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Woke’s Jim Crow: Combating racism with segregation

Empower Wisconsin | July 24, 2020

By M.D. Kittle

*Updated at 11 a.m. Friday to include comment from the Madison Metropolitan School District.

MADISON — In the left’s never-ending war on reason and sanity, a Madison high school is now using racially-segregated groups to discuss racism.

Madison West High School in recent weeks has hosted “virtual discussion spaces” for students and staff to “process the pain our community is feeling at this present moment” and “work towards being an anti-racist community.”

But school administration decided to tackle the weighty problems of racism in a Jim Crow way, according to an email sent to West High School students and their families.

The email, obtained by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, provided links for two separate Zoom calls: one for “white students” and one for “students of color.”

“Please join the Zoom space where you most closely identify,” the email advises. According to the email, the purpose of this racial segregation was to “maximize [students’] level of emotional safety and security.”

“We are concerned that using racially-segregated discussion groups as a means to become an ‘anti- racist school community’ is ill-conceived, for a variety of reasons,” states a letter from Rick Esenberg, WILL’s president and general counsel, and Deputy Counsel Luke N. Berg, sent Thursday morning to Madison West Principal Karen Boran.

“For example, by associating racial segregation with ‘emotional safety and security,’ the school communicated to students and families that racial integration somehow detracts from ‘emotional safety and security,” the letter from the Milwaukee public-interest law firm states.

More so, West’s broad classification of the high school’s student body into “white students” and “students of color” only served to alienate students who do not fit neatly into the racial categories, the letter asserts.

“If the goal is for students of different races and ethnicities to ‘build empathy and community for each other’ and to ‘make individual and collective connections,’ racial segregation is the worst possible model; only an integrated discussion would allow students to hear and learn from each other,” the later states.

West High School, according to the email, set up the segregated discussions so that the school community can “speak our truths to build empathy and community for each other” and to “make individual and collective connections on our journeys towards being anti-racist human beings in an anti-racist community.”

Beyond being potentially misguided, Esenberg notes, the racially-segregated discussion groups may constitute a violation of anti-discrimination federal laws. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 generally prohibits discrimination on the grounds “of race, color, or national origin” in federally funded programs, including schools.

And WILL reminds West’s principal the U.S. Department of Education’s rules further make it clear that schools operating under Title VI may not subject “an individual to segregation or separate treatment in any matter related to his receipt of any service … or other benefit.”

“Whether a hosted discussion group is a ‘service’ or ‘other benefit’ may be open to reasonable debate, but there is no question that in these calls, West segregated students by race,” the letter states.

West High School, according to the email, set up the segregated discussions so that the school community can “speak our truths to build empathy and community for each other” and to “make individual and collective connections on our journeys towards being anti-racist human beings in an anti-racist community.”

Boran could not be reached for comment. West High School’s main office is not taking messages.

A spokesman for the Madison Metropolitan School District on Friday morning told Empower Wisconsin that the initiative is part of West’s effort to provide “virtual discussion space for students so that they could process their emotions and feelings related to current events in our community.”

“These virtual sessions utilize the Affinity Group model, a well established method to provide opportunity for people who share a common identity to connect with other people who share aspects of their identity, especially in a situation where they feel their identity is marginalized,” Tim LeMonds, the districts public information officer, said in an email.

No student was told which group to attend, and attendance was not mandatory, he said. It’s all about providing a safe space, according to LeMonds.

“MMSD is committed to holding students at the center, and counter to WILL’s narratives, this is an effort to provide a safe space for students to have conversations they feel they need, and not centered on what adults want,” he said.

The original Zoom calls took place on July 10, according to WILL’s letter, but the email to parents indicates the discussion groups “will continue throughout the summer based on interest and need.”

WILL urges the high school’s administration to reconsider its program based on racial segregation. In short, it is a warning letter.

Read WILL’s letter to West High School here. 

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