Video of racist dating at Lincoln Park HS sparks tough conversations among CPS students

Teens from different racial and ethnic backgrounds may attend the same high school, but there’s no guarantee that some students will outgrow stereotypes about each other.

This became painfully clear a few months ago when a student at Lincoln Park High School made a video asking his classmates what race they wouldn’t date. Most of the responses were racist and offensive, with many children laughing and talking comfortably about how people of other races smell, are ugly or even carry diseases – all in school hallways with other students watching.

The video was covered by WBEZ and other news outlets and was quickly taken down, thrusting this hurtful episode in Lincoln Park into the public eye.

“You could put kids from all over town in the same building and say, ‘Look, we’re a diverse student population, look at how varied our experiences are, what we bring to the table,'” Scott Zwierzchowski said. , a teacher at Lincoln Park.

But that’s not enough, he said: “They might be in the same physical classroom, but not identify with each other.”

Lincoln Park High School has one of the most diverse student populations in the city. The North Side School practices restorative justice and has a Climate and Cultural Director. But Zwierzchowski says those efforts need more support; more needs to be done to unify different student cultures, and teachers need to be better equipped to help. He was not surprised by the video.

Lincoln Park administrators declined to comment, but in an email to the school community in January, they said they did not tolerate biased behavior. He said advisers were available for students and he was working with staff to navigate the situation. Chicago Public Schools also said it is requiring all schools to report incidents of bias-based prejudice for the first time this year so it can track.

Turns out there’s a lot of “Who wouldn’t you date?” videos posted on social media across the country and, unsurprisingly, teens say many schools struggle to help kids from different backgrounds relate. To understand what’s driving this, WBEZ reached out to high school students across the city and asked them to fill out a survey and sat down with several of them for in-depth conversations about race. Most said they reject stereotypes and shared ideas on how schools can help.

“A huge misconception that a lot of kids have is that racism is just a joke,” said Alexa Avellaneda, a junior at Lincoln Park. “It’s not a joke. It’s bigotry. And it can really damage someone’s mental health.

Consuela Hendricks, a nonprofit leader, helped pinpoint an issue highlighted in the Lincoln Park video: teens of color making biased comments about each other. It’s well known to Hendricks, co-founder of People Matter, an organization that helps bridge the gap between black and Asian residents in and around Chinatown.

“Schools don’t have the tools and don’t talk about race enough,” said Hendricks, a 2013 mostly Latino CPS graduate. only black children. [There were] lots of conversations that my teachers and the principal were unwilling to have.

Communities of color have long faced their own battles against systemic discrimination, she said, and it has also forced them to compete.

“There’s a lot of tension between many communities of color, and a lot of that is because we just don’t understand each other,” Hendricks said.

Here’s what five Chicago public high schoolers have to say about race, stereotypes, dating and what schools can do better. Interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Name: Layth Awadallah

The school: Lincoln Park High School, second grade

How do you identify yourself? Palestinian

Do you think stereotypes about race or ethnicity affect how your classmates see you or who wants to date you?

Before the [Lincoln Park] video, I would say no, but after the video, it became a strong maybe. Because I had never heard this extreme or blatant racism before in my school. But after seeing the response from the video, and some people saying, “Oh, that was just funny,” it changed my thinking.

Do you think stereotypes affect the way you see others? Or if you frequent them?

No, but I feel like in groups of friends, sometimes it’s easier to be friends with people of your own race or ethnicity just because they understand the issues you’re going through. But I wouldn’t stop someone from being my friend because of their race or ethnicity, or [not] date them.

Does your school help you have meaningful conversations about race with your classmates?

My history teacher did a great job explaining both sides of the story, making sure the voices of people of color and marginalized groups were heard. I feel like this shouldn’t happen in a single class. This should happen throughout the school.

Alexa_Bermudz_by_Susie_An.png

Name: Alexa Bermudez

The school: Disney II Magnet High School, Second Year

How do you identify yourself? Black

Do you think stereotypes about race or ethnicity affect how your classmates see you or who wants to date you?

I feel like as a girl it’s a little different when it comes to dating because guys can be very picky. They have stereotypes about different races in their heads. Like, “Oh, she’s black, so she’s ghetto.” I don’t want to date a girl from the ghetto. I think a lot of people don’t see it because they don’t want to see it.

Do you think stereotypes affect the way you see others? Or if you frequent them?

You should date the person you feel comfortable with.

Does your school help you have meaningful conversations about race and ethnicity with your classmates?

We always have these kinds of conversations. I think our teachers aren’t afraid to talk about it because they know it’s important.

Isa_Sargan.jpg

Name: Isa Sargan

The school: Northside College Prep, senior

How do you identify yourself? Filipino-American

Do you think stereotypes about race or ethnicity affect how your classmates see you or who wants to date you?

For most Asian students, I’m pretty sure we’re considered a fetish. People say, “Oh, I’ve never dated an Asian before.” [They] think of us as this kind of completely foreign and exotic thing, this commercial good that we are supposed to provide to them. It varies from student to student, but it’s something I’ve experienced.

What would you like your school to do more or do differently?

[We need] more teacher training days, where people really have to learn to be mindful of how they talk to us, especially when it comes to tone control and calling us by the same name as another student who looks like us. It’s happened to me so many times. This is the bare minimum for teachers to learn our names and be aware of our origins.

Mateo_Steeard_by_Susie_An.png

Name: Mateo Stewart

The school: Disney II Magnet High School, Second Year

How do you identify yourself? Biracial (Black and Hispanic)

Do you think stereotypes about race or ethnicity affect how your classmates see you or who wants to date you?

I know it’s still there, and people make jokes about it. But…I think most people are okay with dating anyone, or being with anyone, regardless of race.

Do you think stereotypes affect the way you see others? Or if you frequent them?

I’m not really picky. I don’t necessarily care about people’s race. Personally, it’s just if there’s someone I like, and I just like being around them, and their personality is cool.

Does your school help you have meaningful conversations about race and ethnicity with your classmates?

In a lot of schools, especially in textbooks, you’ll get those few blacks like, “Oh, we’re going to tell you about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman.” Schools really push these three, but there are so many other leaders. … [My] the school has many places where people can express themselves. For example, I took a choir trip. They were trying to unify, not just the white choirs, because there are a lot of white choirs in Chicago.

Alexa_Bermudz.jpg.png

Name: Alexa Avellaneda

The school: Lincoln Park High School, Junior

How do you identify yourself? Asian and Latin

Do you think stereotypes affect the way you see others? Or if you wanted to go out with them?

That’s a strong no for me. It really doesn’t matter.

Does your school help you have meaningful conversations about race and ethnicity with your classmates?

My history teachers over the past few years have done a great job of telling the whole story, the full side of things. I didn’t know Andrew Jackson was a bad person until second grade. He committed genocide against the natives who were here first. That says a lot about our education system.

But I think recently the teachers at our school have done a really good job of telling the whole side of the story and not just the white perspective. My [English] the teacher did a great job of tackling difficult conversations. He showed us videos on vocabulary to use versus vocabulary not to use. And when we have these difficult discussions, he just gives us a whole class period to digest everything.

Susie An covers education for WBEZ. Adriana Cardona-Maguigad is a reporter for WBEZ’s Curious City.

Comments are closed.