D.C. high school students discuss segregation with CAP class

March 1, 2006, midnight | By Natasha Prados | 18 years, 4 months ago

"Where have all the white kids gone?" video creates dialogue

D.C. high school students from The Next Step Public Charter School created a video about the lack of diversity in their area, which they showed to Kevin Shindel's CAP Research class yesterday, generating a discussion about segregation and racism.

The visiting Step Five students (there are six steps at the school instead of grades), Sean Brown and Jose Fuentes, also interviewed a few members of the CAP class about the low percentage of black and latino students in the CAP program and the reasons for the lack of integration.

According to Evie Frankl, a teacher at Next Step who came with Brown and Fuentes, there are no white students at their school, which has a predominantly Latino student body with approximately 10 percent black students.

Frankl says this obvious de facto segregation is rarely discussed. "It's all around us, but people don't really talk about it," Frankl said, adding that the problem is not limited to D.C. The school's TV production class decided to make a video directly addressing the issue.

While Brown and Fuentes interviewed Blair students, Shindel mediated a classroom debate, posing such questions as why students choose to mostly associate with others of their own race, how integration can be achieved and whether it should be forced in any way.

Fuentes and Brown think the problem of racial segregation might result from not enough opportunities for different types of students to mix — they have observed that whites "live in the suburbs more than the city," according to Fuentes, which results in schools that are not multicultural and students who tend to make friends without crossing racial lines.

The CAP students ventured that even in diverse schools like Blair, friendship groups still tend to be dominated by one race. They explored a variety of factors that may be contributing to the problem, such as tracking, cultural ties, stereotypes and the demographics of specific classes.

Fuentes and Brown thought that the experience was both surprising and enlightening. Fuentes said he was stunned to find that "the people I was talking to, they weren't scared of me."

Brown added, "looking at their faces, I think it did [change their perspective]." Shindel agreed that the exchange was beneficial for both the visitors and the Blair students. "I thought it laid a good foundation for what they wanted to do."

Brown said that an important thing to take away from the project is to truly not judge others by outward appearances. Brown added, "we'll kick it with anybody. It doesn't matter what skin color you are or how you act. We just gotta get along," he said.

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