Tag Archives: diversity

The Avenues School in New York City

Diversity and Jet Powered Upper-Class Multiculturalism

By Guest Contributor Frank Ligtvoet

In my research for a piece in the Huffington Post on independent schools and the lack of diversity I came across Avenues. The World School in New York, a newly founded school in Chelsea. The school’s expression of diversity was so far away from my take on the subject, that I – after some hesitation to get so direct – couldn’t resist to write and make some serious fun about it. Avenues is in essence not very different from many other independent schools in the US, alas. But in comparison to the serious efforts made by some of their New York competitors like Calhoun, Brooklyn Friends and Dalton to break away from their ‘exclusive’ traditions, to become more inclusive and less upper class white, Avenue stands out. Being the new kid on the block it could have learned from its peers.

The Times devoted earlier this year an article on the new New York based, for-profit independent K-12 school with its somewhat bloated, urban-chic name Avenues. The World School. It has the title: ‘Is This the Best Education Money Can Buy?’. For my black kids, Joshua and Rosa, the answer to that question is absolutely not. And it might not be for white kids either.

I invite you to have a look at the ‘Leadership: Our People’ page of Avenues’ official site. What you will see are 17 portraits of ‘Our People’ with above nice descriptions of who they are and what they have accomplished in their lives. Impressive men and women, yes, and all middle aged, and then – disturbing: all white. Very white. Almost the whiteness of the definition of white when Italians and Spaniards were still regarded non-white, an Anglo-Saxon and German kind of white, an old-fashioned kind of white. (See Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People.)

Of course, it is fine to be white. I myself am white with a Germanic name. But it is not fine to be collectively white, not in a city that is as diverse as New York, not in a country that is less and less run or dominated by whiteness, not in a country that consciously makes efforts to be more inclusive, that strives to ‘a more perfect union’, and particularly not in a educational institution, in a school that is a world school in a non-white world. To be fair: the New York campus has three non-white leaders and one is the Director of Admissions, not an unimportant position.

Of course there is, like all other independent schools in the US, a whole section on Diversity on the website. You can read there that the Avenues’ budget allows 10% of the student body to be social-economically diverse. Hope for a higher percentage will be found in donations from parents and alumni, in – again – old-fashioned charity that is. There is no goal, the goal is for what the money eventually allows.

The real Avenues diversity is, however, projected in the future when according to the grandiose plans campuses elsewhere on the globe will be established: The broader Avenues learning community, eventually comprising campuses in many of the world’s leading cultures, will be exceedingly rich in cultural diversity among both students and staff. The thousands of students and faculty from China, India, Europe, Africa, Latin America and North America who will be an integral part of the Avenues culture will represent unprecedented cultural diversity.’

Avenues’ diversity is not the diversity in the definition of most other (independent) schools: it is not about sharing the privileges that we white people amassed over the course of history, it is not striving for equity and equality, it is upper-class, multi-culturalism, powered by jets between the campuses, campuses which will be each max 10% diverse as well. (From a global diversity perspective is the expression ‘the world’s leading cultures’ also a bit awkward, to say the least.)

To go back to the whiteness of the Avenue’s leadership: what does all this whiteness say to my kids, who are adopted and happen to be black? There are no black people good enough to have those important jobs? There are not even people who are not black and not white, like Asian or Latino or Arab people who are good enough to fill those positions? How can the leadership create diversity if they are not even able to diversify their own administrative body? The world of the New York world school is white. We, 7 year old Rosa and 9 year old Joshua, and their brothers and sisters of color, don’t count in that world, our heritage doesn’t count, the ‘unpaid work’ of our forefathers and –mothers doesn’t count. We can attend – of course – if we have the money, but what we are and who we are and where we are from doesn’t count in the Avenues world. And imagine the unthinkable: if my kids would attend and finish that school, what would be their idea about themselves? That they had to submit to almost complete whiteness to become the people they are?

I am sure that as an ethical service to the people who will send their kids to Avenues, the curriculum will be very, very worldly and very, very diverse, but it is not the flexible ideology that counts in the real world, it is the real and hard facts that surround us, the faces we see and the social hierarchy they represent.

The loss will not only be for the kids of color, but also for the white kids: they will experience that whiteness not rules the world any more once they leave the white, multi cultural bubble at graduation. And one can wonder if an education at Avenues under the ‘Our-white-people-leadership’ will be so effective after all, in a steadily more and more diverse world.

Frank Ligtvoet is the Founder of Adoptive Families with Children of African Heritage and their Friends, NY and published about adoption and diversity in a.o. Adoption Today, the Huffington Post and the New York Times. He tweets as @frank_ligtvoet.

 

 

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Athena FF: Amma Asante’s Belle Revisits Jane Austen Through Black POV

By Guest Contributor Inkoo Kang, cross-posted from Women And Hollywood

“This is the story of a woman who is loved.”

Those are the words black British director Amma Asante used to describe her marvelous sophomore feature Belle at the Athena Film Festival this past weekend, and they had a palpable emotional impact when Asante uttered them at the film’s post-screening Q&A.

That’s because it’s still all-too-maddeningly rare to see a gentle romance about the loveliness or adorableness or winsome sweetness of black women. Asante’s intention to make exactly that — her version of Jane Austen, based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an 18th-century half-African, half-British historical noblewoman — feels radical, even though the film is in many ways a comfortably familiar period piece primarily concerned with courtship and marriage.

Last year saw a flurry of high-profile films with (male) black protagonists (12 Years a SlaveMandelaFruitvale StationThe Butler, and 42), and the wonderful thing about Asante’s carefully constructed film is that it’s not a story grounded in black suffering. Living in a pre-abolition Britain, Dido, played with grace and passion by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is certainly no stranger to racism.

But, as Asante explained, her film tells a story about Dido “teaching people how to love her” — to let themselves be won over by her charms and wit despite their knee-jerk prejudices. Rounded out by critiques of sexism and classism, Belle is a quietly ambitious project that’s already put Asante on an ascendant path in Hollywood.

If you missed its NY premiere at Athena, Belle will be released on May 2.

The Racialicious Links Roundup 5.30.13

Ten members of Congress are urging the Washington Redskins to change their name because it is offensive to many Native Americans.

The representatives said Tuesday that they’ve sent letters to Redskins owner Dan Snyder, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins sponsor FedEx, and the other 31 NFL franchises.

The letter to Snyder says that “Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos.”

In a study published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, researchers Garth Davies and Jeffrey Fagan studied the link between immigration and crime in New York City. After controlling for factors like poverty and educational achievement, they found that immigration did not increase crime rates.

According to geographic data, actually, it appears that in New York, immigration may have even reduced crime, or at least correlated with lower crime rates. As explained by Chrissie Long, a graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School, the study found that “immigration actually appears to have a protective effect on crime,” as the presence of immigrants in New York neighborhoods “often  means decreased crime rates.”

As for specifically Latino immigration, a major factor in the national immigration debate and for Southern border states, Long notes that it had almost no “net effect” on total crime, and “Latino immigration is correlated with slightly less violence.” That finding matches other national surveys. A study of several American cities from 1990 to 2000 found the places with largest spike in immigration also had the “largest decreases in homicide and robbery during the same time period.”

Inside Higher Ed reports that only one fourth of community colleges “can be considered racially integrated,” due in large part to the fact that they tend to draw their student bodies from surrounding geographic areas, and America is, you know, still a vastly segregated country. Even if you don’t see segregation itself as a problem, its side effects most surely are:

For example, there are 85 students per staff member at predominantly white colleges, according to the study, and 294 students per staff member at predominantly nonwhite colleges.

Another study of California community colleges found that schools with the highest minority enrollments had the lowest rates of students graduating and transferring to four-year colleges. Why? For one thing, schools with high minority enrollment “typically receive less funding from local governments, according to the study. And state support doesn’t cover that gap.”

Now, current and former partners say, the diversity committee meets less often, and the firm has fewer black lawyers than before. It is a trajectory familiar in many elite realms of American professional life. Even as racial barriers continue to fall, progress for African-Americans over all has remained slow — and in some cases appears to be stalling.

“You don’t want to be a diversity officer who only buys tables at events and seats people,” Ms. Higgins said recently. “It’s about recruiting and inclusion and training and development, with substantive work assignments.”

Nearly a half-century after a Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, helped usher in the era of affirmative action, the Supreme Court is poised to rule as early as this week on whether the University of Texas can continue to consider race as one of many factors in its admissions policy. It is a case that could have a profound impact on race-based affirmative action programs across the nation, and it has reignited a discussion of how much progress minorities, blacks in particular, have made in integrating into some of the most sought-after professions, especially since the recession.

Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillian didn’t threaten police. He didn’t attack them. He wasn’t armed. All the black teenager did was appear threatening by shooting Miami-Dade police officers a few “dehumanizing stares,” and that was apparently enough for the officers to decide to slam him against the ground and put him in a chokehold.

During Memorial Day weekend, McMillian was rough-housing with another teenager on the sand. Police approached the teen on an ATV and told him that wasn’t acceptable behavior. They asked him where his parents were, but MicMillian attempted to walk away. The officer jumped off the ATV, and tried to physically restrain the teen. According to CBS Miami, police say the 14-year-old kid gave them “‘dehumanizing stares,’ clenched his fists and appeared threatening.”

McMillian says he was carrying a six-week old puppy at the time and couldn’t have been clenching his fists because he was feeding the dog with a bottle. He claims that during the confrontation the dog’s front left paw was injured while officer forcibly separated him from the dog.

Diversity at Wharton

Image courtesy of Jack Duval on Flick

Image courtesy of Jack Duval on Flick

By Guest Contributor S. L. Huang; originally published at slhuang.com

At my sister’s graduation Sunday, they flashed up on a screen the name and city of origin for each student in the roll call.

My mother and I were both very impressed at the number of international students.  There were students from Nicaragua, Guatemala, Malaysia, Luxembourg, Canada, and Japan.  We saw Colombia, Australia, and Singapore more than once, and quite a few students came from China, Taiwan, India, or Turkey.

The gender ratio appeared to be about 50/50.  And even among the American students the diversity was staggering.  We saw a huge number of South and East Asian-American graduates, a decent group of African-American Whartonites, and quite a good chunk of Hispanic names.  In fact, the class was far, far more diverse than the statistics for America as a whole.[1]  And as far as I could tell, every (or almost every) name called as winning a student award—for leadership, for philanthropy, for general excellence—was the name of a POC, which means that not only does Wharton accept a large percentage of nonwhite people, but those people succeed there.

This isn’t affirmative action.  Wharton is probably the most exclusive business school in America; they would have no reason to dilute their student body in order to be more diverse than the American population, when simply coming close to the demographic curve would allay any criticism.

I kept thinking that if this were a movie, the extras would never have been cast with this much diversity.  Yet here it was in real life.

The other reason I find all this notable is that Wharton is arguably releasing the world’s future CEOs and other business leaders into the world.  This is a group often identified as coinciding with Republican party ideals, and yet, as seen in the 2012 election, the GOP has a long way to go in attracting the votes of nonwhite citizens and women who are swayed by concerns other than their tax liabilities.  If the Wharton graduation is any indicator, the face of business in America might be changing, and political powers would do well to take note.

  1. The official statistics for the Wharton Class of 2013 show that it’s a bit over a third international students, that the U.S. students are a third nonwhite (meaning the class entire is probably more like half nonwhite), and that almost half the class is women.

The Fading Diversity Of Lost Girl

By Guest Contributor Shilpa K.


Bo in Lost Girl. Image via Syfy.com.

Racial diversity in science fiction and fantasy can be difficult to find. Perhaps that’s why the Canadian fantasy show Lost Girl’s casual, anyone-can-be-anything attitude towards race, gender, and sexuality is so refreshing—and why this season’s shift in representation has been so disheartening.

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Family, Race, Religion: The US Is Becoming More Diverse

By Guest Contributor Philip N. Cohen, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images

Trying to summarize a few historical trends for the last half century, I thought of framing them in terms of diversity.

Diversity is often an unsatisfying concept, used to describe hierarchical inequality as mere difference. But inequality is a form of diversity–a kind of difference. And further, not all social diversity is inequality. When people belong to categories and the categories are not ranked hierarchically (or you’re not interested in the ranking for whatever reason), the concept of diversity is useful.

There are various ways of constructing a diversity index, but I use the one sometimes called the Blau index, which is easy to calculate and has a nice interpretation: the probability that two randomly selected individuals are from different groups.

Example: Religion

Take religion. According to the 2001 census of India, this was the religious breakdown of the population:

1.jpg

Diversity is calculated by summing the squares of the proportions in each category, and subtracting the sum from 1. So in India in 2001, if you picked two people at random, you had a 1/3 chance of getting people with different religions (as measured by the census).

Is .33 a lot of religious diversity? Not really, it turns out. I was surprised to read on the cover of this book by a Harvard professor that the United States is “the world’s most religiously diverse nation.” When I flipped through the book, though, I was disappointed to see it doesn’t actually talk much about other countries, and does not seem to offer the systematic comparison necessary to make such a claim.

With our diversity index, it’s not hard to compare religious diversity across 52 countries using data from World Values Survey, with this result:

2

The U.S. is quite diverse–.66–but a number of countries rank higher.

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Black People Review Girls (2.1): A Letter From Joe To Kendra

By Joseph Lamour

girls2
Dear Kendra,

Did you have a good weekend? I hope you did. Mine was pretty great: friends, karaoke, laughter, moderately priced alcohol, and other 20-something stereotypes…Instagramming, there was definitely a lot Instagramming. So… Is it as foggy in New York as it is in Washington, DC right now? Because I’m feeling a little like I’m trapped in that Lana Del Rey video. Anyway…

I just wanted to break the ice before our season-long foray into talking at length about Lena Dunham’s Girls. I know, Kendra: the idea of Lena and Lena’s television program and requiring you to watch Lena and Lena’s television program for the site is a less than thrilling idea for a lot of people…and even less than less for entertainment writers like us who are attuned to TV stereotypes and diversity shortages. None of us were thrilled about the whole debacle last year. There was quite an article about it on the site, as you know—you wrote it, after all.

So, Kendra, I’ve watched the first episode of Season 2 already. I’ll let you know what I’m thinking, and I’ll wait for a reply with your own thoughts. We’ll be kind of like pen pals who are super-focused on talking about something neither is particularly fond of. Kidding, of course… sort of.

To the topic at hand!

Plot spoilers below the cut. You’ve been warned…

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Want To Land A Knight Fellowship?

Calling all journalists, documentary filmmakers, freelancers, and media makers of color!

And hey Racialicious crew! It’s been a while. I know I have a million and one things to write about. I still have to write my “Coming to Stanford” post, a post about Argo, finish the Octavia Butler book club, and some hanging posts about fandom, film, and Afro-Asiatic allegories.  And I won’t even tell you my Knight to-do list because it is starting to give me hives.  But if you are even thinking of maybe applying to this awesome fellowship, please join us on a call Tuesday.  The details (that I conveniently snatched from the NABJ Digital blog):

Join the NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force, along with the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Hispanic Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association for a conference call on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time to discuss the application process for the 2013-14 class of John S. Knight Journalism Fellows at Stanford University.  The program is actively seeking a more diverse talent pool and is reaching out to journalists of color.  The call will feature one current and two past Knight fellows:

Knight Fellowships director Jim Bettinger will give an overview of the program and introduce the fellows. The fellows will discuss their application process, the work they did during their 10 months at Stanford and offer tips for those who may consider applying.  We’ll then open it up to questions.
The call will be recorded for those who can’t make the live call. You can also tweet your questions to @NABJDigital or email questions to auntbenet AT Gmail DOT com.Dial-in Number: 1-213-226-0400
Conference code: 878554

Application link: http://knight.stanford.edu/news-notes/2012/be-a-knight-fellow-applications-now-open/

I also want to point out that The John S. Knight Fellowships is currently kicking ass on diversity, as reported by Richard Prince:

Less than a week after the Knight journalism fellowships program at Stanford University chose a fellowship class comprising more than half journalists of color, the Nieman fellowships at Harvard University announced an incoming class that appears to be devoid of African Americans. [...] In the current Nieman class, Jonathan Blakley, an African American foreign desk producer at NPR, is the only U.S. journalist of color.

But it could always be better. So please, come hang on the call.  And if you are worried that you aren’t quite right for this fellowship, I encourage you to reconsider.   I’ve put my journalistic bio under the jump, the one I actually submitted. And my fellow Fellows include filmmakers, comic artists, bloggers, and one awesome person who was basically running “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” for famous Arabs. Your idea is the most important thing here. So go check it out.  And if you have questions, jump on the call.   Continue reading