March 22, 2021
When we learned of the murders of eight people, including six Asian-American women, last week in suburban Atlanta, many metro Detroiters recalled the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American murdered by two white autoworkers who blamed him for the impact of increasing Japanese car imports on American jobs. Chin was out with friends celebrating his upcoming wedding when killed. That the murderers lumped all Asians together was not surprising, but the murder, of course, would have been just as hideous if Chin had been Japanese-American.
Each murderer was found guilty of manslaughter but received zero prison time and a $3,000 fine. In 1984, the U.S. District Court sentenced the man who actually did the killing to 25 years for violating Chin’s civil rights. The murderer appealed and was cleared of all charges.
It is easy to point to Trump’s racist descriptions of COVID-19 and see how they led to these murders; but as many have said, Trump empowered bigots, he did not create bigotry. And bigotry against Asians and those of Asian descent did not start with Vincent Chin. In 1875, the Page Act banned Chinese women from immigrating to the United States. Seven years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers. We had Japanese internment camps during World War II. Last year, graffiti linking Asian-Americans with COVID-19 was spray painted on a sign in Stony Creek Metro Park in Shelby Township. And you know the mocking of Asian facial features happens somewhere every single day. The list of Asian-American/Asian discrimination is part and parcel of our supposedly proud history.
Bigotry will never end. But it can be lessened through education. It can be lessened by always standing up and organizing against it. It can be diminished by voting for candidates who truly detest it. It can be addressed by taking a good look at ourselves and honestly examining our words and actions. Wrong words and actions (or not taking action), even if unintended, do harm.
While fighting against discrimination has always been part of who we are as AFT Michigan, in 2020 we incorporated fighting racism and discrimination as a fifth goal in our strategic plan, the equal of helping to build strong locals, negotiating, organizing and political and legislative action. As part of this work, 53 AFT Michigan leaders and activists have participated in our training program with the Justice Leaders Collaborative that “investigates privilege and oppression at the individual, interpersonal, institutional and cultural levels” so far. Our May 1 Policy Summit will, in part, concentrate on addressing discrimination in education. So much needs to be done, and we are committed to doing it.
May 1: AFT Michigan Education Policy Conference
AFT Michigan’s Education Policy Conference will take place on May 1st from 8:30 AM-12:30 PM. This conference will include a state budget overview, with breakouts focusing on universities, community colleges, and PreK-12 schools. Second, a panel discussion about racial justice in our education system, focusing on the problem with punitive practices and solutions moving forward, will allow members to be more prepared to engage in discussion around education and racial justice policy topics. Finally, we’ll break out into constituency committees to discuss how we can get proactive about safely navigating COVID-19 and improving public education in Michigan over the year ahead. We hope you’ll join us to learn more and get involved in the key issues we address as a union.
Birdsall Appointed to Dept. of Labor Workgroup
Kate Birdsall, president of the Michigan State University Union of Nontenure-Track Faculty, has been appointed to a Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity workgroup. The workgroup will develop recommendations for employers and workers to return to in-person office work. Congratulations Kate.
State Supreme Court Lets Down Public Schools
Last week, the State Supreme Court decided not to reconsider a case regarding the use of public funding for private schools. In late 2020, the court reached a 3-3 deadlock on the matter, allowing a lower court ruling that found the allocations constitutional to stand.
AFT Michigan is gravely disappointed in the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision not to reconsider this lawsuit. Their inaction lets stand a Court of Appeals decision that a law allowing the State to use public funds to reimburse non-public schools is not unconstitutional on its face. Instead, the Court of Appeals, and now the Supreme Court, have sent the case back to the Court of Claims to determine what State mandates, if any, may be reimbursed by public funds. We firmly believe that the allocation of public funds to non-public schools is a violation of the Michigan constitution and we will continue our fight.
Learning Beyond COVID
How do we assess and overcome the disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on students? In “Learning Beyond COVID-19: A Vision for Thriving in Public Education,” the AFT and the National Education Association first acknowledge the social emotional and academic impact of COVID-19; then they lay out a plan to strengthen public schools far into the future.
Upcoming Professional Development
AFT Share My Lesson’s Virtual Conference 2021 Starts Tomorrow at 1 p.m.!
AFT has a remarkable lineup of webinars to support your upcoming needs, including instructional strategies across the curriculum, and how best to reopen schools safely, support social and emotional recovery and learning recovery, manage the classroom and support ALL students, strengthen a foundation of anti-bias education, increase civic engagement and incorporate trauma-sensitive practices.
Check out the lineup by day:
Keynote at 6 p.m. – The State of Public Education 2021 with AFT President, Randi Weingarten
Anti-Racism and Social Justice with Nickelodeon & Noggin
Join the team from Noggin and Share My Lesson for an interactive experience where learning experts and creative producers will present exclusive new research on the role that media can play in helping families and educators discuss race and injustice.
The team will share a new Nickelodeon/Noggin series featuring the music of Christopher Jackson (“Hamilton”) for children ages 2-6+. The series celebrates the challenges and triumphs of Black historical figures and leaders in dance, leadership and science. Participants will identify actionable ways to tackle tough-to-talk-about topics with the youngest children while exploring strategies to create inclusive classrooms.
Christopher Jackson, who played George Washington with the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton,” will make a special guest appearance as part of a newly added webinar for AFT’s 2021 Share My Lesson Virtual Conference: Teaching Anti-Racism and Social Justice with Nickelodeon & Noggin’s “Rhymes Through Times.
Teaching Anti-Racism and Social Justice with
Nickelodeon & Noggin’s Rhymes Through Times
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 2:00 PM EDT
David Hecker, President