#USvsHate in the Classroom

Congratulations to Valeria B. ‘21 and Anya R. ‘21 who were selected as national winners in #USvsHate challenge to create public anti-hate messages. #USvsHate is a Teaching Tolerance program aimed at improving the nation’s social climate through embracing inclusion and justice in our diverse schools and society. Click here to see the Fall 2020 winners.

In the spring of 2020, High School English teacher Carlos Castellanos taught the #USvsHate unit in his 11th grade English class as part of a broader social justice curriculum.

By Carlos Castellanos, High School English Teacher

In March 2020 our school made the difficult decision to switch to remote learning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers were asked to reevaluate their curriculum and make necessary adjustments to accommodate our new learning model. With so much going on in the world, I thought it would be a good idea to implement #USvsHate as the final project for 11th grade English class. It was the best decision I could have made for my students and for me.

Our unit began with an exploration of how language surrounding the virus was starting to affect the way Asians (specifically Chinese people) were being perceived in the US. I used the lesson "Identity and Labels" from facinghistory.org, the article "Coronavirus: Sinophobia" from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and a short video from the NY Times titled "A Conversation with Asian-Americans on Race". We used these to frame conversations about how the language used to talk about Coronavirus by the president and social media was starting to negatively impact our communities.

We then continued our exploration of social justice learning through the use of various lessons from ADL (such as "The Pyramid of Hate" and "Swastikas and Other Hate Symbols"), as well as a variety of other videos from the NY Times’ "26 Mini-Films for Exploring Race, Bias, and Identity with Students". I also supplemented these with some literary texts, such as the poem "Where Is My Country?" by Nellie Wong, "Grandmother's Tongue: Inheritance" by Leah Huizar, and Zora Neal Hurston's short story "How It Feels to Be Colored Me."

Halfway through our #USvsHate unit, we learned about the unfortunate deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. We also learned about the incident with Christian Cooper in Central Park. As such, we were able to witness injustices toward the Black community unfolding right before us. We were able to make real-time connections to the material we were learning, which on the one hand left us feeling heavy after many class discussions, but on the other made our mission with #USvsHate that much more timely and valuable.

On the last day of school, students presented their anti-hate messages, and I was overwhelmed with pride by what they had produced. I'm grateful to #USvsHate for providing the platform and resources to do this work. Because of #USvsHate, my students will be able to look back at these times and know that they created some positivity and light in the world when it needed it most.

Valeria B. ’21

From watching a video in class called “A Conversation With Black Women on Race,” this quote stuck with me: “You’re not good enough, your hair isn’t good enough, your clothes aren’t good enough, and we’re going to make sure everyone notices that you’re black and everyone else isn’t.” This is important to me because what is seen in the media and described as “beautiful” and “desired” is used against African American women to make them feel “unworthy” or “ugly” in society's eyes. Our future as a society will become more aware and accepting once hate within oneself is shut down.

Being a plus sized Latina in America, I face judgement all the time. By what I see in the media and all over, my own experience is one of millions around the world that suffer from the hatred/judgement women and men face for their outward appearance. I feel and believe wholeheartedly that we need to break away from that toxic and negative way of thinking and just let people live the lives they want and choose to. People shouldn't change who they are just because society and beauty standards say that it's “wrong” or “frowned upon.” These are set by implicit biases against race, size, gender, etc. and these “expectations” are encouraged. Different is considered “ugly."

Things have been this way for centuries and we need to be the generation that stops this cycle of self hate that comes from the idea that what we look like matters more than the content of our souls and characters. Beautiful is whatever you make it, not what others say it has to be. Write your own narrative and make sure that you blossom into the person you want to be in this world. Everyone is beautiful in their own ways, and once that’s realized you will hold the strongest form of magic in the world, love. That feeling will be felt towards yourself, and then can be spread around because it's such a powerful force. That's the reason I feel so strongly about this movement, because any type of positivity that could be found is needed so desperately in this cruel world full of hate.”

Anya R. ’21

The Coronavirus pandemic is reminding the Asian American community that their belonging is conditional. One moment we were Americans, the next we were contagious foreigners. Asian Americans have tirelessly persisted through oppression for years in the forms of alienization, otherization, discrimination, and racism, yet our struggle is overlooked and not acknowledged. Damaging stereotypes such as the model minority myth have caused Asian American struggles to be invalidated and unnoticed. Chinese Americans have historically struggled for their place in society ever since the Chinese Exclusion Act which was written to prevent Chinese Americans from succeeding. The anti-Chinese hate sentiment has since then continued to grow and is still reflected in modern day society. Because Asians are socially viewed as a “fake” minority, due to the model minority myth, the racism the community is currently facing is downplayed and not taken seriously. Growing up as a mixed Chinese and White individual, I have been able to see both sides of the community. The Chinese in my blood will always be seen as impurifying my Whiteness and our society has stripped me of having a mixed identity. As a mixed White and Chinese American, I have seen how ignorantly embedded Asian American hate is in our society and its values.

Many young Chinese-Americans experience similar childhoods as I did. Awareness about Chinese-American racism is rarely taught in school and this is harmful towards the development of future generations. I wanted to write a poem that would reflect the feelings I could not put into words as a young child who was confused with and ashamed of her identity. As Chinese American oppression continues to be erased, and racism continues to spread, I have a responsibility to my community to use my voice and express the struggles the community faces.
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