New Trier High School, one of the country’s top public schools, is forcing students to attend seminars on racial identity on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“The goals for this day are to help New Trier students develop a deeper understanding of their own racial identities and the identities of others, and to better understand how we can all work to counter the impact of systemic racism in our lives,” reads a statement on the school district’s website.
Attendance is mandatory, though other public institutions in New Trier Township will be closed in observance of the holiday.
Students at the high school’s two campuses will be allowed to choose from a list of provocative and highly political seminars on race, including the following:
The Truth about Ferguson: The Investigation into the Death of Michael Brown
The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked protest and outrage regarding the treatment of people of color by law enforcement. Some demanded reform and recognition of ongoing injustices, while others came to the defense of officer Darren Wilson. Meanwhile, similar events following Brown’s death continued to go viral on social media. The United States Justice Department investigated the death of Brown as well as the Ferguson Police Department as a whole. This seminar will look into the Justice Departments findings.
Why Do I Have to Feel Guilty for Being White?
Talking about race doesn’t usually feel good for anyone. White people often walk away feeling guilty and thinking, “But I didn’t do anything!” In this workshop, we’ll explore how white guilt can become a roadblock in our journeys toward becoming white allies.
Unconscious Perceptions of Race
How does the media you choose and the community in which you live both reflect and influence the way you look at race. Join us as we look at our automatic thinking processes, how it influences the way we look at race and consider how we might adapt those processes.
Mascot or Mockery: Finding Stereotypes in Popular Culture
We will discuss the presence of racially charged parts of our popular culture that we often accept. We will discuss Halloween and sports mascots in particular. Many universities, including the University of Illinois, have recently wrestled with this topic.
Disney and the Creation of Racial Identity
Watch classic Disney films and discuss how these films influence childhood development of racial identities.
Representations of the Middle East: Stereotypes and Islamophobia
This session will examine racial stereotypes of Middle Easterners in film, television, news, and current events and how these stereotypes contribute to the Islamophobic climate. We will use the “Pyramid of Hate” model to assess the escalation of anti-Muslim rhetoric, profiling, and hate crimes.
Western Bias in Science
Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein… Were all of the great discoveries in science made by Greeks and Europeans? Explore the impact of our western bias in the history of science in this discussion session.
Dear Mom and Dad, What (Race) Am I?
This session will focus on a conversation of racial classification and identity.
What is Your Privilege?
Participants will walk through a simulation of what it is like to lose privilege and view others who have it. Participants will be given an identity of a different race and will be given the hardships that encompass that race.
Yer’ A White Wizard, Harry: Whitewashing in Cinema
This is a discussion about white dominance in the film industry. We are going to be taking a look at different cases where the voices of People of Color were silenced by the industry and how we can change it.
Intersections: Where Race and Gender Connect
This session will be led by representatives from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Gender and Sexuality Center. The session will examine the intersections between race and gender and how each impacts one’s identity.
In addition, students will be required to attend a “special presentation” by Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, and a keynote address by author Isabel Wilkerson, an open supporter of the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
Other area schools–including Evanston Township High School, which has the largest percentage of black students of any high school on the North Shore–will be closed for the holiday, as usual.
New Trier High School is located on Chicago’s affluent North Shore, and was ranked #4 in the nation last year, according to Business Insider, which gave the district an A+ for academics and teachers, but a C+ for diversity.