Stop Using Racist and Xenophobic Language in New York State Regents Exams

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The New York State Board of Regents recently administered a field test to students at various schools to test questions for the new version of the U.S. history regents.  A concerned student contacted us because a question on the exam (above) repeatedly used the phrase "illegal alien" both in a quote and in the possible answers.  

While this question is not yet a part of the U.S. History Regents administered to all students, we are very concerned by the wording and the possibility that such a question could be used. Many mainstream news outlets no longer use “illegal” to refer to human beings because it is prejudicial, harmful, and factually incorrect. It is outrageous that the Regents exam repeats this hateful language in an official test document.

This question is not the first time that xenophobic, racist, and/or islamophobic wording has been used on a history Regents. We have noticed and experienced discriminatory language toward specific countries such as Haiti and Palestine on several Global Regents and feel that the question above represents a trend of anti-immigrant and foreign bias. While we understand that questions that reference text, such as political cartoons or historic documents, might contain biased language, when this text is not contextualized and the bias is not acknowledged as such, this language can be damaging to students, their test-taking experience, and their perceptions not only of themselves but also of school. 

We demand that the NYS Board of Regents discontinues its racist practices of using xenophobic, racist, and/or islamophobic language in the Regents Exams distributed to high school students throughout the state. We also demand a public apology for all the students, parents, teachers and communities affected by these actions.

New York State, especially New York City, claims itself to be an immigrant sanctuary city and welcomes students of all backgrounds to its public school system. It is unacceptable that in current times outdated and xenophobic language is used on an official state sanctioned exam that thousands of students with immigrant backgrounds will take. It is small micro-aggressions like these that allow for violence to escalate into larger, more serious situations in our schools. Out of the hundreds of questions and word choices that exist to make this test, the writers have consciously chosen to use a slur. 

We additionally call on the DOE Chancellor, Richard Carranza, to make a statement on this matter. He prides himself on being a grandson of immigrants and he must not allow for this kind of violence to transpire in the schools that he is leading. We ask Chancellor Carranza, DOE staff and faculty to stand on the side of the students they serve everyday and protect them from experiencing this kind of violence by signing this petition to remove any type of xenophobic, racist, and/or islamophobic language in the Regents Exams distributed to high school students throughout the state. 

Other examples of problematic questions from global regents:

Racism against Haiti in June 2016 global regents

Xenophobia/Islamophobia in question about Israeli-Palestinian conflict in June 2017 global regents