Read Coates, believe Miranda


Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Alexander Hamilton in the hit show he also wrote and composed.

Hamilton, a hip-hop musical about the founding fathers and a huge hit on Broadway, draws “a straight line from America’s revolutionary moment to the contemporary music and idioms of youthful rebellion,” writes Robert Pondiscio, who teaches citizenship at Democracy Prep charters, on The 74. Its creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a genius.

So is Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, a “powerful jeremiad” with a “hopeless, even nihilistic” message about the future of young blacks in America.

I Want My Students to Read Ta-Nehisi Coates But Believe Lin-Manuel Miranda, writes Pondiscio.

It is impossible to think of our founders merely as dead white males once you have seen them embodied by young black and brown ones. On stage nightly, “Hamilton” transfers ownership of America’s narrative and ideals to those whose grip on them has been fraught for more than 200 years.

Miranda, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican ethnicity, portrays Hamilton as an ambitious immigrant. The cast is mostly brown or black — except for King George III. The lyrics invoke the “call to build a more perfect union,” writes Pondiscio.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates’ book preaches that “America is structurally and irredeemably racist,” writes Pondiscio. His “message to young people of color is you have had the great misfortune to be born in a country that is determined only to break your black body.”

Schools and educators are tools of oppression, Coates writes. He sneers at teachers’ good “intentions” and condemns those who speak of “personal responsibility” in “a country authored and sustained by a criminal irresponsibility.”

Yet, high school teachers and college professors are assigning Between the World and Me. Pondiscio wants kids to read the book — but to choose Miranda’s hope over Coates’ despair.

I gave my daughter tickets to Hamilton as a Christmas/birthday present. (They are wildly expensive.) She said it’s fantastic.

Yik Yakkers kicked out of college

In response to a Yik Yak post that read “#blackwomenmatter,” a Colorado College student wrote, “They matter, they’re just not hot.” Thaddeus Pryor, a junior, was “suspended for two years” for “abusive behavior” and “disruption of college activities,” reports The Catalyst. 

His house mate, Lou Henriques was expelled for posting a screenshot from a South Park episode showing a character on Wheel of Fortune  incorrectly answering a “People Who Annoy You” question with the letters N_GGERS displayed. (The correct answer was NAGGERS.) Another Henriques’ post referred to a South Park character running down the hall yelling “RACE WAR.”

Yik Yak is anonymous, but someone tipped off the administration that Pryor and Henriques were responsible.  Within 24 hours, they were kicked out of school. Two deans made the decision.

Both students have appealed.

“I apologized” for the six-word comment, Pryor told the Colorado Gazette.  However, the deans accused him of writing earlier Yik Yak posts that he agreed were “racist and hateful.” Pryor said he didn’t write the earlier posts or know who did.

“There have been shorter suspensions and lesser punishments for things related to sexual assault and physical violence,” he said.

In a campuswide assembly to discuss the Yik Yak posts, some students said they were offended. OK, maybe they were.

If making a lame joke and quoting South Park are grounds for suspension and expulsion . . . How can any college educate children so frail?

FIRE reminds Colorado College about free speech in this letter.

Erika Christakis, who set off a flap over racism by suggesting that Yale students could pick their own Halloween costumes, will no longer teach child development at Yale.

“I have great respect and affection for my students, but I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems,” she said in an email to The Washington Post.

You’re insensitive, you racist!

Three contributors to the Claremont Independent, a conservative campus newspaper and website, posted photos of themselves in tank tops that said “Claremont Independent: Always Right.”

Called “racist, sexist, classist” “ignorant,” “white supremacists,” etc. on social media, they also were attacked for “insensitivity” and making students “emotionally ill,” reports The College Fix, which captured screenshots.

The Independent is a monthly student publication at Claremont Colleges, a consortium of five private undergraduate liberal arts colleges in Southern California.

“Honestly I wish I could shut them down but they would be so quick to spit their ‘constitutional rights,’ rights that only work for some,” one student stated.

Claremont Independent editor Hannah Oh asked critics to “engage with us and offer constructive criticism.” Contributors include moderates, libertarians and classical liberals, she wrote.

What if she’d said being called a racist, sexist, white supremacist had made her emotionally ill? Surely, the insults qualified as a “micro” — or perhaps even a “macro” — aggression.

“I think that it is ridiculous to have a shirt that says ‘Always Right’ when many people don’t agree with the views published in your publication,” a student responded.

In another exchange, editor Steven Glick posted a picture of himself wearing the tank top with the caption “150 years ago, the Republican Party abolished sleevery. We continue to support the right to bare arms. Pick up your Claremont Independent tank top and exercise your freedom today!”

“The play on words prompted one student to suggest the post was ‘extremely offensive and violent’ and ‘trivialized slavery’,” reports The College Fix.

Purity and stupidity

California schools and roads named for Confederate leaders will have to be renamed if Gov. Jerry Brown signs SB 539. Two elementary schools in the state are named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. That seems to be it.

Two California public schools are named for Robert E. Lee.

Two California public schools are named for Robert E. Lee.

“The small coastal city of Fort Bragg, a former military outpost named for an officer who later defected to the Confederacy, was exempted,” reports the Sacramento Bee.

Why stop with Robert E. Lee? asks Darren in Stupidity From Sacramento. If the goal is ideological purity, then a lot more renaming will be necessary.

Berkeley was named after “a slave-holding Anglican priest,” he writes. George Berkeley’s sermons explained to the colonists why Christianity supported slavery,” according to the New World Encyclopedia. Rename it!

And how about all those Catholics — you know, those people who don’t like abortion like good Californians do — we can’t have cities named after them!  Say good-bye to San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Barbara, etc.  And Sacramento–the capital of the state! — is named after a religious activity, a sacrament!  Who were the natives around here, the Maidu?  Let’s find a good Maidu name for Sacramento.

California’s major cities are named after missions founded by Father (soon to be saint) Junipero Serra, who enslaved and tortured the Indians.

Should California honor Junipero Serra?

Should California honor Junipero Serra?

My friend Elias Castillo’s book, Cross of Thorns, describes how even Serra’s contemporaries were shocked by treatment of the Indians, many of whom died of disease and despair.

If Confederate leaders are verboten, so should cities named after Serra’s missions and all the schools, colleges, roads, etc. named after Serra himself. (The Junipero Serra Freeway has a statue of Serria so ugly that it’s more of a disgrace than an honor.)

Asking an Asian for math help is racist

Saying that “America is a melting post” or that “everyone can succeed” can be a “racial microaggression” at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, reports Social Memo.

New faculty are expected to read the list of microaggressions.

Urging a Latino or Asian person to “speak up more” makes the list. So does “asking an Asian person to help with a Math or Science problem.”

Equity or racism?

“White culture” includes “promoting independence, self expression, personal choice, individual thinking and achievement,” according to training required for administrators (and optional for teachers) in Oregon’s Gresham-Barlow district. A belief in upward mobility also is “white,” according to the training documents obtained by a school board member.

The Portland-area school district spends $100,000 each year on an “educational equity” conference, reports EAG News.

“Many white people in Oregon have no idea that our schools and state are immersed in white culture and are uncomfortable and harmful to our students of color, while also reinforcing the dominant nature of white culture in our white students and families,” one of the conference documents explains.

Administrators and teachers are told to stop “blaming when students don’t meet standards” and instead start “examining our beliefs and practices when students don’t meet standards.”

One participant is quoted as praising the “journey” that led him to realize: “I am a white male racist with power and a stake in the dominant culture for that is what has allowed and given me social and financial success.”

This approach to “equity” sounds incredibly racist to me. Not to mention “harmful to students of color.”

Miami principal loses job for pool party post

The principal of North Miami High School has lost his job after defending the McKinney, Texas police officer who drew his gun on black teens after a pool party.

“He did nothing wrong. He was afraid for his life,” Alberto Iber posted on a Miami Herald story. “I commend him for his actions.” Iber has been “reassigned” to other administrative duties.

North Miami is a majority-black community.

Iber showed poor judgment, said Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho. “Insensitivity — intentional or perceived — is both unacceptable and inconsistent with our policies, but more importantly with our expectation of common sense behavior that elevates the dignity and humanity of all, beginning with children.”

Talking about race — in 3rd grade

Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade? asks Lisa Miller in New York Magazine.  Can it be stopped by getting kids to think about their racial identity?

Fieldston, a very liberal private school in New York City separated third, fourth and fifth graders by race to discuss their racial identity for five weeks this spring. After the weekly “affinity groups” meeting, there was a mixed-race debriefing.

Slightly less than half the students at Fieldston’s Lower School are white, 20 percent are black or Latino, 20 percent multiracial and “the remainder are Asian or won’t say.”

Sorting by race offends many parents, who posted an online petition protesting the program, writes Miller. They wonder why the school is “forcing these children to define themselves and their families so narrowly” and at such an early age.

Ben Hort, an Irish-Jewish parent described as “blue-eyed” and “devilish,” calls it segregation. His wife is a Colombian-American with “dark-brown skin and black hair.”

 Two of their children look white, or whitish, and one is browner, with his mother’s black hair and almond eyes. To them, making racial identity a multiple-choice proposition diminishes who they really are. . . . “The kids are Colombian, they’re Jewish, they’re Irish. They’re from New York; they’re American. We are mixed.”

Like his older brother, 9-year-old Jacob Hort rejected “multi-racial” to join the “not sure” group. Asked to write on a Post-it the things that make him unique, he wrote “American. Dog lover. Me.”

Two black parents — both with Ivy League educations — tell Miller they support the program. Their kids are identified by race and need to be able to deal with it. (Wouldn’t the parents do a better job of this than anyone at the school?)

A black third-grader likes “to be with people I can share my race with” without feeling uncomfortable.

However, a fifth-grader in the Asian group complains it’s “so fricking boring . . . The conversations we have are mostly about the tensions between whites and blacks, and never about Asians or Hispanic people.”

“Here is fancy, expensive, and elitist Fieldston Lower School instituting a program that’s whole purpose is to crystallize out-dated, divisive ideas about race,” complains White Boy Rants.

Racists have free speech rights too

Some University of Oklahoma students in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were videotaped singing a racist chant that included a reference to lynching. 

University president David Boren expelled two students for “leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others.”

Racist speech is protected by the First Amendment, responds Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, in the Washington Post. “Universities may not discipline students based on their speech.” There is no “hostile environment” exception.

Likewise, speech doesn’t lose its constitutional protection just because it refers to violence — “You can hang him from a tree,” “the capitalists will be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes,” “by any means necessary” with pictures of guns, “apostates from Islam should be killed.”

Speech would have to be a “true threat” of violence to lose that protection, writes Volokh. Examples would be saying “we’ll hang you from a tree” or “we will shoot you against a wall” to a particular person likely to see it as a death threat.

The university must “respect First Amendment principles” even in the face of “vile and reprehensible speech,” said the ACLU of Oklahoma. “It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a court would side with the university on this matter.”

At the University of Oregon, students argued free speech doesn’t apply to an anti-abortion preacher, writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run.

Allison Rutledge, a history major, told the Daily Emerald she felt emotionally threatened by the anti-abortion activist’s “obscene” sign. She grabbed it and stood on it. “You can’t just show whatever you want,” she said.

Why blacks are homeschooling their kids

“Black families have become one of the fastest-growing demographics in homeschooling,” writes Jessica Huseman in the Hechinger Report. Black  parents cite low expectations for their children or “dissatisfaction with how their children—especially boys—are treated.”

Marvell Robinson, now 7, was the only black student in his kindergarten and first-grade classes at a San Diego elementary school. His “Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that affects social skills, made him a target of “curiosity and cruelty,” writes Huseman.

Marvell Robinson plays outside the San Diego Natural History Museum (Photo by Vanessa Robinson)

Marvell Robinson plays outside the San Diego Natural History Museum after a field trip. (Photo by Vanessa Robinson)

“I just thought maybe I could do a better job myself,” said his mother, Vanessa Robinson. In September, Robinson adjusted her nursing schedule so she could teach her second grader at home. Her husband, a sous chef, continues to work full-time.

“The schools want little black boys to behave like little white girls,” said Cheryl Fields-Smith, an education professor at the University of Georgia. “I think black families who are in a position to homeschool can use homeschooling to avoid the issues of their children being labeled ‘trouble makers’ and the suggestion that their children need special-education services because they learn and behave differently.”

Ama Mazama, who teaches African American Studies at Temple, surveyed black homeschoolers for a 2012 report published in the Journal of Black Studies. Most are trying to protect their children from racism at school, she found. Black children “are treated as though they are not as intelligent and cannot perform as well, and therefore the standards for them should be lower.”