Thursday, April 14, 2016

Playground Battles

I’ve often referred to the back-and-forth in this cycle’s primaries as being on the level of playground squabbles with the name-calling and the taunting.  It seems to be having an impact on real playgrounds.

Something ugly is happening inside America’s classrooms.

Headscarf-wearing Muslim girls are being called terrorists. Latinos are warned of deportation and teased about wall-building along the US-Mexico border. The N-word is making a comeback, and children younger than ever before are using it.

Although name-calling has always been a feature of playground life, teachers across the US say it has grown nastier since Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric during the election campaign.

“I think there’s a real danger of harm taking place in all American schoolchildren,” Maureen Costello, an education expert at the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a civil rights group, told Al Jazeera.

“We’ve seen 10 or more years of anti-bullying work get rolled back by a hostile atmosphere in many schools. Teachers describe disillusionment, depression and discouragement among kids who feel like they now know what people have thought about them all along,” Castello said.

An SPLC survey of some 2,000 US schools found that two-thirds of teachers described their vulnerable students – including blacks, Muslims, Latinos and other minorities – as affected by rhetoric in the 2016 White House race.

It shows a spike in racist bullying. For Muslims – or even some non-Muslim brown-skinned children – the acronym “ISIS” has become a stock taunt, referencing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, which is also known as ISIS).

The bullying causes more than just upset. Some Mexican pupils now fear that Trump’s promise to deport an estimated 11 million undocumented migrants will come to pass and that they, and their loved ones, will get kicked out of the US, Costello said.

While Trump’s focus on African Americans has been limited to ejecting civil rights protesters from campaign rallies, some black youths expressed “irrational” fears that segregation or slavery will make a comeback, researchers found.

I’m old enough to remember the taunting and the demonstrations when schools started to be integrated in the 1950’s and ’60’s.  I thought we had grown out of it.  Silly me.