race relations

ISU Reflects on King's Impact

Grace Barbic

Daily Vidette


Nothing compares to checking the calendar and realizing a three-day weekend is approaching. It is one extra day to sleep in, put off homework and avoid responsibilities before snapping back to reality and starting another busy week full of school and work.

Monday is a national holiday honoring not only the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., but everything that he stood for. It is a day dedicated to promoting the equality of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, culture or background, yet people fail to acknowledge that this day is actually dedicated to his service. 

Although that idea is what this day was intended to represent, it was not always seen that way. In fact, it was not until 2000 that all 50 states began to officially observe the third Monday in January as “Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” 

Shortly after King’s death, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. A few days after that, a bill was introduced to make MLK’s birthday a national holiday. It took 15 years for the bill to be signed into a law. Many believe this was because of the hatred and racism that plagues our country. 

This day is not only national holiday, but it is the only national holiday that is observed as a national day of service. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems and move us closer to King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.” 

For some, it may just be another day off of work, but for Illinois State’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, it is a day on. Graduate assistant for community service projects Paige Buschman thinks that this day is an opportunity for America to show that leadership and change can come in the form of something other than political action in the Senate and Congress, it can come from everyday people. 

“MLK was not particularly different than any one of us. I think he was just compelled to do something because he saw hate and injustice in the world and I think that’s just something everyone can learn from. The fact that we have a day off to, I think, reflect on that is so important,” Buschman said. 

She believes that this should be a day of learning and reflecting on how to move forward around issues of injustice in our country and that everyone should be thinking about non-violence, political action and engagement and civic engagement.

“That is very much at the core of what we do here at the center, but I think it’s something that everyone can benefit from,” Buschman continued. 

This year the center will be honoring this day of service by sorting through donations to find items to be sold at Home Sweet Home Ministries’ thrift store, Mission Mart. Home Sweet Home Ministries is a local, non-profit organization that provides shelter, rehousing and food services, among other things, to those in need in the Bloomington-Normal community. 

Along with their service, those involved will be reflecting on the nature of their work because of the importance of this day. There will also be a presentation to connect to MLK’s mission. The center’s major objective is always to help students understand how to make a change through service. 

The Office of the President, University Housing, the student chapter of the NAACP and the Association of Residence Halls will host a cultural dinner on Jan. 25 honoring MLK and featuring Michael Eric Dyson. Assistant Director of Media Relations Rachel Hatch believes that this event blends very well with the idea of celebrating cultures that are part of the university experience.

What better way to celebrate a man who was dedicated to his community and sacrificed his ability to make a profit than to give back to the community and offer service? Buschman also believes that in order to see social change, society needs to recognize that it is going to be through volunteerism, the giving of time and commitment to something that is not just about one’s job.

“Services benefit everybody. It benefits people in the community and you as a person. I think that was at the center of MLK’s mission as well. I think that is partially why it was changed to a day of service rather than just being a day off where people don’t come into work and don’t think more about it. The idea is you should be taking this time to do something that you might not otherwise be able to do,” Buschman said.

Although having a day off can be enticing, it is important to remember the sacrifice and struggle that MLK and millions of others faced to make a change. Instead of using this holiday as a day to relax and unwind, one may consider the significance of it and how everyone can play a part in making a difference by offering something that many people take for granted: time.

“I think that Martin Luther King’s ideals are really basic to the core values at ISU. The ideas of respect, diversity, inclusion, collaboration, these are all things that Dr. King pushed for. His life embodies that drive for civil rights and I think that it fits very well with ISU to celebrate that,” Hatch said.

Book, Address Relate ISU Prof's Journey From Fields to Scholarship


The life of Illinois State University’s Professor Mildred Pratt was a fascinating one, leading from the rural cotton fields of Texas to the hallowed halls of academia.

Pratt’s daughter, Menah Pratt-Clarke, chronicles her incredible path in a new book, A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor: Lessons about Race, Class, and Gender in America. Pratt-Clarke will visit Illinois State and give a talk on the book Thursday, March 29, in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center.

There will be a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by the book talk and signing from 6:30-8 p.m. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Mildred Pratt Student Assistance Fund at Illinois State.

Sponsored by Illinois State’s African-American Studies program and School of Social Work, the event is free and open to the public.

Raised by her mother as one of eight siblings in rural east Texas during the Great Depression, Pratt became a college professor when less than one percent of full professors were black women. Pratt-Clark’s book explores her mother’s journey through Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Los Angeles, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Illinois. Teaching at Illinois State for decades, Pratt is credited with first suggesting a child care center at the University in 1970. “Her inspirational story from the outhouse to the White House, lifting others as she climbed, provides an insightful look at issues of race, class, and gender in America,” said Pratt-Clarke.

“My hope is that this book inspires high school and college students, regardless of their race, gender, and economic status, to dream of more and to believe that more is possible,” said Pratt-Clarke, who is vice president for strategic affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, vice provost for inclusion and diversity, and a professor in the College of Education. To learn more, visit www.menahprattclarke.com.

For additional information on the speaker, contact the School of Social Work at (309) 438-3631.

Black Lives Matter Book Club To Discuss Texas-Banned Novel


A Texas school board superintendent has banned this month's selection for the Black Lives Matter in Bloomington-Normal Book Club.

"Hope that makes you more eager to read The Hate U Give and come out and discuss it with us on Monday, Jan 29, at the Bloomington Public Library at 7 p.m.," said Marie-Susanne Langille, a Heartland Community College instructor and book club coordinator. 

The young adult novel, by author Angie Thomas, spent a remarkable 38 weeks at the top of the New York Times’ best-seller list this year and is currently being made into a feature film starring Amandla Stenberg. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant, the book was released in February to massive praise, including an unprecedented eight starred reviews.

But in the city of Katy, Texas, one parent was unimpressed by Thomas’s frank portrayal of her teenage characters — and Katy Independent School District superintendent Lance Hindt appears to have flouted his district’s own policies to pull the book from shelves. The complaint dates to November 6, 2017, at a board meeting for the district; in a recording on the district website, a man who identifies himself as Anthony Downs holds a copy of The Hate U Give and says, “I did read some of the pages. I read 13 pages, and was very appalled.”

The novel follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, who moves between the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death becomes a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family.

Downs’s complaint centers on the book’s discussion of drug use and explicit language — and in the video, the school board president can be heard promising that the district’s textbook review committee would look into the situation. Had they done so, a panel of educators and administrators would have been required to read and consider the novel in its entirety before determining whether to keep it in the collection — which, it’s worth noting, already includes plenty of books that contain frank depictions of drug use (Go Ask Alice, Crank), racism (Dear Martin, All American Boys), and sexuality (Two Boys Kissing, Looking for Alaska). But some time in the intervening two weeks, Hindt reportedly made the unilateral decision to skip the review process and ban the book district-wide.

“There’s a specific policy, and it’s clear that they did not follow it, that the superintendent made a unilateral decision,” said James LaRue, director of the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). “The school board has great latitude and superintendents do as well, but skipping over your own policy is something for which they should be held accountable.”

According to LaRue, those concerns are shared by librarians in the Katy school district, 19 of whom signed a letter protesting Hindt’s decision to pull the book. But despite both internal pushback and an ongoing outcry on Twitter, where Thomas began tweeting about the ban last Thursday evening, no explanation from the superintendent’s office has been forthcoming. Hindt did not respond to multiple requests for comment, which sources within the district say has been par for the course internally as well. One employee said most teachers are “saddened” by both the censorship and the superintendent’s silent treatment.

“We feel that it’s just a missed opportunity for our students to be able to have an open discussion about something that is a reality — about something that many of our students and even our faculty face,” she said. “I bought the book on my own, and we’re trying to reach out to the superintendent just to start an open dialogue. We’re not trying to demean his decision, but start a conversation.”

It remains to be seen whether Hindt’s decision will stand in the face of both internal pressure and external challenges, including the looming possibility that it runs afoul of the First Amendment. As LaRue explained, “This has gone all the way up to the Supreme Court — you can’t remove a book just because you don’t like the perspective. And what we see in the [OIF] is that people use the excuse of vulgarity to suppress the ideas being talked about.”

In the meantime, however, the ban is still in place — at the expense of any teens who might have hoped to find Thomas’s book in any of the schools’ libraries. As of Monday morning, the libraries of all 25 of Katy Independent School District’s junior high or high schools had been stripped of their copies of The Hate U Give. And while booklovers on Twitter have mobilized to flood the area’s local public libraries with additional copies, they may not be able to keep up with demand; the waiting list for the next available copy in the Harris County Public Library system is currently ten-people deep.

Housing Inequities Still Plague Minority Communities

Judith Valente


The president of the Illinois chapter of the NAACP says that more than 50 years after the federal Fair Housing Act was enacted, African-Americans still face housing discrimination, predatory mortgage lending practices, and other obstacles to moving into racially diverse and affluent neighborhoods.


Speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas, Teresa Haley said African-Americans are more likely to be charged higher mortgage interest rates and higher fees for mortgage insurance as well as for credit checks.

"They are finding other ways to disguise discrimination," she said.

Haley was this year's keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Day Teach-In at Illinois Wesleyan University, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The teach-in began with a panel discussion of housing justice.

Home ownership for African-Americans lags about 30 percent behind that of whites, according to a 2016 Harvard University study.

Black homeowners have not rebounded as quickly as whites from the 2008-2009 mortgage crisis that led to a record number of foreclosures in minority communities, the study found.

Haley blamed the decline in black home ownership on "predatory lending, people losing their jobs, foreclosures, and people doing reverse mortgages” to supplement their income needs, only to lose their homes in the long run.

She said low-income renters also face significant challenges.

Many who receive Section 8 housing vouchers are forced to live in substandard housing while landlords inflate rental prices in order to collect more from the federal government, Haley said. The cost of rent for Section 8 housing is split between the tenant and the government.

Renters are also vulnerable, she said.

“One of the challenges renters have, especially with Section 8 (federal housing vouchers), is finding quality housing. A lot of the places they place them in aren’t worth seeing.”

According to a 2017 Illinois State University/Stevenson Center study conducted for Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal, higher community "social vulnerability" levels are often correlated with racial diversity, old age, limited transportation, low-quality housing, and population density. The study noted public transportation, housing, and health disparities based on East or Westside residence.

Further, ISU researchers found discrimination plays out in health care, housing, employment, and policing. One study participant explained, "microaggressions affect people in the workplace and [their] overall happiness." Pertaining to housing, another said, "There are issues with housing/landlords, a lot of it can be discrimination based on economic [status], color, or orientation."

GLT investigated the state of low-income rental housing in Bloomington-Normal in a September 2017 series called Landlord v. Tenant. That series found an aging, increasingly dilapidated stock of housing in both cities.

The series also chronicled instances of landlords who repeatedly failed to make urgent repairs despite repeated pleas from tenants. Bloomington and Normal have only two housing inspectors each to monitor nearly 20,000 rental units.

Haley said many low-income tenants are forced to live in housing that “isn’t well-built or well-maintained. But the landlord at the first of the month, they’re going to get their money regardless."

There are "a lot of slum landlords out there trying to get rich off the backs of poor people," she added.

Haley said renters should document problems they have with their housing that landlords won’t address.

She recommended they report these issues to their City Council representatives, their local chapter of the NAACP and even put the information out on Facebook and other social media.

She said tenants should not withhold rent to protest living conditions because landlords can immediately file for eviction.

Haley called for stricter building codes and increased rental housing inspections.

“This is a statewide and nationwide problem,” she said of housing inequality.

IWU Speaker: King Would Be Disappointed By Campus

Derek Beigh

The Pantagraph

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. might be disappointed in the Bloomington university he visited twice if he were to see it today, a faculty member said Monday.

"King visited Illinois Wesleyan (University) in 1961 and 1966, and you'd be hard-pressed not to hear about this during MLK Day. ... Why do we brag about this, as an institution?" said Nicole Brown, a visiting professor in sociology. "That doesn't make any of these institutions any less anti-black. ... This institution is not that much ideologically different than it was when Dr. King was here."

Brown, a black woman, shared her perspective on race relations and feminism during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day teach-In in recognition of the holiday honoring the civil rights leader's birthday.

The campus also was the setting for the 26th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday Gospel Festival at Presser Hall. More than a dozen groups performed music, and several performers spoke about race relations, religion and unity.

"God has blessed this program to get where it is now," said Barbara Sims-Malone, daughter of festival co-founders Corine Sims and the Rev. James Sims, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Streator, both deceased.

Yvonne Jones said the event was a celebration of their legacy and King's.

"Remember (King's) legacy of giving back," she said. "Don't forget someday to give back to others."

At the teach-in, Brown focused on a few common "white lies," including to "conflate proximity with commitment" regarding black people and other minorities.

"Academic institutions want black faces sitting in their seats, but not at their podiums. We want black feminism in our course catalogs, but not black women in our tenure lines. Detect the lie," she said. "There's no substantive investment. ... Imagine engaging institutions that actually love and appreciate black women instead of just trying to be in proximity to us."

Brown spoke to an audience of about 75 at Hansen Student Center about her "combating anti-blackness initiative" and why black people need to be encouraging but also combative about racism. Round-table discussions followed Brown's address.

She criticized the Women's March planned for Saturday on Washington, D.C., for not initially including women of color and movements like Black Lives Matter for focusing mostly on wrongs committed against men.

"Without frames that allow us to see all of a particular group ... we run the risk of misunderstanding, misremembering, misinterpreting, misdirecting," Brown said. "Black women slip through our consciousness. ... We are having a grand failure of imagination."

She said this is an especially important time for Americans to expand narrow perspectives that might keep them from processing new information.

"Dr. King once said that white people would rather destroy democracy than have equality with black people. Now look at where we find ourselves today, on the eve of this presidential inauguration," she said.

"Most white folks are still struggling to understand that their liberation is tied to combating anti-blackness and specifically anti-blackness against women and girls."

Brown added, "We can encourage each other by being honest with each other."

"As the saying goes, no one rain drop blames itself for the flood," she said. "We must let go of this idea that humanity is contingent. My humanity is not contingent on my race or gender or sex or religion or sexual orientation or ability or citizenship or size or occupation."

Brown spoke after Barbara Smith, a black feminist and activist for more than 40 years who helped originate the term "identity politics."

"I don't think being nice should ever get in the way of fighting for justice," she said in response to an audience question after her address.

The Letter: Litmus Test for '60s Clergy, Inspiration for B/N Leaders

The Letter from Birmingham Jail, also known as the Letter from Birmingham City Jail and The Negro Is Your Brother, was an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. It says that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts.


Responding to being referred to as an "outsider," King writes, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The letter, written during the 1963 Birmingham campaign became an important text for the American Civil Rights Movement. The Birmingham campaign began on April 3, with coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The nonviolent campaign was coordinated by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

On April 10, Circuit Judge W. A. Jenkins issued a blanket injunction against "parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing." Leaders of the campaign announced they would disobey the ruling. On April 12, King was roughly arrested with SCLC activist Ralph Abernathy, ACMHR and SCLC official Fred Shuttlesworth and other marchers, while thousands of African Americans dressed for Good Friday looked on.


King was met with unusually harsh conditions in the Birmingham jail. An ally smuggled in a newspaper from April 12, which contained "A Call for Unity" -- a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen against King and his methods. The letter provoked King, and he began to write a response on the newspaper itself. King writes in Why We Can't Wait: "Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly black trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me."

The letter responded to several criticisms made by the "A Call for Unity" clergymen, who agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not the streets. As a minister, King responded to these criticisms on religious grounds. As an activist challenging an entrenched social system, he argued on legal, political, and historical grounds. As an African American, he spoke of the country's oppression of black people, including himself. As an orator, he used many persuasive techniques to reach the hearts and minds of his audience. Altogether, King's letter was a powerful defense of the motivations, tactics, and goals of the Birmingham campaign and the Civil Rights Movement more generally.

King began the letter by responding to the criticism that he and his fellow activists were "outsiders" causing trouble in the streets of Birmingham. To this, King referred to his responsibility as the leader of the SCLC, which had numerous affiliated organizations throughout the South. "I was invited" by our Birmingham affiliate "because injustice is here," in what is probably the most racially divided city in the country, with its brutal police, unjust courts, and many "unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches." Referring to his belief that all communities and states were interrelated, King wrote, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."

King also warned that if white people successfully rejected his nonviolent activists as rabble-rousing outside agitators, this could encourage millions of African Americans to "seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare."

The clergymen also disapproved of tensions created by public actions such as sit-ins and marches. To this, King confirmed that he and his fellow demonstrators were indeed using nonviolent direct action in order to create "constructive" tension. This tension was intended to compel meaningful negotiation with the white power structure, without which true civil rights could never be achieved. Citing previous failed negotiations, King wrote that the black community was left with "no alternative." "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."

The clergymen also disapproved of the timing of public actions. In response, King said that recent decisions by the SCLC to delay its efforts for tactical reasons showed they were behaving responsibly. He also referred to the broader scope of history, when "'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'" Declaring that African Americans had waited for these God-given and constitutional rights long enough, King quoted Chief Justice Earl Warren, who said in 1958 that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." Listing numerous ongoing injustices toward black people, including himself, King said, "Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, 'Wait.'"

Along similar lines, King also lamented the "myth concerning time," by which white moderates assumed that progress toward equal rights was inevitable, so assertive activism was unnecessary. King called it a "tragic misconception of time" to assume that its mere passage "will inevitably cure all ills." Progress takes time as well as the "tireless efforts" of dedicated people of good will.

Against the clergymen's assertion that demonstrations could be illegal, King argued that not only was civil disobedience justified in the face of unjust laws, but it was necessary and even patriotic. "I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

King stated that an unjust law was a law that degraded a human personality. Citing Augustine of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Buber, and Paul Tillich—and examples from the past and present—King described what makes laws just or unjust. For example, "A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law." Alabama has used "all sorts of devious methods" to deny its black citizens their right to vote and thus preserve its unjust laws and broader system of white supremacy. Segregation laws are immoral and unjust "because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority." Even some just laws, such as permit requirements for public marches, are unjust when used to uphold an unjust system.


King addressed the accusation that the Civil Rights Movement was "extreme," first disputing the label but then accepting it. Compared to other movements at the time, King finds himself as a moderate. However, in his devotion to his cause, King refers to himself as an extremist. Jesus and other great reformers were extremists: "So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?" King's discussion of extremism implicitly responded to numerous "moderate" objections to the ongoing movement, such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower's claim that he could not meet with civil rights leaders because doing so would require him to meet with the Ku Klux Klan.

King expressed general frustration with both white moderates and certain "opposing forces in the Negro community." He wrote that white moderates, including clergymen, posed a challenge comparable to that of white supremacists, in the sense that, "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection." King asserted that the white church needed to take a principled stand or risk being "dismissed as an irrelevant social club." Regarding the black community, King wrote that we need not follow "the 'do-nothingism' of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist."

In closing the letter, King criticized the clergy's praise of the Birmingham police for maintaining order nonviolently. Recent public displays of nonviolence by the police were in stark contrast to their typical treatment of black people, and, as public relations, helped "to preserve the evil system of segregation." Not only is it wrong to use immoral means to achieve moral ends, but also "to use moral means to preserve immoral ends." Instead of the police, King praised the nonviolent demonstrators in Birmingham, "for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes."

King wrote the letter on the margins of a newspaper, which was the only paper available to him, and then gave bits and pieces of the letter to his lawyers to take back to movement headquarters, where the pastor Wyatt Tee Walker and his secretary Willie Pearl Mackey began compiling and editing the literary jigsaw puzzle.

An editor at The New York Times Magazine, Harvey Shapiro, asked King to write his letter for publication in the magazine, but the Times chose not to publish it. Extensive excerpts from the letter were published, without King's consent, on May 19, 1963, in the New York Post Sunday Magazine. The letter was first published as "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in the June 1963 issue of Liberation, the June 12, 1963, edition of The Christian Century, and in the June 24, 1963, issue of The New Leader. The letter gained more popularity as summer went on, and was reprinted in the July Atlantic Monthly as "The Negro Is Your Brother." King included a version of the full text in his 1964 book Why We Can't Wait.

Art: Norms for An Inclusive Workspace

As a veteran of the corporate workspace who worked to make it more diverse and understanding, retired State Farmer Art Taylor is now bringing what he calls his "norms for inclusive workspace" to the community dialogue.

One of his cardinal principles is to "accept others' perspectives as TRUE for them," even if they do not jibe with their own past experiences or views. That's important in comprehending the challenges and pain of racial, cultural, or religious bigotry and expanding dialogue aimed at reconciling differences.

That lesson came home to Taylor when as a teen he was forced to leave a Chicago college prep school for a Jackson, Ky., high school where a counselor argued that he, like other locally raised black students, should focus on ag classes. The young Chicagoan, who'd "never stepped foot on a farm," learned at that point how to deal with "someone trying NOT to understand."

"If people come in with an open mind, your experience can be accepted as truth," Taylor suggests. "Please recognize that someone else's reality is truth for them."

Taylor will help moderate a panel discussion on race and related issues following Normal First United Methodist Church's 7 p.m. Sept. 26 screening of Against All Odds, a documentary about the struggles of middle class blacks. The event is free and open to the public.

Taylor's offers several other norms to promote constructive social discussion:

* Use “ I rather than attempting to speak for the group -- “Speak for yourself," from your own experience. "Only YOU can tell your story," Taylor stresses.

* Be responsible for your own learning.

* Challenge yourself to be Inclusive.

* Take ownership for your learning and be honest with yourself.

* Be open to new realities.

* LISTEN, and be open to perspectives from others.

* Build trust.

* Say what needs to be said in the moment.

* Honor confidentiality.

* Give "grace" to yourself and others. In other words, Taylor says, respect a speaker's level of education, background, or other differences as they tell their truth.

* Focus on self-Improvement, not perfection.

* Make space for others to share and be who they are while withholding judgment.

* Work toward shared success.


The Citiesscape Pt. 3: Normal Traffic Stop Data Shows Major Racial 'Inequities'

Data on traffic stops in eight Central Illinois cities show significant “inequities” in police treatment of motorists of different races and ethnic origins, according to Illinois State University’s “A Community Report on Intolerance, Segregation, Accessibility, Inclusion, Progress, and Improvement.”

The new report, requested by Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal, notes blacks are stopped more often and arrested more often than their share of the Bloomington-Normal population would suggest. Vehicles driven by blacks are searched more often, and yet drugs are more often found in vehicles of white drivers.

In their study of race and the local criminal justice system, the ISU team focused on disparities in traffic stops and incarceration in the McLean County Jail.  Normal had 19,637 traffic stops out of 72,836 for all eight cities examined. That was 27 percent of all documented stops in the Twin Cities, Champaign, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, and Urbana.

Using 2015 Illinois Traffic Stop Data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, students investigated whether disparities in this portion of the criminal justice system exist, specifically for Bloomington-Normal.  Normal police stop vehicles at a far higher rate than police in Springfield or Peoria – ISU student researchers stated “the pattern is quite stark.” Without taking into account severity of charge, blacks who are arrested spend more time in the jail.

traffic stop chart.jpg

“We find that vehicles with black drivers are far more likely to be searched, compared to those with white or Hispanic drivers,” researchers concluded. “This is true in Bloomington, Normal, and the six other cities; however, Normal has a much smaller portion of vehicles searched relative to their large number of stops.

“Though searched more often, vehicles driven by blacks are less likely to have drugs or drug paraphernalia. We find that blacks spend more time in the jail than whites or Hispanic individuals. We also find that men spend more time in the jail than women, regardless of whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor.”

The second highest number of traffic stops occurred in Springfield at 15,910. Bloomington Police Department recorded the third highest number, with 9,740 stops. The remaining cities in order from most to least stops are Rockford with 7,095, Champaign with 7,029; Decatur with 4,982; Peoria with 4,784; and Urbana, with 3,659. When Bloomington and Normal are combined, they accounted for 40 percent of all stops in the eight cities.

Since 1999, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice) periodically has conducted the Police-Public Contact Survey to determine the nature of this contact and discrepancies in race, gender, citations, use of force, etc.  The Bureau distributes surveys to people aged 16 and older, and asks them to describe their most recent contact with law enforcement within the past 12 months.

The Bureau noted a nationwide decline from 2002-2008 in the total number of persons who had contact with police. However, for those who had contact with law enforcement there were still discrepancies between whites, blacks, and Latinos. The number of Latinos drivers stopped by police between 2002 and 2008 increased 28 percent, although there was no difference for white and black drivers during the same period.

 In 2008, blacks were more likely to have contact with law enforcement than whites, asians, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders. The survey also inquires whether those stopped by law enforcement felt the police behaved appropriately: Blacks and Latinos were less likely than whites to feel this was true. Similarly, black drivers were less likely to feel there was a legitimate reason for police stopping them.

Blacks were significantly more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than Latino and white drivers, and police arrested blacks at a higher rate than whites during traffic stops. Although no comparison was made in relation to the percentage of searches that resulted in finding anything illegal, only one out of five people searched felt police had a legitimate reason to do so, across racial lines.

The Bureau also analyzed the use of force during traffic stops. Although in 2002 and 2005, whites were less likely than blacks and Latinos to experience the threat of force, the 2008 study indicated that only blacks were more likely to experience force. In addition to experiencing more frequent traffic stops, blacks also experienced more frisks and searches.

Racial disparity was found to be greater in frisks than in general searches; racial disparity frisks are contingent on a community’s racial composition, and a driver’s race does not correlate with the productivity of searches.

“Racial profiling in law enforcement is a problem due to racial stereotypes, reflecting the ‘legitimizing myths’ that perpetuate social dominance and hierarchies,” the ISU team stated. “. . . Officers were more likely to stop someone depending on location (i.e., if a black was in a predominately white area, or if a white person was in a predominately black area).”

After standardizing stop data for population size, the degree to which Normal ranked highest in traffic stops -- after accounting for population size, Normal’s frequency of stops is more than twice that of the other seven cities.

In Bloomington, Latinos are disproportionately more likely to be stopped, where in Normal, Latinos are disproportionately less likely to be stopped, given their share of the population.

It is uncommon for officers to request searches from motorists in Bloomington or Normal, and the likelihood of such requests does not seem vary by race or ethnicity. Of requests for searches, though, blacks drivers are far more likely to decline the request. In the end, however, black drivers are most likely to have a search conducted.

In Bloomington, white drivers had a 5.6 percent chance of a search being conducted, Latino drivers had a 8.6 percent chance, and black drivers had a 13.0 percent chance of a search. A similar pattern emerged in Normal: White drivers had a 1.0 percent chance of having a search conducted, Latino drivers a 2.2 percent chance, and blacks had a 3.4 percent chance of having a search conducted.

For all eight cities combined, white drivers had a 4.2 percent chance of being searched, Latino drivers a 6.1 percent chance, and black drivers had a 12.4 percent of being searched.

“Although there is a higher chance of being pulled over in Normal, there is greater likelihood of being searched in Bloomington,” ISU researchers reported.

In Bloomington, while white drivers had the lowest chance of their car being searched, they had the highest percent of being found in possession of drugs. In Normal, black drivers had the highest percent of being found in possession of drugs, followed by white drivers. Latino drivers showed the lowest percentage of drug possession in either city.

In both Bloomington and Normal, students found white drivers to have the highest percentage of drug paraphernalia possession, followed by black drivers, again, despite the higher rate of searches on vehicles driven by blacks.

ISU Study: Problems Persist in B/N, 'Less' Today With NIOTBN Help

This is Part 1 of a multi-part examination of Bloomington/Normal's challenges and successes in bridging social, economic, racial, and cultural concerns.

ISU's Frank Beck reviews conclusions of student researchers during a NIOTBN Steering Committee review of the study at Moses Montefiore Temple.

ISU's Frank Beck reviews conclusions of student researchers during a NIOTBN Steering Committee review of the study at Moses Montefiore Temple.

Key problems persist in the Twin Cities, according to a study by ISU students with the Stevenson Center for Economic and Community Development. But significant progress is being made, in part through efforts by NIOTBN and other local groups, "A Community Report on Intolerance, Segregation, Accessibility, Inclusion, Progress, and Improvement" concludes.

The Not In Our Town chapter in Bloomington-Normal recently asked two classes of students at Illinois State University to document intolerance, discrimination, segregation, disparities of access, and disparities in the criminal justice system in the twin cities. In this report, using archival material, secondary data, and primary data, the students examine these issues from the mid-1990s to the present. Not In Our Town also wanted to understand their position in the community and some strategies for future success, through an analysis of other organizations in the country similar to Not In Our Town.

The conclusion: “Bloomington-Normal was and is intolerant; discrimination did and does take place in this community; we are segregated. The community is also less of these things than it used to be and is less of these things than other places — thanks in part to the efforts of Not In Our Town.”

Interviews and focus groups document difficulties, progress, and hope for the future among community leaders, social service agencies, elected bodies, advocates, and law enforcement. Residents discuss systemic issues and the role of Not In Our Town in addressing them. Residents shared experiences of discrimination and intolerance from police, employers, and other community members. Some of the quotes drawn from the conversations “are powerful and are evidence of work yet to be done,” the study stressed.

Discrimination by law enforcement and a lack of access to quality food, health care, and employment are highlighted. Persons promoting racial equality, LGBTQ advocates, and residents provide ideas for future balance.

For example, data on traffic stops in eight Central Illinois cities and from the McLean County Detention Facility show inequities. Blacks are stopped more often and arrested more often than their share of the Bloomington-Normal population would predict. Vehicles driven by blacks are searched more often, yet drugs are more often found in vehicles of White drivers. Normal police stop vehicles at a far higher rate than police in the larger cities of Springfield or Peoria; the pattern is "quite stark." Without taking into account severity of charge, blacks that are arrested spend more time in the jail.

Bloomington-Normal is segregated, but far less than other Central Illinois communities, the students found. The index of dissimilarity for Bloomington-Normal shows that approximately 40 percent of black households need to change their residence in order to integrate each neighborhood to the same extent, across both cities. Since at least 1980, this number declined for Bloomington-Normal. Champaign, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, and Urbana experienced declines in their segregation too, but their values are still higher than Bloomington-Normal. We find that Springfield is the most segregated of these cities; the interaction index also shows Springfield to be the community where blackss are least likely to interact with a White person and vice versa.

One team of students mapped diversity in Bloomington-Normal against locations of health care facilities, tobacco and liquor stores, groceries with fresh produce, predatory lending establishments, banks, schools, and transit routes. There are disparities in access to these community attributes and the disparities differ by diversity of the neighborhood. In all, West Bloomington suffers from a lack of access to health care and fresh produce. Diverse neighborhoods have more access to fast food and convenient stores than they do quality grocers. Transit routes connect patrons to health care offices/facilities, banking, schools/community college, etc., but the costs in time are high. Predatory lending establishments are located on the community’s main routes, but proximate to economically disadvantaged populations.

The work of seven aspirational organizations from across the country is presented in the report. Based on the strengths of Not In Our Town, the Best Practices group identify characteristics of these model organizations that can further the local chapter’s efforts. From bylaws to organizational structure and activities, recommendations are made to increase participation, capacity, and credibility. Therefore, this project can help Not In Our Town identify its next steps.

“As community developers know, there is much to learn when we speak to one another about the state of affairs in our communities; not only can we better understand the situations our neighbors are experiencing, we can gather in collective action to work toward improvement and progress,” the study concludes. “This is the essence of Not In Our Town’s work and dedication.”

IWU's 'Half Life of Freedom' To Explore Racism

Award-winning author Jelani Cobb will speak at Illinois Wesleyan University's President's Convocation on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 11 a.m. in Westbrook Auditorium, Presser Hall (1210 N. Park St., Bloomington).

His remarks, "The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today," will be presented in connection with the University's Summer Reading Program selection, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In keeping with Illinois Wesleyan's annual intellectual theme, The Evolution of Revolution, Coates' book calls for a revolution of thought around the social construct of race.

Both men attended Howard University, where they began a continuing friendship and shared discourse on the complexity of race.  

Cobb is the Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has received Fellowships from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations.  

As a staff writer at The New Yorker, Cobb has penned articles about race, culture, the police and injustice. In 2015, he received the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism for his columns on police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and similar happenings. His investigative series Policing the Police, which aired on PBS Frontline in 2016, won the 2017 Walter Bernstein Award from the Writer’s Guild of America. 

His books include Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress;  an insider's exploration of hip hop titled To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic;  and The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays. His forthcoming book is Antidote to Revolution: African American Anticommunism and the Struggle for Civil Rights, 1931.

"I write because a different world is possible—we must always remember that," Cobb has said of his work.

The President’s Convocation traditionally opens the academic year at Illinois Wesleyan. The event is free and open to the public.

Normal Manager Sees Mainly Subconscious Racism in Police Department

Howard Packowitz


The Normal Police Department is considered “ground zero” for eliminating racial bias in the town.

City Manager Mark Peterson said racism exists in all parts of the community, including the police department, even though he believes it mainly exists on a subconscious level.

Peterson made his remarks Monday night as a group of community leaders examining police and race relations submitted a report to the Normal Town Council.

“I see no evidence of conscious racism in the Normal Police Department, however, I’m also not so naive to state emphatically that conscious racism absolutely does not exist,” said Peterson.

Committee member Dontae Latson credited Peterson for motivating the group at its first meeting in January by acknowledging racism is a problem.

“And, we all about lost it because having been in this field for over 20-years, people don’t want to acknowledge the ugliness, right? And it’s my opinion that’s a part of what keeps us stuck where we are because youo can’t improve upon something you don’t want to acknowledge,” said Latson.

The committee’s work was done in private, but members are ready for public input, and they recommend the town council form a Community Policing Culture Board.

Its responsibilities have yet to be determined, but Latson said a big difference from Bloomington’s new civilian advisory board is that Normal’s police chief is actively participating in the discussions. Bloomington’s chief was opposed to creating a civilian board.


Whose Streets? Recounts Ferguson, Reverberates Amid Charlottesville

The tragedy and aftermath of the August 2014 police shooting of Ferguson, Mo., resident Michael Brown reverberated again through the American psyche last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., as a march by white supremacists ended in the vehicular homicide of Heather Heyer.

Whose Streets?, a provocative film about Ferguson, MO, coming to the Normal Theater August 25, 27, 31, and Sept. 2, co-sponsored with Not In Our Town.: Bloomington-Normal. A public discussion will accompany the film, with opportunity for interactive input. Captioning options should be provided for the hearing-impaired.

Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis. Grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy.

Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together as freedom fighters. As the national guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new resistance.

Whose Streets?, by filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, is "a powerful battle cry from a generation fighting, not for their civil rights, but for the right to live." McLean County YWCA director and NIOTBN ally Dontae Latson, a former grad student in the Baltimore area, noted "the pain and frustration in neglected or over-policed communities and how it is unfairly labeled as 'rioting and looting.'"

"If you live in these communities, you don't 'own' anything," Latson added, citing the suspicion and tensions that can develop between residents and retail businesses owned by interests from outside the community.

The Bookshelf: New Library Selections Address Modern Challenges, Historical Context

As local youth return to school, it may be the right time for a little adult homework, as well. The Normal Public Library's latest acquisitions offer a global perspective on the swirling issues that are shaping our society and the historical forces that have shaped our attitudes.

Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics reveals how the battle between feminists and their conservative challengers divided the nation as Democrats continued to support women's rights and Republicans cast themselves as the party of family values. Meanwhile, The Glass Universe offers a prequel of sorts to Hidden Figures' story of Space Age racial and feminist empowerment. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women's colleges — Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates.

Immigration has become a focal point for U.S. debate, community division, and growing alarm. In Latino Heartland, Sujey Vega addresses the politics of immigration, showing us how increasingly diverse towns can work toward embracing their complexity by focusing on one Hoosier community's experience. The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America tells the story of 18-year-old high school senior Isaias Ramos, who plays in a punk rock group called Los Psychosis and is so bright that when his school’s quiz bowl goes on local TV, he acts as captain. School counselors want him to apply to Harvard. But Isaias isn’t so sure. He's thinking about going to work painting houses with his parents, who crossed the Arizona desert illegally from Mexico.

The horrors and triumphs of America's racial history come alive in a trio of new non-fiction selections. Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America revisits Forsyth County, Georgia, which at the turn of the twentieth century was home to a large African-American community that included ministers and teachers, farmers and field hands, tradesmen, servants, and children. Many black residents were poor sharecroppers, but others owned their own farms and the land on which they’d founded the county’s thriving black churches. Then, in September 1912, three young black laborers were accused of raping and murdering a white girl. One man was dragged from a jail cell and lynched on the town square, two teenagers were hung after a one-day trial, and soon bands of white “night riders” launched a coordinated campaign of arson and terror, driving all 1,098 black citizens out of the county. He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty offers another harrowing narrative: In 1957, Washington, a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the "lightning" of the electric chair. Finally, The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution, focuses on the faces of protest and activism 50 years before Black Lives Matter became a cause. The book offers a reappraisal of the Panthers' history and legacy through portraits and interviews with surviving Panthers as well as illuminating essays by leading scholars.

The Thunder Before the Storm: The Autobiography of Clyde Bellecourt examines another aspect of American racism and social justice, through the eyes of the co-founder of the American Indian Movement. 

The LGBTQ community continues as well to wage its battle for equality, respect, and recognition. 2Brides 2Be: A Same-Sex Guide for the Modern Bride is designed to help couples navigate the world of lesbian wedding planning with humor and advice from wedding professional on everything from the logistics of walking down the aisle to wording the invites. Born Both: An Intersex Life covers more somber ground -- the turbulent but ultimately triumphant life of Hida Viloria, who was raised as a girl but discovered at a young age that her body "looked different." She felt "scared and alone, especially given my attraction to girls," until at 26, she began to connect with the intersex community.

Women's and Gender Studies Symposium Friday at ISU

The Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium will highlight the student research by WGS minors, Queer Studies students, and other students in the Illinois State University campus community. This year the keynote speaker will be Mariana Ortega.

The annual symposium, now in its 22nd year, will be held between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 14, in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University.

The symposium showcases the scholarship being done by students at Illinois State University and neighboring institutions. The event is free and open to the public. The symposium, much like

Women’s and Gender Studies discipline, is committed to a transformative analysis of gender as it intersects with class/caste, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, age, coloniality, and transnationality.

Ortega will give the  symposium keynote address “Bodies of Color, Bodies of Sorrow, and Resistant Melancholia” at 1 p.m. Ortega is a professor of philosophy at John Carroll University, who works on Latina feminisms. Her most recent book is In-Between: Latina Feminist Phenomenology, Multiplicity, and the Self (2016). Ortega studies questions of self and sociality, identity, and visual representations of race. She will be on campus interacting with Visual Culture students and members of the WGS community during her visit.

The WGS scholarships will be presented at the symposium. This is the inaugural year for the Rhonda Nicol Memorial Book Award. Nicol taught WGS courses in the English department for over ten years. She passed away suddenly last year. The book awards will be presented for the outstanding graduate and undergraduate papers.

The symposium is sponsored by the Alice and Fannie Fell Trust, History Department, Philosophy Department, MECCPAC: A Dean of Students Diversity Initiative, Office of the President, Harold K. Sage Foundation, the Illinois State University Foundation, College of Arts and Sciences, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program.

Latson, Jani To Be Honored at Leadership Graduation

McLean County's Multicultural Leadership Program will honor Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal leader and McLean County YWCA Director Dontae Latson at MCLP's April 22 Class of 2017 Graduation Celebration.

Jani and Latson

Jani and Latson

The Graduation Celebration is an event that recognizes the hard work of service-oriented local citizens. Latson will be awarded the MCLP's Community Service Award for a Local Community Leader, while Tejas Jani will receive the Community Service Alumni Award. Jani is State Farm android test lead and a 2014 MCLP grad.

Kira Hudson Banks

Kira Hudson Banks

Speaker for the graduation is Kira Hudson Banks, Associate Professor of Psychology at Saint Louis University and racial equity consultant for the “Forward through Ferguson” Ferguson Commission. The Edwardsville native will address diversity and inclusion; her work has been published in journals such as Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology and American Psychologist.

Banks argues inclusivity "requires the vulnerability to have an acknowledgement and a humility to realize that we all have biases.”

Reservations for the celebration are available through Thursday. Visit http://public.bn-mclp.org/even…/graduation-celebration-2017/ for information.

I Am Not Your Negro Completes Baldwin's Vision

The documentary I Am Not Your Negro is scheduled at 7 p.m. Feb 28, March 2, and March 5 at the Normal Theater, and at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the AMC Starplex in Normal.

In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends — Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.

At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript.

Now, in his incendiary new documentary, filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material.

I Am Not Your Negro is “a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter.” It questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. And, ultimately, by confronting the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of three leaders, Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges “the very definition of what America stands for.”

'White Talk' Topic for Saturday Talk at IWU

“White Talk, Social Justice, and Ignorance,” a discussion of interracial dialogue and white evasiveness, is scheduled at 11 a.m. Saturday at Illinois Wesleyan University State Farm Hall 101.

Illinois State University’s Dr. Alison Bailey will address how she believes “white talk” – fear- or anxiety-based evasiveness regarding race -- insulates white individuals from having deep discussions about racism and social justice by expanding.

Bailey will explore Fairfield University education specialist Alice MacIntyre’s argument that such white talk persists because it has an “enduring moral payoff” for white people, and that the defensive and goodness-centering habits of white talk can be explained in terms of how vulnerable they feel in the face of our racialized fears. Bailey suggests white individuals learn to recognize white talk, and replacing it with “a discourse of vulnerability.”

Husband: Race Best Addressed When Kids are Young

As classrooms across the country become increasingly diverse, educators have mixed opinions about the best ways to address the subject of race and racism. Much of the concern centers on how old children should be when they begin learning about issues of race.

 Terry Husband, associate professor in the Illinois State University College of Education, is a strong advocate for addressing the subject of race when children are young. “I believe children as early as age 3 or 4 begin to crystallize their notions about what men do, what women do, what white people do, what black people do, what Hispanic people do, etc.,” he said. “But the question is, how do we teach young children in particular about issues of race in ways that are both developmentally appropriate for their age level as well as critical?”

Teaching young children about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks without discussing slavery and the Klu Klux Klan would be giving them an inaccurate view of history. —Terry Husband

Husband has believed that for years there has been a romanticized version of race and the fallacy is “that race isn’t something in society that is conflicting, that race isn’t something that is socially constructive, and that race doesn’t exist.” He believes this misconception is more harmful than productive, and when these young children become fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, or even eighth-graders and see the world, they are very disillusioned. “I argue that on a lot of levels, what you don’t teach is as equally instructive or powerful as what you do teach—especially as it relates to issues of diversity,” he said.

Before Husband began teaching at Illinois State University, he taught first grade at an urban school in Columbus, Ohio. He introduced his young class to racism using drama.

He developed 10 lessons on African-American history that were organized chronologically and included the beginnings of slavery, the anti-slavery and abolitionist movement, and desegregation and freedom. “From my vantage point, teaching young children about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks without discussing slavery and the Klu Klux Klan would be giving them an inaccurate view of history,” explained Husband.

During one of the lessons in his classroom, the students read and discussed select passages from Now Let Me Fly: The Story of a Slave Familyby Dolores Johnson and If You Lived Where There was Slavery in America by Anne Kamme. Husband then divided the students into two groups and asked them to imagine they were either slaves working on a cotton plantation or slave masters who forced the slaves to pick cotton.

“What becomes evident in this example is that drama provided a space within the lesson where students began to move from superficial notions of race to a better understanding of the competing interests between the slaves and slave masters during this period of time in history,” said Husband.  He felt this lesson helped his students to better empathize with the emotions associated with racial injustice.

Husband noted some very significant findings from the study. Students moved beyond the notion of race and began to think of it outside the idea of politics and as something more rooted in society. “There is so much attached to race—it’s socially constructed and it’s historically constructed,” said Husband. “It’s not just I’m black, you’re white, but with race there is this awareness of the historical nuances or baggage that come along with it.”

Husband noted that ideas of racism are deeply subjective, vary from person to person, and are not necessarily based on one’s race. “During the lesson on the abolitionist movement, the students began to wrestle with the idea that some whites worked toward helping slaves achieve freedom while some slaves refused to escape from the plantation,” he said. “In this dramatic interaction, students began to construct and communicate notions of race as a largely complicated concept.”

Husband also discovered that race is deeply systemic. He used children’s literature books to look at some of the legislation about integration. The class read about Ruby Bridges’ experiences being the first African-American girl to integrate into the school system in New Orleans. “It was really meaningful for the children to see the pictures of Ruby walking to school being escorted by the U.S. Marshals,” said Husband. “The students were able to see racism is built into our institutions in society and if you want to counter-resist this, you have to do it at the individual and the institutional level–they both work simultaneously.”

The dramatic lessons allowed students to communicate and express an understanding of race and racism in a constructive, non-traditional way. Moving forward, Husband believes that young children need to be made aware of racism so as they get older they can build on that awareness. “The process needs to begin early so when they are in high school and college, there isn’t a large level of cultural dissonance,” he said. He also believes this awareness will help them later in life. “Eventually, when they are in a position in society to be one of the gatekeepers, then they can be sensitive to racial issues,” said Husband.

Laurie: No Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

By Laurie Bergner

WJBC Forum

It’s a rare event when laws are passed to soften instead of increase punishments, but I am happy to report a new law that requires schools to limit long-term suspensions and expulsions, as well as eliminating the use of zero-tolerance policies used to severely punish students for certain offenses. Chicago Democrat Senator Kimberly Lightford, who sponsored the legislation, said “So it becomes a school system that says, ‘what can we do to keep this student in an academic setting?’” The law requires schools to look to other options, such as counseling or involving them in after-school programs, before suspensions longer than 3 days. In addition, for longer suspensions, schools will be required to give students support services while they’re away and allow them to make up work they missed.

Zero tolerance policies grew out of the Gun-Free School Act of 1994 that followed the horrendous Columbine shootings. This act required states receiving federal funds to mandate that local school districts expel students who bring a weapon to school for a minimum of one year. States rushed to pass laws to meet the requirements, which soon were followed by schools all over the country. Zero tolerance rules mandate predetermined punishments for weapons, drugs and alcohol without regard for when the behavior or possession was done in ignorance, by accident, or under extenuating circumstances. It does not take into account of the seriousness of the behavior or the student’s history. These policies have been implemented too broadly and too often for minor incidents, such as giving an advil to a friend, or having a small pocket knives.

Contrary to popular belief, research has found that zero tolerance policies are not effective and often have unintended negative consequences. A disproportionate number of the students who are suspended are black or Hispanic, as well as students with disabilities. African American students are 4 times as likely to be suspended than white students for the same violation; students with ADHD are 3 ½ to 7 times more likely to be expelled. And following suspensions, students experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and academic failure. And school dropouts increase.

One of the school rules that I find most unfair is the one that suspends both students involved in a fight, regardless of who started it. Ask police how they deal with a bar fight: do they jail everyone? Of course not. They make every attempt to find out who started it and charge that individual, rather than the one who was defending himself or herself. So who should a school fight be any different? How is it justice to consider the defender to be as culpable as the offender? Yet that is exactly what schools have done in their zero tolerance rules.

So I welcome this new law. I am aware it is yet another unfunded mandate for schools, but nonetheless, it is an essential change from a punitive to a prevention and correction model, one that will have crucial positive effects.

Laurie Bergner is a clinical psychologist in private practice, working with individual adults, families and couples. She also works with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters, helping organize candidates forums, educational programs, and many issues in the field of law and justice. She has received many recognitions in both fields, including YWCA’s Women of Distinction in the Professions, Leaguer of the Year, LWV Special Project Awards, and the LWV of Illinois’s prestigious Carrie Chapman Catt award. Laurie has a wonderful husband and two grown children – also wonderful. She loves biking in the countryside, reading, and traveling.