The assignment encountered an immediate (and appropriate) backlash as it approached channels on social media. The county has since released a statement on its Facebook page pledging to address the situation “to ensure it does not happen again.” The statement specifies that the assignment is “created by the teacher” and that the school district “does not condone any educational material that denigrates our students, families, culture, or beliefs.”
Superintendent Dr. Darren Brown-Hall read the same statement during the school board meeting Tuesday evening. It is not clear what specific disciplinary action, if any, was taken against the teacher.
Speaking to Buffalo News, parents Alison Winick and Marcelo Florencio said their daughter received homework in mid-December. Their daughter was “upset,” and Wainick, who was born in Columbia, said she was “stunned and unable to speak.”
In an email to the news outlet, Florencio said he was “extremely frustrated” that such “disgusting and inexcusable language” was part of the classroom learning experience, adding, “I think it has no place in school or in our children’s lives.” He said the mission showed a “blatant lack of racial sensitivity and prejudice”.
Overall, this mission is an unfortunate example of how (unfortunately) we often see microaggressions, underlying racism, and xenophobia as normal. The juxtaposition of Americans as “beautiful” and Mexicans “ugly” immediately harkens back to European ideals of beauty through whiteness. It also suggests that all Americans look one way and all Mexicans look the other way, which is objectively incorrect.
This type of framing is exactly what can be highly detrimental to young people, even if it is well-intentioned or not thought of at all. Young people of color are inundated mainly with media portrayals of Eurocentric and Eurocentric beauty standards, as well as anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican rhetoric. (Thanks, Trump.)
Unfortunately, there are plenty of similar examples when it comes to our school system that perpetuates structural racism and prejudice. Here are a few of the ones we’ve covered here at Daily Kos: An assignment at a middle school in Ohio once asked students to rank people based on demographics such as sexual orientation and faith. A Texas charter school asked students to describe the “positive” aspects of life as a bonded person. Similarly, a teacher in Wisconsin asked students to describe how they “punished” enslaved people. In Texas, 90 high school students received a nagging question about their homework about rape.
What can be done about it? It is clear that large-scale structural racism cannot be eliminated in one day, but we need to keep trying. educate people and hold people accountable Because their words and actions are paramount in changing cultural norms and what is “acceptable” in and out of the classroom. Our youth (and frankly, everyone else) deserve so much better, and it’s up to all of us to fight for the right side of justice and fairness.
You can catch a clip from the school board meeting below.