurt another child. And by the time the children were ten years old, it was a
robust finding. Now there’s not a lot of things that we know enough about when it
comes to our preschool teachers and child care providers. We need to learn a
whole lot more. But one thing that I know for a fact is this: every one of our
preschool and childcare providers in America, they are all older than seven. Every single one of them. And if we’re carrying this in us by the time we’re
seven years old, then can you just imagine how much more that will be left
in there. This is a video clip that we
showed some teachers, and when we showed the teachers this video clip, we asked
them to look at the video clip and identify challenging behaviors. See how
many behavior problems you can find, and can you find evidence that a behavior
problem is going to happen really soon? And we had an eye tracker attached to
them, and the eye tracker – you can see here in this video, you can see there
somebody, a teacher, getting ready to do the eye tracking exam. You’ll see a
little black bar at the bottom of the screen, that’s an eye tracker. It tells us
down to the pixel on the screen and the thousandth of a second exactly where the
teachers looking. There’s a research assistant. You can see she’s looking at
the exact same thing. That yellow dot is where that teacher’s looking at that
specific moment. Now what we did was, we told the teachers, “Look for challenging
behaviors.” But what we didn’t tell them is the truth. And the truth is this: there’s no behavior problems in any of these videos
because they were all child actors that I hired to sit at a table and play
with play-doh. One of them is a black boy, one was a black girl, one was a white boy,
white girl, and what I’m really interested in is not how fast can you
find behavior problems, because there aren’t any to find. What I’m interested in
is when I lead you to believe somebody’s going to misbehave, who do you look at? Who do you look at first? Who do you look at longest? Who do you keep going back to? In other words, if you were a mall cop, who would you be following at The Gap right
now? That’s basically what we were doing. And what we found, what we found was this. At the end of the study, we showed them the pictures of the four children. And we say,
“Which child do you think you had to watch the most?” And then the screen went
blank and we asked them, “Put in the letter of the child that you feel you
had to watch the most.” Now we didn’t need to ask them who they watched the most. I
know down to the thousandths of a second who you watched. What we were curious about it is this. When I lead you to believe that somebody’s gonna misbehave,
where do your biases take your eyes? And then, at this point, are you aware of where your biases took your eyes? And then, later, after that, are
you willing to admit it? And what we basically found was that teachers spend
more time looking at the black child when we lead them to believe the
someone’s going to misbehave. And that’s true for white teachers and
it’s true for black teachers too. But they think they have a boy bias, they
think they spend more time looking at boys, especially the black boy, but the
reality is they spend more time looking at black children, especially the black
boy, you know. So the bias is there, but for teachers, they might be
perceiving it as a somewhat different bias, a somewhat more socially
acceptable “Boys will be boys” kind of bias. You can see what it looks like here,
in terms, each one of those dots is where a teacher’s looking. There’s a new study out of the Yale Child Study Center that I had to read a few times just to believe what it
was telling me. The researchers recruited about 135 preschool teachers, they had
them watch video footage of four kids playing. A black boy, a black girl, a white
boy, and a white girl. And they told the teachers, their subjects, “Watch the video,
there may be some challenging behaviors. As soon as you see something that could
become challenging, hit the enter key on your keypad. Well, here’s the trick, there was no challenging behavior. The researchers were using eye scan technology to see which child the teachers were looking at the most. And what they found is that the teachers, both white and black alike, spent the most time watching the black boy, waiting
for bad behavior that never came. There’s one more really interesting
headline in this study, which comes later. The teachers were also given a one
paragraph description to read of a hypothetical child with a stereotypical
name who behaves pretty badly in class – pushes, scratches, throws toys – and some of the teachers were also given some biographical information that helped
make sense of that behavior. They were told that the child lives with his
mother, father has been in and out for years, they’re relatively poor, the mother
is depressed, works three jobs. The researchers wanted to know if knowing this information made the teachers more empathetic to the
kid. Well, here’s the shock: it did, but only if the teacher and the child were of the
same race. If the teacher and the child, a white teacher and a black child or even
a black teacher and a white child, knowing that biographical information,
those teachers were less empathetic towards those students. And here’s why this matters. Imagine, if this is true, if there’s this empathy deficit in
preschool, well, imagine where else that’s true. We
work with NPR a lot when we try to push out the messages from some of the
studies that we do because we think that it’s important for people other than
researchers to be able to actually read some of these findings. One other study
that I’ll tell you about really quickly before I wrap up is another study by
some colleagues at University of Washington. What they were
studying was this: when you give preschoolers a video of two adults
interacting, and in one set of videos, the person is leaning in and smiling, and in
another set of videos, the person is leaning back and not smiling at the
person, and you changed the shirt that’s on the other person, and then you asked
these preschoolers, three or four year old children, “Which person do you think
was the nice one?” If they saw the video where the person wearing the blue shirt
was being interacted with in a friendly way, they assumed that that person was a
nice person. And if they saw a video where the person was leaning back and
the person had a green shirt on, they thought, “Well, that person’s
not a nice person.” And that makes a lot of sense. But where it gets really
interesting is this. They then showed them pictures of people that weren’t in
the study who just happened to be wearing blue shirts or green shirts, and
if they had been exposed to a video where somebody was interacting
positively with a person with a green shirt on, the next time they saw a person
with a green shirt, even though they’d never seen that person before, they
thought, “That person is a nice person too.” And if they saw negative interactions,
they thought, “That person is not a nice person also.” In other words, what they did
with preschoolers is, they, in just a couple of minutes, created a shirt bias. And if we can do that with preschoolers in just a couple of minutes, imagine what we
can do with skintone, and how quickly we can do it. The findings that we had
concerned me. These findings right here scare the hell out of me. Because it basically tells us that if we don’t get on top of this, we’re really
going to be hurting our kids. I gave a talk like this once in Las Vegas, and when
I was talking there, I sat down after the talk and everything. And then, the
emcee, you can see the emcee on the right there, brought a little girl up on the
stage. I didn’t know there was any children in the audience, and brought
this little girl up, and asked her what she thought about what was happening at the conference and what she’d seen. And I didn’t know there was any kids there, and I’m keenly
aware of the fact that when I’m talking about these things, I’m really not
talking about my daughter. I’m talking about other people’s children, and how people view other people’s children. But I didn’t really know that I was going to be talking
to one of those children there. And so she was up on the stage, and the
person asked, you know, “What did you make of this?” You know, and I’m
sitting on like every word, because I’m honestly just very, very concerned about
what she’s gonna say, you know, and it really, it really worried me. And so she
asked her that, and then the little girl said, “Well, I remember the professor
guy talking about how teachers view children,” and then she said, and boy at that
point I’m really listening, like every word she’s saying, and then the emcee
asked her, “Well, what did you make of that?” And she said, “Well, me
and my friends, we already knew it. We just didn’t think you all did.” And that’s
when I decided I’m not going to quit talking about this. I was worried, I was
worried that we were talking about something that was going to upset her. She
already knew it. She knew it way before I knew it. She knew it way before I ever
discovered it. So why should we care about children being expelled from
preschool programs? When you think about it, social justice and civil rights are
often matters of access. It’s about getting in something. It’s also about
making sure you’re not kicked out of something. It’s about making sure you
have a seat on a bus, or it can be about a seat at a deli counter, it can be about
a seat at the place of the voting polls, it can be about a seat in higher education or an elementary school. But it’s not just about getting in the front
door, it’s about making sure you’re not pushed out the back door too. Thank you, Walter. [applause] Margaret? Good morning. Because we’re really out of, distill it down because of our time,
I’m going to forgo my slides because I think it’s very important, given Dr.
Gilliam’s wonderful presentation, that I leave you with an important message in
terms of adolescence. On the one hand, as Dr. Gilliam’s remarks shared, young
children are at a particular developmental period in terms of size, in terms of how
they think etc., so in many ways, the issues of their
treatment and their experiences really have to do with the context,
the nature of the socialization agents that support their development, you know,
what happens at home, how we speak to our children in terms of preparing them for
this world. And so in many ways, in terms of, although kids are exposed to these
messages, what’s really important in terms of what happens those first seven
years, is that youngsters don’t internalize what it means for the self
because they are cognitively self-centered. Not the kind of narcissism
that we see in Washington, but I’m talking about a normal human development quality of thought that’s appropriate for kids through age seven. But when I
began talking about adolescence, that’s a very different developmental period. I
happen to love adolescence. Why do I love adolescence? Because I consider that
developmental period as representing the last bastion of truth, and then we learn
to lie. And we lie most often about the
experience of injustice. Well, in the first seven years of life, ways of
thinking represent a certain level of maturation. But just think about this, ten
years later, when they’re no longer seven and they’re seventeen, and they have the
height, they have to build and they have the ways of thinking and the capacity to
reflect on that thinking in terms of the self, then it’s a very different
situation. And without our acknowledging that in terms of how we teach kids, what
we model for our adolescents, it means then, that very often, they take it upon
themselves to make sense of the world, to make sense of a world of injustice, when
being an American, a hyphenated American, means something. One thing if you don’t
have melanin, and it means something else if you have melanin, if you have skin
color. And what’s important about adolescents is that they have the
cognitive capacity and abstract way of thinking to understand that, and they
resist, and they push back. But they’re telling the truth. The difficulty
in a society where injustice has become the norm, is that we cannot handle
their truth. And that is why this school is the pipe, it’s the prison pipeline. And so, we can talk some more, I know, during discussion, but because we’re
running out of time, I want to leave you with a notion that part of our test
as socializing agents and supporting, educating, and maximizing education of
our adolescents in particular, is that we have to model truth. EJI is
really important because it gives us more supports in doing our jobs well,
and being able to articulate the history of injustice in this country, to help
adolescents to understand that they don’t have to cope and figure out things
on your own, that they have supports and we’re the sources of support. So we
want to maximize youngsters’ intellectual functioning. I mean, the gap
findings may suggest that these youngsters are not doing as well as
ideal. But when you think about it, we’re talking about adolescents who live under
conditions of high risk, and very often in terms of schools and communities in
terms of policing, for example, they don’t have supports to offset the risk and the
challenge that they’re experiencing. But many still show resiliency. So our job
is to understand the sources of support that result in resiliency, that result in adolescents doing well irrespective of
the risk that they are burdened by. And then, ratchet up the supports and make
sure that the supports in fact are experienced by adolescents as indeed supportive. All the pro-offered supports are not experienced as supportive. And therefore, it’s a waste of resources, it’s a waste of human capital. And because we’re short on time, because
I want to have our discussion time as well, and plus Howard’s presentation, I
wanted to leave you with this in terms of my formal remarks. I know that
adolescence can be very difficult because, like I said, they call us out. They’re no longer seven. They now have the intellectual capacity to critique
the environment, to critique us, and of course we’re paying for their
upkeep. However, why the investment is important? Because we have to do this, not
just because it’s the right thing to do, it’s because these are young people who
will make decisions about the character of our own old age. So we can’t do it
because it’s right, then do it because you’re fearful. Thank you. Thank you, Walter. Thank you, Margaret. And we will have some time to discuss. Let me see if my slides are, okay, all right. So I didn’t expect to start with this slide, but you don’t know how crazy it is when
people come up to you and say, “Do you know this dude named Bryan Stevenson?
Have you ever heard him speak?” And so I thought, since I’m around a bunch of
lawyers, I should probably give some proof. So yes, my brother and I stayed in
the same bed for 12 years, we lived in the same bed and he was a roommate of
mine in college. And so yeah, I think I do kind of know him a little bit. And part
of the reason that we’re talking here today in the area of research that I’ve
been interested in for a long time, as a father, as a son, as a researcher, as a
therapist, has been: does it matter when parents talk to their kids about race? We
call that racial socialization. And the answer to that question is yes, right? And
to what degree, it begs other questions, to what degree does it push us
to understand, from the child’s perspective, what is racial justice and
racial injustice like? A lot of times we think about it from the perspective of
adults. And as parents, what does it feel like when you have to prepare your
children for a world that doesn’t appreciate who they are? Who doesn’t see
their humanity, whether it’s preschool or adolescence. And so, the idea of that talk
that many of us know that we try to give, we fumble through, and some of our
research is teaching families, how do you have that talk. It’s very stressful. And
so to the degree that we think of, how do we see these issues of injustice in
the eyes of children? So this is my brother and I when we were very young. We
were in many respects trying to escape southern Delaware. We were running away,
we kind of agreed, he was my road dog as it were, so on our way we realized we
can’t drive. And we got caught by our parents, and as you can see here, Bryan
even then could not tell a lie. My father had fantasies of us being
twins, so that’s why we always looked alike until we were 17. So, just to let you know, he is my brother. This is our family growing up, and people also ask me,
you know, about my brother and I, but I have to remind them we also had a sister
who is the little girl you see here and she looks exactly the same today as she
did then, just to let people know. And my parents were very different. And even here
you can see Bryan’s skepticism about injustice. You know, he’s looking like, “What is that photo, that photographer trying to do here?” You know, I was like, you know,
there’s an injustice going on. So , it started early, but having a family like ours is a
little different. My parents were very different in how they dealt with racial
conflict. My father, who just passed away a year ago, he’s here with the hat,
he worked in a movie theater in Rehoboth Beach. And his belief was, when
there was racial conflict that we had to face, because he had us in church
what seemed like 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he believed that if somebody
bothers you, you pray for them and God will get them back in the end.
You’re never sure when the end was going to be, but that was his belief. It was
spiritual, was one day in that great getting up morning, that was his idea.
Very Martin Luther King-ish, right? In some respects, he differed from my mother. Very different. She was more Malcolm X-like. If my father and my mother could
look down now, as they are, they would be singing and shouting at what my brother
has done. It’s amazing. So my mother, my mother had a very
different style. So she was not waiting for any resolution in the end. She was
literally, right now, in your face. Growing up in North Philly, very different sort of
approach. You know, when we were children you can imagine some parents and mothers, after you wake up in the morning, saying to their kids while they’re in the
bathroom, you know, “Pick up your clothes because this bedroom looks like a
pigsty.” My mother’s a little different, we’d be
in the bathroom, she’d be saying stuff, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock.
Plymouth Rock landed on us!” And so we would say “Yes mom, yes mom,” and go on about our day. And so, in the interest of both time so I can get to my colleagues, I’m
reminded of Martin Luther King, who, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
made a comment. He’s talking to folks about dealing with racism and
unjust laws and debating the whole idea of why it’s important to resist. And
there’s a point at which he stops becoming a preacher, he stops
being an activist and he becomes a parent and he says, “You suddenly find
your tongue twisted,” he stressed, “tongue twisted and your speech stammering as
you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public
amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up
in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and
see ominous clouds,” beautiful imagery, “ominous clouds of inferiority beginning
to form in her little mental sky,” and I think of that when we think about
education. To what degree are we ready to address the ominous clouds of
inferiority that are beginning to form in our children’s little mental sky? So
the work that we’re doing, we know that racism, and I’m going to make the argument that interpersonal contact around race, is just as important as systemic issues. If
you look at the police encounters that led to the deaths of young people and adults of color, they’ve happened within less than two minutes. And a lot of our ideas
about racial progress and justice are ideological. The question is can they be
decisions that we make in less than two minutes? Is there a way to translate
those ideas to actions, when we’re under the most incredibly intense stressful
moments, to make a healthy decision? So we know that racial stress related to
racism is connected to a variety of health outcomes for men and women. And it so happens that racial socialization – talking to children about race – can be an
antidote, somewhat of an antidote. And the question we had is, “Why is it, in our
studies, we’ve been finding these positive outcomes related to racial socialization?”
And we’ve been looking at this notion over time as to why, and one idea is that
the more parents talk to their children around race, the more they’re prepared
for what’s about to happen, right? That’s why this museum is so important
because if you don’t know what is about to happen, based on what it’s been
happening for a very long time, how can you be prepared for it? And so we’ve been
teaching folks around the country about literacy, this ability to read, to recast
and to resolve a racially stressful encounter when you only have two minutes. “Reading” is can I see when a racial moment shows up, “recasting” is, if I’m a
level of ten stress level on a scale of one to ten, how do I bring that ten down
to a five so that I can get my brain back on point where I can see, I
can hear, I can make a decision and a just decision that matches my racial
ideology in less than two minutes, and “resolve” is do I make a healthy decision
that isn’t an under-reaction where I pretend that really didn’t bother me,
that racial moment, or an overreaction in which I exaggerate that moment and leave
unhealthily. So we teach people to do this sort of strategy over time which
involves a lot of practice. Calculate, locate, communicate, breathe and exhale.
“Calculate” is what feeling am I having in the middle of this racial moment on a
scale of one to ten. It could be positive, it could be negative. “Locate” is where on my body do I feel it, and the more specific you can be, like a Native
American fifth-grader told me at a Chicago school that she was angry at a
nine that she was the only Native American girl in the school. And she said, “I can
feel it in my body, in my stomach. It’s like a bunch of butterflies fighting so much
with each other. They fly up into my throat and choke me.” If a
5th grader can be that detailed, why can’t we? And “communicate” is, what messages come to my mind, what statements, what images that remind me of who I am in this moment? And so we’ve been training this for quite a while. The problem with this
work around racial socialization – we believe it prepares young people and can
lead to racial literacy – but the problem is, it takes practice. And I know some of
you are saying, “Practice? Practice? We’re talking about practice?” Yes, we are talking about practice. It so happened that in August of 2013 – I have two babies who are sitting in the front row. Bryan kept saying that he’s trying
not to get weepy but unfortunately we’re full of weepiness this entire week, but I
have two babies and I worry about them as if something might happen to them, as
many of us do for our children. My oldest, Bryan, is 27, my youngest,
Julian, is 13, and we don’t have time to talk about how that happened at all. So Julian and I, one day, August of 2013, we’re watching television or we really, we were
just, we’re just folding clothes which in and of itself is such a rare occurrence,
we should have known something strange was going to happen. And in the process,
on CNN, Trayvon Martin’s parents were on the television crying. And Julian, at 8
years old, became glued to the television. He had a thousand questions. Julian
always has a thousand questions. He wanted to know, “Why did this happen to
Trayvon?” He wanted to know. And I was not ready for that discussion. It was
stressful. Even after 20 years, 25 years of talking to people how to talk to
children, I was stressed. I wasn’t ready to have the discussion. And so I’m going
to play for you a little bit of that conversation now. Julian: “It’s like we’re, we’re better than you and there’s nothing you can do about that. And if you scare me or
something like that, I will shoot you, because I’m scared of you.”
Howard: “Exactly. And the problem is that because of bad images on television,
the way that people are trained and raised when they grow up,
they’re raised to be scared of black boys and black people. And it’s not right,
it’s not fair, but, you know. It’s one thing to be scared, people get scared all
the time, but it’s wrong to take that fear and say it’s okay to kill somebody
or hurt somebody. And I don’t, I don’t like the idea, and that’s why Daddy gets mad
about it sometimes, but that’s also why Mommy and Daddy want to teach you, so
that if anybody is following you, that you need to know how to talk to them, and to
stand up for yourself, yet not under-react or overreact.
You know what under-react means? Like it means that you pretend like nothing’s happened. What does that mean?” Julian: “Like, you know something’s happened and pretending, “Oh it’s fine,” but overreacting is like yelling and saying, “Oh my god,” it’s just like you’re panicking.” Howard: “Yes, exactly. And partly
that’s because even when cops, some cops who are not, and all cops are not bad,
most cops know exactly what they’re doing, but some cops might be, have been
caught being afraid of African American boys and then try to be difficult or
rough with them and treat them as if they’re doing something wrong. You
know, you want to treat everybody right, you always do, I notice that, but…” Julian: “It’s not the same for everyone else.” Howard: “It’s not always the same, no.” Julian: “Because people can disrespect you.” Howard: “Exactly.” Julian: “And think that you’re, You don’t look like you’re, it’s like they’re
saying that you don’t look right, so I guess I have the right to disrespect you.”
Howard: “Yeah, and that’s what we call, we call that racism, that some people, a lot
of people, unfortunately, will look at a boy who’s like Trayvon or like you with
a hoodie on and see that maybe, and believe there’s something you’re going to
do wrong, instead of other people who wear hoodies, they don’t look at
them the same way. And that’s wrong, and that’s why Daddy wants you to be safe
and that’s why.” Julian: “So you mean like when you said other people,
you mean like if Trayvon was a white, um, then he wouldn’t be disrespected?”
Howard: “We don’t believe he would be disrespected like that, no. Not in that neighborhood where Trayvon went. But the other thing that’s true, that
even black people can look at other black people as if there’s something
wrong with them and other boys and that’s just, that’s a problem too.
We’re just as concerned as if anybody says I’m better than you.” Julian: “Really?” Howard: “Anybody who looks at another kid and says, “I’m better than you,” or “You’re
more dangerous or you’re a criminal because you’re black and you’re a child
or boy,” that is wrong. It doesn’t matter who does it.” Julian: “Dad, I need to stop you there.” Howard: “What?” Julian: “So remember when we were over at the swimming pool, Mommy told me that there was a guy disrespecting us, and they looked at you guys, and they’re like, “What? What are you doing?” They’re like,
they’re looking at us like, “Well, what are you doing here?” Howard: “Yes.” Julian: “And then they’re like, ‘I thought this place was white people only.'” Howard: “Is that what he said?” Julian: “Well, I don’t… he looked like that, he’s like…” Howard: “No, he had a look. I don’t think he said that, according to Mommy, yeah.” Julian: “No, it looked like, he probably looked like he said, ‘Well, what are these guys doing here?'” Howard: “Yeah, he had that disposition, that attitude, I just want you to know that that’s somebody else’s problem. That’s not your problem. That’s their problem. Don’t you ever
think that you’re less than somebody else. No matter how people treat you. If
they treat you bad, it means they don’t know how to treat people right. You
understand that? Don’t you start thinking there’s something wrong with me, I must
be bad… No. That ain’t got nothing to do with somebody else accusing you.
They’re wrong, they’re misguided, they’re messed up in the head, not you. And that
was the problem George Zimmerman. His parents didn’t teach him how to deal
with his emotions. Julian: “Or maybe they did, but he did the wrong choice.” Howard: “Well, it’s possible they could have talked to him, but I don’t think so. The way they talked
about their son, they think that, uh” Julian: “Wait a minute, George Zimmerman, you mean?” Howard: “The parents, yeah.” Julian: “Yeah, what did they say about him?” Howard: “Well, I think they basically felt that he was justified to follow…” Julian: “What the!?” Howard: “Yeah, I think that’s wrong.” Julian: “So they’re saying he has the right to follow a black kid, get in a fight with him, and shoot him?” Howard: “Well, I don’t think they’re saying that he had a right, I think they felt, because he was scared
of him, they had a right to shoot him, but they do not, in any way, see what was
wrong about what George Zimmerman did.” Julian: “Well, that’s wrong.” Howard: “Their parents must be so, so, so sad, to think that you can’t go places. And Daddy’s going to be behind you 100%. You’ve got good friends, and we’re not going to make sure you’re in any place that you’re not safe, we’re going to be with you. But just in case, this doesn’t happen a lot, but just in case,
right, I did the same thing with Bryan, I gave him the same talk, we call this the
Stalking Talk. If anybody tries to bother my child…” Julian: “What would happen?” Howard: “Well, they better run.” Julian: “Because what?” Howard: “I’m gonna get ’em, I’m gonna get ’em. Julian: “Really?” Howard: “Oh yeah.” Julian: “Well then they’re gonna get you because they might have weapons or something.” Howard: “Well, you know what, I’m gonna call the police too like I should, but I feel like I want to get them, but
you can’t, you gotta, you right, you can’t just go chasing people.” Julian: “They can be armed.” Howard: “Yeah, you right, you right.” Julian: “Yeah, they can be armed.” Howard: “I feel like I wanna chase them though.” Julian: “Plus they could be army or something.” Howard: “I know, I feel like I wanna go get them, messing with my son. I don’t like that. But I got, you right, you gotta be careful. You never know what some crazy people will think about you. So, just as long as you
believe you’re beautiful like, Daddy believes you’re beautiful and handsome
and Mommy believes you’re beautiful and handsome and smart, and you deserve to be on this planet just as happy and beautiful and smart as you wanna be, you
can do anything you want, baby, that’s what our mama said to me. You can be anything you want. Anything. Even when people try to hurt you. Even if they don’t like you, just brush them off, keep on moving.” So, thank you. So, in the middle of the conversation, I left Julian for a second
because I started imagining somebody chasing him or my older son, and I lost
it there for a second. And I could calculate my anger at a 10 and my right
leg was twitching like I’m running after somebody who’s chasing my child. I know
how many of you have had that image that if somebody bothers your child, yes. And
he brought me back, right? So there’s a there’s a lesson that we learn about
racial socialization, and it’s not just what parents say to their children, it’s also
what children say to their parents. That children socialize parents as well.
And so, it does beg this question of all children’s voices are very important in
this discussion about racial injustice, and does it matter, from a child’s
eyes, from a parent’s eyes, how we look at this? So this notion around, I’m gonna
ask my colleagues, I’m going to ask Margaret first. When you think about those ominous
clouds of inferiority, you’ve talked about it a little, what do we say
to parents or to children about racial injustice and educators? I think, as alluded to in Walters talk, you handle this one way when
developmentally children are young, because ideally, you want to just totally surround them with if you will, all kinds of messages about
who they are, that what their blackness represents in a very positive way,
because in the first 10 years of life or so, children are sponges. They’re taking it all in. And that’s, let me simply say that by also undergoing the fact that, one of
the things that annoys me most as a developmental psychologists, and it may
well be because when I started my own PhD at the University of Chicago in the
same department that I chair, Compartive Human Development,
I began my program with a four-month-old and an 18-month-old, and I knew that my
two little black girls were the most beautiful children, the smartest
children, most talented children in the whole world, and our whole home
was organized to communicate that. But what I realized when I began, so I knew
what I was doing at home, to sort of surround them with all those messages,
including my own interpretation of the world, that black meant good, not bad, okay, which the environment communicates if you don’t serve as a wedge. But I also
understood in terms of the role of teachers in all this, that every textbook
that we were reading, when I was interested in knowing something on what
does this study say or this theme say about children of color, anything about
black children or minority children was organized: see deviance, or see
problems, or see pathology. And this is the context of teaching, this is the
context of learning the teachers use in educating and supporting other people’s
children. So from the very beginning, I knew that the context must be responsive
to acknowledging the humanity of all children. And this works in a couple of
ways, let me say a couple more things here Howard, is that on the one hand, for
African American children, Hispanic children, Native American children, anyone
who was “othered’, the context has to communicate the value of their humanity,
and in fact, see them as human beings. As I understood it, from very early on, the
problem in terms of training, such that individuals don’t or are not experienced as
support, is that they don’t view other people’s children as human. That is very
cold and is very harsh, but it’s also very real. And so if we don’t structure
the environment in terms of feedback and knowledge that recognizes our children’s
humanity, then they’re going to pick up in those first, I would say especially, first six, seven years of life, those same messages. But
what’s really important about the early work by Kenneth and Mamie Clark, is that
because the environment communicates that everything dark is negative and
everything light is positive, because of children’s human development, how they
think, when children are in those first seven years of life or so, they don’t internalize
those negative messages to the self initially. When you ask the question, “Well,
you know, this brown dog – is he negative or positive?” Or “This brown girl, is she, you
know, smart or dumb?” They’re answering it as a function of the environment. Okay,
but they don’t internalize it in terms of what it means for the self. That happens
later. That happens by seven, six, seven eight, when they are no longer
cognitively egocentric, what I mentioned before. This is really important because
a “normal” way of developing protects young children from these internalized
beliefs about the self, given what they’re learning. But all of that changes in
those next few years because they’re no longer protected by ego-centrism.
That’s really important, because in terms of gap findings that feed into implicit
bias. It’s really important because when children competitively in schools are
being confronted confronted with tests, learning literacy skills, writing etc.,
some children, over here, have what I call a “consonant environment.” The
messages about who they are are positive, right, and they’re members of that group. And that ends up functioning as a, almost as a privilege. On the other hand, kids who’ve been “othered” and the messages are negative, they’re having to
learn the very same skills in school but they’re also dealing with heart aches. Heart aches. It’s like for some of you in here this morning, if you have not had
your coffee, you’re maybe nodding a little bit, okay. You’re having a
little problem, because you need your caffeine. Well, what children
need, as well, is a sense of consonance, that I’m picking up messages that I’m
wonderful, and I am learning things at the same time, because you can, because
there’s consistency. But what happens with kids of color is that there’s
dissonance. They’re picking up negative messages
that they’re trying to figure out, “Well, does this really include me?” And they’re
not getting all the insights that teaching is supposed to provide. Are
you following me? So of course you’re going to have gap findings because the
agendas are different. One’s dealing with heart and head, and one only has to deal
with the head because the heart is consistent with the messages that
they’re getting. Are you following me? By the time they hit middle childhood and
adolescence, they appropriately push back. Adolescents push back and they tell us
what they observe. They tell us their truth. And then we send them off to
navigate and make sense of policing behavior, or racist teacher
behavior all by themselves without these cultural literacy messages and
socialization experiences that Howard is talking about. So we all have a job
because we represent the context for other children’s learnings about the
self and group membership. And that those those messages collide. It’s like, you
know, not having your allergies diagnosed, you know. You need your
antihistamine. So cultural socialization for me it’s
like having your antihistamines in terms of how they deal
with your allergies in your knapsack, in your backpack. It’s like having your joe, your caffeine always available to you, so when you’re starting
to nod a little bit, you pull that bad boy out and you use it
to perk yourself up. That’s how cultural socialization works. And it should be a
seamless process because then you can use your head, and your heart is in good
shape. But if your heart is not in good shape,
then we have a problem, which reminds me again to remind you that we’re talking
about humanity in the lives of kids of color who were growing up in systems
where teachers are being taught not about these children’s humanity, but
about their difference, about their being less than, about their being
psychopathological, and have basically been a part of a group that historically
has been basically characterized in that way, although it’s never officially said.
It’s always inferred which means that it makes it very difficult for kids to
garner the support, if it’s not already there through cultural socialization, to
push back. And when they push back, by the time they’re in their adolescence, then
we are afraid. So, parental monitoring for me, in terms of providing cultural
socialization, my work suggests that it makes a difference. It means then that
when kids are navigating space, like Julian, and something happens, they know
what to do. They literally, in essence, imagine their
parents on their shoulders telling them what to do, how to do it, and why. So there
is a seamlessness in terms of learning and their development. So the point I
want to make is that we, in terms of schooling, we can’t isolate children’s
intellectual and cognitive functioning from their hearts. There’s affective
development, in terms of their hearts, but there’s also the
intellectual. And especially during adolescence, then you’ve got these huge
biological changes that kids don’t understand themselves. So think about it. We don’t talk about their sexuality. We don’t talk about the heinousness of
the context. And we don’t talk about the need for cultural socialization. And we
leave these youngsters to figure it out on their own, and then we send them out
to function like canaries in the mine called the American, the USA. And so
it’s no wonder that we get these gap findings, and therefore I’m asking you today to be
a part of an authentic solution, which is to address these issues frontally with
kids, because we are still the adults and they’re children, or even taller children
as adolescents, and it’s our job to serve as a positive, and I would say proactive,
context for their development and learning 24/7. Thank you, Margaret. We are effectively out of time and thank
you both for being here. I will end with this notion: the lion’s story will never
be known as long as the hunter is the one to tell it. Tell your story. Thank you, Margaret. Thank you, Walter.

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