Portland teachers were taught in recent trainings to examine their white privilege, which includes not discussing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in class.
Verenice Gutierrez, principal of Harvey Scott K-8 School, implemented a district-wide equality training for teachers in all of Portland’s public schools called “Courageous Conversations.” The initiative is meant to help educators understand their own “white privilege” so they can “change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance,” according to The Portland Tribune.
At Scott School at the beginning of the school year, Guitierrez picked apart the racist overtones of a teacher’s recent class example: an innocent-sounding lunchtime favorite, the peanut butter sandwich.
“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” Gutierrez said.
“Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
The Tribune article sparked a wave of mocking commentary, with one person Tweeting: “Just want to check @ThePortlandTrib, i know peanut butter jelly sandwiches are racist; what's the verdict on grilled cheese? Racist? Sexist?”
The equality training is an attempt to create more equality and understanding at schools like Scott, which is fifty percent Hispanic and fifteen percent black, with eighty-five percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch.
“Our focus school and our Superintendent’s mandate that we improve education for students of color, particularly Black and Brown boys, will provide us with many opportunities to use the protocols of Courageous Conversations in data teams, team meetings, staff meetings, and conversations amongst one another,” Guitierrez wrote in a letter to staff.
Not everyone agrees with the efforts that have been implemented. A drum corps club for black and Hispanic boys, for example, met with the disapproval of one parent who found an example of sexism and reverse racism, according to the Tribune.
The parent found the club to be an example of “blatant discrimination and equity of women, Asians, whites and Native Americans.”
“This ‘club’ was approved by the administration, and any girls who complained were brushed off and it was not addressed,” the parent wrote anonymously.
“When white people do it, it is not a problem, but if it’s for kids of color, then it’s a problem?” was Gutierrez' response. “Break it down for me. That’s your white privilege, and your whiteness.”