December 29, 2008

Embracing Another Language

Check out this fantastic post over at Anti-Racist Parent about learning a new language. We always tell our students (and ourselves) how important it both is and is going to be to know more than just 1 language. Yet, Tami reflects on how this relates to being an anti-racist. Learning a new language (at least to be conversational) shows respect and appreciation for other cultures and no longer English-centricizes our own importance.

For years I've been saying that I needed to brush up on my Spanish and actually learn some Tagalog (Filipino). This post was absolutely the push that I needed for the new year! Enjoy!

December 23, 2008

Responsible Giving

'Tis the season to give.

And, now is the time when many people generously give of their money, time, old clothing, old toys, etc. But, how many of us do research on the organizations to which we give? Sure, some organizations make it easier than others -- I'm thinking of the number of yellow boxes I pass in store parking lots with the Planet Aid sign. In Massachusetts, where it feels like Dunkin' Donuts outnumbers cars on the road, I see more Planet Aid boxes than any other charity box.

They make it so easy! I put a bag of clothing in my car, and whenever I pass the first yellow box, I generously put my clothes into the bin.

Yet, according to Charity Watch, an independent organization that gives ratings on the financial responsibility of charities:

A charity may even count its primary solicitation activity as a charitable program. For instance, Planet Aid, a nonprofit group famous for its yellow outdoor collection boxes, calls the cost of collecting worn clothes, which it later sells, a program service expense. Its tax form states that its purpose is "To support development projects ... and protection of natural habitat through the recycling of used clothing." It would be like Wal-Mart claiming that its main purpose is to help low-income people have a higher standard of living by selling them less expensive merchandise. Planet Aid raises almost all of its funds by selling the donated items, rather than giving them to needy people. It only distributed $8,000 of donated goods of the $8.7 million it spent in 2004, according to its most recently available tax form. Planet Aid's 2004 audit reports two program service expenses: $6.6 million of "Clothing collection" and $2 million of "International Aid."

Seriously? $8,000 was given to help the needy?

While I wasn't aware of Charity Watch, I had heard a few years back about Planet Aid's practices. And, since then, I've been quite vigilant about spreading the word about GOOD and RESPONSIBLE charities out there.

So, please, if you're taking the time to go through your closets (and we all know how long that takes!), take the extra 2 minutes to go to Charity Watch and view the rating of the organization to which you're sending your donation. After all, we're donating to be socially responsible - why not go with a charity that is.

December 15, 2008

Dolls - and the Office to Prove It

Originally posted at To Loosen the Mind


the-officeI love the show "The Office." Love it. Live for it. It's the 30 minutes in the week when I know, for sure, that I'm gonna hurt from laughing.

When I bring up that my favorite show is "The Office," I get two reactions: 1) "I LOVE THAT SHOW, TOO!" or 2) "Oh, god, that show makes me so uncomfortable. I can't watch it!" I think that the characters are so real to life that it's just hysterical. And, unfortunately, I can match up every single Office character with someone I have worked with in my professional career. Maybe that's why it's so funny -- because it wasn't funny when they were real people in my life.

The show this week was no exception to the uncomfortably hilarious diversity conversation. This week, Dwight had the brilliant forsight to purchase all of the "Unicorn Princess" dolls in the local stores and charge "those lazy parents" upwards of $200 for the dolls. As with just about every new kid craze, these dolls were ridiculous. They were pretty princesses, dressed in shimmery pink dresses, with a long white horn coming out of the forehead. I joke not.

princess-unicorn-300x192
Throughout the show, anxious white fathers come in, give the secret nod, and get their dolls after exchanging a wad of cash. Toby, the poor fool of an HR guy, goes to buy the last doll from Dwight. He ends up paying $400 for the doll, the camera pans to his delighted face as he holds the precious box in his hands, and then his expression quickly turns sour as he discovers he has just bought the Black Unicorn Princess.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3GPOgJ6WtM

I get asked a lot about dolls, given that I have two little girls. My husband and I have a practice of only buying dolls with brown skin (and, ideally, ones with a waist larger than my ring-size). Everywhere my kids go, they are surrounded by white dolls. They see white characters -- whom they idolize -- on television. They listen to young white girls singing on Radio Disney. And, conversely, they see far too many shows with young brown girls as the "mean kids" or the "dumb girls" or the "bratty teens."

Purchasing power is on my side. The brown dolls ... they always seem to be on clearance. That helps me out. But, in the neighborhood and city in which I live, whites are the minority. Yet, the brown dolls are always the one on clearance. White dolls dominate the shelves on the toy racks. On a recent trip to North Carolina for a speaking engagement, I nearly lost my mind when I walked into a store and found shelves and shelves of beautiful Black dolls -- angels, princesses, books with Black characters, and a Black Nativity scene. My host had accompanied me into the store and couldn't believe my shock.

"You don't understand," I said. "I never see Black dolls -- in so many numbers -- in a store. The multicultural dolls are usually hidden in a corner with red tags on their boxes."

"Honey, this is North Carolina. There are plenty of Black dolls down here. I think it's time for you to relocate!" said my host.

Thankful for the luxury of internet shopping, I avoid most of the big toy and book stores these days and give my money to smaller companies who have made multicultural options their business plan. I know this makes my white relatives uncomfortable - we've had some great discussions about how my actions aren't to exclude white merchandise. After all, my kids are surrounded by it. Their dolls at school, their books at their library, their favorite characters on television, and the stars of their favorite movies are all white. They have plenty of exposure to white culture. Believe me.

And, if you haven't seen this experiment re-done, check out the impact of racial preferencing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqSFqnUFOns

November 14, 2008

Intercultural Resource Center!

The Intercultural Resource Center


As some of you may have heard, the new Intercultural Resource Center is up and running!

Why is this important at Stonehill? Stonehill has been in need for an intercultural center for some time now. Until the IRC opened up, Stonehill didn’t have any place where students would have access to information and material dealing with Intercultural Affairs. With this new center open, students now have another valuable resource available to them, and one that is easily accessible.

Where is it located? It is located on the first floor of the Roche Dining Commons (near the mailboxes) and will be staffed by work study students from 10am-4pm every day. The center is a place where anyone who is interested in learning more about different cultures and issues such as race, gender, socio-economic diversity, etc, can come and find some resources.

What can I do there? Students can do a variety of things at the intercultural center. Right now we are in the process of moving stuff in, but once that is complete there will be many books and videos all available for student use. From watching a video on “George Lopez and the New American Dream” to maybe taking out a book on a culture that you’ve been curious about, The Intercultural Resource Center is a place that is here to serve you, the student. We are also in the process of ordering some books and interesting material, so be on the lookout for that!

For Faculty, there are a number of books on diversity of teaching and ways to include underrepresented groups into your curriculum.

Who are YOU? My name is Antonio Lebron. I am a freshman from the Bronx, NY, and I am majoring in psychology. At Stonehill I am involved in DOC (Diversity on Campus), the Martial Arts Club and the Swim Club. During the day when I’m not in class or attempting to stay afloat at the Y, I am one of the people who will be staffing the Intercultural Resource Center. So far, not many people have stopped by. However, we hope to change this in the future and turn the office into a place where everyone feels welcome to come and see what’s going on!

When can I visit?
The Center is open every day from 10am-4pm, but we are hosting a big Open House, too! Come by on Monday, December 8th from 10am-1pm, and we’ll have some good food (not that you’d only go for the food, right?).

Hopefully we’ll see you there!

- Antonio '12

November 9, 2008

Really? Really.

I'm trying not to let some of the bummer antics of people who are saying "racism is over" or "people need to stop whining now" dampen my post-Obama high. So, I hope this is the first and last post I really need to write about this.

But, writing it allows me to explore issues of race, which, after all, is my job, right? So, here goes. 

Here are some of the interesting comments I'd like to highlight from people who have commented post-11/4. As a note, I think these are interesting comments to look at regardless of who you voted for or who I, the writer, supported. They are an interesting lens into race in America. These are actual first hand quotes gathered from things like Facebook comments, website comments that some of us moderate, and face to face interactions. None of these are made up.

1. "Now that Obama is President-elect, people of color have no more reasons to whine." - McCain supporter
My eye catches 2 phrases in here: "people of color" and "whine". I think it's interesting that folks think that Obama's election affects and is meaningful to only people of color. Because I work in a predominantly white environment, I couldn't help but see more white people celebrating than people of color. If you were to walk around my environment the next day, you'd see white people being moved to tears, cheering, celebrating, etc. So, I think his success was a great day for people who voted for Obama, and not just people of color. Is there huge significance for people of color - particularly black men? Yes. 

"Whine". What were we whining about? Is it whining to be treated like Americans in the same way that other Americans are treated? Is 'activism' being confused as 'whining'? When I actually pushed this back on someone who wrote this, they responded with, "I'm sick of hearing successful and respected black people whining about the race card when they already make more money than I do and get more respect than I do." 

My response is that people of color are often treated with respect in certain places -- it's that we want to be respected all the time, not just in situations where we are there because of our positions. So, while my black male friends who have dreadlocks and dark skin are respected when they wear their suits to work, they are still followed in stores by security guards or avoided by people clutching their purses. Is that respect? Is it "whining" to not want people to assume you are going to rob them just because of the color of your skin?

2. "Just because my candidate, McCain, lost doesn't mean that I won't support Obama as my President. Can you actually say the same?" -McCain supporter
As a Democrat living in a country ruled by Republicans for over 8 years, yes, I can. I did. I have. I didn't agree with George W. Bush and his policies. But, I still supported our countries. More importantly, I supported the men and women who chose to leave their families and fight overseas so that my family could be safe. 


3. My Facebook status read: "I am waking up with a new love for our country." Some responded with "Well, I have always loved our country and have always been proud to be an American." I thought it was interesting that a few people read that as saying I DIDN'T love my country. In fact, it says, I am waking up with a NEW love ..." I voted for Obama AND I love my country, support with deep humility and respect for the men and women risking their lives overseas, and for the families who are left behind waiting, mourning, or celebrating the return of their loved ones. And, I have always been proud to be an American. Why was there an assumption that I, or other Democrats, don't love my country? 

So, chime in! What are some of the things you've heard and had to deal with -- from either side??


November 5, 2008

Obama's Victory: Celebrate, but don't forget...

Donna Vivar

I woke up this morning still in shock. Barack Obama, a person of color, is our country’s next president! Along with many fellow Americans, his words last night brought me to tears. For the first time in awhile, I have hope. We have a president that once again is for the people. He is a voice and an ally to marginalized communities. And it does not stop there! We also have a nation of people that are ready for change, that rallied together to make this happen. The crowds of people full of passion and hope had me waking up feeling different this morning. All the patience, heartaches, joys, challenges, and hard work are paying off as a person fighting for social justice in this country. This is definitely a time for celebration as we recognize history being made.

In addition to pausing for a moment to enjoy the breaking of a glass ceiling for folks of color (do you hear the beautiful shatter?), I also want to recognize the voices of various media commentators implying that Barack Obama’s victory is proof that we have reached racial equality, that now anything is possible, and there is equal opportunity for all in this country. It is true that history has been made and change is in the making, but I would also like to urge people to remember that this is just the beginning. Racial equality has not yet been reached, equal opportunity is not yet for all (NOTE: As I am typing away, Prop. 8 Banning same sex-marriage again is California is close to passing), but yes, I believe anything is possible.

For all of us with fire in our bellies who believe in basic values of equality and respect (regardless of political affiliation) need to keep going! There is still so much work to be done. Whether you are a grassroots organizer, a student, a family man or woman, or just someone that speaks out when someone makes a racist comment or phrase like, “That’s so gay,” we need to keep working for a just society.

So…enjoy the day, celebrate, and rest up from all of the excitement because we still have work to do.

October 29, 2008

Guest Blogger: Kristen

DisAbilities Convocation
by Kristen

Although I have been living with a disability my entire life, very rarely do I speak about it with other people, especially with people I don’t know. What would I say? What would people think of me? Would people even come? Should I let some of my guard down and tell the full story or should I be careful not to offend anyone? Would people be able to pick up on my speech impediment -- would I be able to articulate clearly?

As an administrator who comes across as being pretty comfortable in my own skin it may surprise some people to hear of these insecurities. However having a disability and feeling different is something I fought against my entire childhood/adolescence. Even though I am proud of who I am today, those feelings do come back every now and then. It takes a lot of work to ignore them but I do what I can!

Walking into the room I was shocked by the number of people who attended the convocation. I had sent some emails out to the RA staff and felt so supported by the ones that showed up. It immediately made me feel more comfortable and gave me the strength I needed to share my story.

So I got up and proceeded to tell my story. The short version is that on June 13th, 1985, I was diagnosed with a bilateral sensory-neural hearing loss of a mild sloping to moderate/profound degree above 1000 hertz in the right ear and of a moderate sloping to profound degree above 1000 HZ in the left ear. In English-I had a high frequency hearing loss. I would never be able to hear high pitched sounds of alarms, birds, crickets and certain speech frequencies. I couldn’t hear S, T, R, L, X, TH etc. That explained why I would walk around saying “Look at the “SARS” or “Happdede Birtay” Cute-but not appropriate speech for a 5 year old. Elementary & Junior High school had their challenges but for the most part I was able to ignore the fact that having a disability made me different. However, I had a hard time fitting in during my high school years and it resulted in me making some poor choices.

Coming to Stonehill as an undergraduate is probably one of the best decisions I ever made because it really helped me turn my self esteem around. I finally felt as though I belonged to a community and that I was accepted for who I was. I sincerely appreciate all that Dean Grant, Residence Life, Student Activities and Campus Ministry did to help me make this transformation.

One common theme that emerged is that, when you have a disability, people assume it means you are stupid. Other times people assume that they should not challenge you as much or give you a little bit of a break. Both of these approaches are wrong! Personally, it really bugs me when I have been having a conversation with someone at a normal volume but then when they see the hearing aids or hear my speech they start talking really slow or really loud. Seriously, if I couldn’t hear you, I would let you know. Now I just feel stupid!

Another frustration I have is cost/health insurance. Most health insurance plans do not cover hearing aids. The ones I wear, for example, are $6000.00. That’s money I could put towards school loans, car loans, savings for a house etc! Obviously it is pretty important to me that I hear so it’s just something I have to do but it makes me so mad that it isn’t covered by insurance -- it’s not like I did anything to make myself this way, it’s just how I was born.

Despite these frustrations of living with a disAbility, I felt really good about the program and feel absolutely honored to have been a part of it. I hope that those who were there gained some insight to the thoughts and feelings that I and others with disabilities have and look forward to future opportunities to share my story!

Editor's Note: This DisAbilities Convocation was the first one we had done at Stonehill, and we thank for the very courageous participants who shared their stories. It's never an easy task putting ourselves out there - especially in a professional environment that often encourages us to separate the two. But, as Kristen describes, sometimes sharing a personal piece of our history helps to connect in the future.

October 28, 2008

THE SKY IS FALLING... THE SKY IS FALLING!

By guest blogger, Jeff Gallus


We all know the story of Chicken Little and how the moral of the story is to not always believe everything you hear. For many of us, this can be quite difficult because we are taught from a very early age to take information at face value (i.e. – teachers, media, family members, etc.). At the very least, most of us go from grades K-12 without questioning our sources of information. For some of us, we reach a point in our lives where we learn that we have to dig a little deeper to find the truth.

For me, that point came very early in my college career…I remember that day so vividly because it was the day that forced me to strip away my foundation and anything I ever learned about “our” great country…America.

I was sitting at brunch with one of my fellow RAs and one of my friends from Afghanistan. Wanting to know why we received the day off from classes, my friend asked me, “Why do Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus?” Everything that I learned in school rushed through my mind:

  • Columbus sailed the world to prove it was not flat. So he hopped aboard the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria…He DISCOVERED America and everyone was happy.
  • Europeans fled mother land in order to escape religious persecution. They decided to come to America. When reaching a giant rock (Plymouth Rock…kind of like the back in the colonial day version of Ellis Island) they realized that the land was inhabited by “Indians.”
  • Europeans turned into Pilgrims
  • The Indians loved the Pilgrims and they had a nice dinner together…we call this Thanksgiving.
  • John Smith married Pocahontas…Disney made millions.
  • America went through a revolutionary war, signed the Declaration of Independence, and called America our own.
  • Colonial America continued to grow in the name of Manifest Destiny…
  • Native Americans lost their land, still had Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but now lived on reservations sanctioned by the Government.

Then it hit me…

Everything I had learned in school had been a bunch of lies or half truths. I had been spoon fed American propaganda that all of my American brothers and sisters (Africans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans) learned during their education. America, according to several generations of white leadership, was a country built off people looking for a new beginning; people with hopes and dreams.

The fact of the matter is that Columbus, during his “discovery” of America, enslaved the natives and killed them if they could not provide him with what he wanted…which was gold. Europeans followed suit, leaving their country to escape from being oppressed and persecuted. They came to America, killed off the natives, and claimed the land in name of Manifest Destiny. America, the land of opportunity and freedom, was built off of oppression, greed, and bigotry…and according to our teachers…God wanted it this way.

Hmmm…really? So…God’s message is to spread hate and kill others in his/her name? That is nonsense. That would be like if George W. Bush used God as an excuse to invade Iraq (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/1007-03.htm).

I hope you are catching on to my sarcasm because I’m laying it on pretty thick.

In all seriousness…

Our entire history consists of oppressing various groups in order to get ahead. We have been conditioned as Americans to believe that it is our right to live our lives as the oppressors. We are apathetic in our approach to create a society that strives for equality and unity of all races, sexes, and religions. These are the seeds that were sewn by our founding fathers; seeds that have grown and been cultivated to represent “our” country and who we are, as Americans, today.

How are we supposed to educate our children about things like racism and hatred when we refuse to accept the fact that “our” country was built off of those exact values? How do we overcome issues of systematic oppression when we fail to question the “truth” we have been given?

No, the sky is not falling, but we do continue to set our future generations up for failure by providing them with the same apathy and social ignorance that has been instilled in us. Now, more so than ever before, we need to shift directions and take action; not only to educate our youth, but also to pave the way for them.

As the Native American proverb goes, “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” It is time to live by the words “our” country’s Natives spoke. Let us retrace our steps and learn from our past so that we may create a new path for our future.

October 23, 2008

Race... in America... and at Stonehill

While I certainly hemmed and hawed about how much I should write on today's blog about Race.. in America.. and at Stonehill, I thought that there were some great links that I could just post. Those who get it - will get it. Those who don't - won't. Let's leave it at those two groups.

Which group do you REALLY fall into? If I were to ask another person, would they put you in the SAME group you just put yourself into? Or, would they say you actually knew a lot LESS or a lot MORE?

Here are some great provocative videos going around. I love this first one (though, I don't refer to myself as "yellow". Go girl!).



Oh SNAP! Okay, this next one is brilliant. While some of you will watch this next one and say that this is an obviously anti-McCain commentary (which, yes, it is) in this next video, I encourage you to focus on the message of "othering" and "that one". So, get off the "this is anti-McCain" for a hot second, and focus on the message being given about the "othering of America".



Are there ways in which we "other" people in our college? How do we and should we react to the "othering" of our fellow students and colleagues? Who decides who is an "other"? Should we always serve the majority, or are we here to serve all?

October 17, 2008

Halloween: A Free Pass to be Racist?


Here we go again... Halloween.


I actually like Halloween. I love getting dressed up. I love getting the kids dressed up. I love seeing how creative people can be (I once showed up in a long nightgown with a sign that said, "Freud." -- get it? I was a Freudian Slip.). I still laugh at the couple costumes that are Peanut Butter and Jelly. And, yes, the recycled Justin Timberlake costume of "**** in a Box" cracks me up.

But, I also cringe when Halloween comes around. Does Halloween, with it's intentional 24 hours of dressing in a way you normally wouldn't, give you a free pass to be racist?

While perusing the daily newspaper fliers to find something creative to make for my kids, my husband and me, I was hit by the number of racist costumes. Here are some of my personal "favorites" that were all within 2 pages of one another:

The Geisha Girl
Chinese Delivery Man (but with a big rice hat)
the Jamaican Dreadlock hat
The Sumo Suit (for both kids and adults, thank God)
The Ancient Chinese Secret costume (wig with top bald part and long black braid)


I'm not the only one thinking about it. Here is a great post from Racialicious that was originally posted at Angry Asian Man about "Asian Hair for Halloween."

So, does Halloween give us a free pass to dress in ways that might insult another culture?

The argument some present is that dressing in these costumes aren't offensive, rather they are honoring the traditions of that culture (... you know where *I* stand on that!). Yet, is there a difference? For example, one Halloween, a young 5-year old white girl came to my door dressed as a Geisha. I wasn't sure what to say, so I simply said, "Oh! What a pretty dress!" Her mother then responded with, "Thanks! We lived in Japan for 4 years and were excited when Sally could finally wear the dress!" Hmm... I wanted her statement to change my feelings, but I still felt like there was something wrong there. Should I have felt better that they got the dress in Japan, that her family had lived in Japan for years, and that, it seemed, they were filled with great excitement for this moment? If the mother had said, "Thanks! We got it at Target," would I have felt differently? I don't know... But, something still didn't feel right.

The conversation with adults has also come around with the Sumo suit costume. Seems at every college I work at, there is always some sort of Sumo Suit wrestling thing going on at Orientations or Fun Weekends. I hate the Sumo Suit. I hate that people (regardless of race) "dress up" as a large individual and then just pound into each other. What tops it off for me is when their helmets are shaped like buns. Yes, buns.

Is this offensive? I find it to be. I know that the sport of Sumo is highly respected. It's cultural. It isn't just about a couple of fat guys belly bumpin' one another out of a ring. There is an art. There is a meaning. There is great respect around the sport. Sorry, but watching a bunch of drunk college students belly bump each other with "Take that!! Hiiii--yaaaa!!!" doesn't seem respectful nor sacred to me..... WHY do we still rent these things???

The issue of Costumes also irked me when watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics this year. The American commentators kept saying how beautiful the individual COSTUMES were of "exotic" countries. Newsflash, American commentators - they aren't wearing COSTUMES. They are wearing CLOTHES.

Oh, Halloween. A free pass to be racist or a day of cultural respect? Hmmm....

Posted by Liza

September 30, 2008

THANK YOU?

I have always considered myself to be an advocate of diversity. As I embark on this road to fully educate myself with issues of race and diversity, I have already experienced some bumps along the way. These bumps were expected, but I never thought I would be stuck in a ditch.

YIKES. My high school was like a crayon box. There were tons of different colors that worked together to create beautiful pictures. Our clubs, class committees, student councils, and student bodies always had diverse representation. The gay community was accepted. Racism was not a big issue amongst students, and I never really felt discriminated against because of the skin I was in. However, as I came to college I began to see the cultural differences that I had never really paid attention to. I felt like an “other” not because of what social clique I belonged to but because of my skin color. Throughout high school I actively worked to make the race relations in my community even more cohesive and was awarded Princeton Prize for Race Relations. Freshmen year in college was a culture shock. Stonehill had an extreme lack of diversity, in every sense of the word, compared to my high school.

Get it, Got it, GOOD! Why didn’t people understand me? How come they didn’t just get it? Frequently I asked myself these questions. My roommate assumed that I was here because of my color and that my financial aid was solely based on that indisputable fact. Arguing with people who just did not get it was pointless. After consulting my mentor I realized that educating others and becoming an advocate was the greatest proactive solution I could do as a student. Lately I feel as though when dealing with race there are politics that come along with the issue. Freshmen year I became more interested in race relations then I had ever been.

Expirations or limitations. Junior year is finally here and these two years have flown by. In that time I have been involved in Cultural Committee, Diversity on Campus, and in Residence Life. Being a leader (of color) on such a small campus has its advantages and disadvantages. I have now contemplated the ramifications of being a representative. I do not want to be the token black student. I do not want to be the face of diversity for Stonehill simply because of my color. I want to make a difference by using my experiences.

Lately I find myself being asked to be a part of committees, to speak to groups of people, or to take part in leadership iniatives. I benefit because my name gets out there; yet I can’t help but question the motives people have for asking me to do all this.

Am I being asked because my color helps to fill the diversity seat -- the “brown” seat? Or, am I being asked to participate because of my experience? Sometimes this frustrates me, but I know that, even though I may be asked for superficial reasons, I bring a voice that is often ignored or silenced.

I am thankful for this opprtunity because I am dedicated to change, but I always wonder “are they listening”?

Blayne: The Intern

September 18, 2008

Reverse Racism

(Cross posted from To Loosen the Mind)

Okay, so this whole conversation — one in which many smart diversity folks find themselves in — has surfaced yet again. Reverse Racism. Does it exist? CAN it exist? By definition, is it as non-sensical as “Jumbo Shrimp” or it based on similar myths of advantaged affirmative action?

As most people even finding their way to this blog know that I have very strong opinions, I think the term “reverse racism” is a bunch of crap ridiculous. Putting it out there, I think that, by definition, it can’t even exist. In the interest of not taking up all of my web space or tying up a server, I do think this whole thing can be summarized in a few points. So, here goes — the cliff notes version of Liza’s take on Reverse Racism:

Define it please?” So, when I ask people (students, classes, friends, etc) to define “reverse racism”, here is what they usually come up with:

  • “policies in the United States that give people of color advantages over white people”
  • “giving people of color something that white people can’t have”
  • “segregating a population based on race, and then giving the people of color opportunities that white people can’t have”

So, aren’t programs and opportunities offered for a particular underrepresented group considered “reverse racism?” No. It’s not. Let’s talk about practice — opportunities given to underrepresented groups, or, better stated, groups with little to no institutional power, are not designed to disempower majority or power groups. Rather, they are really attempting to level a playing field that, for years/decades/centuries has not been level at all. Truthfully, people who are not in power are intentionally and systematically (whether you want to believe that or not) kept disempowered.

Visual person? Here’s a way to picture it…

So, imagine a race, a starting line. Some runners are at the start line, have the best shoes, have had adequate time to stretch, hydrate, and carb-load the night before the race. Some runners are coming to the start line having already run 3 miles, with backpacks, and with people yelling at them. Will the outcome of the race be fair? Will it accurately represent the talent, skill, and fair competition of the runners? Is it disadvantaging the runners at the start line if you give the runners who are exhausted a drink of water? Will the words “Hey! Why do those people get a drink of water? I was here first! I should get a drink of water, too!” make sense? Will you consider that an “unfair advantage”?

A runner at the start line may say, “But, I was here early! I prepared! I stretched!” or “Why do they get water and I don’t? It wasn’t like I was one of the people yelling at them as they ran the race prior to this one? I didn’t do anything wrong to them!” or “It’s not my fault they are tired and thirsty!”

True. You may not have personally disadvantaged the tired person at the finish line. However, you benefitted from not having to run the previous race. You benefitted from being given a sports drink by those who were also at the start line with you. You benefitted, even when you didn’t ask to. So, is it a fair race? Does your win accurately reflect true competition?

Is it “reverse racism” or is it “prejudice?”

I find that what most people like to call “reverse racism” is actually “prejudice”, which is a belief system. In my diversity sessions, I highlight that we are ALL prejudice. We all prejudge - whether it be a biological (fight or flight) reaction, a cognitive reaction, or an emotional response, we all prejudge. (note: the point of awareness exercises is to raise our level of consciousness about reasons why we do this).

So, yes, we can all be prejudice.

But, we cannot all exert “reverse racism.” Racism is a system of power. And, as a member of the numeric minority group, I do not hold the same institutionalized power as the majority group. I may be able to exert power in individual ways, however I still operate within an institutionalized set of rules (laid forth by white people in power).

“Reverse racism” - a way to ignore white privilege

Sorry, can’t credit where I heard this, but I admit to it not being my own…

One of the best “holla!” things I had heard someone say about “reverse racism” was that it was a way for white people to ignore the privilege they have as white people. By saying that people of color are exerting “reverse racism”, they are using the term to give themselves an out, an excuse, and a way to not take responsiblity for the larger system of racism from which they benefit.

So, that’s my brief, brief, brief version of something that could be written about in 100+ pages. There is so much more to it than what I’ve written here, but it’s a start for those who are just trying to wrap their brains around it for the first time.

September 16, 2008

OMG, I'm Prejudice by Blayne

“Valarie Kaur was a 20-year-old college student when she set out across America in the aftermath of 9/11, camera in hand, to document hate violence against her community. From the still-shocked streets of Ground Zero to the desert towns of the American west, her epic journey confronts the forces unleashed in a time of national crisis – racism and religion, fear and forgiveness – until she finds the heart of America… halfway around the world.”


90 Minutes. In 90 minutes, the way that I viewed September 11th and prejudice was completely changed. In this program we watched a documentary titled, Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath (http://www.dwf-film.com/about/about.html) . The fact is that history is one sided, told from one common perspective. Often we do not hear from the “other side”. One must wonder “if history is to help us avoid repeating mistakes, what happens when history is not recorded in a way that shows many sides?”

“Turban Equals Terrorist”. During the documentary, there was a white female who discussed her process after she had been on a train where a Sikh American had been criminalized because he fit a stereotype that people had painted of a terrorist. Her comments were blunt, but they hit like a sharp knife. As I listened to her say that she was nervous after she saw the two men who had turbans around their heads, I flashed back to experiences where I grew nervous due to the same reason. Like that woman, to me, “turban equaled terrorist”. The image was engrained into my thoughts from mass media images of so called “terrorists” who happened to wear turbans. An easy cop out would be that the media is solely to blame for my prejudice thoughts. However, as an individual I should try to educate myself. Profiling and stereotyping in any form, for any reason is WRONG! I was guilty of the same behavior, and there was no excuse besides pure ignorance.

I am Prejudice…Really? This particular program had caught my attention because there are many stories that are not recorded in history. I wanted to hear the history from a different side. The movie was truly powerful…I was thinking all day about what I heard. As I ate dinner, pieces of the documentary flooded my thoughts. Especially this one particular question: Was I guilty of discriminating against Sikhs or individuals who wore turbans? This is a hard question to answer. Ideally, I would like my answer to be “no.” How could I stereotype and discriminate a group of people when I have been a victim of the same behavior? After many struggles with this question my answer was shamefully, YES.

Bystander, Victim, or Perpetrator. As I watched the documentary, I was able to see the pain that had affected so many Americans – a painful story that was never told. When planes were flown into the two towers by Al Qaeda terrorists (which was not known at the time of the attack), Americans were terrorizing other Americans based on their own perceptions of fear. I am haunted by the question, “Why have I not heard this story before today?” and “Why did I never pay attention to them?” My ignorance allowed me to idly watch as people were brutalized for being who they are – Sikh Americans.

The movie reminded of my own prejudices. It forced me to think about who I viewed as “American”, who I pictured when I heard the word “terrorist”, and challenged me to want to learn about the different sides of a story.
The movie also forced me to ask a more difficult, personal question:

How many times have I done this before?

September 9, 2008

Intro: Donna Vivar

My name is Donna Vivar and along with the Class of 2012, I am new to Stonehill College. I serve as the Assistant Director for Intercultural Affairs housed in the College Center (aka Merkert Gym). Before this, I was working at Boston College in a position that allowed me to observe and take part of diversity issues and initiatives throughout campus. Although I am familiar with issues of diversity in higher education, I always find it interesting to see how these issues are played out on different campuses. After only a few weeks on the job, I cannot say I have quite figured out the Stonehill culture (in fact I recently had to have someone explain to me the different sides of “the CafĂ©” and what the “SpoCo” is), but throughout the semester, I thought I would share with you my first experiences and impressions. So let’s start with observation #1:

The ABS Leaders are awesome! Because this program, in this form, is new, allow me to actually be the one to explain an acronym. ABS stands for the ALANA Brothers and Sisters. You may have seen them around campus with ABS door tags and cool shirts that read, “This is What Diversity Looks Like” (which they worked hard to earn). They are sophomores, juniors, and seniors of all shapes, colors [yes, white is a color], and sizes that applied to be a part of the ABS Leadership Program. Through an involved application and interview process, they were hired in the spring. Beginning in the spring semester and continuing in the fall, these students have been involved in intense conversations about identity development, power, and privilege. These conversations have made the ABS Leaders more socially aware and have shaped them as leaders. The skills they learned will not only help them lead the Stonehill community, but also help them in any professional situations beyond college. Picture them like the Captain Planet heroes with many tools in their “toolkits.” Their rings help them combat ignorance, apathy, and injustice.

After spending only a couple of days with them, I saw that they were more than ready to welcome the incoming students that signed up for the Intercultural Experience Program. This program was offered to ALL incoming students that wanted to meet fellow students that shared similar interests in diversity issues. All the participants of the program are just as cool as the ABS leaders. After only a 24-hour period for this pre-orientation, special bonds and long lasting friendships were created.

All this in my first week! I can honestly say, because of my interactions with the students participating in the ABS Leadership Program and the Intercultural Experience program, as well as Liza (my boss; editor's note: I'm her CO-WORKER.. not her boss....), and my new co-workers in Student Affairs, I had a wonderful introduction into Stonehill!

September 4, 2008

Intern Intro!


New Intern – Blayne L.

It’s a new school year, and the Intercultural Affairs Office has a new intern: ME! My name is Blayne Lopes, and I am a junior psychology and sociology major. I’ve decided to spend the next few months of my life doing a very difficult task – actually thinking, writing, and exploring issues of race and racism in my own personal life. Not easy. Not for everyone. But, for me, I know this is how I will grow as an advocate for diversity and social justice.

Not easy. Not for everyone. Let me explain. I grew up in a predominantly Cape Verdean community. Though technically a biracial kid (dad: Panamanian; Mom: Capverdean), I was raised mostly with Capverdean influence and culture. It is in my blood, many of my neighbors and classmates are Capverdean, and there has always been a personal connection for me. I love the conche shell and rhumbas of CV music. I can never turn down Kuskus, jagacida, cachupa, Galina gizado, or the pasteles (all traditional Capverdean Cuisine). Capverdean is who I am. It is how I identify, and this was as real to me as peanut butter is to jelly.

Until, I came to college.

One day, I was conversing with some friends over dinner about our ethnic backgrounds. We represented all different shades of “brown” – Puerto Rican, Honduran, Bajan, and Capverdean. When I told my friends that I was Capverdean, I was immediately asked if I could speak Kriole -- the national language of Cape Verde. When I told them I could not, questions of my “authenticity” were brought up.

“You’re not a REAL Capverdean; you cannot even speak the language!”

I did not know how to respond. I was shocked! I began to think: What do they mean I’m not Capverdean? Who do they think they are?

I grew defensive and started trying to prove I was Capverdean by rambling off facts that I knew, but I only became increasingly more hurt. Do I have the right to identify myself as Capverdean? What does that even mean?

After that incident, I was often scared to tell people that I was Capverdean. Almost a year has gone by since that conversation, and I still reflect on my reactions and feelings. How do I define myself? Who gets to define me?

Being Black is who I am; it’s not what I am trying to be!” –Carlton “Fresh Prince of BelAir” As I heard those words the anger, the hurt, and the confusion I felt that day was released instantaneously like a popped balloon. Simple words but yet they are so powerful. I point to that day as the day where I started to critically think about my identity. As much as Carlton reflected on being Black, I know that “Being Capverdean is who I AM; it’s not what I am trying to be!”

I look forward to the exploring issues of race and identity development this semester!

What is the moment you point to when you started to think about identity?

August 24, 2008

Why It's Important to Learn about Diversity

I spend a lot of time trying to get the message out about why it's so important to understand about diversity. There are some folks who totally get it -- they find ways to engage in diversity, take responsibility for learning and discussing with people from diverse backgrounds, and see this type of learning as part of their role in this world. There are others who, well, still don't get it.

One of the parallels I make with the "diversity movement" is with Recycling. All of a sudden, in the past year or so, there has been a HUGE push towards going green. Buildings are green. Lightbulbs are green. People are buying hybrid cars in attempt to either save gas and/or save the environment. For the most part, people recycle their cans --again, whether it's to get their $.05 back or to help save this planet. People aren't wasting water they way they used to, lights are turned off after leaving a room, and the push to reduce-reuse-recycle has even found its way to grocery stores that give you a refund if you bring your bags back. Today,when I went to the grocery store, they even had the "reduce-reuse-recycle" logo on the plastic bags to encourage people to avoid putting the bags into the trash.

Then, of course, there are people who just still don't get it. They still don't recycle.

I have a friend who lives in a town that has not made recycling easy. They don't have any town pick up of recycling (most towns have it along side their trash pick up). Unfortunately, my friend and her family practically live off of cans - sodas, canned food, canned dog food, etc. And, no, they don't recycle. When I asked them why, (and even offered to have them bring their cans to my house to have MY town pick them up), they said "It's just too inconvenient -- it's too much work."

Honestly, I haven't been back to that friend's house in a long time. Something about their absolute disregard for the future of this planet and the future health of our generations to come just doesn't match up with my own beliefs and practices. And, frankly, they all get funny looks from people when they easily throw a can into the garbage. I've even seen a stranger come by and take that can out of the garbage and put it into the recycle bin (which was located just next to the can). My friend, she just never got into the habit of doing it -- even when it's easy.

So, back to DIVERSITY. The diversity movement, if you will, has been around for more than 40 years -- even before the Civil Rights Movement. So, given that I'm in my 30's, the diversity movement has always been around. But, some folks just haven't figured that out.... until now.

Whether you credit it to our recent Presidential primaries, or to the diversity on television and movies, or heck, even if you think Diversity = The Cheetah Girls, diversity is here, and if you haven't figured it out, you may be the one who gets the funny looks.

Here's my quick list of why I think it's important to understand diversity:
  • Because in today's competitive economy, companies and grad schools are looking to get the most bang for their buck. With an increasing focus on global business (no matter how big or small the business), many companies want to make sure they are hiring someone who understands how to work with different people. Human Resources Offices don't want to have to worry if you are a "diversity liability" or someone who they think they'll have to spend a lot of time with teaching about differences. If they have a candidate who "gets it", guess what? They're going to go with the person who they don't have to teach or train in this area.

  • Especially if you grew up in a "non-diverse place", college will be the time when you meet people from all over the country and all over the world. If you find yourself in a job interview or graduate school interview your senior year, you will definitely be faced with the "what ways did you get involved with diversity at your college" question. Can you answer the question? Can you articulate examples of how and when you problem solved with someone who was totally different than you? If you didn't take the initiative to do it in college, people will assume that you lack initiative and therefore won't be as interested in you.

  • Hate crimes are some of the most severely scrutinized and socially punished actions in our society, and especially at our college. It's not acceptable anymore to say, "Oh, I didn't know that was a hate crime or a hate word." In fact, NOT KNOWING tends to be a more negative aspect of the case. So, it's incredibly important to know what is and what isn't considered a hate crime -- and, you do that by understanding about diversity.

Need more reasons? Then come to Diversity On Campus meetings, apply for the R.A.C.E. discussion group, come to the monthly programs, or keep up with this blog! You'll need to know it, and we're here to help you!

June 7, 2008

To Loosen the Mind

If you're interested in adding another great blog to your list, Liza will be writing more about personal experiences with race, parenting, diversity, etc. over at "To Loosen The Mind" at http://www.toloosenthemind.com/.

Why the move?

We'll keep "Intercultural Happenings" for Stonehill topics - events, programs, Stonehill specific observations. We'll also focus on Stonehill contributors - faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni -- on this site.

So, the other posts about anti-racist living and learning will be hosted on the To Loosen the Mind site (www.toloosenthemind.com)


Peace!
Liza

June 6, 2008

Lots of posts today

Been gone at a conference and gearing up to present at another. So, what am I doing...? I'm procrastinating and reading fantastic blogs written by smart, aware, and good people. Just came across this one through a person who posts at Anti-Racist Parent (where I frequently write). Enjoy!

http://knowgoodwhitepeople.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/a-random-tiny-and-seemingly-insignificant-act-of-kindness/#comment-12

What Am I First?

What am I first?
by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Liza Talusan (originally posted on Anti-Racist Parent)

My children seem to have a knack for asking me really deep, thought-provoking questions at the most inconvenient times. Usually this is when we are racing out the door, late for school/work/day care. This time, it happened on the way to driving my sister, a kulingtan musician, to teach at a cultural school in Boston.

“Mommy, what am I?” says my 4 1/2 year old daughter, Joli, from the backseat of the car.

“What do you mean, ‘what are you?’” I ask, as I glance into my rear view mirror for a hint of meaning on her face.

“Like, what kind of kid am I? Okay, Filipino. But, then… then.. what’s the other kind of kid I am?”

“Puerto Rican? Do you mean Puerto Rican and Filipino? Daddy is Puerto Rican. Mommy is Filipino. So, that makes you Puerto Rican AND Filipino.”
“But, Mommy, what am I FIRST? Am I Puerto Rican FIRST or am I Filipino FIRST?”

“You’re BOTH first,” I reply, with echos of my mentors on biracial identity models and child development theorists prominently ringing in my ears.

“Will Daddy get mad if I want to be Filipino FIRST?” says Joli in a voice barely loud enough for me to hear her.

“Honey, you are not something FIRST, you are both ALL THE TIME.”
“Well, don’t tell Daddy, okay, Mommy? But, I’m going to be Filipino first.”

(cue my breaking anti-racist heart!)

With nearly all of my friends and extended family members identifying as biracial or multiracial — but being neither of those myself — I am very sensitive to situations that individuals find themselves in when it comes to the “choosing” question. I knew that external influences would eventually lead my children to ask the questions. I just didn’t think one of them would ask me questions at age 4 1/2!

Joli seemed fairly happy with my assertion that she is both all the time. I engaged my husband that night in conversations about where she might be getting these messages. I’m quite confident that my family — made up of all interracial couples and children — isn’t giving her the message that she must choose or prioritize. In her diverse pre-school, I have to imagine that they are not giving her those message either. Dora? Sesame Street (given Deesha’s recent post)? Or is it some of those awful Disney shows that we allow her to watch, but only with a parent watching with her?

As a newly affirmed Anti-Racist Parent, I still can’t help but wonder how much influence or environmental control we really have in our children’s lives. I truly admire Joli’s inquisitiveness and maturity about her complex identity, yet it was hard to hear it from a child of an “anti-racist parent.” Since that day, I’ve grown more aware of Joli’s comments about differences she sees in her world. Just the other night as I was brushing Joli’s and Jada’s hair, Joli made the comment that Jada had “prettier hair” (4-year old interpretation: Joli has thick curly hair like my husband; Jada has wavy, loose hair like me). While much of this can be the typical sibling rivalry, I do read into it as a reflection of her growing awareness of her multiracial identity.

I’ve been more aware of Joli sticking up for other people and other lifestyles. The other day, when reading a bedtime story of a family with a mother, father and child, Joli said to me, “You know, Mom. Not everyone’s family is like that family. Some kids have two moms, some kids have no moms, some kids have two dads, some have different types of skin…. that’s important to know.”

(cue my cheering anti-racist heart!)

I have to remind myself that raising my own awareness, that of my family, and that of others is why I do the work I do — why I live the way I live. There are moments of great heartache, moments of great joy; but there are always opportunities for learning and understanding.

And, that is why anti-racist parenting — whether as parents of children, of a community, or of our world — is not a means to an end but a process full of life and meaning. It’s a process that is fluid and malleable. It’s a commitment, a lifestyle, a mantra, a prayer. It is both an outlook and an outreach. Times when I am uncomfortable confronting a racist joke, disabling a racist conversation, or challenging a racist decision, I am awakened to the fact that I am my children’s best teacher. They will make decisions based on what they have seen me do, ways that they have seen me act, and words they have heard me say. If I am to be their best teacher, I need to also be their best student.

Tools for Teaching Diversity in a Diversity Free Zone

(Originally posted on Anti-Racist Parent)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of how to teach, expose, and experience diversity in a “diversity-free” zone (thanks for the segue Tami!). I directly experience this issue personally and professionally every single day of my life as the Director of Intercultural Affairs at a small, private college in the Boston suburbs, where there are very few students of color. Not only are there very few students of color, there are very few people who have ever met or talked to a person from a historically underrepresented group prior to coming to college. So, each and every single day, I actually get paid to teach diversity in a diversity free zone.

I could certainly go on and on about the challenges of my job serving as a person who is often tokenized in meetings, being the go-to person on issues of diversity, or being the “brown friend” to well meaning people. But I’m assuming here at Anti-Racist Parent I’d be preaching to the choir. So, rather than give my vocal chords a workout, I thought it might be helpful to share the toolbox I heavily rely on each day to teach diversity in a diversity free zone. Reading the comment threads, I also realize that there are people who read ARP who aren’t necessarily parents (broadly defined) but who are teachers looking for ways to add diversity to their classrooms or to their curriculum. So, I hope this at least starts some helpful ideas for people looking for some ways to grow as Anti-Racist Parents:

Turn to your local college. Many colleges have offices like mine - they are called a variety of names: Multicultural Office, Student Activities, Affirmative Action office, Diversity Office, etc. These offices/organizations typically have the responsibility of hosting diversity related events, especially during heritage months like Latino Heritage Month, Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month, etc. Check their websites and see if they have a list of programs (or ask if you can get an email copy of their programs). Call ahead and ask if the program is “family friendly” first, though, if you intend to bring small children. In my case, of the 30 or so programs a year that are diversity related, almost 1/2 of them are family friendly! And, I always love when I get calls from the community asking if they can bring students, children, etc. The other great bonus about tapping into your local college is that the programs are often FREE. At some colleges, specific groups are required to perform community outreach - you may find a number of sororities and fraternities or service organizations sponsoring these events. Again, please call to make sure they are family friendly!

Diversify your library at home. Intentionally buy or borrow books that have diversity represented in them. In our house, we have a great mix of children’s books that have stories around cultural diversity. If your local library does not have them, a number of online sellers will have them. If I’m looking for a particular book, I tend not to go to a mainstream online seller; rather, I find a cultural organization online to see if they have any links to recommended books. By going with cultural organizations rather than mainstream, I get a more accurate description of the book and the position of that cultural group. For example, when I was looking to purchase some children’s stories that were centralized around the Native American experience, I went online to a mainstream retailer, and a number of recommended titles came up. But, when I went to the cultural organization’s website, I found these exact recommendations under a heading “Books That Promote Stereotypes of Native Americans.”! Woah! So, I was really glad I had taken the few extra seconds to see if the books were supported by that group. I think this is incredibly important!
Continue to read educational and well written blogs .. like Anti-Racist Parent of course! While you may not be surrounded by diversity, we are often surrounded by ignorant comments. So, reading blogs like ARP give you the tools and understanding to be an “Agent of Interruption.” And, if you are educated, you will pass that education on to your children (or students). I work in a predominantly white institution and am often, by default, the diversity educator. But, since finding Anti-Racist Parent, Racialicious and some of the blogs of people who write here, I have assigned reading these blogs as HOMEWORK assignments to my students! It’s helpful for them to see that there are others out there who share the same language and passion for interrupting racism.

When you can, choose to do business in diverse neighborhoods. I currently live on the town line between a upper middle class, predominantly white town and a middle/working class, predominantly people of color city. I choose to do my personal and professional business in the predominantly POC city.Even with the rising price of gas, I choose to drive a little further to the grocery store and wait a little longer for street parking because it is important for me to do business where there are people of color. I certainly can buy the same gallon of milk, the same bread, and the same box of cereal at the grocery store in the predominantly white (and closer to my house) town, but I choose to make the drive. Again, with the price of gas and proximity, can you do this all the time? Maybe not. But, is it worth doing it enough where your child(ren) see that people of color do the same thing that white people do in their same daily way? Yes.
Find shows that include diversity in both positive and negative ways. I am not a fan of pre-teen television (especially now that my almost-5-year-old says she is w-a-y too old for Sesame Street!), but we do watch it. I am specifically not a fan of a certain channel that I feel stereotypes pre-teens of color. But, alas, my daughter seems to have won for now. She is only allowed to watch that channel if Jorge or I watch it with her. We try to steer her more towards the shows that have families of color, and we’ve found some success there. But, she also likes to watch a show that both Jorge and I find disturbingly racist. We do let her watch it, but we constantly ask her questions about what she just saw or heard when an issue comes up. Yes, she’s 4 years old, but I believe the lessons she’s learning about ways that people aren’t treated fairly are equally as important as shows that reflect her ethnicity. It’s never too early to start, right?

But, find MORE shows that are culturally diverse. My absolute favorite show right now is Ni Hao, Kai Lan. I’m sure I’ll find something wrong with it eventually, but for now, I love it. It’s the only Asian show that balances the Asian part with the “I’m a little girl” part. The other day, I asked my daughters if they wanted to have Chinese food for dinner. My 23-month old then said, “Oh, Mama. Chinese. Like Kai Lan!” I nearly cried. Growing up, there were no characters that reflected my ethnicity. I know Dora paved the way, and we certainly embraced her representing our Latino side. But, now, my kids have Kai Lan… representing the Asian side! Hurray! I haven’t quite done my homework on this one, but with the accessibility of YouTube and such, I hope to find more diverse cartoons from other countries out there!

Diversify your music. One of the best ways to learn about other cultures is through music. I have a very low tolerance for children’s songs. I have a responsibility to teach my kids the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “A-B-C”, but there is truly only so much I can take. And, thankfully, their taste in music has evolved, too. My kids listen to anything from classical to Chubb Rock. They can sing “Bebot” (edited version) by the Black Eyed Peas and “I am Not My Hair” by India.Arie.

Be sure to have an inclusive curriculum. If you are a teacher, take a close look at what you are teaching and what you are not teaching. Does your lesson plan only include a white perspective? Are you including the very rich and diverse history of our country or just one perspective? Are you talking about contributions and inventions from people of color or just from white people? As a former teacher, I can attest that more often than not, textbooks tell a very one-sided story. As a parent, is your child coming home from school with only one-sided history? While you may not be able to change the textbooks at school (though, it’s worth the fight!), are you supplementing the school lessons with a diverse inclusion lesson at home.

No diversity organizations? Start your own! There are very few professionals of color where I work, and yet I felt the need to start a support group for us. Unfortunately, a professionals of color group would have been too small, so I opened up the invitation to anyone who wanted to join a Diversity Discussion Group. After my first announcement, about 50 people expressed interest. That dwindled down to 30, then 20, and now we have about 15 who regularly attend the discussion group. There are a few people of color, but the rest of the group is white. When asked “Why did you join this group?”, the answer from both parties was “to meet people who wanted to talk about diversity.” So, from there, we talked about books, issues, media, language, foods, our own heritage, etc. I don’t think we are a diverse group, but we are a group who wants to grow as individuals. Maybe start up a group with parents from your child’s school or play group. Get together and hire someone to watch the kids 1x a month. No time for a book club? Focus on movies from other countries and have a movie discussion group, rotating locations each time.

None of the above will end racism. I know that. But, I do think it’s a helpful start for those who are living, learning and working in diversity-free zones. I know there are others out there with tools in your tool box. Comment? Share? What has worked for others out there?

NOTE: You’ll notice that I don’t recommend simply going to places like soup kitchens or homeless shelters or community outreach organizations to expose oneself to diversity. Believe me, they are important. When it’s linked to diversity, though, I believe this can go horribly wrong as a diversity lesson. Too often (depending on the demographics of your town/city and shelters) people of color are seen as “needing help” or “down and out”. And, this “savior experience” when white people go and save people of color by serving them some food is incredibly problematic. Again, I’m not at all saying that community service is bad. What I am saying is that performing community service as an easy way to expose people to diversity MAY NOT be positive. Largely because community service (at least as defined in the college setting) does not always equal quality contact, discussion and learning. If you are going to link community service with diversity, I ask (beg?) that you also approach it by addressing power and privilege in our society.

Is Privilege Offensive?

I experience privilege. I am college educated. I have a steady, salaried job. I am heterosexual. I have a house and a mortgage. Two cars. Two kids. One dog. I am able bodied. My husband and I are married. Both of my parents are still alive and well. I have health insurance. I have privilege.
And, as a young woman of color, I also experience oppression.


While at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity, I engaged in wonderfully challenging and critically affirming discussions over the course of 5 full days (I'm talking 8:00am-10:00pm!) about race, ethnicity, power, privilege, oppression, advocacy, and activism. I love browsing the exhibitor area of conferences because it helps me to build my toolbox for Teaching Diversity in a Diversity Free Zone. One of the exhibitors was for the White Privilege Conference (which I fully intended on going to next year). They were selling "Got Privilege?" shirts and sweatshirts, of which I happily purchased two - one for my friend and one for me.


"Got privilege?"


My friend wore his shirt to work, a rather liberal elementary school in a wealthy suburb of Boston. A few of his co-workers had seen the shirt slogan before or had attended the White Privilege Conference themselves and knew what it was all about. Some of his co-workers even owned the shirt, too. While waiting in the lunch line, my friend was confronted by a co-worker of European heritage who read his shirt and loudly said, "Got privilege? Of course you can wear that! What a double standard! If I wore that, I wouldn't hear the end of it!"


"Huh?," asked my Puerto Rican friend. "What do you mean?" just hoping to get his helping of school-lunch chicken nuggets and potato puffs.


The next few minutes were quite ugly. The co-worker proceeded to tell him how offensive his shirt was, how she didn't think that his offensive shirt had any place in an educational setting.


I believe my friend replied with "Are you kidding me?"


The rest of the story finds the white person going to different groups of people, pointing at my friend, and angrily shaking her head with her eyebrows saying, "Can you believe he would wear a shirt like that?" from across the room.


Thankfully, there are aware people in those groups who told responded with, "There isn't anything wrong with his shirt."


Privilege. Is it really an ugly word? Why is it so difficult for people to realize and accept that they have privilege? Does having privilege mean people are bad? Selfish? Close-minded?


In my experience, it is just the opposite. Recognizing privilege, owning up to your privilege and then actively identifying ways in which we institutionally disempower those without privilege gives us tools in our toolbox. It helps us to call attention to ways in which we play into systems of oppression. It awakens our sense of responsibility and turns on the voice in our hearts to call for change.


The quote on the back of one of the "Got Privilege?" shirts reads: "If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen to side with the oppressor." This is important to understanding how we can build an Anti-Racist family, community, school, etc. By understanding the benefits we experience as a result of our privilege, we can begin to understand those who are oppressed by our privilege. Throughout the posts and comments on Anti-Racist Parent, there are many of us who find ourselves at a loss for words when we see someone oppressing another. And, many of us have been on the receiving end of those hurtful remarks, insensitive comments, or complete lack of acknowledgment. But, have we actively thought of our own ways in which we oppress others?


As parents and educators, I believe there is a fine line between understanding systems of privilege/oppression and guilt. I do not feel guilty for having two living parents. I do not feel guilty for working towards home ownership. I do not feel guilty for being in a heterosexual marriage. I do not feel guilty for having two children and one dog. I do not feel guilty for having 5 more years to pay off my graduate student loans. Having privilege does not equal feeling guilty. However, owning the fact that I experience privilege forces me to open my eyes to the ways in which systems of oppression and institutionalized -isms keep others from achieving. "Knowledge is power" and knowing my privilege calls me to find ways to support humanity that is valued. Peggy McIntosh, who wrote the influential piece "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack", discussed the importance of recognizing and analyzing the types of advantages Whites have simply for having white skin (or, 'peach', as my daughter calls it). In my life, I believe the same goes for the other ways (class, sexual identity, marriage status, education, ownership, health, etc) in which I experience privilege as a woman of color. We all carry around these unspoken Member ID Cards that allow us into these exclusive systemized clubs. But, do we belong to these clubs at the expense of others? At the expense of another's humanity?


As parents and as anti-racists, we must actively participate in a process where every human has a right to not only yearn for life, liberty, and happiness but to actually achieve it. For those looking for practical ways to educate ourselves, our children, and our students, I came across a great website, Understanding Prejudice, that has activities and resources for many age levels. Many of their tools can be put into your "diversity toolbox!"


So, is privilege offensive? How do you teach your child about privilege in your life?

June 4, 2008

Asians in the Media

My sister connected me to this great festival about Asians in Film. While the commentary on the website discusses both the positive and negative portrayal of Asians in films, I hope that the actual discussions before/during/after the movies are shown focus around both the positive and problematic messages.

http://www.tcm.com/2008/aif/index.jsp

Check it out!

May 18, 2008

Our first Kente Ceremony



Okay, it wasn't quite a "ceremony" this year. But, next year, we will certainly make it bigger and better! I was just testing out the waters to see who would be into it (and how well it would be received).

In my past few years at the college, I haven't seen any students of color wearing traditional Kente stoles over their graduation robes. I have seen it at the other 5 colleges/universities where I have worked, but never at Stonehill. So, I figured I would test the waters and see how it would go.

I initially put out the invitation to over 40 students of color - only 6 got back to me and said, "yes". So, I ordered 12 thinking MAYBE we would hand out a few more.

As it goes, I handed the 6 out at graduation, and then students of color started to come over and ask if they could wear one. I know next year's class is more "identity active" and will certainly do a more formal ceremony for them.

Why a Kente ceremony? There are a number of reasons for doing a Kente ceremony at a college. Most notable is that students of color, for whatever reasons, have a lower graduation rate than white students - especially at a predominantly white college. The kente ceremony honors their achievement, endurance, and commitment to their futures above the obstacles they have faced in obtaining their degree. Traditionally, the kente is worn a ceremonies and is reserved for such occasions.

Brief history
The Kente cloth originates from Ghana, West Africa. It is a visual representation of history, values, beliefs and social code of conduct. Each Kente pattern is significant and unique. The stoles that our graduates wore today had red, gold, green and black colors along with a "key" and an "asante stool." Here is the description of their meaning:
Red: signifies the blood shed by our ancestors in their struggles and sacrifices
Gold: symbolizes wealth; originally representing the gold of Africa
Green: symbolizes growth and life
Black: symbolizes maturity, intensity, and spiritual maturity
Key: represents education as being the key to success
Stool: Leadership

The stoles were offered to all students of color (ALANA) as well as allies. As all civilization began in Africa, and the struggles our students of color face are common between all ALANA populations, it was great to see this symbol of unity in this group.

I am so proud of all the graduates, specifically the students of color!


May 16, 2008

WHO GETS TO DECIDE?

For a while now, I've been struggling with people thinking that they decide what to call other people. For example,

1. Who gets to decide who is an "ally?"
2. Who gets to decide what people should be called when referring to ethnicity?
3. Who gets to decide when one has moved from a stage of identity to another?

ALLY
I find that people like to refer to themselves as "allies." In my circle of work, I've heard people call themselves "allies to the gay community" or "allies to people of color" or "allies to women", etc. Yet, when called to task, do these "allies" engage in the political dialogue and empowerment of the community, or do they just like posting the rainbow sticker?

In the ally development circle, one must actually be deemed an ally by the target group. I'm not talking about some formal ceremony nor a sword on the shoulder nor a crowning opportunity. Rather, I'm talking about the members of that target group actually identifying the person as someone who is "down for the cause!" Someone who not only speaks the same political language but who also walks the political journey.

SO, WHAT SHOULD I CALL YOU?
"Oriental." "Black." "African American." "Hispanic." "Latino." "I don't know what to call them!!" I hear this all the time. Frustrated individuals who want to be politically correct but who are annoyed by the effort they need to make to realize that not everyone wants to be referred in the same way. When I encounter people who are so frustrated by this, I always bring up the 'common name' example. I say, take the name "Elizabeth." I have friends who want to be called "Elizabeth." I have friends who want to be called "Beth. Eliza. Liz. Betsy. and, gasp, Elizabeth." Then, there is me. Liza. I am not an Elizabeth, yet everyone tries to sound formal with me and will say, "Elizabeth Talusan!" I never answer. "Elizabeth" isn't my name. I've never answered to it. Yet, when we meet an "Elizabeth," we are quick to make the adjustment to what she wants to be called. And, we would never think to say, "This is too difficult. I'm just going to call everyone 'Elizabeth.'"

That's the same issue for me with the identity piece. There are some Caribbean Americans who do not want to be called African Americans. There are some African Americans would be offended if you called them Black. Similarly with Hispanic and Latino. While there are political reasons (and geographic ones) for calling one Hispanic vs Latino, the point is that it's NOT UP TO ME. It's up to the person to deem what he/she would like to be called.

Tied to this complexity is the the piece of race vs ethnicity. I have a student who has dark, dark brown skin (and hence, often identified by others as an African American woman) but who is Latina. And, while most will likely refer to her as Black - she corrects them with, "I'm Latina." You go, girl!

WHO GETS TO DECIDE WHEN ONE MOVES FROM ONE IDENTITY TO ANOTHER?
Back in 2005, my daughter was diagnosed with cancer. She went through her fair share of cancer treatment and an enucleation of her right eye. Depending on the situation and conversation, I sometimes refer to my daughter as a "cancer survivor" and sometimes I refer to her as "having cancer." Here's what gets me.... when I choose to use the words "having cancer", people are extremely quick to correct me and say, "No, she HAD cancer." The conversation ends there. I glare and change the subject - too furious to continue.

If I'm her mom, and I'm chosing to use the words, "she has cancer", then no one should correct me -- especially when people haven't had to go through what our family went through. And, especially because we are still completely bogged down with doctors appointments 2 years post treatment. With the loss of her eye, we are reminded, physically, every day, of her battle that still has not ended, in many ways.

I've found that these conversations have happened frequently in the past few weeks. I go back to teachings of power and privilege and ways in which we often do not recognize ways in which we impose our power and privilege (and, I'm likely using it now as I have the "power and privilege of blogging").

Food for thought.....

May 12, 2008

Empire Strikes Barack - genius

It is no secret that the I am a supporter of Barack Obama..... It is also no secret that I love pop culture. It is a secret that, one day, when accompanying my husband to a comic book shop, some random guy came up to me and said, "Excuse me. I think you're prettier than Princess Leia." (I grabbed Jorge and ran out the door vowing to never go back to a comic book shop again!)

That began my obsession with all things Star Wars.

Thanks to the genius minds of whoever created this video.

May 7, 2008

Asians Rock

Proud to be Asian American? These people are!

May 5, 2008

Intern Extraordinaire


Just wanted to give a huge shout out to "The Intern" - Jade Franco.

This past semester, Jade has been putting in 8+ hours a week in the office researching issues around recruitment, retention and affirmative action at a predominantly white college. She has been doing an insane amount of research, studying up on conservative and liberal cases, and absolutely expanding her knowledge base around issues of diversity, institutionalized racism and identity. Jade has fully thrown herself into the diversity ring - seen the best of times and worst of times. And, she has managed to survive staying in an office with me!

So, big shouts to Jade for doing an amazing job this semester! She was the very first undergraduate intern and paved the way for the rest to come! Everyone has big shoes to fill, and I can't find the words to thank Ms. Jade enough!

Congratulations, Jade, on all your hard work here at Stonehill! We'll miss you!!

April 26, 2008

Critical Mass or Culturally Inclusive

Working at a predominantly white institution (PWI), the conversation of how to increase diversity is at the center of our planning. But, I'm often asked, "What do we do?" In my opinion, there are 2 camps: those who believe that we must do all we can to obtain a critical mass, or a 'magic number' where students of color no longer are marginalized due to their numbers; and there are those who believe we must first create an environment that is welcoming and ready for the group of students (in our case, students of color).

I belong to the second camp... and often advocate for the need to change and transform our current community.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think Stonehill shares characteristics that many colleges our size, location, identity, etc., share. We are not unique. Unfortunately, not at all. We are one of many, many colleges that struggle to diversify the student body, administration and faculty.

I'm often asked to find ways to increase the number of students of color at Stonehill. I do it. But, I do it with hesitation. While I'd love to see more faculty, staff and students of color here, I know what they will face. I know what they're up against.

For the most part, the community is interested in diversity. They welcome the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people. They realize that we are not getting a rich and dynamic conversation without diversity. Diversity is a top priority in our strategic plan, in our office's mission, in the mission inherent in our Catholic identity. While we welcome the opportunity, do we welcome the students?

The "critical mass" camp asserts that we must have more people of color here in order to begin the conversations that will transform our community. That, without a critical mass, students will always feel like "tokens". Without a critical mass, students will always be singled out to speak for the entire community.

As you can tell, I believe that if we bring a critical mass to an environment that isn't culturally inclusive, we're asking for trouble. We can expect even more stereotypes. We can expect even more culturally insensitive comments in classrooms.

I equate this example to the rickety porch at my dad's house - it was built years ago, has been greatly weathered, and lacks sturdy posts. Some of the floor boards have nails sticking out. Back when it was built, that porch was the best spot in the house. We ate on a big picnic table on the porch, hung out with our friends on that porch, and had some of the best conversations out on that porch. Sometime, about 5-7 years ago, we all just stopped going out onto the porch. It began to feel weak. It began to feel unsafe. And, now, no ones goes near it. We are afraid that, if someone steps on it, it will collapse. We are often afraid that it will crumble underneath us. And, while the porch could certainly hold about 2-3 people, we would never even think about putting more than that on there.

The rickety porch, to me, represents a culturally insensitive environment. The group of people is my critical mass. Before I invite a critical mass, or guests to my dad's house, over, I would want to reinforce the community -- reinforce that porch.

Ring in. What are your thoughts? Culturally sensitive environment .... critical mass...?

April 7, 2008

Are we undesireable?

Dating (or attempting to date) at a Predominately White Institution (PWI) is pretty tough stuff. Now, I must announce to the whole world that I love men of all ethnicities. I do! I have either dated men or have had crushes on men of all races at some point in my young life. I had had white boyfriends, hispanic boyfriends, and I dated one or two black guys in my youth. How they compare? I just think men in general are pretty complicated beings. But I do enjoy their company, wit, conversation and antics/dangerous stunts.

As a Latina woman of mixed race ancestry, it is tough out here trying to find a little bit of love. I have had lengthy conversations with my female (and some male) ALANA friends about this issue. Amongst us we have tried to determine the cause as to why most of us are single. I must note that the following is largely from a heterosexual point of view. It is probably ten million times more difficult to date at a PWI as a gay person of color!

We might be unintentionally intimidating white men and women.
--Maybe POC are scary because we are so different from what is "normally" available as love interests in small home towns.
--Is it because we hang out in groups with each other? Would it be easier (in general) if as young men and women we didn't congregate in large groups with one another?
--On the flip side, is it difficult to approach us if we are alone?

White men and women do not know how to approach us / ask us out.
--Again, maybe because we are surrounded by other POC
--I think some whites have the false pretense that you have to approach us just like we are approached in our home towns/cities. This plays into the stereotype that all POC (especially blacks and Hispanics) are ghetto and you have to be a "hood rat" or a wigger in order to get any attention from us. This is not true! Case in point: me. I grew up in Boston and I could NOT be any less ghetto. For goodness sakes, my favorite band is Korn! (rock/alternative metal). I cannot possibly explain to you how I became a metal fan b/c I also went to predominately black and hispanic schools and lived in predominately minority/low-income neighborhoods.

White men and women do not think we are into them / would date them.
--I have been told this A LOT by white guys I have dated. They have told me that they simply thought that I only liked other POC and did not date outside of my race. I have often thought that maybe I should wear a large sign on weekends that says "Equal Opportunity Dater."

"My parents would kill me if I brought home a black/Hispanic girl (or guy)"
.
--It's really tough to counter this one. Many whites are put off from even trying to initiate a relationship if they feel or know that their parents (or grandparents) would disapprove of their black/brown GF or BF. And if you do choose to pursue this relationship, both of you have to deal with either lying about it and sneaking around or with confronting their parents about their bigotry.
--Conversely, some of our own parents are also against bringing home a white love interest because of their own bigotry. Or, for some of my friends, interracial
dating with another person of color (ex: Black & Native American couple or a Asian & Latino Couple) was also controversial.

They simply aren't romantically attracted to us.
--This theory arises again out of the lack of POC in small, suburban towns. Because they do not see many of us, they simply do not view us as a viable alternative (or option) to date. Instead, what tends to happen is that white guys and gals tend to express their desires to fulfill their own sexual fantasies with us. As if we are a commodity! No, really! If I had a dime for the number of times I have been told or have overheard "I always wanted to hook up with a Latina" or "I always wanted to screw a black guy," I would be rich by now. But again, we are disposable to these certain individuals and could never really be anything more than a one-night stand.

Some other issue at play (hair, looks, weight, interests, not being a "party girl")
--When in doubt, this theory is always effective. I like to believe that it is not always about race and skin color when it comes to dating here on campus.
--Maybe it is just because many of us do not fit in to the general college co-ed culture that reigns supreme.
--Maybe it is because us women of color here do not look like Jessica Alba and Halle Berry (as if they are the ideal standard of colored beauty).
--Could just be differences in interests or even maturity level. Maybe men at this juncture in life as too immature to really be looking for a serious relationship. Maybe my friends and I need to chill out instead and not be searching for our future husbands!

What are your thoughts? Did I leave any theories out? Leave a comment.

-Jade, The Intern