Inside Lower Manhattan Community School's controversial exercise to 'undo legacy of racism'

Plans to racially separate students in affinity groups to discuss how racial identities influence their experiences has resulted in mixed reactions


                            Inside Lower Manhattan Community School's controversial exercise to 'undo legacy of racism'
Lower Manhattan Community School will segregate students according to race for a two-day program starting November 23 (Google Maps)

A junior high school in New York will segregate students according to their race to discuss how it affects their racial identities influence their experiences. Principal Shanna Douglas sent out an email to parents stating they will be conducting certain exercises as part of the school's mission "to undo the legacy of racism and oppression in this country that impacts our school community." Students from seventh and eighth grades will opt into one of the categories which include - Whites, Asians, and multi-racial. African-Americans and Hispanic students will be clubbed into one. 

The Lower Manhattan Community school will racially segregate the students into "affinity groups" that will further discuss identity and social justice topics. The controversial exercises will take place on November 23rd and 24th. Douglas announced, "On November 23rd and 24th, 7th and 8th graders will explore the question ‘How do our racial identities influence our experiences?’ in affinity groups". She clarified, "An affinity group is a group formed around a shared interest." The school has also offered an idea of the fifth group for students which appears to be for those uncomfortable with affirming to a certain category. 

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Groups will discuss 'Why are we even talking about racial identity?'

Douglas's message revealed that that two-day program will open with a discussion about "Why are we even talking about racial identity?" The spokesperson for the Department of Education, Nathaniel Styer said that this is an optional program and student participation is not at all mandatory and those who wish to stay out of it are free to do so. "This optional program was developed in close coordination with both the School Leadership Team, PTA, and families,” Styer said before adding  that it's made “abundantly clear to both students and parents that anyone can opt-out of this two-day celebration if they desire.”

Douglas's email further explained why they plan to base a whole discussion around race this year. She wrote, "students are talking about it since race has become a popular topic on social media, or parents are talking even more about it at home due to the recent incidents across the nation." She admitted that the school which is 44 percent Asian, 29 percent white 15 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent Black has failed to adequately address race issues in the past. A parent told New York Post there is a fear that the affinity groups could stray but at the same time praised the staff saying they are well-equipped to handle such situations. 

"I think our teachers know how to handle it," the mother said. Another parent echoed her views and said she had no qualms regarding the program. "The staff is very good about being clear when it comes to race," she said. Another set of parents said the racial segregation is divisive and troubling. “I think a lot of us feel like this is too much,” said a mother. “But most parents are too afraid to say anything at this point. Why are we separating our kids like this?” Another student's father said the school should focus on traditional academics than prioritizing political discussions. “Teach the history,” he said. “Tell that story. I’m all for an honest accounting. But this is something different. It’s insidious.” Douglas asked concerned parents to reach out to her before concluding the message.