The Washington Post used U.S. census data from 1990, 2000, 2010, and latest estimates from the 2016 five year American Community Survey to put together an interactive map to explore how racial demographics in American cities and suburbs have changed over the past 3 decades. The map shows that though America is more racially diverse than ever, we are still very segregated. You can enter your zip code to see what the racial demographics look like in your neighborhood.
When is the right time to engage students on racial identity and segregation? The Fieldston school, a diverse private school in NYC, separated students into 'affinity groups' based on racial identity, and the experiment provides bold testimony to how uncomfortable it can be to start young, and how that the long-term benefit may be great. Does bringing it up so young undo the ethos of equality, or does it move us closer towards equity?
Most kids don't form a sense of racial identity until around age 7. By age 9, most kids still think of race in literal terms without value judgement (e.g. food, language, skin color). While cross-racial friendships flourish in elementary school, "Beginning in middle school, they define themselves through membership in groups, or cliques, learning and performing the fraught social codes that govern adult interactions around race." We know it's a life-long development, and in Oakland, we are so grateful to have the Mosaic Project working with 4th and 5th graders—and now we are excited and honored to be working with middle schoolers to stop these cycles of segregation right when it starts to happen. Let's go!
While it may be surprising to some that only 49% of those surveyed think racism is a big problem in America, the trend is critical. This video and slideshow reviews many of the major events in the past year, from Freddie Gray's death, to the mass shooting at African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, to the University of Oklahoma fraternity's heinous chant, and to President Obama saying the N-word on radio to make the point that racism is still a problem in American society. It reminded us that while publicity of certain events may cause spikes in popular opinions about racism, America has persistently struggled with racism over time. With a loud national conversation on racism, it's time to build towards a more equitable future.
In July, This American Life published a two-part series on the one thing no one talks about in public education—integration. The first episode covers the story of a school district in Normandy, Missouri (where Michael Brown attended a high school) that accidentally stumbled on an integration program, and the backlash it caused. The second episode focuses on a bold experiment for integration in Hartford, Connecticut where the district achieved diverse schools by focusing on the benefits of Magnet Schools and barely mentioning diversity at all.
We found the series incredibly inspiring. If you're thinking about coming to Camp Common Ground, we highly encourage you to listen.