Andrea Davis, an African American teacher, first encountered the Disney Princess Tiana featured on a shampoo bottle in Macy’s. For Davis—a college student at the time—it represented her childhood struggle of finding a princess who looked like her. Today, Davis looks for ways to make all her students feel represented in the literature she chooses for her class, explaining that representation is not just about skin color, but all the differences students bring to the classroom. Davis cites Dr. Sharroky Hollie, executive director of the Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, who says there are three questions teachers must ask themselves when choosing literature for their classrooms: 1) “Are diverse characters represented in the text?” 2) “Are the characters more than secondary or background characters?” and 3) “Are accurate descriptions and examples of the character’s culture portrayed in the text beyond a surface level?” Davis emphasizes that culturally diverse and authentic representation make all students feel at home and better prepared to learn.
President Trump’s recent remarks on undocumented immigrants being “animals” has prompted backlash from people citing the myriad ways dehumanization has contributed to the persecution of marginalized groups—but the effect of dehumanization doesn’t end there. Thanks to a new series of studies published in Psychological Science, researchers find that “people who are manipulated into thinking themselves as less than human are more likely to behave in unscrupulous ways,” using people who are imprisoned or homeless as examples. The researchers go on to say that while “many may believe that making a prisoner or a criminal feel inhuman is necessary to punish them, or motivate them to improve…this dehumanization might cause them to disconnect from morality as a fundamental facet of humanity.” As an alternative approach, the studies call for the establishment of “rehabilitative programs that emphasize restoration of one’s feelings of humanity.”
Following Tuesday’s closing of 8,000 Starbucks stores around the country for anti-bias training, Charles Bethea of The New Yorker talked to two Starbucks employees from opposite coasts about their experience. Both employees report that the training was video-based and that they “watched clips of historic civil-rights marches” and “listened to frank interviews about the experience of being a person of color,” in addition to comments from the company’s owner and CEO. Afterwards, employees discussed what they watched and filled out notebooks with answers to identity-based questions, which one of the baristas interviewed says he’d never thought about very much, being “a white man of sixty-two.” The other barista, who identifies as biracial and gay, says that, “Race is always on my mind, being biracial…This was the first time we’d talked about race. It seemed eye-opening for a lot of people, but very uncomfortable as well. It was difficult for people in a work setting to share very divisive personal experiences.” While he describes the training as “a really great first step,” he went on to note that it may be “a big ask for a taxed workforce: to tell people doing five things at once, at the lowest end of the totem pole, to also be extra racially sensitive.”