In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, New Trier High School in Chicago, Illinois held mandatory “racial identity” seminars, but about 1,000 students refused to show.
The racial identity classes covered issues such as white privilege, white guilt, and white racism. As Breitbart reported, topics included “The Truth about Ferguson: The Investigation into the Death of Michael Brown,” “Why Do I Have to Feel Guilty for Being White?”, and “Western Bias in Science.” A poster that hung inside the school promoting the seminars read: “In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
Many students wanted to boycott the seminars. School officials lamented that they had only about two thirds of the school’s 4,200 students in attendance. Breitbart reported:
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One parent, whose daughter is biracial, told Breitbart News that her daughter had deliberately avoided the program for fear of being singled out and forced to define herself by her skin color.
“She called me from school, about a month-and-a-half ago, and asked, ‘Mom, do I have to go? I’m black, and I’ll be a target.”
Though she generally disapproved of missing school, she allowed her daughter to skip the day. “I felt bad for her…I’ve never felt race has been a factor in our lives,” she said.
“It’s one thing to study Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” she added. “But to talk about feeling guilty because you are white?…These kids today are so far beyond it. It’s like they don’t see color.” The district’s program, she said, is “going backwards.”
She was not the only concerned parent. Others said that the racial identity seminars did more harm than good:
One parent…who described herself as Hispanic, said she became alarmed when her daughter brought home a list of seminars.
“When she showed me the list of classes, I was not only baffled, but also concerned,” she said, citing seminars with names such as “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and content including a “Pyramid of Hate” on anti-Muslim prejudice. “Out of all these options, I could discern no diversity of options,” she added. The point, she said, seemed to be “to instill more angst than need be” in children. She took her daughter to a community service project instead.
In contrast to the “angst” that these racial identity seminars elicit according to critics, in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he said that he longed for the day when people would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
While next month is Black History Month, some schools such as Portland Community College have designated April to be Whiteness History Month. During Whiteness History Month, issues of “whiteness” – defined not as a skin color, but as an ideology – as well as white privilege and racism will be explored. According to school officials at Portland Community College, the rest of the year is already devoted to “white history.”