This post is a follow up to my previous post titled Going All Momma Bear.
To sum it up, my middle daughter Kate did a wonderfully superb, intensely researched project for the National History Day Project. Her project was titled AIDS: A Catalyst for the Human Rights Movement. While the board and her research included a heavy mention of the gay community and how they were unfairly treated (including stellar interviews of big guns during the time of the pandemic), it in no way reflected JUST the gay community. It included all people affected by AIDS: those who suffered through the disease, those who were in control and effected the spread and treatment of the disease, straight people who contracted HIV and those who helped ease the suffering of those dying from the pandemic.
She won the school competition. She did not, however, win at the district GT level. In fact, she got a 24 out of 40 which was absolutely ridiculous. I need to stress that it isn’t that she lost.
It is the blatant bias and unprofessional attitudes and review from the two judges (one a teacher in the district and the other an attorney). I will continue to keep them unnamed, for important reasons. They simply serve as an example of the uninformed and willfully ignorant people out there who continue to exacerbate the lack of help PLWHIV/AIDS receive and those who still see the disease as a “gay” disease.
They needed to be called out and called to account, which we did. Kate’s school, teachers and administration have been supportive, and we chose to directly address the judges instead of passing it off to the staff at her school.
Thank you to all of you for giving so much encouragement to Kate. She has been on cloud nine since we got the word out!The judge’s response, particularly the male judge, completely missed the point of all of our legitimate concerns, nor did he address them. He expressed his utter surprise at our letter. He decided to point out how hard he works during the day and still takes the time to volunteer at events as a gesture of goodness (which we fully acknowledged and thanked him for in our original email to him). He denied being biased in anyway, and instead used his profession as a way to tout that he knows his stuff and how to be unbiased.
And that was it. Seriously.
So, while we could have dropped it, his response was not satisfactory at all. Not even a little.
I am going to post here the email that we sent today as a way to hopefully educate those who might happen across this blog who may need a clearer picture of AIDS, the LGBTQ community and how bias, prejudice and injustice still rules the roost today. Devon, you did such a wonderful job writing this, and there’s a good reason you are an excellent father and attorney. Much love to you.
You go, Papa Bear!
Thank you for taking the time to respond to the concerns raised by Emily Reese’s earlier email. Emily and I both apologize for any confusion about Mrs. xxxxx’s direct involvement in judging the participants; however, I am not confident that the email you sent, including xxxxx’s statement, was responsive. I write in order to clarify several points and to make certain that you both understand the importance of Kate’s advocacy and our own response to xxxxx’s comments.
Bias is a difficult and complex issue. Rarely do those with bias acknowledge that such exists. Bias is an issue that both affects and effects multiple facets of our individual world views and how we interact with one another as human beings. xxxxx’s response fails to meaningfully address this point and instead attempts to justify his criticisms of Kate’s project by arguing that he works as a public defender and was volunteering after putting in a full day at work. This is non-responsive and analogous to those who say, “I’m not a racist, I have black friends”. This is silly.
Kate’s topic was “AIDS: A Catalyst in the Human Rights Movement.” The topic you wrote down was “Aids and Gay Rights.” This was the starting point for your comments. This statement alone proves your bias. There is a difference between those two topic statements. HIV/AIDS does not, and has never, discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. HIV/AIDS is not a “Gay Rights” issue as you wrote. HIV/AIDS is a human rights issue. It is perhaps the most devastating health crisis in the past 30 years. Kate’s board clearly stated the importance of this topic (recall that the NHD topic this year is “Rights and Responsibilities in History”) and its relevance to today:
“The AIDS epidemic is NOT over. Today over 34 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS. The same fight being fought in the 1980’s is still be waged today as many people lack adequate access to prevention, education, and medical treatment. Worldwide efforts are lagging because their is still stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. In spite of the decades of protests and medical advancements we are still looking for a cure. Sometimes to win a battle you have to start a war. ‘The condition is medical. The solution is political. AIDS is essentially a crisis of governance, of what governments do and do not do with their people.'”
From your comments and from your attempts to justify your actions you have proven your thinly disguised bias and have missed the point of Kate’s presentation in its entirety. On a positive note, you have directly proven to Kate the importance of her project and her advocacy. As parents and as citizens it is our responsibility to challenge your obvious bias and to educate others about the harm that such bias inflicts. I recognize that judges for academic competitions are sometimes scarce; however, I would prefer judges who are not intellectually dishonest about their own obvious bias. Subtle and ignored bias is often the most insidious form of intolerance.
Next, you wrote, “to (sic) dependent on interviews, need more primary research”. A few things are worth noting in response. First, Kate used nearly 50 different primary sources. Can you seriously posit that she needed more research? I challenge you to produce a student who offered more compelling and diverse research than Kate performed. A primary source is defined as a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types of primary sources include:
- ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS (excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records
- CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art
- RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings
Here, Kate explored books, magazines, medical journals, motion pictures, documentaries, music, internet based research and a number of other resources. She did emphasize the three interviews she personally sought out, arranged, and recorded. This is because the National History Day Project provides the following directive in regards to a thoughtful approach to the process: “Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is Rights and Responsibilities in History. The intentional selection of the theme for National History Day is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.” Kate interviewed people because she knows that history is not “mere facts and dates”. History is a living and breathing thing which requires more than a trip to the library in order to “drill down” and truly understand history. As a fellow lawyer, I would have expected you to know the importance of interviews as a primary source and that you not rely on the “limited pre-event training” you received as your only means to evaluate the project participants.
In summary, I find your reply non-responsive and a further attempt to justify your obvious bias. I do not expect or require a response. I will discuss my concerns with the administrators and educators involved and leave it at that. Our school, administrators, and teachers have been incredibly supportive and their efforts are to be applauded.
Devon T. Reese, Esq.
We love you, Kate. Momma and Papa Bear have your back!