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.

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.

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: