Home Education The School Colors podcast explores why Queens School’s diversity plan failed

The School Colors podcast explores why Queens School’s diversity plan failed

The School Colors podcast explores why Queens School's diversity plan failed

In downtown Queens, New York City’s famous diverse district, a high school integration plan was unveiled even before it began.

The “School Colors” podcast is back with a second season in which to delve as the plan fell off the rails in area 28which is divided into the ethnically mixed but mostly white and affluent neighborhoods of Forest Hills and Rega Park in the north, and the more racially diverse and working communities of Richmond Hill and Jamaica in the south.

Creators Mark Winston Griffith and Max Friedman spent the first season of “School Paints”. tracing the history of races and the struggle for power over schools in the 16th districta cult corner of Brooklyn that includes the historically black Bedford-Stavesant quarter.

The couple is once again delving into the past of District 28 to help explain its current problems. They study who is involved in conversations about race, and reflect on how these forces have shaped their lives.

The second season, which started earlier this month, is being distributed via Code Switch NPR. New series come out every week.

Chalkbeat spoke with Winston Griffith and Friedman about why it’s important to understand common stories, how to move forward, even when advances in education seem elusive, and why difficulties need to be perceived when it comes to race in America.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Without giving too much, can you explain what the second season is about?

Friedman: The first season was about District 16 in Brooklyn and ended with a brief discussion of how District 16 should go through the diversity planning process. This season is essentially continuing where last season stopped because we’re talking about this diversity planning process, but in a different area. When the city chose the districts to go through this process, the 28th district was the one that attracted all the attention, because the 28th district is the one where it derailed.

I think it was weird for outsiders. Because District 28 is literally in the center of Queens, which is often referred to as the most diverse place in the world.

The immediate question is: why would people be upset about the diversity plan in the most diverse place in the world? All – all with whom we spoke, they appreciate diversity. And then, in a sense, a more interesting question for us: why does this area need a diversity plan in the first place?

The most interesting thing we get to is that while this area has existed, for over 50 years, people have said that there is a Mason Dixon line between the North and the South.

How did this happen? Basically, this is the first half of the season. And then the second half: So how has this happened in the present? How has such a disparity, baked in the past, survived? And how did it all get out of hand when the idea of ​​this diversity plan came up?

In Brooklyn’s 15th District, the city has launched a public engagement process ultimately revised admission make high schools more integrated. The process was seen as a template for places like District 28. So if District 28 would serve as a template for the rest of the city, what lessons do you think there are in District 28?

Winston Griffith: This is what diversity planners have been trying to decide: to make each district in New York have its own dynamics.

When we went to District 28, people objected to District 15 being seen as a template – and they didn’t want that template to be imposed on them. They did not identify themselves with the population there. They did not identify themselves with the goals of District 15. They believed the district had other problems. One of the things we learned from considering this in District 28 is that at the very beginning of this process there should be some buy-in.

For one thing, you have to admit that the buy-in concept is a bit slippery, right? No matter how well you do everything, there will always be people who feel that their interests are being challenged and so they will resist. But at least you have to have some broad recognition that what you do is what you need.

In District 28 you got almost equal figures when you did some census, Asians, Blacks, Hispanics and Whites. We know these categories are absurdly reductionist, but the fact is that you have so many different identities and so many different aspirations and cultures inherent in the area, which creates a problem in itself.

Both in the first season and this season you go back a lot in history – as well as on the way back. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to trace this story and why it is important to understand our current landscape?

Friedman: We come from a place where we believe that many of the conditions we see in our schools and in our city have existed for decades and sometimes centuries. And no matter who the individual living there now feels personally responsible for it, if they live there now, they inherited it all. And they benefit from the material in which they are baked, and they suffer from the material in which they are baked.

Winston Griffith: Yes, and I think communities are dynamic. They are constantly changing. So you always have to keep in mind that there is a certain level of social amnesia, you know?

Friedman: Especially when it comes to schools.

Winston Griffith: That’s right. And that’s why I find it so instructive for people and helpful when they understand that what they feel, what they’re saying, what they’re doing is, in a sense, already realized. It helps inform them and makes them smarter in how they solve problems in their community.

Friedman: I hope so.

A lot of education and especially a lot in this matter when it comes to school integration, it just feels like a giant circle. So what does progress look like?

Friedman: One recurring theme that you will definitely hear in the second and third episodes is that there is a story of intervention to try, quote without quotes, to help the south side. These interventions were almost never initiated or triggered by people who were allegedly called upon, I quote without citation, to help.

What we’ve heard from some people now living on the south side who live in South Jamaica is, “Whatever happens next, it has to come from us”. And I believe that opinions on what should happen in the area, what are the conditions that would improve, really divided.

I think it’s especially hard because we certainly have enough stories to tell about people from the south who are trying to make things happen and be demoralized and demobilized.

You have a lot to do with racism: racist history and racism today. When you talk to people, especially today, what do you think are essentially arguments against integration or racist arguments when the people who lead them are very rarely going to teach them that way?

Winston Griffith: We knew we would fight this from the beginning. Because we are trying to earn trust as journalists, but we also do not want to intentionally turn a blind eye to things we consider racist. And so the problem is this: when do you call it? Should you allow this to speak for itself? After all, I want them to be able to hear themselves and say, “That’s what I said.” That’s what I meant. You shot it right and right. This is what we are both looking for.

Friedman: And that’s another, you know, you hear a lot about both sides of journalism, and the dangers of representing both sides in something if the sides don’t necessarily have the same power. I’m not saying that. I’m not saying anything special about the diversity plan and the validity of each side. So we want to be fair to people without falling into this trap.

Winston Griffith: And that’s why history is so important. Because if you hear what someone said 50 years ago, and someone says it today, damn it, almost literally – history has shown us the point. And we don’t want to be too heavy on this. I also don’t think that because people were in opposition to some things 50 years ago, everyone who is in opposition today is a racist. But I think it’s fair to ask if there are threads between them.

Part of what made the first season stand out was that each of you had a personal story woven in, and it felt like you would learn about yourself as well. Can we expect this this time?

Friedman: It’s not as direct as the first season, but it is. Both of our families at different times tried to get out of Brooklyn and move to Queens. My family stayed in Queens for only a year before moving to California. But I have the address of the house in Jamaica where my mother lived when she was 5 years old. We can drive past the house where Mark grew up, in Lorelton.

Queens represented for my grandparents, for Mark’s parents, what she still represents for many people today. It is a kind of suburban American dream, but within the city limits. In a way, I think it’s essentially an escape from the “big bad city,” it’s an aspect of separating yourself – sometimes for very good reasons.

Another thing I would say is in the eighth series – Mark and I were coded differently as “gifted” as children. When we talk about tracking, when we talk about programs for gifted people, and when we talk about the idea of ​​“giftedness” in the eighth episode, we certainly have to talk about our own experiences. It will be very personal. And hard, I’m waiting.

What do you hope people will pick up this season? What makes you feel like you did what you set out to do?

Winston Griffith: When you talk about race, class, and power in the United States, you’re doing a disservice by assuming that it can all be encapsulated in black and white. And so moving to District 28 gave us the opportunity to confront it head on.

And I hope people understand, and what they’ve gotten with the first season, is that they understand the complexity of these issues, how limited our language and our approach to race, understanding of race and talk about race are. , and appreciate this political moment in which we find ourselves.

Christina Weig is a reporter covering New York City schools with a focus on school diversity and early childhood education. Contact Christina at cveiga@chalkbeat.org.

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