Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Classrooms are becoming more diverse, with Black and Latino students filling up more seats than ever before.  But across the country, for the most part, teachers are still white, middle class and female. So how do teachers navigate that divide?



JENNIFER GUERRA: It’s time to have the talk. I know, it’s not gonna be easy. Might get a little uncomfortable – maybe make you squirm a little. But it’s time. I’m Jennifer Guerra with Michigan Radio’s State of Opportunity project. For the next hour, we’re going to talk about RACE.

Now I know some of you listening right now are thinking Race? Really? It’s 2013. Aren’t we past this by now?

Good. I was hoping you’d ask that.

RACE: further reading, viewing, and listening

May 2, 2013
multiracial group of girls
Jennifer Guerra

Want to learn more about the topics featured in Jennifer Guerra's hour-long documentary on race? The State of Opportunity theme thought about what cultural, social, and research out there helps us understand the impact of race beyond our own personal experience. Check out some of these films, books, blog, and songs to help think through what race means for our kids and education today.

Colorlines - award-winning investigative reporting and news analysis--and that drives our focus on finding solutions as well as naming problems.

Dustin Dwyer

  A few weeks ago, we reported on research showing that children become aware of race at a very young age, and they seem particularly prone to developing stereotypes. The message from that research is simple enough: If parents don’t want their kids to develop racial biases, they need to talk to their kids about race. 

To quickly review: the reason parents need to talk to kids about race is that if they don’t talk to them about race, kids will come up with their own ideas. Those ideas will usually be wrong, sometimes be harmful and occasionally, they’ll be ridiculous.

Cherée Thomas has a story about that.

"Many years ago, my son was in a classroom and a kid licked his hand because he thought he was chocolate," Thomas says.

Slang, gender, and the kids are alright

Apr 30, 2013

As part of her documentary on race, Jennifer Guerra spoke with kids---of all races---about how race shapes their lives in school, in their neighborhood, and among their peers. Tune in on Thursday at 3pm, and again at 10pm, to hear what kids, teachers and parents have to say on the topic. And in the meantime, check out this story from NPR's Arts Desk on how kids are using "yo" as a gender-neutral pronoun. Linguistic innovation coming from a teen near you!

I put a call out a few months ago for poems by students that somehow tied back to the issue of race and culture. The kind folks at InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit, an organization that brings creative writing into Detroit Public Schools, sent me a number of relevant poems by youth from the area.

We would love to read more poems about race and culture. If you think you've got a poem that fits, send it our way! Meantime, here are some poems we'd like to share with you. 


In Southwest Detroit
Life grows best on the roofs of abandoned buildings.
Outsiders look at the graffiti juxtaposed against islands of grass
but don't understand that art and science create wonders.

When I moved near Vernor St.
it took me a while to blend in with the community.
Like oil paint submerged in water, I always stood out.
Maybe I never understood the environment.
Learning the culture was like trying to decode
the meaning of a Van Gogh painting,
except my neighborhood was more like a mosaic
of different backgrounds glued together by struggle,
to prove that those abandoned buildings aren't abandoned.

user woodleywonderworks / Flickr

I'm currently working on an hour-long radio special about race and culture, which is heavy stuff to be sure. I've interviewed students, parents, community workers, and experts to get their thoughts on race and what it means to be born Black or White or Latino or American Indian. Statistically speaking, race is predictive of a number of things, and it tends to correlate with relatively bad outcomes.

Here's a short list:

Pew Economic Mobility Project

This chart comes from a report released yesterday by the Pew Economic Mobility Project. The report looked at the effects of unemployment on American families. Overall, the report says one third of families in America experienced some form of unemployment between 1999 - 2009. But minority families were far more likely to be affected. Forty-one percent of black families and 51 percent of Latino families experienced unemployment during the period, compared to 30 percent of whites. 

Michigan Department of Education

Race. We're going to be talking a lot about race and racial disparities over the coming months. I, for one, am working on an hour-long special about race and culture...so it's been on my mind a lot.

What does it mean to be born black in Michigan? Latino? Native American? Those are the questions we're grappling with here at State of Opportunity.