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One White Male’s Perspective

By David Palmer, Science Department Head

One White Male’s Perspective

The mass murders in Atlanta need to be called what they are. They are hate crimes, but that is not enough. It angers me to hear attempts to explain the actions as a result of the killer’s struggles with addiction and feelings of failing his faith. Addiction doesn’t lead someone to go on a killing spree. It can make you desperate, but it makes the addict desperate to feed the addiction, not to kill. Hate makes you want to kill. And that young white man in Georgia killed women and killed Asians out of hate. Race and prejudice based hate crimes happen all too often in America because of our culture. This is a country dominated by white men, and as a white man, I want to say we are all far too complicit in perpetuating this patriarchy. The murderer is an extreme example, as all hate crimes are, but it is the “tip of the iceberg.” He was not a “lone wolf,” he is a product of the culture he was raised in- the same culture that I was raised in, the same culture that put a man in the White House who can be overtly degrading to women, overtly anti-Asian, and overtly blame immigrants and minorities and still have almost half of the voting population vote for him. I am not saying Donald Trump is to blame for this crime, I am saying American culture is responsible for both of them, and that culture is a white patriarchy that is racist, misogynist, and violent.

I don’t want to take away from the trauma the Asian community has experienced or the anxiety and fear that comes with being Asian in America. I just can’t help but see it in the context of a culture that allows, and promotes violence against African-Americans, violence and hatred toward immigrants, and violence and hatred toward women. And I see a common denominator in all that – white men. White men are not the target of these things, they are the perpetrators. I have heard reference to the phrase “not all men.” I refuse to use it myself, because, yes, of course, it is not all men and not all white men. But, when the culture we grow up in repeatedly delivers the messages that women are less than, minorities are less than, immigrants are less than, and to be feared, it makes them targets for the more desperate, the more angry, the more extreme members of the dominant group: white men.  

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Unraveling White Supremacy: Reflections on Becoming Anti-racist

By Dr. Heather Harwood, Classics Faculty

Unraveling White Supremacy: Reflections on Becoming Anti-racist

As Penelope, the heroine of the Odyssey, awaits her husband’s return from the Trojan war, she spends her time weaving and unweaving the same piece of fabric- a shroud intended for her father-in-law’s funeral. 

“[E]very day she wove the mighty cloth and then at night, by torchlight, she unwove it.” (2.107-108) The poet tells us that she had been doing this for three years before the dozens of suitors – local men who have been visiting her palace to ask for her  hand in marriage – discovered the trick. When they finally realize she has been deceiving them, these suitors become angry and tell her son Telemachus to force her to choose one of them right away – a crisis that begins the action of the rest of the poem’s long narrative.

Readers of the Odyssey often point to this passage as an example of Penelope’s “capacity for clever deceit and false storytelling,” evidence that she too, like her husband Odysseus, is polytrope, clever and versatile, or, as Emily Wilson newly translates this epithet, “complicated.” But as Wilson rightly points out, Penelope’s practice of doing and undoing is different from the kind of trickery for which her husband is known. While Odysseus’s lies are always designed to advance his way in the world or achieve some heroic feat, Penelope’s action is not a fabrication of the truth, but the opposite: a refabrication of her reality. With her nightly unfurling of the cloth, she is seeking to hold the sometimes violent threat of the suitors in check while simultaneously holding space for a different ending to her story, the ending she wants to come true and which will in fact be the end of the story, namely her husband’s homecoming. Penelope’s trick (if it can be considered one) both saves her life and makes it possible for the rest of the story to be sung. (Wilson, 45) 

I want to offer this story about Penelope as a starting point for my reflections on how to begin the work of becoming anti-racist for two reasons. First, many of the words currently in use to describe our relationship to racism and white supremacy (implicit, explicit, complicit) derive from words that can also be used to describe the intricate work of ancient textile production. Second, I think this story of Penelope weaving, unweaving and reweaving provides an apt metaphor for the work of becoming an anti-racist. Unraveling and untangling all of the threads of white supremist culture in your life is difficult work — ongoing, messy and often very uncomfortable. The narrative of American history is only part of the tapestry of white supremacy, which has its origins in ancient and modern European history. In what follows, I will present one way to think about how to develop a capacity for identifying, explicating and finally unraveling the threads of white supremacy. 

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Building a Social Justice Mindset: Parents as Partners Presentation

By Dr. Colleen Worrell, Directer of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning

Building a Social Justice Mindset: Parents as Partners Presentation

The following video is a recording of Dr. Worrell’s Parents as Partners presentation on building a social justice mindset.

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A Year of Fear: Reflections on the Pandemics of Covid and Racism

By Mr. Adam Jewell, History and Social Sciences Department Head

A Year of Fear: Reflections on the Pandemics of Covid and Racism

The flash and noise of sirens, the rush of adrenaline and fear, constant fear, all-around you, rushing out the door, jumping in an ambulance, and racing off to the hospital, is scary, to say the least. In the winter of 2016 and 2017 and again in 2018 this was the norm for my family, my daughter, all of one year old, growing into being a toddler spent winters suffering from RSV to the point that going to the doctor’s office, would lead to a trip to the hospital, often the ICU, NICU when she was really young. As Covid began to overtake us, first through stories and conversations with advisees from China and South Korea, and then finally here at our doorstep, these fears that seemed to have disappeared as she got older came roaring back. We shut down our campus, public schools also closed, and the thought of even interacting with others became a daily fear, a fear that brought back the days of doctor’s visits and ambulance rides and the very legitimate fear that my daughter just could not breathe.

Juxtapose that with the reality of my black and brown friends, peers and students. Look around at the overwhelming fear of violence and even death that surrounds them. These did not start with George Floyd’s murder, nor did they start with my most visible memory of police violence from my life, that being Rodney King. Indeed, as an historian, the long, destructive impact of systemic racism, lynchings and chattel slavery are chilling realities of the African American experience I spent nearly thirty years of my life researching, learning, and talking about. Those words, “I can’t breathe” etched into our collective memory by Eric Garner and the very fact that my own daughter often could not breathe represent to me personally the twin pandemics we are faced with today: systemic racism and Covid.

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Extending Community During Social Distancing: Remote Experiential Learning in Spanish

By Mr. Charlie Sellers, Spanish Faculty; Lindsay Davis, V Form; Tate Frederick, V Form; and Sydni Williams, IV Form

Extending Community During Social Distancing: Remote Experiential Learning in Spanish

Spanish is not for the classroom, and it is my hope that, after this year, all of my students will feel empowered to use their Spanish beyond St. Mark’s. 

– Mr. Charlie Sellers

During the final three weeks of Remote Learning, Spanish 4 students worked on a multi-step project called Estrechando Lazos/Making Connections. I asked students to pick a topic that in some way related to one of the units that we studied during remote learning: COVID-19 in the Spanish-Speaking World; Immigration: Assimilation and Alienation; and The Food Supply: the Migrant Farmworker in the United States. Students were asked to research the topic and find two to three relevant sources. Then, they tried to make contact with at least one person who is knowledgeable in the topic area. Students composed emails in Spanish to set up interviews using Zoom. 

Experiential Learning is a large part of what we do at St. Mark’s, and what I have learned from participating in experiential programs at our school influenced how I set up the project. I relied substantially on what I learned from last year’s Fifth Form Lion Term Leaders, Colleen Worrell and Kim Berndt: Design Thinking; making contacts outside of the school; giving students choice in choosing topics; guiding them along the way; and helping them present their most salient takeaways in a final demonstration of learning. In the final week of school, students presented a culminating project of their choice that showed what they had learned. The students’ work exceeded my expectations. 

The projects were diverse and relevant to the students’ interests. Fifth Former Sydney Williams interviewed both a family friend who is an immigration attorney and WBUR immigration reporter Shannon Dooling about the Dreamers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. For her final product, she created a collage about the Dreamers and DACA. She wrote facts that she had learned from her interviews and research in images that she cut out of monarch butterflies and two stop signs. A symbol of the Dreamers, monarch butterflies pass freely over the US/Mexico border. She also included a dream catcher behind an image of the Statue of Liberty, and she superimposed these images on top of a background of the Dream Act.

Final Project by Sydni Williams, featuring information from her interviews.
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Knock Knock, Is Anyone Even Listening? Says the Feminist

By Allison Bechard, IV Form

Knock Knock, Is Anyone Even Listening? Says the Feminist

Summary: 
Sexism, despite constantly being viewed as a thing of the past, remains a predominant issue, especially in the workplace. Undeniable strides towards equality have been taken, yet females are still oppressed, being granted fewer promotions and less money than their male counterparts.

Key Points:
1. Males and females tend to receive different and unequal treatment when it comes to applying for jobs. Even though women often meet the same criteria as males and have superior test scores, men still get employed over them.
2. Men often receive more money from the moment they start their careers, leaving women to only earn $0.79 for every $1.00 a male makes.
3. Women are judged by different standards due to common misconceptions and stereotypes placed upon them by the dominant group. Women often find themselves without a sponsor to champion their work causing their careers to stall.
4. Men are reluctant to sponsor these females as they are afraid of losing power, despite this superiority being historical. 
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