Things That Matter

A Teacher Thought She Was Funny Handing Out Racist Awards To Students But No One Is Smiling Now

Credit: USA TODAY / Youtube

Lizeth Villanueva, a seventh grader at Anthony Aguirre Junior High School in Houston, Texas was part of an award ceremony apparently designed to take students down a notch. According to The Washington Post, several teachers watched on as students were given ridiculous “awards.” One such award was given to Villanueva: “Most likely to become a terrorist.” You read that right. The teacher in question gave 13-year-old Villanueva the insulting certificate before saying that some people might get offended, but she didn’t really care about their feelings. According to Villanueva, her teacher then proceeded to laugh along with at least three other teachers.

Lizeth Villanueva, a 13-year-old Houston honors student, was given a superlative certificate for “most likely to become a terrorist.”

Villenueva has no disciplinary history to speak of and has been an exemplary student, getting solid grades in the honors program for the last two years. Adding insult to injury, it was the day after the Manchester terrorist attack, where 22 people were killed by a suicide bomber. With anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment running high right now, singling out the Salvadorian-American Villanueva must have been a particularly difficult thing — she hasn’t been back to school since.

The disgusting awards didn’t end there: a Black student by the name of Sydney Caesar was given an award for “most likely to blend in with white people.”

The school has said they’ve taken steps to correct this issue, but parents don’t think suspensions are enough. They feel the damage is already done and could happen again to others. Caesar’s mother, Latonya Robinson, told Houston news affiliate Fox26 News, “Everyone doesn’t believe that this is real. But yes, this certificate shows that this is real. This happened. And we have enough bullying as it is by other students, now it’s being done by a teacher.” Both parents want action to be taken. Villanueva thinks the teacher should be fired, and Robinson wants the same, telling Fox26 that a suspension for the rest of the semester isn’t enough punishment.

The principal of the school issued an apology via the school’s Twitter account.

The principal has reportedly taken action against the offending teachers, but wouldn’t release their names, saying it’s a “personnel matter.” However, someone let the teacher’s name slip.

NBC Houston affiliate KPRC 2 reported the teacher’s name is Stacy Lockett. One family has stood up for Lockett:

Credit: KPRC / Click2Houston

This parent said had three of her students went through Lockett’s class with no complaints.

The school district has issued an official statement on the incident:

“The Channelview ISD Administration would like to apologize for the insensitive and offensive fake mock awards that were given to students in a classroom. Channelview ISD would like to assure all students, parents and community members that these award statements and ideals are not representative of the district’s vision, mission and educational goals for our students.

“The teachers involved in this matter have been disciplined according to district policy and the incident is still under investigation.”

According to KPRC, there’s no word yet whether or not the teacher will be returning in the fall. But the students and families negatively effected by Lockett’s award ceremony, might be hoping for a substitute come next year.


[H/T] KHOU

READ: I’m A Latino High School History Teacher And This Is Why I Went To D.C. To Attend Trump’s Inauguration


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UPS Finally Lifts Its Discriminatory Ban on Natural Black Hairstyles

Things That Matter

UPS Finally Lifts Its Discriminatory Ban on Natural Black Hairstyles

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

UPS is finally catching up with the times and making some broad-ranging changes to various parts of its dress code.

The delivery company announced on Tuesday that it would lift its long-standing restrictions against natural Black hairstyles like locs, braids and afros. In addition, the company is lifting its policy on requiring drivers to be clean-shaven. The company also announced that it would no longer have gender-specific guidelines about dress and appearance–such as putting restrictions on the length of its drivers’ shorts based on their gender.

UPS released a statement saying, “these changes reflect our values and desire to have all UPS employees feel comfortable, genuine and authentic while providing service to our customers and interacting with the general public.”

Per UPS, their decision to finally overhaul the long-detested policy came from their CEO, Carol Tomé, who received feedback from employees that their appearance policies made them less likely to recommend UPS as an employer to potential employees. On a recent conference call, Tomé also announced that UPS would be providing trainings to employees on anti-racisms and how to identify and combat unconscious bias.

While the announcement is obviously a step in the right direction, the change still feels like a long time coming. Back in 2018, UPS was fined $4.9 million by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit alleged that UPS’s “strict appearance policy has operated to exclude Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians, and other religious groups from equal participation and advancement in the workforce for many years.”

Natural hair discrimination by employees has recently been making national headlines after the CROWN Act was passed as law in seven states. The CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) prevents employees from discriminating against Black people who wear their hair in natural or protective styles.

Again, while many people were happy with the news, the announcement nevertheless brought up some bittersweet feelings.

The fact that it took UPS so long to change what we now know is a blatantly racist policy doesn’t feel like it should be worth celebrating.

This Twitter user pointed out that UPS’s policies policing Black women’s hair is an example of the insidious nature of structural racism.

Why has it taken UPS 113 years to realize that its policies on employee appearances are discriminatory? Probably because they weren’t even realizing how much the policies penalized Black people for the hair that naturally grows out of their heads in the first place.

This person had a perfect response to people who say “It’s just hair.”

The fact that Black people have to change their natural appearance in order to be earn a living is inherently wrong.

This Twitter user shared his firsthand experience of being subjected to UPS discriminatory “appearance guidelines”.

We wonder how many other people with locs have similar stories. This man wasn’t even allowed to interview for the company–literal gatekeeping at its worst.

This person pointed out that UPS is not the only company to police their Black employees’ natural hair.

UPS is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a still a lot of work to do when it comes to dismantling the structural racism of many companies’ policies.

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Two Black Moms Took Their Kids To Play In A Fountain On The Mall Then Secret Service Officers Swarmed Them With Guns

Things That Matter

Two Black Moms Took Their Kids To Play In A Fountain On The Mall Then Secret Service Officers Swarmed Them With Guns

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Two Black mothers headed to our nation’s capital last week to give their children some playtime in the fountains at the World War II Memorial. The day was hot and the mothers thought the memorial would be a perfect place to let their children cool down and have some fun.

Unfortunately, the day quickly turned sinister when the women and their children were swarmed by Secret Service agents who pointed a rifle at them.

Last Thursday, India Johnson, 26, and Yasmeen Winston, 25, were driving their infants to take a splash in the fountains at the memorial when a Secret Service cruiser drove into their front left bumper.

The two women have reportedly been best friends since seventh grade and are mothers to boys: 13-month-old Sir Quincy (Johnson) and six-month-old G’esus (Winston). Both Sir Quincy and G’esus were sitting in the back seat of the car that they were driving. According to the women, Mother Goose Club was playing on the radio. Then, within seconds of the Secret Service cruiser driving into their car, an officer pointed a rifle at them and yelled “Get out!” and “Put your hands in the air!”

Soon enough, more officers surrounded them with guns. Eventually, Winston and Johnson were handcuffed and separated from their children. According to both women, they were detained without being given a reason as to why and were spoken to by police officers who did not wear masks, despite the current coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Washington Post, “Initially, the women said, an officer told them the vehicle had been reported stolen and that the suspects were two Black men. But the women, both African American, said no men were with them and provided proof that Johnson was the owner. She told the Secret Service she had never reported the car stolen. Eventually, the women were released — without an apology or answers to their questions.”

Winston and Johnson are now demanding that the Secret Service investigate the incident and release the details to the public.

“This incident took place near our national monuments across from the White House,” Timothy Maloney, the women’s attorney, wrote in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray over the weekend. “It occurred after eight weeks of unprecedented national demonstrations about excessive police conduct, some of which took place right there on Constitution Avenue. Has the Secret Service learned nothing this summer?”

Speaking about the incident Winston told the Washington Post “I could have been another Breonna Taylor. I could have been another innocent woman who has no record and got shot.”

In a statement to the Post, a Secret Service spokesperson said that they had received a “query requesting the agency investigate an alleged interaction between Uniformed Division Officers and two members of the public” and that they are looking into the incident.

Winston says she and Johnson have spent the days after the incident completely traumatized.

Winston told the Post that she is currently seeking therapy and their friend is avoiding going outside of her home. “We don’t get in trouble. Nothing like this has ever happened to us. I thought the police were here to serve and protect us, and now it’s really uncomfortable,” she explained.

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