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When White Privilege Attacks the Messenger

January 29, 2009
by

angry_mob

Boy oh boy.

You know, this whole school closures process is causing huge headaches across the entire city.  Once again, as with every previous effort to close schools- race has become a factor (not just because it is a factor) because many are left wondering how much race is a factor in the schools that are targeted.

The APP program has always been a source of hot debate when it comes to race, because the student population in APP is anything but diverse.  When brown children do manage to get in, they face an uphill battle of being in new, unfamiliar surroundings with new, unfamiliar people.n  It’s isolating.  It is no secret that minority children in APP are often taunted and teased for their skin color; with their “peers” drawing from stereotypes (or just plain cruelty) for material.

As a parent I can attest to the fact that when my kids are away from me, they do things I would never think they would do.  But they do.  Sometimes those things are harmful (not like, violently so) and sometimes not.  Sometimes they are intentional, and sometimes not.  But they do happen.

Such appears the case at Lowell’s APP program.  Lowell has been fighting the district tooth and nail since it was initially announced that the District planned to split the APP program in half; having 1 N.End and 1 S.End site.

This week, KUOW reporter Phyllis Fletcher highlighted the story of one Black student in APP: Rose.  Some bits and pieces:

Rose Sanders knows what the Seattle School Board is going to vote on this Thursday (1/29): Her advanced program at Lowell Elementary, and the superintendent’s idea to split it. “The north end kids are gonna stay at the Lowell building, and the south end kids are gonna have to go to Thurgood Marshall. Nobody in my class is happy about that, except for me,” said Rose. Rose is a south end kid. She’s nine years old. The split of the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) is part of the superintendent’s school closure plan. Most parents who’ve testified at board meetings are angry about it. KUOW’s Phyllis Fletcher asked Rose why she likes the idea.

ROSE DOES THE WORK OF A SIXTH GRADER IN HER CLASSROOM. BUT REALLY, SHE’S IN FOURTH GRADE. SHE CAN STILL GET EXCITED ABOUT LITTLE THINGS. LIKE A DANCE ABOUT MATH.

SANDERS: “Yes, it is multiplication time!”

SHE MAKES THIS ANNOUNCEMENT LIKE A VAUDEVILLIAN. JAZZ HANDS!

SANDERS: “Addition, addition, addition–dition–dition. Minusing is taking stuff away.”

HER FRIEND TAUGHT HER THAT ROUTINE AT LOWELL ELEMENTARY.

THIS IS ROSE’S FIRST YEAR IN APP. WHEN SHE WAS IN THIRD GRADE, HER PARENTS GOT A LETTER INVITING ROSE TO TAKE THE APP ADMISSION TEST. SO SHE TOOK IT.

………………

SANDERS: “When I looked in the fifth grade classes and they were following the election, and the fourth grade, I was so happy, and it just made me feel like I would go perfect, and I was there perfect for the first month or so.”

AROUND NOVEMBER ROSE’S CLASS STARTED TO DO FOOD SCIENCE. ROSE HAD TO ARRANGE 15 FRENCH FRIES IN ORDER FROM SMALLEST TO BIGGEST. SO SHE DID. WHEN SHE WAS DONE, ROSE SAYS, ONE OF THE KIDS TOLD HER SHE NEEDED TO KEEP WORKING. HE SAID:

SANDERS: “‘Why are you here, anyway?'”

AND SHE SAID:

SANDERS: “‘Because I tested into this school. I can be here if I want to be here.'”

AND HE SAID:

SANDERS: “‘Well, you’re not doing your work, so why don’t you just go back to your old stupid black school.'”

………..

THE DISTRICT HAS SAID ONE OF ITS GOALS FOR MOVING APP INTO THE CENTRAL AREA IS TO IMPROVE THE PROGRAM’S DIVERSITY (OR “ACCESS,” TO USE THE DISTRICT’S LANGUAGE). MANY APP PARENTS HAVE EXPRESSED DOUBT THAT SIMPLY MOVING HALF THE PROGRAM INTO A BLACK SCHOOL WOULD DO THAT. SOME PARENTS WORRY THAT THURGOOD–MARSHALL APP WOULD SUFFER; BECAUSE OF NEGLECT FROM THE DISTRICT, OR BECAUSE OTHER PARENTS WON’T SUPPORT IT.

DONNA HOPES THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN. AND THAT THE MOVE WOULD PROMOTE THE DISTRICT’S GOAL OF DIVERSITY FOR APP.

STEFANIK: “Part of it is to try and encourage more children of color, more families of color to come to the school so that they’re not going to look and see only eight kids that are black and say, ‘Should I come here or not.'”

The story is about what it is like to be one of very few Black kids in the APP program.  It’s not about every single non-Black kid in APP.  It’s not about their parents.  It is about this girl’s experience.  It highlights what happens when such programs are not all  inclusive, and when access to such programs is not possible (as is the case for S.End students).

Because of the culture in these kinds of programs, many Black kids don’t want to attend because of the horror stories they’ve heard, and many Black parents are reluctant to move their kids into hostile territory.

It would appear that highlighting these facts are just too much for the privileged parents of non-Black students to take.  They see it as being unfairly attacked, and now they’re all upset and out for blood- anyone’s.  The reporters, Rose’s, or her parents.

The PTA (insert slew of comments about PTA’s here) decided to take it upon its privileged self to issue an “official statement”.  And it goes a little something like this:

KUOW – Official PTA Response Dear Parents, Teachers and Staff

The Lowell PTA Board and Lowell Cultural Diversity Committee work hard to foster a community that understands, appreciates and celebrates all families at Lowell. A KUOW interview ths morning surprised us by calling this into question. The response from our community, according to many emails we received from a wide variety of diverse families today, confirms that our school has positive, thoughtful programs and systems in place to celebrate and protect diversity.

We are proud of the work parents, staff, students, and teachers have all done to make the Lowell community an open, inclusive, and inviting one. We are committed to this, and always striving to do better.

Some parents have let us know that they are contacting the radio station to share their experiences, and we will send our statement above. Principal DeWanda Cook-Weaver is working with the district to create communication for concerned families and KUOW.

Thank you,
Joyce, Elizabeth, Julie, Stephanie, Sophie, Karen, Elise, Chris, Mark, Leslie, Stacey and Sally – Your PTA board, and Katalin Melegh Cultural Diversity Committee Co-Chair

Police stations work hard to eliminate racial profiling.  It still happens.  Racism, prejudice, hatred and racial ignorance exist people!  And yes, even your sweet, brilliant APP child can be a little jerk when it comes to racial stereotypes and attitude towards little Black kids, or Asian Kids, or Latino or Somali.  Wake UP!

Rose’s parents are being treated like shit for allowing their daughter’s experience to be featured, and for sharing their honest perspective on what is wrong with APP ( a lot, btw).

That the privileged have had an adverse reaction and opted to go on the attack is far from shocking.  In fact, it’s typical behavior.  When the privileged are made uncomfortable, they will do anything, anything to re-establish their comfort zone, including using that privilege to demonize a child, her family, her race or her reality.

Many people in the Lowell community are calling Rose a liar.  They are saying that her “claims” have never been proven.  Proven?  Are you effin’ kidding me?  You want Rose and her family to prove that these incidents took place?  How about you prove that they didn’t!

That’s so rich:

Adult: “Timmy did you call that Black kid a stupid nigger?  You know we don’t tolerate that sort of thing and would have to call your parents.”

Timmy: “No I didn’t.  I would never!”

Adult: “I didn’t think you would.  You’re such a nice boy!”

Again, are you effin’ kidding me?!  When do kids ever admit to such things?  When can they be proven?  Rarely.  Does that mean they didn’t happen?  Hell to the NO, it doesn’t!

There is no other way to say it: folks at Lowell are straight trippin’.  They want everyone taken to task.

The KUOW reporter?  Off with her head!  Damn objective journalist!

Rose’s mother?  Off with her head! Traitor!

Rose’s father?  Off with his head! Trying to do what’s best for his daughter; the nerve!

Rose?  Off with her head!  She’s, she’s…..honest.

By morning they may have started a petition to close down KUOW altogether!

They’ve shaken themselves up into a huge, frothing at the mouth, angry (mostly) white mob.

How ironic.

Aren’t they supposed to be the culturally aware, liberal, love thy neighbor regardless of color, community?  That’s not exactly what they look like right now, because that’s not exactly who they really are.  They’ve been faced with it, and they don’t like it.

So they’ve opted to do the “typical”; they’ve taken their invisible knapsack of privilege off their back and now they’re beating people in the head with it so that their perception and opinion is the prevailing one.

Some of them have openly disrespected her parents and many of them are desperate to smother Rose and her story because it makes them uncomfortable.

This is a true teachable moment.  But they would rather sacrifice that child than be responsible and make the choice to instead, take this issue on.

Furthermore, this kind of behavior is exactly the kind of thing that is so wrong with the APP program.  The attitude and mentality.  They refuse to accept the fact that they take advantage of a system and a program that is not inclusive and that is not culturally competent, despite having a special committee with that token word “diversity” in the title.

When adults can’t see past their self righteousness, all of the kids suffer the considquences.

I have to wonder…how many students will make a comment to young Rose tomorrow at school, about what their parents said about her parents the night before?  And yet they question where their child could ever learn such opinions about people who are different than them.

Shame.

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38 Comments leave one →
  1. Original Mother permalink
    January 28, 2009 11:26 pm

    APP is a NIGHTMARE for Black children. I cannot speak for other children of color, but my BLACK children were treated like second class citizens by their CLASSMATES ever year, and their parents did everything imaginable to defend them. Those parents don’t give a damn about Black and brown kids. The only time they pay attention is when their child is caught being rude or hateful to one.

    Then they want to talk about “intention”, as in, “I’m sure Timmy didn’t INTEND to call Shamika a Black bitch”, and ridiculous statements like that. Oh he didn’t?

    How special that the school has a diversity committee. And how special that they are so proud of the work they have done; work that only serves to protect their own privileged comfort zone. They should have taken this as an opportunity to check their own house, to learn and hopefully grow. But they don’t care about that. They only care about protecting their appearance of being nice, and liberal.

    Makes me sick. They are absolutely pathetic for this behavior.

  2. Shelley permalink
    January 28, 2009 11:28 pm

    To whom much is given much is expected…unless you are someone other than a great-white-hope-my-best-friend-is-black-oh-he-is-so-well-spoken, spiteful, lilly livered, chicken %&^@ SON OF A @#$! adult who is arrogant and stupid enough to further the bull@#$! that SPS is shoveling, by saying anything other than “I am sorry that happened to you” to Rose and her family: YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

    SPS doesn’t need to split APP we don’t need two buildings of this BULL@#$!!! What we need is a system that follows it’s ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY for situations just like this.

    To the %$#@$ !@^% parents who have crucified this family for putting YOUR *&$# in the street, I have some wisdom for you: Underestimating someone can get you $#@ up.

    I will say this much to Rose and her family maybe the lessons at Lowell are too costly to learn and find a lawyer.

    And to the SPS YOU B&^%$ A^% GROWN UPS!! HANDLE YOUR S#@!!!!!!

    Ooooh this is infuriating!

  3. mint chocolate chip permalink
    January 29, 2009 12:09 am

    I’m a Lowell PTA member. I had no idea what the PTA “official response” was responding to until I read this.

    You’re right. Nothing in the letter addresses what happened to Rose. That’s just wrong.

    I’d disengaged from the PTA because of the siege mentality against the split (which I’m not opposed to). I had a kid enrolled at T Marshall (special ed). Maybe that’s why I’m not all freaked out about moving there, but dissenting opinions are not valued, so I’ve kept quiet. My mistake.

  4. heather barr permalink
    January 29, 2009 12:20 am

    Maddening to say the least.
    Ugh. the best place to find out the worst things about white parents in the SSD is in the comments following any article about schools, diversity, public vs. private. So shitty rotten mean and nasty! They just come right out with the ugliest comments, like “The reason i have my child in private school is so he will be exposed to fewer of YOUR children.” “My child goes to the Bertchi School, and it is diverse, he has a friend who is Chinese, and at least both parents are doctors.” That kind of thing.

    Today I was giving flu shots at a family shelter, and a cute, chubby Black kid, about 10 years old was hanging nearby, “helping”. I played with him, called him Doc, he said, “I’m not a Doctor!” I said, “but you could be, you have two good skills, #1, you are cool with people and 2, you are not afraid of needles-or blood!.” He gave me a funny look, then smiled.

    When it was his Mom’s turn for her shot, I asked her for her birth date for the registration form, and she said August 14. I said to him, “She’s a Leo, huh?” He said “Me too” and I said “You know who else is?” He said “Nope” I said “the President”

    He said “ugh, I don’t like him, he’s an ugly, black, chocolate man, he’s ugly!” He had a sort of frantic way of saying this, like it hurt, but he had to say it, and he said it about 4 times, with “ugly”, “black” and “chocolate” always figured in.

    His mom looked sad and defeated, and said “That’s the influence of kids at his school ” I said to both,” Wow, I really like President Obama, he looks very handsome and smart to me!” Mom shook her head and said to her son “you need t stop talkin’ like that” I said “you know, he can’t help it, if that is what he hears at school, it’s not his fault”

    Ugh. The doll study? Internalized oppression?

    I said, “Sweetie what school do you go to?” (had to know) “Northgate Elementary”

    I thanked him for his help, and left him with “You really could be a doctor, I just want you to know, as a nurse I know one when I see one”

    I have a friend who has a daughter who is raised around all manner of black affirmation. 2 strong, black, proud parents. Little girl comes home and says she doesn’t want to have Y**** at her birthday, cause she’s black. Mom says “But I’m black, you’re black, what’s wrong with that?
    Little girl says “No, you are more brown” She only wanted to play with white kids, and white dolls. My friend was so befuddled ans sad. “What have we done wrong?” She and several other black moms i know are seriously thinking of moving to DC or Atlanta.

    The first reflex of most white parents is to deny that this could possibly be so. Minimize and deny, or threaten to sue you for “reverse racism” whatever that is! They just don’t get it, mostly cause they don’t HAVE to get it, and that right there is white privilege, sitting up tall, big as life.

  5. So Sorry permalink
    January 29, 2009 12:35 am

    I am a Lowell parent and a member of the PTA. I did not get a personal call today from anyone on the PTA asking me if I agreed with this statement, that, as a member, is on behalf. I was not notified of an emergency meeting to discuss and craft and official response. I am furious that a few choice, elitist parents decided to take matters into their own hands, and NOT that of the PTA.

    I HAVE heard that we are to go after and attack the KUOW reporter by any means necessary. I have not sent her an email or anything like that, and I will not. All I could think of when I listened to the story was that Rose is infectiously wonderful.

  6. iwishamuthaf!@%would permalink
    January 29, 2009 12:40 am

    LOWELL PTA: “I WANT THE TRUTH!”

    THE REST OF THE WORLD: “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

    DON’T HATE THE PLAYA HATE THE GAME!

  7. BUTDOYOUREALLY permalink
    January 29, 2009 12:48 am

    To “So Sorry” I think that it is great that you have voiced your opposition to the comments made by your PTA. I hope that Rose and her parent’s know that you do not agree with those comments. I hope Rose can play with your child on the playground. I hope that you will talk with the parents and or teachers you know about your feelings and about how you with their help can help with the integration at Lowell.

  8. yeahwhattheysaid permalink
    January 29, 2009 12:52 am

    To “So sorry” I too would encourage you to do all you can to support that child and her family! From my most kind and gentle place I remind you that ignorance is not a viable defense.

  9. Sable permalink
    January 29, 2009 12:53 am

    I second that last comment. Go talk to those parents. They need to be told about themselves from someone who looks like them.

  10. White and Privileged permalink
    January 29, 2009 8:47 am

    Well, not that you need the two cents of a privileged white woman, but I hope it can help drive your points home. All of my children (3 of them) have gone through the APP program, actually my daughter is still there.

    During the course of their young lives, all three of my children have at some point said something racist, or in the least, something racially insensitive about African American people to their friends or to us their parents. They didn’t do this because they were in APP. They didn’t do this because their father and I run around the house all day spewing ignorant comments about minorities.

    They did this because society around us is ripe with negative messages about African American people. They did this because their father and I never made a conscious effort to highlight those stereotypes and teach our children about them, to speak out against them, or to be young, white allies to their AA and minority counterparts.

    We’ve gotten better, as parents, but I am certain we are not perfect. It took being humiliated by the ignorance (not malicious, mind you) of our children to get us to act.

    I still have a child at Lowell, and I know, because she tells me, that ignorance about minority children is rampant amongst her peers.

    I also know that there are too many parents, including those in “leadership” positions, who are shockingly ignorant themselves, and completely unaware of it. For the record, it doesn’t matter who points it out to them; a journalist, a blogger, or another parent, Black OR White; defenses are thrown up, and they stop listening.

  11. APP Mom permalink
    January 29, 2009 9:05 am

    OMG when White Privilege Attacks…

    That title is priceless and SO truthful.

    I too am a PTA member. That letter does not represent my views or perception about Lowell or about Rose.

    I am sorry that people feel the need to lash out the way they have been.

  12. GroundedGirl permalink
    January 29, 2009 10:19 am

    Schools reflect their communities. I love many things about Seattle, but the insufferable smugness and cocoon of privilege surrounding many “liberal, open-minded” (white) people here makes me ill. Just beneath the surface lies a shocking degree of ignorance, both naive and willful. It’s not just our lack of snow removal prowess that keeps us from being “world class” or “urban”. Thanks for calling it out, SV.

  13. agibean permalink
    January 29, 2009 10:40 am

    Sable,

    I am Donna, Rose’s mother. I just learned of your post so came to check it out. How interesting to learn that the bulk of the PTA was NOT consulted about the “official” response. Imagine that.

    I want to add a few things: first, we did not take these incidences up with the administration, because Rose, as she says at the end of the KUOW interview, wants to focus on her education and put things like this behind her. Besides which, she spoke to the kids in question, and “worked things out” to her satisfaction. Rose is my shining light-her inner beauty and strength is quite something-I can’t take the credit-she’s always been an “old soul”.

    I’m appalled at the insinuations that she made these things up. Other kids HEARD the comments, and at least one parents has confirmed this to me.

    Also, the administration has always been very responsive to us any time we had a problem or question-I want to make that clear. And, we can’t say enough about Rose’s teacher-her classroom experience has been wonderful and exciting. She loves the pace and (most) of her subjects. And she’s made some dear friends, white, black, Asian and biracial.

    We’ve also made some good friends, other parents who are mostly non-white or parents of children of color. Many feel as we do about the split. They and several others have sent us kind comments about what’s happened. Lowell is not one entity, but many, and not all of them should be tarred with the same brush here.

    Interestingly, it’s Rose’s FATHER who’s being personally attacked, not I. Perhaps as the “color” in our mixed family, it’s assumed he’s the “agitator”? We’ve also been accused of “planting” the story, specifically on the eve of the school board’s vote, to sway the board members against Lowell. Would that we had such power over KUOW!

    We set out to do the interview as a response to a reporter’s question about why we might support a change to APP when so many others did not. We didn’t expect the “off with their heads” response we’ve had, but that in itself is instructive.

    At a school event last night, an angry parent looked at my husband and snapped “You should be ashamed!” I think she got it backwards.

  14. Sable permalink
    January 29, 2009 11:53 am

    Hi Donna! Thanks for stopping by and adding your awesome 2 cents.

    We hope that we did not make you feel like you had to “explain” yourself, but we also still deeply appreciate your add-ons. It is fantastic that you as parents had the strength to support Rose’s wishes to focus on what she defined for herself as the important stuff- I know that the gut reaction is to “go handle it”, so bravo to you.

    We did not attempt, desire or intend to paint the Lowell community with one broad brush. What we did attempt and intend to do was to point out that Lowell is much more complex than it appears, and that problems and incidents such as the ones your daughter has faced go back for as long as APP has been racial imbalanced and culturally incompitent.

    We here at the SV use a special kind of paint; a mixture of blunt talk, acerbic wit, and honest emotion, so the manner in which we have tackled this article is how we tackle em all!

    Also, what sparked our desire to even speak on the matter was the fact that parents at your school are so furious and uncomfortable by what aired yesterday, that they have jumped into a mob mentality and have gone after the reporter with no thought as to whether what they are doing truly is the right thing. It’s that mentality that says “well we don’t agree, so recant that!”

    As a biracial child myself, one of the greatest lessons I ever learned was that I did not need (white) people to agree with me, or validate me, for me to KNOW that I was right.

    You, your husband,and Rose, have had such an important experience, pre and post radio interview. It’s so real, and that realness is what it is all about. You are a good mom, and I gave your husband a 1 woman standing O for that little incident last night. I can hear my grandmother now “forgive them for they know not what they do”.

    The lynch mob needs to get a grip though. They are out of control.

  15. The Spook Who Sat By The Door permalink
    January 29, 2009 4:35 pm

    Puh-leeze! No, Lowell APP is not perfect with regard to diversity or racism. Show me the school that is.

    I like seeing guilty white liberals do the “falling all over themselves tap-dance to show how enlightened and open-minded they are” as much as the next person, but Al Sanders is damaging the APP community and sabotaging any chances of successfully merging with T. Marshall or T.T. Minor.

    He proudly entered the program with a chip on his shoulder expecting Lowell to be racist and intolerant. That program welcomed him hoping they would prove him wrong. Inevitably, (‘cuz we all know it was going to happen sooner or later) some ignorant child called his daughter a name and instead of bringing it up with the teachers and staff he went straight to the media.

    They can spin it any way they want (KUOW came to them), but the fact is that Al Sanders is a MEDIA RELATIONS SPECIALIST – that means he understands how the media works and how to use it to achieve his ends. I’m no media relations specialist, but even I could have told you how his daughter’s story would be played.

    Other families-of-color at Lowell may share his views or they may disagree, but they need to stand up and voice their opinions visibly and publicly instead of letting him be their mouthpiece. As far as I have seen, Al Sanders is standing alone in public school board hearings, Al Sanders is alone in publishing Op-Ed pieces in the Seattle Times, and Al Sanders is alone in having his child’s story told on KUOW. If they are really holding Klan meetings in the lunchroom at Lowell, why isn’t any other family-of-color proclaiming this as loudly?

    If this split happens (and I believe it will) there are many people at Lowell who want to get down to the business of working together with the families of Marshall and Minor to “do the right thing” and also to prevent a repeat of Madrona. Unfortunately, Al Sanders has painted them all with swastikas and confederate flags while telling them he wants to cooperate. Who do you think those communities are inclined to believe? How much harder has he made it to cross the divide?

    As far as I can tell, Al Sanders has done nothing constructive to help address the diversity issue at Lowell, has not gathered allies to his cause, but has instead chosen to announce to all the city that Lowell is a bad place to send our children and needs to be fixed.

    You call it a lynch mob. I call it an angry community that feels stabbed in the back. The original mess existed before Al Sanders, but he persists in making it a lot harder to clean up.

  16. Sable permalink
    January 30, 2009 2:35 am

    The Spook,

    I value your comments and the fact that you take the time to read the SV. But I disagree with you on some of your points.

    Al Sanders might be a pain in the ass. He might not be helping the situation, I don’t know. If I have my facts straight, he didn’t approach the reporter, she approached them.

    I understand the desire to have people stand up and share what they are going through- but that is a tall order, and really not easy. These are sensitive issues. Additionally, it is very difficult when you find your life has become someone else’s teachable moment. That just isn’t always conducive to self. Rose shared her experienced and was asked how she deals with it. She basically said “it’s not that serious, I keep it movin’. It’s not my priority.” It’s also okay for her to want to be around people that look like her and that she can relate to. If the shoe were on the other foot I’m sure those students and their parents would feel the same way.

    If you have a problem with Al Sanders, let him know about it. Of course, OF COURSE you are always welcome to leave your comments on the SV, but I was really struck at the fact that you’re callin’ dude out over here- I’m not sure that we’re the best forum.

    Having said that, I also want to say that my focus wasn’t on him, his wife, or his daughter really. My focus was on the crazazy ish thrown at the reporter and at KUOW, and the level of venom with which it was done. That level of self righteousness is dangerous, and it’s also telling in its own way.

    Parents aside, the girl’s story is valid, and it does underscore a difficult, not often talked about reality that is APP. It just is. When I first heard the report, I didn’t think badly about anyone at Lowell, I really didn’t. Petty ignorance can be a part of life. We all choose our battles right?

    I did not take it as Al Sanders making an announcement to the city that Lowell is a bad place. I don’t think Lowell is a bad place. I do think that APP is segregated, and any time we have that, in any situation, ignorance can manifest. That is why diversity is valued over all, because in being around each other, we learn what each other is really like, and ignorance gets (hopefully) squashed.

    I personally did not agree with the split. Not because I don’t want kids in the south end to have access, I do. But I want them to have ACCESS to seats in the program, not ACCESS to APP kids on the playground or during lunch hour. This plan, as I see it, does not do that. There are fundamental, historical, systemic problems with APP that have absolutely nothing to do with the students, but shapes and molds the culture and experience as much as the curriculum.

    So yes, I understand, and understand even more because of what you’ve shared, that it is a complex situation with multiple levels that need to be addressed.

    Still, the story was valid. The reporter was not manipulated or used as a puppet. She shouldn’t have been attacked for it. That was out of pocket.

    If you are a part of the Lowell community, and you think there is something that needs to be worked through, then go ahead and get everyone in a room and start to do the hard work. But deal with the feelings towards the adults separately than the experience of Rose, and others.

    Thanks again for your comments. SV

  17. Sable permalink
    January 30, 2009 2:53 am

    Another thing I want to touch on quickly, before I fall into my bed, finally.

    I’m never offended, as a woman of color, when a child in elementary school (or high school, for that matter) says something to me that is race related. I have had countless children ask me why my skin color is the way that it is, or why my lips are the shape that they are.

    Endless little girls and boys are fascinated by my hair.

    Some children tell me things they’ve heard their parents say. Some children tell me things they’ve heard and seen on tv.

    I’ve even had children say things to me that were kinda mean, just to see what my reaction would be, and if the words they used had any power.

    All of those moments are teachable moments, however brief they may be. It’s an honor, more than anything else, to be a part of them.

    Kids are kids. They’re learning. For the most part ignorance is just that, ignorance. In other cases, you’ve got kids who say ish that ‘s just mean, and they know it’s mean, which is why they’ve opted to say it in the first place.

    Whichever the case, an opportunity has still been presented.

  18. Helen permalink
    January 30, 2009 8:53 am

    I don’t know Al or Donna well, but I do not think they meant any harm to the APP community. I think they, like many other parents, would like to see more diversity in the program. They have a different opinion than mine about what is the best way to get there. I think the split is not going to do it (for the reasons Sable just stated) and I think the publicity on KUOW is going to backfire as well. I think smart black kids are going to be hurt by all this. I hope I’m wrong. I have no beef with Al and Donna for having different opinions from mine, but I think they may have made a mistake in letting this story out at this time. It’s not the facts of the case that worry me — if we couldn’t stand the truth, that would be a huge problem. It’s the spin that’s getting put on the story, the over-simplified version out there, that bothers me. But hey, it’s out. And the split is happening. And we’ve all got some work to do to keep bad shit from happening.

    If anyone has any constructive ideas, I would love to hear them. My youngest is in fifth grade, so he’s not going to be involved in the Lowell split, but the rest of the year at Lowell is going to be interesting, and APP at Hamilton isn’t going to be a complete bed of roses either.

  19. The Spook Who Sat By The Door permalink
    January 30, 2009 9:59 am

    Thanks for engaging in a dialogue. I wasn’t sure if you were gonna’ come back at me guns blazin’ (which I would be cool with, it’s the style of your blog) or thoughtfully (which I also know you can be). So, let’s talk.

    I don’t doubt Rose’s story for an instant. I think she’s bright, and remarkably well adjusted. By all acounts she handled herself admirably in the encouter in question as well as the interview. I worry, though, that her parents have put her in a position where she will take heat from the fallout of their actions. Simply put, how many children are going point to her as the cause of the split or at least a target upon which to unleash their own frustrations as they deal with this?

    I do believe that KUOW approached Al and Donna. The reporter was looking for a story and stories about race and conflict get attention – that was her job. KUOW had been asking for people to tell their stories online – probably to mine some controversy like this. Al has been very visible on this issue, so whether he submitted something to KUOW or they simply knew where to find him, I can’t say, but his family was an obvious choice for a “good” story. Hell, look how many posts you are getting on this topic. My point being that because of his experience, Al cannot claim ignorance as to how it would be played.

    Trust me, I know it can be hard for folks to stand up and speak truth to power, to be percieved as just another uppity black man (or woman), when all you want is to live your life and get your kids a good education. I also know it ain’t easy to confront a brother who is speaking up, whose intentions and message may be correct, but whose approach and delivery is all wrong – especially when you will have to continue to work with him as this process moves forward. But if there was a time in this process that it needed to happen, that time was about a week ago – yet, it’s not too late to stop the trainwreck.

    As to the lack of diversity in the program, the finger seriously needs to be turned away from the Lowell families and pointed back at the district. There’s a lot of systemic and structural problems with ALOs (hell, with the entire district) that have nothing to do with the families at Lowell.

    I think that the biggest challenge we face is that teachers and principals have only disincentives and no incentives to surrender a “highly capable” child to the program. There’s no upside to losing a child whose grades and test scores reflect well upon the school, who might be a joy to have in your class, who might be well behaved (not that all APP kids are) and a might be model for other students. We need to do something – let the schools keep the students WASL scores after they move to APP, offer bonuses to teachers/pricipals who identify candidates – something to make it a win-win for the schools. There’s other problems with outreach and educating about the program that need to be addressed, but I think the incentives is the first step.

    Black folks don’t go to Lowell because there’s no black folks at Lowell. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I highly respect and loudly applaud those of us who do take that risk and are among the first to cross the line.

    I’m working hard not to out myself here. I have to hold my tongue in other forums where I’m trying to bring folks together. Some of us are ready to do the hard work, but that work often comes slowly and it’s frustrating when it’s undone so quickly. I’ve told Al where I stand on this. Here, I vented – saying things I’ve said elsewhere, just embellished with my own brand of “acerbic wit” and “in your face”. I apologize to you if you’d rather we “take this outside”, but I stand by the sentiments I expressed.

    Respect,

  20. The Spook Who Sat By The Door permalink
    January 30, 2009 10:54 am

    There’s one other thing that troubles me: While “the personal is political” and Al’s voice deserves to be heard, at what point have we all (myself included) made this more “about Al”, and less about the problem itself?

  21. January 30, 2009 1:04 pm

    It’s unfortunate that the Lowell and the Public School issues became a race issue.

    Coming from an ethnic background, and not US-born, I felt a desire to offer my perspective.

    Both my daughters went through Lowell. They loved and thrived in it. They tended to have friends with white kids, though also with some Asian kids. Perhaps they were not as emotionally sophisticated or verbally mature as Rose, neither my wife nor I have heard from them degrading or racist comments or acts made to them during their 2-year stay at Lowell. Perhaps we were fortunate in this respect. More subtle acts? We will never know.

    From where I came from, even all with the same skin color, discriminatory acts based on individual dialects and cultural backgrounds are rampant, even promulgated by the news and TV media themselves. Having lived in this country for 3 decades, my thoughts are that the US, arguably, are exemplary in its efforts, attempts, and achievements in the advancement of equality for all — when compared to the rest of the world. Within several decades, minorities have emerged from gaining equal rights status to being elected as the President of US. It is the social, political, and educational systems conducive to these rapid changes.

    If some of the Lowell kids, intentionally or not, behaved badly, perhaps through the still improving cultural environment (e.g., the recent equal pay for equal work Act) in this country, it will be still rarer events in the future.

    Though non-white myself, I told my kids that it does not matter what you intended or unintended to say, it is what you are PERCEIVED to say matters. It is a difficult process, at times, for young kids to gauge. So, think before you say. Mistakes will be made. Lessons will be learned. Nobody is perfect.

    Kids in other schools, minority or otherwise, may well be A LOT WORSE than Lowell.

    I hope, some day, the social justice in my old country can be as responsive and self-correcting as that I have enjoyed here — though it will never be soon enough.

    That being said, I cannot help but making the comment that the central issue of closing public schools and splitting programs for sake of saving money and at the same time building more schools and spent borrowed future tax-payer’s money for sake of saving the economy can be self-contradicting and fundamentally flawed in its logic.

  22. Sable permalink
    January 30, 2009 11:51 pm

    I think it’s awesome, the dialogue that has come from this post.

    Spook: All I could do was nod my head as I read your comments. I totally get it. And I’m not worried about the “take it outside” factor too much, because I understand the need to vent stuff out. I just don’t want to see a back-and-forth develop in a negative way between parents at Lowell because I’m not sure that will really serve any good, that was the only reason I mentioned it.

    But yeah it isn’t about Sanders, and I’m glad that you get that. When I first read your first comment I literally said out loud “who the eff is Al Sanders?! Oh…”

    We all agree that their needs to be change on all different levels of the program. No one here is pointing the finger of blame on the kids and Lowell or their parents.

    Speaking for the site, what we care about most is the fact that the split does nothing for increase access to seats. It gives the appearance of giving increased access, but that’s about it. The program is too small.

    We have focused a lot on parents of children of color who do not put their kids in APP because of its demographics, and we’ve talked about kids of color who don’t want to go for the same reason, including the culture, real or perceived.

    But I think what is more important than that is the fact that children of color, particularly Black children do not get referred for APP testing at a rate that is proportionate to their White counterparts.

    That is a systemic problem that has existed basically forever. It’s not just a student’s classroom work, but the perception of children by educators that determine whether or not a child is tested for APP or not.

    Now it’s easy to say that the parents should then step up and nominate their child, but I’ve worked in S.End schools for 10 years; I can honestly say will all certainty that there is NOT equal access to that information or to that process, period. This too, is a systemic, institutionalized problem, and to me, that’s where true cultural competency is put to the test.

  23. MomofSpS permalink
    January 31, 2009 11:25 am

    Hi Sable, Have you read the APP audit that was done last sping? It calls attention to the institutional racism in the program.

    Rose’s story could have some right from the report. For anybody in the APP community to disput her words should be ashamed of themselves. Simply appalling.

    http://www.seattleschools.org/area/advlearning/index.dxml

  24. Helen permalink
    January 31, 2009 12:34 pm

    In the discussion among Lowell parents that I saw, no one disputed Rose’s words. A couple of people imputed motives to Al that to me made no sense, but lots of others defended him.

  25. Sable permalink
    January 31, 2009 2:58 pm

    Thanks Helen,

    In the dozens of comments submitted to KUOW those adults did imply that Rose was lying and were upset because from their perspective her “claims” were never “properly investigated” or “proven”.

    We got two comment posts saying that and more, but they used language about the child and her family that we don’t allow on the site, so the comments were never posted.

  26. Helen permalink
    January 31, 2009 3:56 pm

    I didn’t realize the KUOW site allowed comments. I’ll have to take a look.

  27. Sable permalink
    January 31, 2009 4:14 pm

    They don’t.

  28. Helen permalink
    January 31, 2009 4:41 pm

    Okay, I’m confused. If KUOW doesn’t allow public comments, how do you know what people said to them? (And by the way, I’m not disputing anyone else’s evidence, only adding my own to the heap.)

  29. J. Whitehorn permalink
    January 31, 2009 5:08 pm

    One of my children is at Lowell and I have spoken with Rose’s parents. While I understand their POV, I’m afraid their actions are counterproductive. I hope the TT Minor families wondering whether to join us (several of whom I’ve rallied and marched with recently) will give us a chance.

    IMHO, it was short-sighted to (1) tell Rose to expect racism at Lowell and to shrug it off, (2) to neglect to inform her teacher, the offender’s parents and the school, and (2) to allow Rose to be interviewed in the heated climate of school closings.

    But all this has been said by others.

    What has NOT been addressed is whether such “truth telling, but without names” is fair to my son and the other non-black boys at Lowell, specifically in Rose’s grade, who are now all suspect. Can anyone blame them for feeling bruised and wary?

    My little boy — who like a lot of APP kids is very sensitive to injustice — wept when he heard the story, which of course was told and retold at school. He felt terrible for Rose. He also wondered why “Rose didn’t do the Lowell Way” by getting adult help. He pondered who in his class would say such things, and — because he couldn’t fathom any of his pals being so cruel — wondered if Rose had exaggerated. After all, it’s a kid thing to do. I asked him to take her word for it, and to report such a thing if he ever saw it. (Like many Lowell kids, he has been trained as a conflict mediator). He was not easy to console. He wished aloud that he was “not a boy” because males are responsible for “all the bad stuff.”

    Well, I feel as protective of my son as Al and Donna are of Rose. This is not his burden to bear, and if it had been handled well, neither he NOR Rose would be still be hearing about it at school, but would be busy learning and playing and making friends.

    We APP parents have an opportunity to avoid another Madrona (the APP cohousing that John Stanford ended because of the friction) and build something strong and healthy with TT Minor and Thurgard Marshall families — something that Seattle hasn’t seen before.

    Let’s not walk into this expecting to fail, because we will find what we are looking for.

    Let’s be honest, but let’s constructive. In the words of Obama, we’ll be valued for what we build, not what we destroy.

  30. Sable permalink
    January 31, 2009 7:25 pm

    Feel free to contact the reporter yourself.

  31. Sable permalink
    January 31, 2009 7:27 pm

    “IMHO”…such a funny, oxymoron of a statement.

  32. agibean permalink
    January 31, 2009 8:27 pm

    Ms. Whitehorn-what you say sounds suspiciously like blaming the victim AND implying that Rose did not tell the truth. Unless you’ve raised a child of color has looked at you in tears at the age of *3* and cried that she wished she was white because “white people are better”, I ask you to leave the guessing as to her veracity to her parents. Kids of color, and maybe biracial ones especially, are hyper aware of when their skin tone causes others to show their prejudices. Besides which, I have had what happened confirmed by another child in the class.

    I leave you with this: if you go into a merge with TT Minor expecting that parents are not entitled to deal with their children’s exposure to prejudice and racism in their own way and BLAMING the children reporting it (or not), you won’t have a very successful merger.

    Donna

  33. J. Whitehorn permalink
    February 1, 2009 8:45 am

    Sable, you are correct, IMHO was dumb; it should have been IMO. And yes, I have contacted the reporter.

    Donna, please understand: I do not blame Rose nor do I doubt her (read again where I tell my son to take her at her word).

    It is horrendous when Rose and other children feel unworthy for who they are. Again, I do not fault Rose for sharing her experiences or telling the truth. My beef is with the adults involved.

    I agree with you that parents are entitled to do what they want in such cases. I am simply arguing that some ways have better consequences, all around, for your child, my child, and for protecting and growing diversity at Lowell.

    After the interview, when you went on the Lowell blog to ask us — all Lowell parents — to tell our kids to “stop harrassing Rose,” I was dumbfounded. I appreciate that you are angry and protective. But again . . . why not deal with the actual harassers, and talk to THEIR parents (names and emails are readily available) instead of a “blast ’em all” attack, fomenting discord and suspicion and general wariness of you and Rose?

    Using the process at Lowell for mediation between the particular kids allows their parents to know what is going on and get involved. It may not be as gratifying as collecting private grievances, but it is damned effective.

    When my son was shaken down for cash by a black child last fall, we used the process and worked it out AS INDIVIDUALS, without Lowell’s black population being suspected of criminal activity, and without fomenting racial fears in general. I trust and admire this child and his parents. I hope they trust me. Kids make mistakes, and we are here to help them learn from them.

    Rose is delightful — smart, strong, popular — and as I told your husband, she is a testament to your good parenting. I just disagree with your judgment in this issue.

    To SV, thanks for allowing us to air our diverse opinions.

  34. Sable permalink
    February 1, 2009 10:17 am

    The comment about contacting the station was for Helen; if there are doubts about what is outlined here in this article, contact the station/reporter to verify the information yourself.

  35. Helen permalink
    February 1, 2009 10:24 am

    I would like to clarify again that I was not doubting the information. I had gotten the impression that there were other public comments that I was expected to know about. It turns out that was not the case, which is fine, I just wanted to be clear.

  36. Sable permalink
    February 1, 2009 10:45 am

    Thanks Helen,

    I wasn’t challenging you, just simply clarifying.

  37. agibean permalink
    February 1, 2009 10:51 am

    Ms. Whitehorn,

    Just to be clear-I posted a general notice to the Lowell parent board because Rose doesn’t KNOW who all was making the comments after the interview went on-air. When you’re walking down the hall or at recess and someone yells something, it’s not always possible to know who’s doing so.

    Nevertheless, we DID go to the administration about it, and Rose DID name those she could. It’s not possible to have private mediation sessions when you can’t name the catcallers in the halls.

    However, what I said about taking a step back from attacking stands. It’s been clear from this blog and the general response from KUOW that many parents WERE in fact, attacking my daughter, and I’d venture a guess that some of the catcalls she heard were based on what those kids were hearing at home. I don’t think too many got up early to listen to the original broadcast at 6:30 am, do you? Where’d they hear about it in the first place?

    Sable, thank you for putting up with me. I’m pretty much done responding now.

  38. Sable permalink
    February 1, 2009 11:30 am

    Hey, that’s what I’m here for.

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