Recently, Centennial Elementary School in Olympia, Washington, was caught promoting a fifth-grade club, and in the early planning stages of a fourth-grade club, that was only for “BIPOC” (Black, Indigenous or People of Color) children, in violation of federal anti-discrimination law.
The purpose of the club, according to the school, was meant for BIPOC kids to “hang out, check in and possibly talk about their experiences as a student in the minority as they build community, connections and confidence. It is a primarily a safe space for them.” (RELATED: JOHN STOSSEL: Once Again … Washington Bureaucrats Are Killing Something Good)
The school has since, thankfully, opened the club to all students regardless of their race, but defended the original purpose as being “important for elevating voices” of minority students.
While at first glance many people would believe a club that is meant to build community, connections and confidence is a net benefit to young children, the exclusive nature of the club based on race is anything but positive.
Excluding any children from joining such a club based on their race has the potential to create unnecessary hostility among peers. First, “BIPOC” students may subconsciously start to believe they are inherently different than the white children who are excluded, otherwise why would white students be excluded in the first place? Second, white students may feel inferior or left out, which could create resentment against those who were invited to join the club.
After all, we aren’t talking about college students or adults, who certainly have a better understanding of the complicated topic of race compared to nine-year-olds. Children’s brains are still developing and their early years are disproportionately formative.
As human beings, we are tribal by nature. Separating children by race is a terrible reinforcement of that innate tribalism, when we should be working to break down racial barriers and teaching kids that we are all equal and have much more in common than not.
When I think of a fifth-grader, I think about my niece who is 10 and is nervously excited about entering middle school. My niece is a shy but kind-hearted girl. And like me, my niece is brown and Hispanic.
When I attended a school function late last year, I remember seeing her break out of her shell and act with excitement when she ran into her best friend, a white fifth-grade girl in her class.
If a club like this was offered in her school, that relationship may have never flourished. The walls of division would have been strengthened, merely because my niece’s friend would not have been welcomed in a club that my niece would have been pushed into.
The two may have ended up resenting one another. This is especially true at Centennial Elementary considering the club was not student-led, but promoted by the school administrators.
Racially exclusionary clubs like the one at Centennial Elementary are unfortunately not a one-off problem in America, but an example of a growing problem that threatens to divide young children. Last year, Wellesley Public Schools in Massachusetts was sued for offering similarly divisive and racially exclusionary “affinity groups” that were open only to “Black, Latinx, and students of color.”
The school district ultimately settled the suit and opened their programs for all students. Thankfully in both of these cases cooler heads prevailed.
We should strive to move beyond the color of our skin, instead of re-affirming its importance through the creation of these clubs. No public institution, but especially those designed to serve children, should promote the false idea that race divides us.
As abolitionist Frederick Douglass, whose birthday is celebrated this week, once said, “In a composite nation like ours, as before the law, there should be no rich, no poor, no high, no low, no white, no black, but common country, common citizenship, equal rights and a common destiny.”
Gabriel Nadales is the national director of Our America.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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