Students as young as preschool age at a Washington, D.C., elementary school took part in an "Anti-Racism Fight Club" presentation in November, according to a recently unearthed letter by the school principal.
Janney Elementary School in Washington hosted the "fight club" presentation by author Doyin Richards for students in preschool through third grade. Each student was given a workbook, called a "fist book," that told them to reject colorblindness and that comparing rioters to savages was an example of racism.
"We recognize that any time we engage topics such as race and equity, we may experience a variety of emotions. This is a normal part of the learning and growing process. As a school community we want to continue the dialogue with our students and understand this is just the beginning," school principal Danielle Singh wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to the school community.
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The "fist book" contained various guidelines for students on how to think about race, including how people are advantaged or disadvantaged because of their race, and instructions on how to discuss race with family members. It also detailed various ways black people are disadvantaged in ways white people are not.
"You can find white privilege in almost every aspect of life," the book says. "The shows and movies you watch may have mostly white characters, the toys you play with may be mostly white, and it’s easy to find people who look like you wherever you turn. It’s normal for you and that is a privilege. Sadly, BIPOC do not have the same luxury."
The workbook also explained to students that "being color-blind is not a good idea."
"As a young person, you may not pay much attention to the color of someone’s skin," the book says. "As a matter of fact, when you were a baby, you probably smiled at anyone who smiled at you. But as you get older, it becomes super-important for you to recognize different skin colors and embrace what people of different skin colors bring to your life."
Another part of the workbook provided a guide on "Dealing With Racist Family Members," which told students to "play dumb" when someone makes an "awful statement" like "rioters are savages."
"It’s very difficult to deal with adults who say racist things around you," the workbook says. "However, you have the right to be treated with respect and not engage in conversation that makes you uncomfortable."
The "Anti-Racism Fight Club" concept was started by Richards, who gave the presentation to the Janney Elementary School students. On his website, he claims that "racism is as American as apple pie and baseball."
"Overt racism is becoming normalized, systemic racism runs unchecked in our workplaces, and racial microaggressions in our communities are just the tip of the iceberg," Richards's website says. "Racism crushes the mental health of millions of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), it negatively impacts the productivity and profitability of companies across America, and it has been a permanent stain on American history since before the ink was dry on the Declaration of Independence."
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Terminology such as "systemic racism" and "anti-racism" are often associated with critical race theory, a controversial academic theory that says American institutions and culture are systemically racist and oppressive to racial minorities, especially black people.
The theory has drawn substantial controversy nationwide over its incorporation into public school instruction. Democratic politicians and progressive pundits have repeatedly insisted the theory is not taught in public schools but have also vociferously opposed Republican-led efforts to ban the theory from public school instruction.