Education

Should a school PTA talk about white privilege? A minority parent in NC objects.

Should a school PTA talk about white privilege? A minority parent in NC objects.

A Raleigh elementary school PTA's efforts to talk to parents about white privilege backfired when a minority parent thought it was an attempt to promote white supremacy.
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A Raleigh elementary school PTA's efforts to talk to parents about white privilege backfired when a minority parent thought it was an attempt to promote white supremacy.

A Raleigh elementary school PTA's efforts to talk to parents about white privilege backfired when a minority parent thought it was an attempt to promote white supremacy.

The PTA at Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh has been sending parents excerpts from Jon Greenberg's "11-Step Guide to Understanding Race, Racism, and White Privilege." But Amber Pabon became upset when her 8-year-old son brought home a handout in March that talks about understanding the concept of white privilege — the idea that white people get certain benefits due to their skin color.

"My son asked me if white people are better," said Pabon, a parent of black and Hispanic ancestry. "The way the school did it was inappropriate."

Pabon, the mother of a second-grade student at Hunter, took her complaints to the media, generating coverage on Fox News and conservative websites such as The Daily Caller.

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh weighed in on Thursday saying "this business in Raleigh, folks, this is happening all over the country." He called the handout part of an effort by liberals "to erase Western civilization."

"Students are also taught, people are taught that the majority of white people are Christian, therefore they’re discriminatory, therefore they’re bigots, they’re anti-gay, they’re anti-transgender, they’re anti-minority, all of this," Limbaugh said. "Now, you wonder, when you see protests at major institutions of higher learning at colleges and universities, you see these little snowflakes running around talking about the guilt they feel about white privilege.

"It’s because it’s being taught to them at a very young age, and it’s getting younger. "

The handouts from the 11 steps are not being taught to students at Hunter, according to Lisa Luten, a Wake County school district spokeswoman. She said the district did not encourage the PTA to send the materials to parents.

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The PTA at Hunter Elementary in Raleigh shared with parents a handout about understanding white privilege. Hunter Elementary School PTA

But the issue of white privilege is something that Wake teachers and principals are studying as part of the district's diversity training.

The handouts were not meant to promote white supremacy, according to Juliette Grimmett, a member of the PTA's advocacy team that came up with the initiative. She said the goal of the handouts, which are intended for parents and not students, is to make Hunter a more safe and equitable community.

"We live in a world where we need to have greater empathy and understanding of people's experiences," Grimmett said. "Because Hunter is so racially and ethnically diverse, these issues are so important for families at Hunter. We know there’s a lot of data on the impact of race on education.”

Hunter is a magnet school located near downtown Raleigh. While the school draws students from the predominantly minority community near the campus, it also attracts magnet students from around Wake County.

Hunter's enrollment is 40 percent white, 36 percent black, 10 percent Asian and 9 percent Hispanic.

The handout on understanding white privilege includes statistics such as how most leaders in federal government and teaching are white, and it lists examples of white privilege. The handout includes a link to a video that talks about how black people are treated differently than white people when it comes to getting a job, buying a home and being pulled over and arrested by police.

"As the dominant culture and racism being very prevalent, we can see that there’s absolutely more work white people can do," Grimmett said.

Grimmett said the response to the handouts has been overwhelmingly positive, with only two parents requesting not to receive the materials.

But Pabon said she was shocked when she saw the handout, which was the third of the 11 steps sent to parents. She said she would have been less upset if she had gotten the handouts from the first steps, which explain what the PTA is attempting to do.

Grimmett said all the handouts are sent in hard copy to parents through the weekly school folders sent home with students. The handouts are also emailed and are available on the PTA's Facebook page.

Pabon said she's since requested to stop getting the handouts. She's also warning parents to be more diligent about what material is being sent home with their children.

"Do you know what’s going on in your child’s school?" Pabon said. "Are you checking their folder? Are you in their school life?"

The Fox Island United Church of Christ has had weekly discussions of white privilege using the curriculum developed by national church.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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