Three charter school students in Honolulu, Hawaii created a cyber buzz earlier this week after their teacher tweeted their no fluff podcast conversation about racism and how it affects the population.
The seventh-grade students, Isabella, Nokiya and Tia, who identify as Asian, tackled issues like police brutality, racism in the media, and cultural appropriation as part of an end-of-the-year project at the University Laboratory School.
Teacher Christina Torres, 28, who has taught for four years, regularly listens to “This American Life,” and “Radio Lab,” and thought it would be a great assignment for her students to produce their own podcasts, she told NewsOne in a telephone interview. To accomplish that goal, she divided her class into 13 groups and gave them two weeks to complete the assignment.
Isabella and Nokiya — both 12 — and 13-year-old Tia centered their podcast around a Tumblr video that specifically discussed media bias during the Ferguson protests, noting one occasion in which the Black protesters were called “animals” in order to justify the police brutality against them. In another video, Whites were referred to as “young,” and “just kids,” as they were shown vandalizing cars and starting fires.
“Racism just isn’t in the media. It’s in everything,” one of the girls said during the podcast.
Another made a swift critique on appropriation saying, “They’ll think it’s OK to use your culture and make fun of it, even though it’s not something you should be doing.”
Twitter followers re-tweeted the link, ecstatic that the group was tackling such a meaty subject.
“There isn’t really a way to stop racism, people have been trying for the longest time, but it hasn’t really stopped,” one of the students noted.
“You should just stop judging people based on their looks or the color of their skin and stop making racist comments or jokes,” a student said at the end of the podcast.
Torres says she is vigilant in teaching her students self-actualization in the classroom. “I try and do a lot of socially conscious, social justice education in my classroom. We talk a lot about identity and stereotypes,” she said.
The state of Hawaii serves as an interesting demographic. In 2014, the U.S. Census reported that over 37 percent of the state identifies as Asian, 24.7 percent identifies as White, and only 1.6 percent identifies as Black.
According to Pew Research Center, the Rainbow State has never had a White majority and TIME Magazine reports it is one of the four states – along with California, New Mexico, Texas, and D.C. – that is currently majority-minority.
Hawaii has also had a long history with colonization, one that Torres, a California native, is vocal about. “Hawaii has been colonized, most recently stolen by America,” she said.
“A lot of students don’t interact with race the same way that I do. My students don’t always understand that because they were not the ‘other,’” she said. For Torres, her students’ awareness greatly impressed her and further propelled her to educate them about racial tensions on the mainland of Hawaii and elsewhere.
Out of the 13 groups, six of them discussed racism. “We talk a lot about voice and the importance of sharing. They have been getting that from me all year,” she said.
There was one line in the podcast that Torres further examined with her students. In the opening sequence, the girls say in unison, “Get ready to call the ambulance, because we’re going to shoot you with some knowledge!”
Torres relayed that the girls immediately recognized how the sentence could be viewed as insensitive.
“I honestly did think about editing it out before I put it up. These conversations are going to be really hard, around race and police brutality,” said Torres. I’d much rather have the conversation with them now in the space of my classroom before they go out into the world and say that.”
“Stories tell the truth if you want them to,” she said.