GOOD

A City Education: Why Adults Must Model Racial Unity for Students

"Mister, why do you hang out with him?" a Latino seventh-grader student asked my teammate Ricky at lunch.


In our A City Education series, two City Year corps members share their experiences working as tutors and mentors in schools in hopes of closing the achievement gap and ending the dropout crisis.

"Mister, why do you hang out with him?" a Latino seventh-grader student asked my teammate Ricky at lunch.


Ricky knew exactly what the student was trying to get at: Why is Ricky, a Latino man, buddies with our teammate Aaron, a black man?

Ricky grew up here in Los Angeles and went to a school similar to Markham Middle School, where we serve. Markham is located in Watts, a historically black neighborhood in South Los Angeles. In the early 1990s blacks began moving out of the area, and immigrants from Mexico and Central America moved in. Cultural differences and poverty ignited frustration and led to the growth of racially segregated gangs.

Now Markham’s student population is 73 percent Latino and 27 percent black, and racial tension leads to a lot of fights and little interaction between the two groups. Given the tension on campus and in the community, Ricky and Aaron's friendship stands out. A black and a Latino man always hanging out and laughing together is something the students rarely see.

"Why does it even matter what Aaron is?" Ricky asked the student.

The student explained that blacks have different cultural values from Latinos and they're from different gangs. He said he didn't have any black friends and he fights with blacks a lot.

"So do you listen to hip-hop?" Ricky asked.

"Yeah, doesn't everyone?"

"Who do you think sings that?"

"I don't know."

"It's a black guy!" Ricky laughed.

The student claimed that hip-hop is different, but couldn't back up his argument.

Ricky asked the student who annoys him other than his classmates. The student replied that his little brother is annoying.

"Do you think the way he acts is special to him and your race, or do you think all kids do it?" Ricky asked.

Stumped again, the student didn't have a comeback. Ricky was able to give the student a perspective about black people—from one Latino man to another—that he had never heard before.

Of course, as City Year corps members, our focus is on boosting academics, but having a diverse team of young people matters. The 16 of us at Markham include biracial, black, white, Latino, Cambodian, and Korean people. Despite our racial or ethnic differences, our students see us getting along, and we’re setting an example for how to befriend people who are different.

Realistically, it's hard to teach our students something that isn't also taught at home—and reaching every student at a 1,223-pupil school isn't doable. But, those students we haven’t directly connected with can't avoid seeing the positive, fun, loving, and caring way we interact with each other.

At City Year, we stress a philosophy called Ubuntu: "My humanity is tied to your humanity." If my teammates are able to help students think about race in a different light—and help them understand that we share more similarities than differences with each other—that’s a step forward to bringing peace to this school.

Photo via City Year Los Angeles

Articles

Cancer is still the second leading cause of death after heart disease for both men and women. The American Cancer Society predicts that 2020 will bring almost 1.8 million new cancer cases and 600,000 cancer deaths, but there's also some good news. The American Cancer Society recently published a report in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians stating the U.S. cancer death rates experienced the largest-single year decline ever reported.

Between 2016 and 2017, cancer death rates fell by 2.2%. While cancer death rates have been steadily falling over the past three decades, it's normally by 1.5% a year. Cancer death rates have dropped by 29% since 1991, which means that there have been 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths in the past three decades than there would have been if the mortality rate had remained constant.

Keep Reading
Health

The Australian bushfires have claimed 27 human lives, an estimated 1 billion animals are feared dead, and thousands of properties have been completely decimated.

The fires were caused by extreme heat and dryness, the result of 2019 being the country's hottest year on record, with average temperatures 1.52C above the 1961-1990 average.

The area hit hardest by the fires, New South Wales, also had its hottest year on record, with temperatures rising 1.95C above average.

Keep Reading
The Planet

Dr. Nicole Baldwin is a pediatrician in Cincinnati, Ohio who is so active on social media she calls herself the Tweetiatrician.

She also has a blog where she discusses children's health issues and shares parenting tips.

Keep Reading
Health