By Stephen E. Lipken
Millie Jasper, Executive Director, Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center (HHREC) opened a specialized workshop for the County’s educators, “Dealing with Race and Racism—Teaching Teachers,” in conjunction with Westchester County District Attorney (DA) Anthony A. Scarpino and Assistant DA Susan Brownbill-Vega at Manhattanville College on Monday, December 3rd. An estimated 60 teachers attended.
Also participating were Trainers Bonnie Berman Cushing; Dr. Misa Dayson, Ph.D. and Megan Pamela Ruth Madison from Center for Racial Justice in Education, New York City (www.centerracialjustice.org).
“HHREC is an educational outreach organization,” Jasper explained. “We use lessons learned from the Holocaust to help combat anti-Semitism, bigotry, prejudice that plague our society today.”
“We are very pleased to be sponsors of this program,” Scarpino stated. “Creating understanding makes for a safer community. Much of that begins with you, our educators who have a direct effect on our children...We must work hard to eradicate racism and the underlying fears that cause it…”
“I have the privilege of heading the Hate Crimes Unit,” Brownbill-Vega added. “The only way that our communities can be free of hate is if we start communicating with each other…I am a Black woman. I had to teach my children that they, too were Black children. I made a concerted effort to have people around them that they could look up to…”
Dr. Davis began the four-hour program by conducting deep-breathing exercises. Megan observed that such indignities as people touching her hair without her permission and other expressions of prejudice statistically take 7-10 years off her life.
Discussions followed, including recording the audience’s feelings toward racism along with a short history, including Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s classifying races by skull types; rulings to establish racial superiority such as the 3/5ths Compromise (1787), counting three out of every five slaves as persons for representation purposes; One Drop Rule (1910), sorting races by blood content and 1934 Blood Quantum Law, defining status of Native Americans.