Systemic Racism Explained

Here’s a video for you explaining systemic racism. You might need to watch it more than once – and if you need to slow it down, remember you can change the Playback Speed when you click on the Settings icon. In the Settings there are also subtitles in Spanish and Japanese, and you can click here to watch a version with Chinese subtitles. After you watch, take the quiz to test your understanding!

Click here to take the quiz!

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A Message from University Settlement

In full support of the democratic right to dissent and protest, we join with many other voices of outrage across the country to call for justice for George Floyd. As our African-American staff, family members and communities express righteous anger at the injustice they face every day, we share in it and stand with them in solidarity.

我們全力支持人們擁有發表異見及抗議的民主權利,為此,我們與全國各地許多其他憤怒的聲音一起呼籲,為非洲裔男子佛洛伊德(George Floyd)伸張正義。當我們的非裔美國人員工、家庭成員以及社區,為自己每日所遭遇的不公不義而憤怒發聲時,我們感同身受並與他們團結一致。

En total apoyo al derecho democrático a disentir y protestar, nos unimos a muchas otras voces de indignación en todo el país para pedir justicia para George Floyd. A medida que nuestro personal afroamericano, los miembros de la familia y las comunidades expresan una ira justa por la injusticia que enfrentan todos los días, compartimos y nos solidarizamos con ellos.

University Settlement also signed on to this letter as part of the United Neighborhood Houses:

“George Floyd’s murder is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a deadly and familiar trend. The senseless killing of black and brown people by police officers is a public health emergency our country has the power to stop. Leaders and policy makers must grapple with our history of white supremacy and acknowledge how power, privilege, and oppression continues to shape daily life in America before we can ever hope to live in a country where communities of color are truly free.

New York’s settlement houses have been progressive leaders in this State for over a century and continue to speak out against racial injustices while building inclusive communities. Today they fight racist ideology in public policy debates from so-called “voter ID laws” to the discrimination against Asian Americans during the coronavirus outbreak to the higher social-distancing arrests and summons in communities of color. During a global pandemic, we have seen the stark consequences of that racist ideology laid bare as black and brown New Yorkers are dying at twice the rate of their white neighbors.

United Neighborhood Houses continues to reckon with America’s racist legacy, and together with our member settlement houses, we affirm our commitment to serving as allies, listening when challenged, and leveraging what power and privilege we have to fight systemic racism. We stand shoulder to shoulder with settlement houses in extending our deepest condolences to George Floyd’s family while repeating the mantra that has shaped the latest iteration of America’s long-running battle for civil rights: Black Lives Matter.”

And here are some English for Speakers of Other Languages Lesson Resources related to the protests:

Breaking News English

Reading, listening, vocab, and comprehension exercises at three different levels

News in Levels

Reading, vocab, and video for three different levels

Share My Lesson

Video, reading, discussion questions – somewhat advanced


VOA has a series of articles and videos, but no vocab or comprehension activities – intermediate to advanced


Registration required but free – intermediate but maybe good for high beginning too, listening and discussion questions, audio can be slowed down


Registration required but free – you can change the reading level from intermediate to advanced

ESL Library

Registration required but free – a very good set of intermediate reading, vocab, listening, and comprehension exercises

And here are some photos to use for discussion or writing using vocabulary from the above lessons:

NY Times

New York Magazine

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Student. Immigrant. Essential Worker.

Here’s another student story highlighting the importance of adult literacy and why the City Council and mayor need to maintain funding for adult literacy at $12 million per year2.2 million New Yorkers like Felix, whose story is below, need adult education!

My name is Felix Gomez, and I’m from Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I used to work as head of inventory security in a multinational company named Home Center and I studied business administration specializing in financial risk. But because of safety and economic reasons, I decided to leave my country and come to the U.S. I came here alone in 2018 but later my mother came here and now we live together.

I love New York. I like the atmosphere, I like the people, I like the public transportation. I like that people respect others and don’t care what others do. It’s an open-minded city. I feel safe, I feel relaxed. There are a lot of opportunities to grow, to study. I like the different seasons. I like it all. I love this city.

When I arrived here I couldn’t work in the same field that I worked in in Colombia but I had to make money. So I started to work as a dishwasher, and after that as a busser, after that as a barback, and also as a cashier at Penn Station. But then the coronavirus came and the businesses closed.

My boyfriend is a nurse in the hospital and he told me that they needed people to work there in the housekeeping department and help in the emergency room. So I went there and had an interview in Spanish and English and I got a job as an emergency room assistant.  

When the ambulances call the hospital they tell them what the patient needs, and when the patient arrives in critical condition, there’s a list of information including the room and equipment and then we help bring them to the correct place and get them what they need.

In this hospital the doctors and nurses don’t speak Spanish or only speak a little Spanish, so when they call us everything’s in English. For example, they say, “Hey, Felix! I need napkins! I need cleaner! I need the respiration machine!”

I’ve worked there for two months, during the most critical times of the coronavirus. It was a heavy, sad atmosphere with a lot of protocols and anxiety but at the same time with the support of the city. Because every day at seven everyone applauded in support of everyone who works in the hospital. This was beautiful.

I feel very good in this job, and now I think I’d like to study to become a nurse. I believe it’s a very interesting career and it’s a profession in which you need a lot of love, a lot of passion and a lot of desire and dedication to work. So after getting my papers and improving my English, my next step is to study nursing.

I think that in the United States and in New York the possibilities for Latinos is very good, but it’s really necessary to speak English well and it’s necessary to have structured and formal classes. A friend of mine told me about the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program and that it was a good program, one that requires persistence and dedication, and I started last fall. I’ve learned and I’ve advanced and thanks to these small advances I could get a job in the hospital. I’m grateful for this because in this pandemic I could get a job that makes it possible for me to support my family.

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Student. Teacher. Census Worker. Supermom.

We’d like to share a student story with you all highlighting the importance of adult literacy and why’s important for the City Council and mayor to maintain funding for adult literacy at $12 million per year. 2.2 million New Yorkers like Lifen, whose story is below, need adult education!

My name is Lifen Wu. I come from Guangdong, China. I just finished junior high school in China when I was 16 years old and then I went abroad to South America. I went there because we were poor. So I went to South America and worked as a waitress in my uncle’s restaurant. Life there was challenging and interesting and I was willing to explore the new culture.

I came to the United States in 2017 for the air quality and education, both for my children and for me. I think there are a lot of opportunities in the United States. Even though I am married and have children there are still a lot of opportunities to improve myself.

This spring I got a job as a census worker with the Cooper Square Committee. Our Adult Literacy counselor Mayra helped me to prepare my resume and prepare for the interview. They were hiring two people, one person who spoke Spanish and English and one who spoke Chinese and English, and they hired me.

I thought I would speak more Chinese in this job but I speak a lot of English. We call people to make sure they’re doing okay during the coronavirus and to ask if they’ve completed the census. When we call people it’s an unlisted number, so some people were suspicious and didn’t want to answer my questions. I was working hard but felt sad because I didn’t know how to deal with different kinds of native English speakers. So I asked my manager to give send me all of the scripts, and I printed them all out and studied and studied and these really helped me. The manager thanked me for doing a good job and for all my preparation.

At the same time we’re all doing online learning at home. I have two kids in junior high school and three in elementary school. My two junior high school children can do their homework independently, but my three little ones can’t do anything independently, it’s all my job. It’s crazy! But fortunately my online English classes are similar to my children’s online classes—we all use Google Classroom and video conferencing and everything—so I could get settled in easily. So I need to thank University Settlement because before I didn’t know anything about Google Classroom or how to turn in work. So I feel like I’ve been able to get settled into online learning easier than other parents. And now I’m helping parents in my neighborhood with online classes because I have the experience at University Settlement.   

I recently found out I passed the TASC test! I still can’t believe it! Before I came to University Settlement, I didn’t know anything about High School Equivalency (HSE). So I came to the Adult Literacy Program office and they told me the correct way to take the test. I just finished junior high school in China so I still have my college dream. I want to go to college. I’m still looking for my major, but I realize I really like to serve the community and help people.

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$12 Million for Adult Literacy!

This week we had the pleasure to speak with City Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Justin Brannan and the staff of City Council Members Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin about the importance of adult literacy, especially in these trying times. Our students need English classes to get jobs, get better jobs, help their children with their learning, live independently in New York, and to help others! We’re asking that the New York City Council to maintain current funding for adult literacy at $12 million per year. Along with the New York Immigration Coalition, we’re also asking for continued legal services and emergency cash grants for immigrant New Yorkers.

To learn more, click here!

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