Tag Archives: NYC

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.

 

 

Monday Long Read: The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities

Photo via New York Magazine

This New York Magazine feature about the Big Brother-esque eye on the NYC Muslim community reminds us that Stop And Frisk isn’t all that’s wrong with the NYPD:

The Demographics Unit began simply enough, with a copy of the 2000 U.S. Census. The information was public, and the police used the data the way any sociologist could. They mapped, looking for 28 “ancestries of interest.” Nearly all were Muslim. There were Middle Eastern and South Asian countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Egypt. Former Soviet states like Uzbekistan and Chechnya were included because of their large Muslim populations. The last “ancestry” on the list was “American Black Muslim.”

At the NYPD, Cohen enjoyed an advantage he’d never had as a CIA analyst: a pool of recruits drawn from New York’s own neighborhoods. The FBI and CIA struggled to recruit native Arabic speakers, in part because it was prohibitively difficult for applicants with strong overseas ties to get security clearances. The NYPD didn’t have that problem. The police force had long been a stepping-stone to the middle class for immigrants. One in five Academy graduates was born overseas. So when Cohen went searching for officers who could blend in to Muslim neighborhoods, he didn’t have to look far. He recruited young Middle Eastern officers who spoke Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They would be the ones raking the coals, looking for hot spots, and they became known as “rakers.”

Every day, the rakers set out from the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where the Demographics Unit was based, and visited businesses in teams of two. Their job was to look like any other young men stepping in off the street.

The routine was almost always the same, whether they were visiting a restaurant, deli, barbershop, or travel agency. The two rakers would enter and casually chat with the owner. The first order of business was to determine his ethnicity and that of the patrons. This would determine which file the business would go into. A report on Pakistani locations, for instance, or one on Moroccans. Next, they’d do what the NYPD called “gauging sentiment.” Were the patrons observant Muslims? Did they wear traditionally ethnic clothes, likeshalwar kameez? Were the women wearing hijabs?

If the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera was playing on the TV, the police would note it and observe how people were acting. Were they laughing, smiling, or cheering at reports of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they talk Middle Eastern politics? If the business sold extremist literature or CDs, the officers would buy one or two. Was the owner selling fake I.D.’s or untaxed cigarettes? Police would note it. If customers could rent time on a computer, police might pay for a session and look at the computer’s search history. Were people viewing jihadist videos or searching for bomb-making instructions? Who was speaking Urdu? Read More

Missed Connections NYC: The Not Quite Stopped and Frisked Edition

By Kendra James

Missed Connection (NYC, 2 Train): African American female searching for African American male she met while the NYPD went through her underwear…

Hey, so, I don’t know if you’re going to remember me–

Actually, scratch that. You have to remember me given what happened yesterday. And that’s ironic because I left my apartment specifically dressed to attract zero attention. The fact that I was wearing my brother’s old clothing– mens cargo shorts, a blue mens henley, and black chucks? That was a strategic move made by a twenty-something female looking to attract as little street harassment attention as possible.

Really, I was just trying to get to Bed Bath and Beyond in peace.

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IMAGES: The Million Hoodie March

Compiled by Arturo R. García

Mother Jones’ assertion that Wednesday’s Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin and the Occupy Wall Street movement are “linked” will need to be reassessed in the days ahead. Though Occupation members like @OccupyTheHood were credited by some with helping the two groups find solidarity leading into the event, by Wednesday evening, allegations were made online accusing members of OWS of moving to co-opt it. (A compilation of some of the tweets in the debate can be found here.)

But one more thing should be reevaluated from that video, too: the notion that “hundreds” took part. People on the ground, as well as some online outlets, reported that thousands lined the streets, among them Martin’s parents.
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Announcement/Open Thread: The Million Hoodie March

In the spirit of solidarity, we want to join other sites in inviting our readers in the New York area to join in what’s being billed as the Million Hoodie March in honor of Trayvon Martin, scheduled to begin at Union Square at 6 p.m. EST.

A petition on Change.org calling for the prosecution of the man who killed Trayvon, George Zimmerman, is nearing the 1-million signature mark. As noted on the event’s Facebook page, today is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

If you do attend, or are donning a hoodie for the event, please use this space to talk about your experiences today.

The Politics Of Hailing A Cab

By Guest Contributor Loryn Wilson, cross-posted from LorynWilson.com

On New Year’s Eve, I stumbled out of Marvin and went out to 14th Street to find a cab. Next to me was a white guy, apparently trying to do the same thing. A cab pulls up, and I jump in as fast as I could, because I know how this normally goes. Most of the time, this story ends with the white guy getting picked up and I’m left to wait for a cab driver to stop for a black girl.

I must’ve not shut the door quick enough, because the white guy who was standing on the same corner as me squeezes his ass in! The cabdriver asks where he’s going and it’s in the complete opposite direction as my destination. The cabdriver says he can only take one of us to our destination. I get indignant. “Sir, I was here first. You’re not kicking me out of the cab. At all.”

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