Mix It Up Day
November 21, 2002 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Mix It Up Day is an effort from the people at Tolerance.org to get teens to sit with other social groups at lunch in the cafeteria today. Coming from a racially diverse "inner city" Midwest high school, I've seen how teens will naturally segregate themselves, so this seems like an interesting proposal. Kids who participated seemed excited about the opportunity, but will they keep "mixing it up" tomorrow, next week, as they become adults?
posted by katieinshoes (23 comments total)
So is there a princes out there who wants to give me one of her diamond earrings?
posted by willnot at 11:12 AM on November 21, 2002

The school where I teach is participating in Mix It Up Day. Only fitting seeing we are only 6 blocks from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the home of tolerance.org and creators of Mix It Up Day. Our school was already pretty self integrating. I like to say we are the art geek wildlife preserve, where geeks are allowed to flourish in their natural environments. These kids integrate pretty well at lunch anyway, and they have made the extra efforts today. They are into it. I don't think it will have many lasting repercussions at typical high schools. One arbitrary day to eat with each other won't have much of a lasting effect.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 11:19 AM on November 21, 2002

Teens? All people naturally segregate themselves.
posted by xmutex at 11:23 AM on November 21, 2002

I think I would prefer the "Freshman-Fridays" from when I went to school. At least they would actually have to chase you for you to get your ass kicked. This way is too easy...lol.
posted by stifford at 11:36 AM on November 21, 2002

Noble cause, but man, if I were in high school, I'd be afraid of...

Ufez Approaches table of football players
Ufez: "Hi, um, there's this really cool organization called tolerance.org, and they're sponsoring a mix it up day, and, well, since I don't really know you guys, and I want to participate, you know, for the greater benefit of society and the world at large, and is it cool if I have lunch here at your table?"
Jocks (in unison)..."Whatever. Fuck off, weirdo."
Ufez: "um, okay, thanks. bye."

In my high school, it would take some serious balls. But publicity for tolerance.org is always good.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:47 AM on November 21, 2002

Oh my goodness, Stifford, did you go to school in upstate NY, or is Freshman Friday a country-wide thing?

Ahem, um, yes, the posts. It's a lovely idea, but my cynical cold bitter heart believes that the only schools that will get good participation are the ones that are either already mixing it up, or are too uniform to bother in the first place. The "Heathers" at my high school would have either just cut lunch or used it as an opportunity for a targeted attack.

on preview, what Ufez Jones said.
posted by synapse at 11:48 AM on November 21, 2002

they probably won't be mixing it up in the future.

i, also, went to a racially diverse high school. self-segregation at my school tended to be more complicated than simple racial difference. mostly, it was accounted with academics first. the honors kids hung out with the other honors kids, or the AP kids with other AP kids, and the regulars with the regulars. music played a part, and sports, and so forth.

people associate with those whom of which they are comfortable. that's my opinion. what defines comfort? not difference, but rather similarity. race could be one point of difference or similarity, and a significant one at that. i don't know if that's good or bad.
posted by moz at 11:50 AM on November 21, 2002

They had FF when I was a freshman at a Queens, NY High School. However, I was horrifed to learn that when I moved and began my senior year at a high school on Long Island that no one ever heard of it... (sigh)
posted by stifford at 11:51 AM on November 21, 2002

So basically it's just a different form of peer pressure? Sounds like a mixed message to me.
posted by Beholder at 11:53 AM on November 21, 2002

why is the image of last night's "South Park" suddenly popping into my head?
posted by mkelley at 11:55 AM on November 21, 2002

Ufez: heh!

Yeah, as synapse pointed out, it'll probably be the high schools in hip college towns with Gay-Straight Alliances that do this. Somehow, I can't imagine it going over well at my 3000-student public high school in an ultraconservative suburb where, my teenage sister informs me, freshman who try to sit in the "sophomore cafeteria" are now thrown out by school staff.
posted by transona5 at 11:57 AM on November 21, 2002

I think people learn to appreciate people from other backgrounds better if they get together voluntarily, out of some common interest... otherwise, sitting with some random person of another race would cause the same reaction as sitting with any other random person: being slightly uncomfortable and not having much to talk about. What exactly does this accomplish?
posted by dagnyscott at 12:04 PM on November 21, 2002

otherwise, sitting with some random person of another race would cause the same reaction as sitting with any other random person: being slightly uncomfortable and not having much to talk about. What exactly does this accomplish?

I don't know if it would accomplish something for everyone, but...

Back in 10th grade, I was browsing a bulletin board on AOL (you know, back before high speed internet and knowing better about AOL). I made a couple posts and a few hours later, I got an IM from a girl who really agreed with what I'd said. She was my age, black, and lived in Queens. And here I am, spoiled little white Midwesterner, having deep, thoughtful conversation someone I'd have never encountered in my normal social circle. We talked all evening about all sorts of things. At the end of the night, I think we'd both conquered a lot of stereotypes.

Maybe it didn't revolutionize our social behavior, but that experience was really rewarding.

So maybe Mix It Up doesn't change an entire generation's way of thinking about social structure, but hopefully at least a few kids will realize that the people they don't normally hang out with are just as complex, interesting, and worthwhile as any of their friends.
posted by katieinshoes at 12:20 PM on November 21, 2002

I don't know where you guys went to school, but when I was growing up in Berkeley, gangs of black kids played all sorts of "mix it up" games. The standard version was called "catch whitey," and involved slamming whitey into a wall and breaking his watch, dumping his books into mud puddles, and stomping his glasses. Variations I observed included "stick whitey with needles," and "whip whitey with stripped tree branches." Yeah.

Maybe it's less violent out there today, but back then it was a good idea to get a solid group together and watch each other's backs. Most of us were routinely frightened out of our skulls by these multicultural love-fests that for some reason were never observed by teachers or administrators. I'm sure they saw what was going on, but nothing in the "tolerance" literature covers this so they ignored it.
posted by The Raven at 12:36 PM on November 21, 2002

"For Mix It Up Day today, our Jr. class is making a big step. We decided as a diverse moment it would be good to sit somewhere else for a change. Before we knew what was going on, we were told that we needed to draw where we sit. We were given a paper plate, and each of us, without even hesitating, drew where our table was and who sat in which spots at lunch. Nobody moves. We placed the plates in the hallway spelling the words MIX IT UP. Many people stopped to read them and ask questions. A lot of kids besides the Jr. Class are planning on participating. Some are ready, some are nervous, but I think all are a little excited. We will just have to see what happens when this happens. I, for one, am ready, and I am excited and hope that we make some new friends with this experience."
"I went to lunch and sat with the popular group. They talked with me like never before; they acted as if they liked me. Now when I go to lunch, they always ask if I want to sit with them."
Good stuff.

I think the idea has tremendous merit. Often, all it takes is one short conversation to change an attitude--especially when it's a matter of being exposed to something unfamiliar. The experience in the second quote is one familiar to me--I always found that when I mixed with unfamiliar groups at school, they ended up being nicer than I expected. People are basically good, and cinematic stereotypes are more a result of perception from the outside than reality from the inside.
posted by frykitty at 1:02 PM on November 21, 2002

(eep. sorry for all the extra space there. I don't use blockquote much around here.)
posted by frykitty at 1:03 PM on November 21, 2002

The_Raven: How are things now? Gotten any better for you?
posted by allaboutgeorge at 1:53 PM on November 21, 2002

At my (50% black/50% white/ 1 Asian = me) high school we had an open campus for lunch. All the black kids ate in the cafeteria (because a portion of them were poor, and could only afford state-sponsored lunch programs). The rest of the campus was left to the whites. What was ridiculous was during particularly horrible weather the whites still demanded they be outside instead of seeking shelter in the cafeteria.

Me? I hung out outside because I was stalking a cheerleader. She's drop-out trailer trash now, and I still regularly chat with many black friends from High school who went on to college.
posted by Stan Chin at 2:23 PM on November 21, 2002

I think, even beyond the tolerance issue, the idea of getting students to MAYBE communicate with new people is beneficial people skills practice. They need those, too!

I didn't know about this day; it'll be interesting to hear if my son's school participated. Morris Dees is one of my heroes.
posted by banjotwang at 2:26 PM on November 21, 2002

katieinshoes, that's the point I was making. You met someone based on a common interest who happened to be from a different background and that's a very positive experience. We're asking people to start talking to others just because their skin color is different... I don't think that would be nearly as positive a thing.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:52 PM on November 21, 2002

But their page didn't even mention skin color. They just wanted people from different social groups to talk.
posted by transona5 at 7:14 PM on November 21, 2002

I can't stop thinking about the Breakfast Club.
posted by Fabulon7 at 6:41 AM on November 22, 2002

Fabulon: Why would you want to stop?

Saturday...March 24, 1984. Shermer
High School, Shermer, Illinois.
60062. Dear Mr. Vernon...we accept
the fact that we had to sacrifice a
whole Saturday in detention for
whatever it was that we did wrong,
what we did was wrong. But we think
you're crazy to make us write this
essay telling you who we think we
are, what do you care? You see us
as you want to see us...in the
simplest terms and the most
convenient definitions. You see us
as a brain, an athelete, a basket
case, a princess and a criminal.
Correct? That's the way we saw each
other at seven o'clock this morning.
We were brainwashed. ...

posted by allaboutgeorge at 4:50 AM on November 23, 2002

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