United we stand, divided we learn about racism.
City school teachers are being segregated into discussion groups based on skin color, race and ethnicity in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and weeks of sometimes violent protests — but some staffers believe the separation is as divisive as the racism they’re trying to defeat.
More than 700 employees have signed up for a June 23 “Anti-racist Community Meeting” sponsored by the Department of Education’s Early Childhood Division.
Each was given the option of joining a breakout discussion group. The choices included: “blacks or African-American, Latinx, Middle Eastern and North African, multiracial or mixed, Native and Indigenous, Asian Pacific Islander American, White Allies.”
White allies means those considered “anti-racist.” No other ethnic groups are marked “allies.”
“It’s like we’re not allowed to be white,” a staffer said. “You begin to feel marginalized. Why do I have to state if I’m an ally? If we’re signing up for this workshop, they should assume we’re allies.”
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza emailed educators on June 3, condemning police brutality, voicing solidarity with black employees and New Yorkers, and vowing to fight systemic racism “including in our public school system.”
“I am asking you to continue to urge students and colleagues to safely express their experiences and opinions, and share their vision for a better world,” he wrote.
Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallach emailed an invitation for the June 23 event, which was first slated for June 19 — or Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery. He changed the date — with an embarrassed apology — after black staffers objected.
Another meeting to wrestle with racial issues was held this month in Queens after an explosive June 4 anti-bias seminar for staffers of PS 307 in Corona, where 95 percent of students are Hispanic, and black and white kids comprise one percent each.
During that June 4 session, a black teacher lashed out at white and Hispanic colleagues.
“What about you, you white privileged teachers from Long Island? Why aren’t you saying anything?” fumed the educator, who also accused “Hispanic leaders” of not standing up for the black community, a source recalled.
The participant added, “I have no ill will against [the black teacher] but the way it came out, ‘Teachers who are white privileged on Long Island’ — she doesn’t know who I am. I didn’t expect to be a target in my own building, among my own colleagues.”
PS 307 Principal Cecilia Jackson, who is black, then told staffers they had to become “interrupters” of racism, and if they were not on board to “please get out of my building.” The room became quiet.
The black teacher, who could not be reached for comment, later apologized in an “open letter” to her colleagues, obtained by The Post, noting her remarks came from “a place of hurt, anger, anxiety, pain. She insisted she doesn’t “hate or dislike any individuals from any race, religion, creed or color.”
“I am expressing black pain,” the teacher wrote. “That does not equate to all white people being evil.”
The principal then divided the staff into three groups based on race for a second meeting on June 9: Latino/a/x/Hispanic; White/Asian/Other; and Black.
Justifying the racial groupings, she said it can be “exploitative and emotionally taxing” for people of color “to educate privileged persons about their unearned privilege and the nature of marginalized person’s oppression.”
Some immigrant staffers were befuddled and asked where they belonged.
“Some of my colleagues are from Pakistan, from Turkey, from New Zealand … I heard the presenter could not give an answer,” the source said.
Diversity advocates say “affinity groups” are an established tool that can be crucial to tackling racism.
“There needs to be space for white people to talk about racism, and anti-black racism,” said Matt Gonzales, a school integration advocate at NYU’s Metropolitan Center and a member of Mayor De Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group.
“It’s not enough to be, ‘not racist.’ That’s just complicit. I think the idea around white allyship is that we want white people to be actively anti-racist.”
Gonzales said it’s important to “honor” the experiences of communities of color, and that minorities aren’t obligated to educate anyone about racism.
“I don’t have a lot of sensitivity for the discomfort talking about race brings up for white people, because the discomfort of living as a person of color in this country is nothing I can comprehend,” he said.
The DOE said affinity groups are voluntary and the “white allies” option recognizes “that white people have a particular role to play in advancing anti-racism.”
“We won’t shy away from difficult conversations, because it is our responsibility as an education system to be anti-racist for the benefit of all children,” said spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.
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