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Think. Discuss. Act. Racism

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LCA Journals

These Excerpts are from Student Journal responses to the LCA program. They tend to validate the effectiveness of this program.

9th Grade Female (Irish, English)

In this class today we watched several different clips on the Civil Rights movement and racial issues in the United States.  The clip from the movie, Glory, had a huge impact.  It was really moving to see the colonel’s change of heart, mind, and attitude.  While he knew that he still had to fulfill his duties, he was willing to step out to help the men and take a stand with them.  As a result, the regiment became unified.  I think that the leader of a group plays a large role in such unity.  The teacher in A Class Divided was one of these leaders.  When she encouraged discrimination, the class became divided and violent.  Yet when Jane Elliott portrayed discrimination, segregation, and the resulting abuse as horrible, the class followed her example and became unified. 

Another thing that struck me was a quote from one of the clips in which the person implied that southerners had it in their blood to oppress others and that they could not help it.  I was amazed that anyone could think such a thing!  Of course they could help it.  They chose to belittle the minorities and slaves.  What they did was wrong.  But it was not because of some genetic trait.  Rather, it was because of the evil ideas that were being instilled in the children in the community. . .

While I was familiar with racism and the struggles of slavery in the United States, this class had opened my eyes so that I have come to realize how great the oppression was that the African-Americans faced and still encounter today.  I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be constantly subjected to abuse and judgments.  I realize that I have been given the opportunity to make a difference by standing up for others and encouraging equal treatment in our society.  It is my goal to become a person that views and judges each individual based on who they truly are and not by the stereotypes that may be associated with them.

11th Grade Male (Cape Verdian)

I remember a time where I was forced to act in a way I’m not accustomed to acting, was coming to LCA for the first few weeks.  I didn’t know anyone, so I stayed to myself.  I’m used to being a very talkative friendly person, but I wasn’t used to the people around me, out of my environment – so I stayed quiet.  Every day I couldn’t wait to get home so I could be my normal loud self – be around all of my friends and just be comfortable.

I enjoyed the field trip because I felt as though it was a great learning experience.  I feel as though it had a great affect on me because both stops were in my hometown/city.  Going to the church [Dorchester Temple] was a very positive experience because the woman [Karin Wall] explained how the city is improving . . . I felt as though the movie [Finding Forrester] was very entertaining because it relates to me so closely.  I feel as though I’m in the same position that the main character, Jamal, is in and it was informing and motivating to see how he turned out.

9th Grade Female (Haitian, Bahamas)

[A Class Divided, Blue Eyes; Brown Eyes] I was surprised that the little kids got the exercise really fast.  But, after thinking about it I could see why.  It was because they were little and not set in their beliefs, so when the teacher told them something, they believed her.  When the little kids were the “preferred” eye color, they did better.  When they were the other eye color they felt bad and did worse in school.  I learned from this exercise that the younger you are the less set in your ways you are.  I also learned that if you are in authority you have a very important role.  You have a big influence on the people under your authority.

I observed a lot of things I had never seen or known before.  In Ethnic Notions they had black characters depicted very different than how blacks really were.  I also thought that if they displayed themselves as “happy” slaves then there would be no reason for the slave owners to let them go.  In Black Like Me (book and movie clip) it showed that it didn’t matter how qualified a black person was; they wouldn’t get good jobs just because they were blacks.  In the movie, Glory, I saw that the commanding officer had great authority over his men and he put that power to good use and stood up for his soldiers.

10th Grade Female (Native American/Cherokee, African American, Jamaican)

We watched a movie called Ethnic Notions.  It was really weird.  I’ve never seen things like that before, but I have seen movies that portray blacks in a certain way. . . portrayed black men as being lazy and that only the women did the work. . . It was sad when Mrs. Gordon told us that the only parts that black people would get were these kinds of parts.  Even today we have problems with that.  In some movies the only parts that blacks will play are thugs.  It really is annoying at times because it makes it seem to people who are new to this country, that that is how all blacks are.  This really made me think and I have to be careful that I don’t find myself falling into this character because that is how society views blacks.

We watched Finding Forrester.  It was a great movie.  I’ve already seen it with my parents and during the movie my parents and I talked about it.  My family grew up in the South.  My mother is from Mississippi and my father is from Georgia.  My father, like Jamal, went to an all white school and the only black kids there were him and his brothers.  My father said that it was difficult and he and his brother worked really hard so that could make and prove to the teachers that they weren’t dumb and could be somebody.  My mother didn’t have that problem but then again she never really talked about it.  It’s on my “to do” list when I get a chance.  Unfortunately we all have stereotypes and we do need to learn to get rid of them.  It was said so many times in the class, but it can’t be said enough.

11th Grade Male (Irish)

[response to question asking to describe a time when the student felt they had to act differently in order to fit in]  When I went to middle school at St. Joseph in Medford, it was very difficult to fit in because of my beliefs.  Everyone in my class was Catholic while I was Protestant.  It was difficult, because whenever a controversial situation came up, it seemed it was always me against the class.  The most problematic times were when the class would go to confession, and I would not partake.

The experiment with being a different culture was a new experience.  I have never thought about talking to another person about their cultural background and this experiment made me realize that it was difficult, but interesting.  Now that I have seen how interesting it can be, I will try to make it a point when I meet someone from a different cultural background.  It also taught me to get to know people deeper than their outward appearance, no matter the culture.  I realized that I don’t know too many people in this school very well, and I will try to make that different.

10th Grade Female (French-Canadian, English, Polish)

Coming out of the weekend before interim, I was on retreat with my church.  It was awesome.  When I found out that I was taking this class I was kind of mad because I hadn’t signed up for anything at all and ended up with this one.  It wasn’t one of the classes I had thought I had originally wanted to take, but coming from a retreat I realized maybe God wanted to show me something.  So I went into the class with an open heart and an open mind.  Coming out of this week I have realized that I am very quick to make pre-judgments and assumptions.  I am now trying to learn to stop and think about what kind of impact those judgments will have on my life.

I learned that in order to help decrease the amount of stereotypes I have, I must be open to hearing what everyone has to say.  Instead of talking all about me, I need to shut my mouth and really hear what other people are saying – getting to know people outside of my comfort zone. . .Unknowingly, I make racial judgments, and through this class I realized that I need to catch myself and think and pause and learn more before I commit to the judgment – reconstruct the thought positively.

9th Grade Female (Korean)

I think people felt a little uncomfortable about opening up right away.  I had a lot on my mind to say in discussion, but I felt reluctant to say it all right out . . . We realized that the race issue is one that is not only of many generations ago, but it exists still in our day-to-day lives at the present moment.  We also see that because this is a tense issue that must be solved immediately, there is a need for more eyes to see the problem and tell others about it . . . Overall it turned out to be a great class.  I came to the class with some interest in the race issue since I know a lot of people who tell me that they’ve had to deal with it, and by the class, that interest has grown to a sort of hunger for me to know more and want to help in some sort of way.  A lot of information is getting packed into me, along with people’s stories and it’s wonderful.

The LCA alumni, I forget his name [Reg Henley], but he’s a talented basketball player as well as was an intelligent and engaged student during his academic career.  He told us about his experience as an LCA student during a time where the racial discrimination/hate still hung heavy in the air all around.  It really touched me how hard he worked and didn’t lose faith . . . having to wake up so early in the morning only to return home nearly at midnight every day of the week, he never gave up hope and worked hard and took advantage of his time at LCA.

10th Grade Male (Bi-racial, Black/White, unsure of specific cultural heritage)

I was in middle school and I would always get picked on because I was so smart and how I was a Christian.  Some people were cool and others weren’t.  It depended on one person’s standards.  I had to please someone by doing something stupid or bad to be cool.  Some people were jealous because of my ability to play football, basketball, stickball and because of my speed.  Everybody wanted me to change to fit their standards.

[response to recent newspaper article on housing discrimination] All the realtors didn’t want them [blacks] in the same areas as whites because they might be trouble and they didn’t want that.  They might not have money to pay for their house.  The realtors were racist to them, because they didn’t want them to live in areas so they told them that they had no room left for them, but then whites came in, and they had much room for them.  They trusted white people even if they had no money over black people that were very rich.

9th Grade Female (Haitian)

From doing this course I have learned that all I need to do is to speak up and let my voice be heard.  I realize the problems in society and I need to stop lying to myself about the truth.  I need to become more educated on the histories and cultures of those around me as well as my own.  I am an agent of change and need to realize when I don’t speak up or don’t explain to others the situation on racism that I notice I am not helping the problem.  I’m helping it to keep going.

I have experienced racism, have friends that have experienced it, and family as well.  The thing that hurts the most is that people are still not educated on the issue or have a clue how to respond to the matter of black and white and making sure not to offend each other.  I’ve learned that the fear I have of speaking up on these issues that concern me isn’t something that should scare me.  I feel comfortable to speak my mind with my classmates and friends.

10th Grade Female (1/2 Croatian, Irish, English)

[Third Day – Field Trip/ TremontTempleBaptistChurch] I cannot get over the fact that the Church was so segregated.  Aren’t Christians supposed to know more about this than anyone?  When the Jews were having racial problems Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, did we just ignore this?  Think that it didn’t apply to us?  In my mind it was a big deal that this was the first free church, an even bigger deal that not all churches were free from the beginning. 

[Tour Along the (Black) Heritage Trail] It really hit me hard that the black soldiers fighting in the militia during the revolutionary war weren’t given freedom.  They could have fought for the British, but they put their lives on the line for America, and America turns around and says, “You helped give us freedom, but we won’t give you yours.”  Crazy.

10th Grade Male (1/4th Mexican, 1/4th Italian, Irish, French)

I thought the book, Black Like Me, was very thought-provoking.  I liked that Griffin was interested and cared enough about how the African Americans were treated to pose as an African American to see what their life was like. . .I thought it was significant that white people in the 1950’s assumed certain beliefs about the African Americans.  A black man was readily believed to be uneducated, lazy, harmful to society, and inferior to a white man. . .African Americans were treated like a “second class citizen.”  The whites got all the privileges and rights like the very best jobs, the best seats, and the best standard of living.  The African Americans received the jobs no one else wanted, the worst schools, the worst housing, and were always considered second best.  After reading this book, I realized that it is no wonder that relations between blacks and whites are sometimes difficult even today.

[A Class Divided]  By watching this film I have realized how easy it is to have a stereotype about something and not even realize it.  Everyone has stereotypes about different things. . .Young third graders were taught a lesson that they will never forget. . .In the class, friends become enemies and fight with one another because they have different eye colors. . .I think the reason white people in the 1950’s may have believed that blacks were inferior was because most people around them believed it.  They developed that mind set from a young age. . .By watching this film I would like to learn how to reduce the number of stereotypes I have against types of people as much as possible.

9th Grade Female (Irish, 1/16th Egyptian, English, French)

The movie about lynching and Emmett Till was so startling.  It is so angering that the men were found not guilty and even when they told what really happened no punishment was enforced.  The things that were allowed, and nothing done, is astonishing.  Human nature and common sense back then seems unrecognizable.  I don’t understand how people did not see the wrong in what they were doing personally or what was going on around them.  I cannot imagine seeing those things and feeling completely uncompelled to do anything to stop it. 

A man in Episode 3 of Eyes on the Prize said something that really struck me.  He tasted the “white” and “colored” water fountains and told his mom they tasted the same.  Something that I really haven’t thought about has become so clear.  This degradation was so damaging, not to the race (although it was that, it is not the part I am telling about.)  The degradation was psychological.  The physical beatings could not tear down an entire race.  The trickery and psychological deception that these people were faced with is the one reason that these people, from generation to generation, continually felt degradation and inferiority.  The Whites caused an inferiority complex to penetrate the minds of the Blacks.  Once that complex was securely planted it was hoped for that with the everyday reminders (separate water fountains, restrooms, hotels, cafes) it would be enough to keep these people “in their place.” 

The way to stop this segregation was to demolish this complex and to bring new hope.  The generation that marched and participated in these marches were doing physical rebirths but also skewed the emotional barriers.  Complexes are, I think, the worst punishment a person could be given.  No one man has the right to tell another man that they are better.  To condemn someone and destroy the emotional stability of an entire race is next to genocide.  It is to kill the insides of so many people, then to spread to the next generation as well…..”

9th Grade Female (Italian, French, English)

[Finding Forrester]  I really enjoyed the movie though I didn’t see it at first as a huge movie all about being discriminated against because he was black.  Halfway through the movie I really was focusing on Forrester and Jamal and how they both needed help, not focusing on how he was black.  Though it was kind of weird because I thought it was a common scene when it (movie) first started with a group of black guys that were playing basketball.  It is kind of one of those stereotypes that is ingrained in my head.  It was also ingrained in the teachers and most peoples head too.  They couldn’t imagine how a black kid from the ghetto could be one of the smartest kids in the school. 

At the end of the movie I started to pick up more things, how they were surprised that this black kid could be friends with William Forrester or how he could do both basketball and his hard classes.  It is even hard for me to imagine that because the black kids I’ve known are big into sports but don’t care much about their studies.  It is a horrible thing to think though because it doesn’t matter what their skin color is it just depends on the kind of person they are and how they were raised.  Though I think, I wouldn’t know, but there could be a lot of pressure on blacks, especially guys, to be the rapper, hip, basketball-athlete star, not the smart, A-student.  Just how Jamal wanted to keep his knowledge a secret from his friends.  Even though the major civil rights was over and the movements there is still certain ideas that come with being black and many stereotypes that I don’t know will ever stop.

[Agents of Change] There have been many times where I have gone past a person of a different culture and wondered if they act differently or talked or thought differently.  Though, I know that is not true.  They are just like me but I have not taken steps to get out of my comfort zone and become friends with them.  The first thing I need to do is that, step out of the boat.  Then I need not to be fearful to ask them questions, when it is the appropriate time.  I have a friend that is Japanese and I felt weird asking her a question as simple as do all Asians have only brown eyes.  I think though, I would need to have more courage to ask an African American that because I am so afraid that I might offend them.  Next I need to stand up if someone says something rude about a race and be bold.  Nothing will be accomplished if I just think about it.  I need to take action.

9th Grade Female (Haitian)

Have you ever had to change your character/personality when you were anywhere?  This is the question that is asked to us on Monday.  When we change our character or personality it is because we want to be accepted and the way we used to act wasn’t being accepted. . . When you change your personality it is very difficult because it is not who you are or who you were made to be.

Today I learned and realized that not only yourself but others have the ability to change your character or identity.  Whites in the early 1900’s had the impression that blacks were fat, stupid beings.  This was burned into the mind of every white person, so the people who had never seen a black person before pictured them to look like this.  I think that if people treat you like you’re stupid then sooner or later you’re going to give up and become stupid. . .Your character is who you are and once you have that taken away from you, what more do you have?  I feel as if when your character is being stepped on and trashed you have nothing else to do, but change who you are.  The person you become is not the person God created you to be.  That is why you look at the world to day and see people who hate their skin color, because of the weight they have to carry with it, and it is not just the blacks, but the whites.  Identity is who we are, and many of us try so hard to change it, and act like other people and don’t see that it is unique.

10th Grade Female (Trinidad & Tobago, Portuguese, Caribbean Indian)

The film, The Class Divided, really surprised me.  I could not believe that within minutes third graders could start disliking each other because of the color of their eyes.  It showed me that hate is learned – you are not born with it.  It also showed how fast hate can spread.  Third graders feeling dislike among themselves.  They felt some of the hardships racism can have on the people suppressed.  They felt this change in two days!  It was amazing after so many years they still remembered what their teacher had taught them.  The teacher taught love instead of hate.

The 54th Black Regiment monument was amazing.  It had beautiful symbolism.  It was incredible to be outside the African Meeting House.  Famous black leaders like Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman had spoken there.  It was incredible to be where famous abolitionist leaders once stood.  It was interesting and exciting to be walking on the Black Heritage Trail.

10th Grade Male (Irish, German, French)

[A Class Divided]  The teacher teaches her third grade class a valuable lesson by showing what discrimination can do to people.  The kids are able to learn the lesson because they respect the teacher.  They accept the notion that one eye color is dominant because they see her as a respected authority figure.  They are impressionable and young.  The teacher could have shaped the kids view of discrimination anyway that she wanted to.  The comments that the kids had after the experiment were interesting.  One child who was being discriminated against reached out and struck another child.  The teacher asked it if felt good and he shamefully replied that it did not. . .It was interesting that some stubborn, unhappy child did not stand up and refuse to be part of the experiment.  The experiment was so successful because it hurt kids that were being discriminated against.  They knew never to be reacist because they knew what it was like to be singles out fro some body feature they could not control.

10th Grade Female (Austrian, Scottish, German, Irish)

On Tuesday we watched a series of movie clips on stereotypes and prejudices and discrimination against blacks.  I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before.  In one of the clips the black dolls were brought up and I had never seen them before.  I was shocked and kind of upset, because the misrepresentation of black people was amazing.  The sad part is that back when these dolls were popular, people believed that that was what black people looked like.

The other thing that really struck me was the different stereotypes.  The white people would paint their faces black and supposedly act like blacks did.  Because most white people didn’t have much interaction with blacks, they bought into it.  The stereotype was that blacks were stupid and lazy.  This made me upset because I know black people and they are definitely not like that.  One of my best friends is black and she is very quick to judge and stereotype against white people and now I understand why.

10th Grade Female (Canadian, English, Portuguese)

The movie Finding Forrester had much to do with what we were learning in class.  Many stereotypes were made throughout the movie.  There were stereotypes on the neighborhood that Jamal lived in.  The white man with his BMW stereotyped Jamal in that he thought he would do something to his car and that he knew nothing about BMW’s.  Actually Jamal knew a lot more than what the white man knew. . . Because the movie is about race and interactions, the most important theme throughout the movie is the interactions between Jamal and William Forrester.  They get to know each other very well through the race barrier and through their writings.

Throughout the week we have been learning all about race and how to get through the problems of racism.  Things I have learned personally have changed the way I think about reconciliation.  One major thing is to stop stereotyping and learn about other cultures – to stop making assumptions.  Also, that by learning about other cultures we can really understand how different we all really are.  Therefore knowing my own background is helpful because I can share with others who I am.  But another way we really can learn to make a difference with racism is to teach our kids about it when they are young.  Using teachings like those of the teacher in Iowa could really make a difference in the way kids think.  Just like the book, Face to Face, says, we need to “invest in our future!”

9th Grade Female (Southern – Alabama, Louisiana, unsure of specific cultural heritage)

[A Class Divided]  More than a decade later that class had a reunion and they all remembered the experience they had in discrimination. . .Now that I think about it I wish that and elementary school teacher I had had done something like that.  I personally think understanding what it was like for the blacks is important.

I think one of the best ways to be an agent of change is by being willing to listen to others and act on what they say.  By listening to others we can start to understand how they feel.  Though we can never fully understand how they are feeling we can at least be conscious of it.  By acting on what they say we can start to develop our own opinions and put those beliefs into practice.  For example, if you think that segregation is wrong, make friends with someone from a different culture.  God loves everyone.  That includes African Americans, Europeans, Asians, etc.  They are all the same in God’s sight.


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