Elevating Hope through Latinx Stories

As an educator, I draw incredible inspiration from my niece. Her picture sits on my desk and she is the reason I push through challenging times with grit and persistence. She was born in 2011 when I was a teenager. She grew up amidst multiple family traumas, which became a trigger for her behavioral issues at school. She was in my custody when she started Pre-K. As a student who absolutely loved school, I eagerly anticipated sharing this joy with her. What I faced instead was encounter after encounter with her white teacher telling me everything that was wrong with my Latinx niece. These ongoing judgments escalated to the teacher’s conclusion that she ‘could not function in a classroom setting’. I felt powerless and confused, questioning how the education field I cherished so much could turn so ugly. 

I began my research and ultimately got my niece the special education services she needed. This was no easy feat, as it was done with little support from her relatives because of the cultural differences and misconceptions about special education that persist within some Latinx communities. Families require intentional knowledge building, responsive communication, and culturally relevant messaging to counter stigmatizing narratives. Without my ongoing involvement, my niece may have not received necessary services due to communication gaps between my family, community, and the school. 

Fast forward to today: my niece is a rising young artist who knows how to advocate for her needs. The individualized support she receives gives her the opportunity to work toward accomplishing her academic goals and become an increasingly independent learner. Fueled by my personal experience as my niece’s advocate, I aspired to become a knowledgeable teacher who could play a proactive, impactful role in children’s lives by truly knowing them, their needs, their strengths, and their stories. 

I share my niece’s story because I believe deeply in the transformative power of storytelling to shift mindsets and increase empathy. As we close out the official celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month this week, I know that this year’s theme of esperanza (hope) is one I will commit to throughout the year ahead. Instilling and sustaining hope is absolutely essential to our success as educators. I find literature can be a powerful avenue for these authentic and necessary conversations. Both in the classroom and in my work as a coach, I enjoy sharing poetry and stories to highlight diverse perspectives, particularly from Latinx communities. As illustrated by my niece’s experience, using narratives is a way to center others, build respect and understanding, and confront stereotypes in non-threatening ways. 

At an internal training in early October, I led our opening activity by reading “My Name Is Santiago”. In the poem, a Dominican-American boy reflects on the physical, emotional, and mental weight of expectations around his own dreams and those of his relatives, as well as society. We used the Think, Feel, Care routine to unpack the poem’s cultural nuances and dominant norms, leveraging the protocol to build understanding through critical thinking. It was an effective way to name assumptions generated by white ideology, and explore the complexities within Hispanic and Latinx narratives that shape our experiences, specifically in the classroom. 

It is important to continue exploring the diverse countries and identities we honor each Hispanic Heritage Month. I invite you all to uplift different voices, center historically marginalized populations, forge connections, and work to ensure that we are advocating for all students in ways that show cultural responsiveness, empathy, and hope. Within each classroom there are daughters, sons, children, nephews, and nieces – like mine – who must be fully seen and valued in order to reach their full potential. We each possess the ability to empower students and listen with care as they discover and share their individual stories.

Stephanie Garcia is a Partner at Highlander Institute supporting schools through coaching and change management. She is based in New York City. To learn more, follow her on Instagram @educatingwithsazón and Twitter @Stephgarcia_16. For a great resource to explore with students across grade levels, subject areas, and cultural dimensions, check out this Social Justice Booklists page.

Can We Center Both Joy and Safety This Year?

Yesterday, during a Design Team meeting with the fantastic staff at Baychester Middle School in the Bronx, we worked collaboratively to interrogate the school’s vision for change using the thinking routine Word-Phrase-Sentence from Project Zero. One teacher elevated the phrase “safe and joyful space” because it resonated with her as a powerful statement as the staff prepares to open their doors to students next week.

In the best of times, the phrase “safe and joyful space” is a cornerstone of back to school relationship-building. However, amidst the pandemic, these two descriptors become more important than ever. When our attention is focused on preventing the spread of the Delta variant – an immense task for folks trained in pedagogy, curriculum and assessment – we are prone to lose sight of joy. Our educators are not healthcare workers, but every day this line is blurred with PCR tests and quarantine planning. For even the most seasoned educators, this work pushes beyond our comfort zones, causing fear and anxiety. 

Our mitigation efforts are undoubtedly essential, but we must name and own that such fear and anxiety can work against the second part of the Design Team teacher’s phrase – joyful space. We have the ability to stay safe this school year, but at what cost to joy? Yesterday afternoon my brand new high schooler returned home to share that he sat in silence, engaging on his phone for three of his six class periods on his first day of school. He was masked, distanced and safe, but there was no joy. 

Our students, especially our most under-resourced and disenfranchised, need joyful spaces. As educators, leaders, nonprofit teams, and government agencies we must find ways to rise above our sadness, anger, and rhetoric to tap into the natural brilliance, energy, and joy that our students show up in our classrooms with each and every day. 

My Twitter feed this week has been filled with incredible back to school, community building activities from elementary levels all the way through 12th grade. Yes, these types of activities may bring kids in closer proximity to each other in physical classrooms or take up precious time in remote settings. But even as students’ words are muffled through masks or accidentally cut off through mute buttons, these opportunities can nurture the much needed joy and connection that keeps our children engaged, learning, and excited to return the next day. 

As adults, our instinct may be to lament our lost summer, or to reflect on our current situation in comparison to pre-COVID times, but our students don’t have that luxury. This is their one and only shot at a brand new high school transcript or a kindergarten dramatic play area. Some of us are experiencing intense bouts of stress, anxiety, and fear right now. These feelings should not be minimized, by anyone at any time, but they also cannot get in the way of our duty and obligation as educators in all corners of our education system. We must work to create spaces this fall that are both “safe and joyful” for every child – work that brings us all closer to a new vision for what our schools can be. 

Beyond the “Magic Bullet”: Lessons on the Integration of High-Quality Instructional Materials and Personalized Learning

Beyond the “Magic Bullet”: Lessons on the Integration of High-Quality Instructional Materials and Personalized Learning

Five fundamental findings from independent research conducted by Student Achievement Partners and Highlander Institute

Co-authored by:

Sue Pimentel


Cathy Sanford
Highlander Institute

This blog post is cross-posted on Student Achievement Partners' blog.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, the field of education could well be considered certifiable. The long-standing popularity of the “magic bullet” approach to reform persists even though we are still waiting to realize the promise of a single solution to a knotty education problem.

As Larry Cuban writes in his April 2020 blog post, the rationale for a magic bullet solution is deeply embedded in “the popular hope of tax-supported public schools solving problems besetting a democracy.” The expectations for public schools to responsively address everything from poverty to obesity to the changing labor market are overwhelming. Within this complex landscape, we continue to have a proclivity for simple solutions.

Consider the current emphasis on high-quality instructional materials and the recent focus on highly resonant personalized learning. Similar goals; very different means. We’ve watched district leaders, philanthropists, and product developers jump on the bandwagon of one or the other of these two reforms, but—Spoiler Alert—we are not one purchase or framework away from closing the achievement gap. As you likely suspect, a more complex and nuanced “both and” approach has a better chance of improving learning environments and student outcomes.

Independently of each other, Student Achievement Partners (SAP) and Highlander Institute set out to understand and elevate the implementation intricacies of a combined approach. We came at this issue from different directions; some might even say from opposing camps. SAP conducted a synthesis of the scholarly and academic literature in literacy, personalization, and equity to identify what factors can accelerate students’ literacy. Highlander Institute conducted action research to explore areas of alignment between rigorous curricula and personalized practices in mathematics classrooms.

Despite the different approaches, we came to very similar conclusions. This doesn’t mean that we agree on every detail; our definitions of personalized learning, for instance, are not identical. But we think the times call for a fresh conversation about accelerating learning for students—particularly those frequently at the margins of design considerations and resource allocations—that leverages our shared discoveries. There is no proverbial magic bullet, but we are not without direction. SAP’s literature review and Highlander Institute’s action research both point to how rigorous curricula combined with personalized practices can be mutually reinforcing and accelerate student learning.

The core requirement of any instructional product or approach—and it is a gateway to all others—is to pinpoint how it will advance grade-level learning. But a narrow focus on grade-level instruction is not enough. The following five fundamentals are crucial components for success:

Fundamental No. 1. Content is Key: Demand that rigorous curricula and personalized practices work in tandem to advance learning. 

Decades of work have gone into developing rigorous core instructional materials in math and ELA that follow the research. Teachers need and deserve such curricula to form the basis of their teaching and learning. Personalized learning practices need to be well planned so they work in close concert with the core instructional materials.  

What does this mean for your district?

Ensure you have high-quality core instructional programs in place in math and ELA that support all students in accessing grade-level work. Take time to vet programs you are reviewing (or are currently implementing) with teachers and, ideally, students and parents. Elevate areas where the curriculum may fall short. Discuss these considerations with product developers and develop a district-level plan detailing how teachers can address gaps or choose a higher quality curriculum that more closely hews to the research. Also, inventory your personalized learning tools and approaches. Determine what gaps in instruction you are trying to close by adopting or using a personalized product or approach. If it is only vaguely or peripherally related to filling that gap, then move on. Don’t waste valuable student time or precious instructional dollars.

Fundamental No. 2. Center Students: Deeply know and affirm students to build their capacity for challenging work. 

Putting students “at the center” is a core principle of personalized learning, but it takes on new meaning in relation to the implementation of high-quality instructional materials. The establishment of a trusting academic classroom community is essential to successfully engaging students in rigorous curricula. For students to thrive, they need to have a sense of belonging and safety—a rapport and bond with their teacher(s) and peers. This means investing time to deeply know each student not only as a learner, but also as a person who exists within different contexts across family, community, and societal systems. A singular focus on curriculum or a particular personalized approach or product assumes that each student will respond to the material in the same way, an assumption that has not played out in the classroom. Centering students allows teachers to proactively determine what students will need in order to stay engaged and focused in a rigorous lesson.

What does this mean for your district?

Find ways to humanize the learning experience—to make students partners in their learning. Time and energy dedicated to better understanding students and their families has a strong return on investment. Home visits, community walks, student shadow days, and identity webs are ways in which teachers and leaders can generate a new level of understanding of student values, responsibilities, interests, and strengths, and leverage those in the creation of a trusting academic community. Attention to developing student mindsets ensures that students are ready to tackle curriculum challenges. Use the University of Chicago Consortium’s checklist to determine how strongly your students agree with these statements:

  • I belong to this academic community.
  • I believe I can succeed.
  • My ability grows with the effort I put in.
  • This work has value.

Make changes in your curriculum approaches and instruction products to increase agreement.

Fundamental No. 3. Check Bias: Examine inequity within the system and counteract prejudice in the delivery of content. 

Collectively, we must switch from a focus on addressing student deficits to understanding the deficits within our system that generate persistent achievement gaps. Systemic racism and inequity underdevelops students’ cognitive processing skills and undermines their natural competence and confidence. This often takes the form of lower expectations for different subgroups of students and instruction that focuses on compliance and repeated practice rather than deep thinking and engagement. Within this environment, even well-crafted instructional materials—core and supplemental—can be over-scaffolded when delivered to students, preventing some pupils from receiving the full benefits of a strong program. Decision-making when assigning content must be deliberate and transparent, checked and rechecked in light of which students are getting what content to ensure that portions of students are not condemned to months of low-level, dead-end work.

What does this mean for your district?

Openly and actively check your collective biases regarding BIPOC students, students experiencing economic insecurity, and English learners—students who are too often marginalized and chronically underserved by schools. Support teachers in using data to examine unintended biases and how students are experiencing learning. Take care not to deem students deficient based solely on test scores. Review the bases on which you assign students to personalized work and how students move between skill-based groups. Connect test scores with student perceptions of belonging and academic mindset, and be mindful of the expectations and cognitive demands placed on students. Ensure teacher attitudes and pedagogies elevate student assets and challenge destructive narratives about the academic ability of traditionally marginalized students. Continuously collect student feedback to monitor their academic confidence and engagement.

Fundamental No. 4. Embody Respect: Advance culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies

We can restore natural confidence and competence to students who have been marginalized by systemic inequity through anti-racist, culturally sustaining education. This manifests through work that affirms student cultures and communities while building student capacity to become critically conscious. It requires the combination of rigor and relevance—high-quality curriculum materials embedded with culturally relevant opportunities to reflect, become inspired, and act in ways that address and transform inequities in schools, in communities, and in society.

Ultimately, a culturally relevant and responsive lens must be baked into both pedagogy and instructional materials from the start. Given that many rigorous curricula fall short on cultural relevance, personalized approaches that support critical thinking within relevant learning applications are a particular strength here. These approaches can improve students’ engagement in learning, support their access to rigor, and empower them to accept the intellectual challenges in lessons.

What does this mean for your district?

Students need to see the value of what they are learning, and apply new knowledge in ways that are meaningful and transformative. When students see the ways in which their learning can be applied to promote community problem-solving, research shows their outcomes improve. Explicitly name the roles that rigor and relevance should play within district classrooms, and provide teachers with the tools needed to implement this vision. Culturally responsive pedagogy can’t work as an afterthought or superficial gesture; consequently, teachers require an intentional, aligned approach to frame their lessons. Enlist teachers—and even students and families—to design a model that integrates rigor and relevance using the best materials available to the district. Provide time for relevant applications within a curriculum scope and sequence. Simultaneously, continue to push developers to embed culturally relevant content and applications more seamlessly into curricula.

Fundamental No. 5. Tend to Teachers: Afford teachers ongoing and just-in-time training so they embrace the change. 

In order for a set of instructional materials or a personalized approach to effect meaningful change and academic benefits, it must be doable in the classroom. That will increase the likelihood that the reform will be sustained. Efforts to deeply integrate products or approaches present a challenging undertaking, as do efforts to help teachers learn better ways of working with students. Learning to recognize and correct for bias requires attention, time, and resources. In short, teachers need high-quality, ongoing training to implement rigorous instructional materials effectively and personalize instruction skillfully to further advance cultural relevance and excellence for students.

What does this mean for your district?

Don’t shortchange PD. Treat a curriculum update like a complex change initiative for teachers and students. Make professional learning curriculum- and program-specific. Teachers need to understand and unpack the rationale and components of a new curriculum and hear directly from the content developers. However, they also need district experts in special education, multi-language learners, cultural relevance, etc. to provide aligned training to ensure that all students access the material, rise to the academic challenge, and find relevance in their new knowledge.  Ongoing training opportunities should include common planning time, professional learning communities, and embedded coaching. There is a not-to-be-ignored hearts and minds aspect to setting aside old ways of instruction so that teachers can move forward to make progress for their students.

These five fundamentals set the stage for attaining new levels of rigor, relevance, achievement, and academic confidence in classrooms despite school zip codes. At the core of each fundamental is a new and more nuanced conversation about the intersection of rigorous core instructional materials and well-planned personalized learning practices.

Each of our reports delves into greater detail on the hows and whys of this premise, offering a strong research base and path for moving forward. We are excited to continue—and further refine—the conversation as we strive for better results and experiences for our students.

Reports Mentioned In This Blog Post

Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week 2021

2021 Teacher Appreciation Week

Working to imagine and create more equitable, relevant, and effective schools would not be possible without teachers. For a Teacher Appreciation Week that falls during the most complex and challenging school year we've known, our team members reflected on what the teacher community means to them:

Malika Ali: "Teachers - we will never be able to enumerate all the ways in which you keep our society together. Teaching is the noblest profession and you all deserve gratitude in words and action. You deserve to be honored, supported, and compensated! To the teachers I have worked with, thank you for inspiring and motivating me daily. To the teachers in whose classrooms I defined my purpose, thank you for supporting my development. To the teachers I have yet to meet, thank you for changing lives everyday. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!"

Dana Borrelli-Murray: "To the seasoned and experienced educators that continue to show up and learn, shift and grow their practice - THANK YOU. We see you and appreciate the ways in which you model growth mindset for your students...and what a year it has been to model this skill :)"

Michaela Comella: "I have learned so much from the teachers I work with this year. They have modeled creativity, grace, vulnerability, problem solving, determination, and more. I thank them for moving forward when it seemed too difficult, putting in time they didn't have, always keeping their students at the forefront and expanding the boundaries of their classrooms. Teachers, you've taught us all so much - thank you!"

Christina Corser: "In a year when teachers have every excuse to put their heads down and survive, the innovation hasn't stopped. I am so appreciative of the learning we've done together this year. Thank you for your creativity and willingness to share."

Vera De Jesus: "To the pilot teachers at Tipton Middle School: I cannot thank you enough for the past two years of learning and growing together. Despite all the new, unique challenges of teaching in a pandemic, you never once gave up on finding creative ways to deeply understand your students and empower them as both learners and leaders. I appreciate the work you do every day that I don't always get to see, and I'm beyond grateful for the work that we carry together. You continue to be a source of hope and inspiration to me and to your colleagues!"

Cindy Kenney: "We've placed substitute teacher candidates across RI this year. To the teachers who have supported these subs as they transition into new & uncertain roles, THANK YOU. Your encouragement does not go unnoticed and has inspired many of these individuals to consider pathways to becoming certified teachers."

Maeve Murray: "One of the teachers I met with last week was so energized by a new idea, that she vowed to put it into practice with students the very next day. Thank you to all of the teachers who continue to lead with an approach centered around curiosity and possibility."

Nando Prudhomme: "Thank you to my pilot teachers at Baychester Middle School, who embrace any opportunity to learn. Despite obstacles and difficult times, I have been continually amazed at your eagerness to learn and apply new ideas to your teaching. You have shown incredible initiative and leadership skills."

Shawn Rubin: "Thank you to the teachers who are taking the extra time to collaborate with families as they navigate COVID-19. Nobody ever imagined that we'd be teaching through a pandemic, but this year teachers have proven they will do whatever it takes to support students and families. Thank you for being so adaptive, resourceful and strong when we needed you the most!"

Cathy Sanford: "I have such immense gratitude for the way that our teachers have shown up for students this year despite every challenge thrown their way. Thank you for demonstrating the importance of grit, persistence, and mindset for us and for your students."

Heidi Vazquez: "I have so much appreciation for all the laughs, creative problem solving, deep conversations, reflection, and meaningful lessons and projects we collaborated on via Zoom and Google Meet over the last year. Your successes with students and families have energized me and given me hope. Your dedication to your students and families impacts us all. Thank you!"

Please join us by celebrating, affirming, and thanking the teachers in your life. Check out the hashtags #TeacherAppreciationWeek and #ThankATeacher for more messages of inspiration, resilience, and hope.

COVID Clarity: Finding New Focus in a Turbulent Year

March 2021 marks the one year anniversary of the last time I saw my colleagues in person.

It has been a year of urgency, adaptiveness, and problem-solving. Yet experiencing how the global pandemic and the national racial reckoning has impacted education has forced our team to double down on where our work can have the greatest impact.

Over the past four years we have refined our pedagogical framework, concentrating on high value instructional strategies and expanding focus on sociocultural awareness, community building, cognitive development, and critical consciousness. This year, all of our school change efforts are centered around this approach. In the spirit of sharing that is normally part of our annual April conference, I am excited to summarize our insights and invite you to continue the conversation with us next month during our free Spring Learning Series.

Highlander Institute is a non-profit education support organization based in Providence, RI. We drive change with purposeful instructional strategies, a tailored change management process, continuous improvement cycles, and world-class coaching that empowers administrators, educators, and students to innovate. We facilitate community-designed plans that unite stakeholders in trying new techniques, reviewing data, and building more effective learning systems. We have documented significant shifts in teacher practice - and clear correlations between those shifts and improved student outcomes - through our support of hundreds of teachers over the past five years. 

However, during 2020 it became increasingly clear that our change model was not addressing root causes of gaps in student learning outcomes across demographic groups. Our education system breeds compliance, resulting in dependent thinking and an atmosphere of low expectations - particularly for Black and Hispanic/Latinx students, students who live in poverty, and multilingual learners. Without an awareness of how systems of inequity and learner identity connect to teacher expectations, the implementation of personalized practices does not sufficiently empower all students. 

Our updated approach, crafted by my colleague Malika Ali, aligns aspirational instructional shifts within a process that restores and elevates the natural confidence and competence of students who have been marginalized by systemic inequity. The resulting Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Pedagogy (CRSP) framework is grounded in the research of Gloria Ladson-Billings, Geneva Gay, Zaretta Hammond, Django Paris, and Sami Alim. Through a series of discussions and strategies, teachers and school leaders examine the ways in which systemic inequity translates into classrooms, build inclusive cultures of thinking, and establish ongoing feedback loops. The ultimate goal is to nurture critical consciousness in students. Linked to improved student achievement through a growing research base, critical consciousness leverages a social justice lens to learning, empowering students to transform their own lives, their communities, and society.

In a year when teachers and school leaders have been overwhelmed and overworked like never before, coaching and professional development centered on the CRSP framework has generated our highest satisfaction rates. Hundreds of teachers have opted into CRSP sessions. Participants have found that the framework’s practices are extremely relevant and effective - and that the process infuses hope and renewed motivation in both students and teachers. 

While we will not have the opportunity to share CRSP insights at our annual conference, we have designed the free Spring Learning Series, open to educators nationwide. We cordially invite all interested teachers and leaders to join us as we introduce the CRSP framework as one approach to imagining and creating more equitable, relevant, and effective schools. As we begin to see some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we are excited to share the processes that are inspiring hope for what the future can bring.

Session 1: Centering on Instructional Equity - for teachers and instructional leaders

April 1, 4:00 - 5:30pm ET facilitated by Malika Ali & Heidi Vazquez

Join us for an overview of our Culturally Responsive & Sustaining Pedagogy framework for instructional equity. Consider practices and strategies across the four framework domains of Awareness, Community Building, Cognitive Development, and Critical Consciousness.

Session 2: Leading Inclusive Change - for building leaders and district administrators

April 8, 4:00 - 5:30pm ET facilitated by Shawn Rubin & Vera DeJesus

Through the equity lens offered by our CRSP instructional framework, explore key leadership moves and a change management process to support targeted improvements infused with the flexibility and resiliency required to reach sustainable scale.

Session 3: Designing for Enduring Improvement - for all audiences

April 15, 4:00 - 5:30pm ET facilitated by Christina Corser, Mike Miele, Heidi Vazquez, & Nando Prudhomme

Elevate and explore the small and large changes underway in schools this year that are accelerating equity and access for families. Discuss the data, stories, experiences, and lessons learned that will help educators and leaders plan intentionally and strategically for September 2021.

Cathy Sanford leads research and development efforts at Highlander Institute in Providence, RI and is the co-author of Pathways to Personalization: A Framework for School Change (Harvard Education Press, 2018). Find Cathy on Twitter at @csanford42.


White Supremacy, Misogyny, and Hate: We must name it if we are ever to eradicate it.

As a human being, my heart breaks for the lives lost in this week’s Atlanta shootings, for the families who are grieving, and for the loved ones who have yet to hear the worst news one could imagine.

As an Asian-American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman, I am terrified. Violent attacks and racist rhetoric against AAPI people have been on the rise. And I know too well that this violence does not come out of nowhere. Hateful thoughts preclude hateful speech. Hate speech can escalate into hate crimes. 

Hate Crime: At the federal level, a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Hate crimes have a broader effect than most other kinds of crime. Hate crime victims include not only the crime’s immediate target, but also others like them. Hate crimes affect families, communities, and at times, the entire nation (justice.gov).

Many of us move through the majority of our days without incidents that threaten our basic safety and well-being. But some of us went to work on Tuesday and never got to return home. Why did this happen? How can we prevent it from happening again? And what does this have to do with education?

We must understand the events and actions that brought us here if we are to prevent history from repeating itself. We can do this by learning about the historical, political, and socio-cultural context of anti-Asian violence and discrimination. And it is absolutely critical that we recognize this week’s tragedy in Atlanta as one symptom of a much larger, older, complex problem - white supremacy and misogyny.

Let us value human life and the dignity of others over our own personal beliefs and ideologies. Let us all acknowledge that we have each perpetuated racism and white supremacy in some way - consciously, unknowingly, or likely both. Let’s educate ourselves and our children, so that we may create a different future.

See adult-facing resources immediately below and student-facing resources toward the bottom of this page.

Historical & Political Context of Anti-Asian Violence

  • My Lai Massacre (1968): U.S. soldiers murdered 300 unarmed civilians in Vietnam, including women, children, and the elderly -- despite no report of opposing fire. At least one girl was raped and then killed.
  • Paige Act (1875): “Legislated amid the spread of anti-Chinese fervor from the west coast to the rest of the United States, this law was an early effort to restrict Asian immigration without categorically restricting Asian immigration on the basis of race and instead restricted select categories of persons whose labor was perceived as immoral or coerced.”
  • NY Congressman Presents “The Chinese Question” (1877) 
    • “He comes here as a laborer. He personifies the character in its absolutely menial aspect-what the operation of fifty centuries of paganism, poverty, and oppression have made him,-a mere animal machine, performing the duties in his accepted sphere, punctually and patiently, but utterly incapable of any improvement.”
    • “If he seems to conform to our ways it is only to get a better foothold for money-making. He professes friendship, of which sentiment he has not the remotest conception. He is cruel and unrelenting, only waiting the opportunity in which he may safely strike the object of his spite, cupidity or superstition”
    • “Capable of such deeds, can the injection of such a race into our body politic be viewed by any thinking American without anxiety and alarm?”
  • Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)
    • “Whereas in the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory…”
    • “Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled...the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States be…suspended; and during such suspension it shall not be lawful for any Chinese laborer to come, or having so come after the expiration of said ninety days to remain within the United States.”
    • “That the words "Chinese laborers", wherever used in this act shall be construed to mean both skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining.”

Recent Hate Crimes & White Supremacist Terror Attacks

  • June 2015: 9 Black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church were shot to death by a white supremacist
  • August 2016: Muslim Imam Maulana Akonjee and associate Thara Uddin were shot and killed in New York City
  • October 2018: 11 Jewish congregants were killed and 6 were injured in a shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue
  • August 2019: A gunman targeting “Mexicans” opened fire in El Paso, Texas, leaving 23 people dead and several more injured

A Call to Action for Teachers & Students

As we educate ourselves, we also need to talk to our kids. In the classroom, we can start with honest reflection and inquiry (inspired by No Red Ink’s student writing prompts and article). 

Questions to Consider:

  • Are some lives more disposable than others? 
    • Does your race or immigration status make you more of a target for violence?
    • Does your identity affect your access to support, protection, and justice?
    • Does your profession determine how unconditional your right to exist really is?
      • What if your job choices are limited? Should it matter whether or not you chose a profession that is stigmatized by society? 
  • Why are the perpetrators of these specific crimes -- mass shootings whose victims are largely of a shared racial or ethnic identity -- often white, cisgender males?
  • Why is it that white men who have committed mass murder are apprehended “without incident,” while there are Black people who have committed no crime and yet do not survive interactions with police?
  • Why do some people continue to insist that this incident “was not racially motivated"?
    • How could they possibly know? Who has the right to say? 
    • What does the data tell us?
  • What kinds of racial violence are our students currently experiencing?
  • What trauma do our students already carry?
  • How can we cultivate a school community of safety, empathy, and care? 
  • How can we educate and empower children so they may protect each other?

Click here for Classroom Resources to Address Anti-Asian Discrimination 

Classroom Resources Curated by Malika Ali, Director of Pedagogy at Highlander Institute

Full Post by Vera Elianna DeJesus, Partner at Highlander Institute