February 27, 2019
“...Policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles...are based on racist standards of appearance [and perpetuate] racist stereotypes that say Black hairstyles are unprofessional or improper.”—Carmelyn P. Malalis, when discussing New York City’s new guidelines on hair-based discrimination.
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For the fourth year in a row, Arizona seems unlikely to change a law that bans teachers of HIV/AIDS education from “portraying ‘homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle’ or suggesting there are safe ways to have homosexual sex.” While some sex educators have tried to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ students, the current law tends to stand in their way. Tempe high schooler Devynn Thurston, who identifies as queer and transgender, says, “To me, it blatantly just doesn't protect LGBT kids and it's deliberately saying that cisgender heterosexual kids deserve safety and sex education while LGBT kids don't.” According to GLSEN’s most recent annual survey, 71 percent of Arizona’s LGBTQ+ students are verbally harassed at school.
The troubling results of GLSEN’s report highlight the direct effect of state and federal policy on the day-to-day lives of LGBTQ+ students. As homophobia and transphobia continues to pervade the country, it’s critical that we fight legislation that fails to adequately recognize or protect LGBTQ+ students.
Whether you’re an educator, administrator, legislator, business owner, community organizer, or simply a parent, it’s important to consider whether the rules and policies you have in place reflect the lives and realities of your community, and whether there are any needs that aren’t being met currently.
Despite the common refrains of what it means to be a millennial today, writer and producer Reniqua Allen points out that “there remains a huge blind spot when it comes to Black millennials in particular.” She says that the Black millennial experience has consisted of “contradictions and ambiguity”—in other words, “tentative steps forward” like Barack Obama’s presidency; Beyoncé’s overwhelming success; and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ rise as a public intellectual, paired against “horrific setbacks” like Hurricane Katrina, widely publicized cases of police brutality, and the shattered illusion of the post-race era. Black millennials face many of the same economic and social challenges as millennials of other races, but these challenges are spiked with racism that has changed little, if at all, over centuries. Despite the increased visibility of Black people and culture in historically white spaces, a 2015 study found that a significant number of white millennials still believe Black people are lazy and less intelligent. Allen notes that even if “the story of the Black millennial is the story of what it means to be Black, period,” it’s also about what it means to hope: “Not in a feel-good way, not in a naive way, but in a desperate way, as a way of life, because the alternative is unacceptable.”
Allen’s writing is an incredibly powerful portrayal of the contradictions and inconsistencies of “progress.” By giving voice to these nuances, she helps us reject the misconception of one monolithic millennial experience, and instead allows us to step back and see a clearer, bigger landscape.
To build and deepen connections, it’s critical to examine and understand the experiences of marginalized people when attempting to understand a generation as a whole. Far from having one uniform identity, eras are defined by the infinite number of ways in which people experience change and consistency.
A new study found that racial achievement gaps in STEM were cut in half when professors had a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. If you have a growth mindset, you “believe intelligence is a malleable quality that can be developed over time.” If you have a fixed mindset, you view intelligence as “a fixed trait that cannot change very much.” Researchers report that while all students earned significantly higher grades in STEM when their professor demonstrated a growth mindset, Black, Latino, and Native American students in particular benefited from their professor’s beliefs. Researchers suggest that this is because students of marginalized backgrounds “have reason to wonder whether or not they are valued and respected in class,” so when they see their professor believing in their improvement, they see clear “pathways to success” for themselves.
This is an exciting new finding that links the popular concept of growth mindset with concrete benefits to students from marginalized groups. It also demonstrates how faculty can raise achievement among all their students.
As a faculty member pointed out in the study, “It’s really eye-opening how your behaviors, thoughts, beliefs and your teaching really have an impact on students.” The study also emphasizes the importance of mutual trust and respect between faculty and students of marginalized backgrounds. It goes a long way.