Things That Matter

An LA School Handed Out A Map To Help Students Learn The Capitals But Many Say It Had A Blatantly Racist Message

Fifth graders at Downey Unified School District in Los Angeles were given a map of the United States with the letters C-A-N-T across the southern border to indicate immigrants “can’t just cross it.” Parents of students at the school were fuming and felt the study guide was racist. 

The letters represented the states California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The acronym is intended to be a mnemonic device but it was the phrase “you can’t just cross the border of the U.S.” accompanying the image that left parents upset. The Southeast Los Angeles city is largely Latinx, so the assignment struck a nerve.

Erick Galindo of LAist looked into how this study guide found its way into a classroom, and things got messy from there.  

The study guide was downloaded by a fifth-grade teacher from a website.

Galindo found that the study guide, 50 States and Capitals, was created by a teacher in San Francisco with information pulled from a YouTube channel by someone named Ms. Alexander. A teacher at Downey Unified school bought the guide from Teachers Pay Teachers, a marketplace where teachers can buy and sell syllabus materials. 

The teacher did not review it before they handed it out to students over Veterans Day weekend. Parents were furious when they saw it and aired their grievances on social media. 

“This kind of stuff needs to f——— stop,” Jose, a parent of a student at the school, told LAist

The district stopped handing out the guide and is now reviewing how educators audit third-party teaching materials. Teachers Pay Teachers has also stopped selling the guide. 

“I was concerned that she had gotten something like that,” Emily said. “I grew up here. I have a kid who goes to school here. It’s scary.” Emily was one of the parents who called the district office, where she said a representative told her they were handling it.

The district is proactively taking steps to address the situation.

According to LAist, the school immediately spoke with parents of students who used the handout and apologized. The district won’t publicly reveal which teachers used it, although they insist there will be consequences for the educator.  

“Obviously, the structural elements of this worksheet did not convey an inclusive environment,” said Ashley Greaney, the district’s public relations coordinator. ” As an inclusive district, we absolutely do not condone any type of content that is not inclusive in nature.” 

The assistant superintendent educator Wayne Shannon said it was nonunique for teachers to be using third-party websites but that every now and then a teacher may make a poor selection. Shannon said teachers must now fully review anything they hand out to children. Some parents wondered if the district was doing enough, and feared the study guide might just end up in different schools. 

“We need to talk about it,” Jose said. “We can’t be quiet about it. This is a big deal. It a perfect example of how this stuff is so normal, or else it wouldn’t be happening in Downey,” Jose explained. 

LAist finds the YouTube series that inspired the “CANT” map.

Galindo was able to track down the school teacher selling the guide, Brian Louie. Louie declined to comment but said the lesson plan was based on online resources. Several YouTube videos had similar mnemonic devices. 

A woman who goes by Ms. Alexander appeared to mirror the handout nearly identically. 

“The very first thing we are going to start with is ‘can’t,'” Ms. Alexander as she writes C-A-N-T on each letter’s accompanying state. “This is the Mexican border, you can’t cross the border without the right paperwork.”

Many parents in the comments of the YouTube wanted to know what the purpose was of having any commentary about the border at all when it was irrelevant to the assignment. Teachers Pay Teachers quickly addressed the issue, although there’s no way to know how far the guide has circulated. 

“We take resource quality and offensive content very seriously,” Kristin Hodgson of Teachers Pay Teacher told LAist. “It’s extremely important to us that Teachers Pay Teachers’ resources make educators and their students feel respected and safe. If anyone becomes aware of TpT content that may be offensive, they can use our community flagging tool to report the resource to us for review.”

The website relies on a peer-review process to flag any inappropriate or incorrect content. The Downey Unified District reported the lesson plan on the website and it was promptly taken down, and the page for the guide is now no longer available. As for the parents, they remain skeptical that YouTube is a good source of information for students. 

“I can’t imagine what’s happening in other schools,” Lisa, a parent of one of the students, said. “How does a YouTube video become homework?”

Spike Lee Is The First Black President Of Cannes Film Festival In Its 73-Year History

Entertainment

Spike Lee Is The First Black President Of Cannes Film Festival In Its 73-Year History

James Gourley / Flickr

Spike Lee is returning to the 73rd Cannes Film Festival a couple of years after BlacKkKlansman debuted there, this time as the jury president. In over seven decades, the prestigious film festival has never had a black president overseeing the artists who decide which films will win an award. 

“In this life I have lived, my biggest blessings have been when they arrived unexpected, when they happened out of nowhere. When I got the call that I was offered the opportunity to be president of Cannes jury for 2020, I was shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time,” Lee said in a statement.

The 62-year-old director won Cannes’ Grand Prix for BlacKkKlansman which also earned Lee his first Academy Award. Prior to his recent release, Lee hadn’t participated in Cannes in 22 years despite having seven of his most beloved films like, She’s Gotta Have ItDo The Right Thing and Summer Of Sam, playing there. 

Lee releases a heartfelt statement about becoming the jury president.

Lee said this particular film festival is the most important in the world and that it significantly impacted his career.

“It started way back in 1986 – my first feature film She’s Gotta Have It, which won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Director’s Fortnight. The next joint was in 1989 – Do The Right Thing, an Official Selection in Competition. And I don’t have the time nor space to write about the cinematic explosion that jumped off, still relative to this, 30 years later,” Lee said in a statement. 

Do The Right Thing might be Lee’s most well-known project. The film which uses building racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood as an exploration of violence as activism was solidified as a part of history when it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry and Libray of Congress. 

“Then Jungle Fever 1991 – Official Selection in Competition, Girl 6 1996 – Official Selection out of Competition, Summer Of Sam1999 – Director’s Fortnight, Ten Minutes Older 2002 – Official Selection in Un Certain Regard and then BlacKkKlansman 2018 – Official Selection in Competition where it won the Grand Prix, which became the launching pad for the world theatrical release which led to my Academy Award for screenplay,” he continued. 

Many have felt that Lee has not gotten the respect he deserves as a filmmaker — at least not until fairly recently.

Despite being nominated four times across three decades, Lee wasn’t awarded an Academy Award until 2019 for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

“Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever. Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas. Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up. What kind of president of the jury will he be? Find out in Cannes!” Cannes President Pierre Lescure and festival head Thierry Frémaux said in a statement.

In the New York Times profile leading up to his Oscar win, the paper examined the ways in which Lee has been relegated to the fringes of prestigious filmmaking: throughout his career, he has earned less money and received less funding than his white counterparts, and has had difficulty getting projects off the ground. 

Lee’s inclusion might be Cannes’ first big step in correcting its diversity issues.

“That’s the dilemma of a talented black artist in any field,” collaborator and author James McBride told the NY Times. “You have to recreate the genre, otherwise you don’t survive. Stevie Wonder is not a pop musician; Stevie Wonder is a genre. Michael Jackson is a genre to himself. Spike Lee has moved into that territory. Spike Lee is not short on talent. What Spike Lee is short on is friends in the industry, and the kind of space to fail. He has no room to fail.” 

While Cannes has struggled with diversity around black and women directors, Lee as a jury president could be a healthy step in allowing other perspectives in. 

“I’m honored to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named president of the Cannes jury and of a main film festival. The Lee family sincerely thanks the Festival de Cannes, Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux and the great people of France who have supported my film career throughout four decades. I will always treasure this special relationship,” Lee said.

Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller Believed DREAMERs Would Replace White Americans

Things That Matter

Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller Believed DREAMERs Would Replace White Americans

Win McNamee / Getty

White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller is still in office, despite mounting proof that he harbors white supremacist’s beliefs and numerous politicians and activists calling for his resignation. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch” vertical published a series of Miller’s emails leaked by an ex-Breitbart news editor. 

In the emails, Miller expressed fear that DREAMERs would replace white Americans and suggested deporting immigrants on trains to scare them. SPLC’s Michael Hayden says Miller is a supporter of the “great replacement theory” championed by white supremacists who fear white people will become a racial minority. The theory has been echoed in the manifestos of mass shooters and prominent white supremacist leaders. 

Miller believes his fellow Republicans aren’t hard enough on immigrants. 

“Demanding DREAMers be given citizenship because they ‘know no other home.’ That principle is an endorsement of perpetual birthright citizenship for the foreign-born,” Miller wrote in an email.  “Not only will the U.S.-born children of future illegal immigrants and guest workers be made automatic U.S. citizens, but their foreign-born children will too because, as [former Republican House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor said, ‘Our country was founded on the principle.’”

Miller praised Florida’s very own former governor Jeb Bush for his use of moderate rhetoric to push extreme policies. The emails leaked are from around 2015, when Miller was an aide to Senator Jeff Sessions before being selected by Trump.

 “Jeb [Bush] has mastered the art of using immigration rhetoric to sound ‘moderate’ while pushing the most extremist policies,” Miller wrote in an email. 

Former Breitbart editor Katie McHugh provided over 900 emails to SPLC in which Miller expressed disdain for non-white immigrants. McHugh says she leaked the emails addressed to her from Miller to expose the hidden “evil” of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. 

“In a November 2015 email that Hatewatch has not previously published, Miller forwarded an interview with Phyllis Schlafly from far-right conspiracy website WorldNetDaily that argued undocumented immigrants should be shipped out on trains to ‘scare out the people who want to undo our country,’” according to SPLC. 

25 interfaith groups call for the resignation of Stephen Miller. 

Yesterday, 25 faith groups, among them many prominent Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders including the Anti-Defamation League, The Nation’s Mosque, and African American Ministers in Action, signed a letter calling for Miller’s resignation. 

“Stephen Miller authored many of these destructive policies and helped ensure their enactment via his network of anti-immigrant officials throughout the federal government. Further, these policies have been paired with heightened and unrelenting anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric coming from the White House,” the organizations said. 

The group also called out the Trump administration for allowing white supremacist views in the White House. 

“At one point in history, harboring a white supremacist in the White House could harm an administration. Today, President Trump appears unbothered by his close official’s ties to white supremacy. This cannot stand. As organizations of many faiths, who feel love and respect where Miller advances disdain and hate, we call for his resignation immediately,” the letter stated

Last November 100 lawmakers demanded Stephen Miller resign. 

Miller has been in the hot seat for a while. Last year 100 lawmakers demanded the advisor’s resignation, a couple of weeks ago 25 Jewish members of congress joined that call following Rolling Stone’spublication of a different set of leaked emails that further establish his support of xenophobic ideas. 

“A documented white nationalist has no place in any presidential administration, and especially not in such an influential position,” the 100 representatives wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump. “Miller’s white supremacist influence on your immigration policy, and it seems like that his perfidious adherence to extremist ideology has shaped your administration in ways that are not yet public.”

In the Rolling Stone emails, Miller called refugees “foreign-born terrorists” and expressed a fondness for a book called “Camp of Saints” which is a favorite of neo-Nazis.

“The dystopian 1973 novel is widely regarded as racist and traffics in fear-mongering about immigrant invasions. It is popular among white nationalist circles and has been invoked by former White House aide Steve Bannon and Iowa Congressman Steve King,” according to Newsweek

Other emails show Miller is using his influence in the White House to coordinate anti-immigration policies that reflect his views. 

“In the emails, [senior advisor at ICE Jon] Feere strategizes with Miller about how to use the federal government to amplify their anti-immigration message; tees up potential attacks on prominent Democratic politicians; directly briefs Miller in great detail about upcoming enforcement actions and policy changes in the works; and recommends to Miller people the administration should hire to expedite its immigration agenda,” according to Rolling Stone

While Miller has still not resigned, the pressure is continuing to mount in Congress and among activists.