December 1, 2009

On racism in advertisements and the Diversity Poster Campaign:

Michelle says:
A lot of time we focus on racism in the United States, because we live there but there is a lot of racism worldwide. In the promotional ad for Couples Retreat the version shown in the United States has four couples, one of them happens to be a black couple. As I signed out of Yahoo! After checking my e-mail I noticed a story that caught my eye, it said “Universal's UK 'Couples Retreat' Poster Brings Cries of Racism by Removing Black Actors” and I screamed I knew it! In the ad of the UK’s Couple Retreat there were only three couples, not four and the one couple missing was the black couple. This made me think of my Nigerian friend Monisola who used to tell me she faced racist people in London when she used to go to for school vacations. The fact that the UK removed the black couple shows that the world is still very closed minded and racist. Just when you think the world is becoming better and we have one more ally more negativity seems to spread across the world. I happened to be talking about it, living as a person who can be seen as a person of color truly is a challenge. Walking into a classroom every day and not knowing whether the people there are going to judge me for my knowledge or for my skin color. A friend of mine always says she has to give double the effort and participate in all her classes so that people will begin to respect for her intelligence and not look at her as she is just part of the college because she is Latina. At times, I feel like I have to speak up to prove a point in which I am an intelligent Latina student and I made it to college based on my smarts. There are times were I do not say anything because I am not a representation of my race, and every person can be judged and viewed at their own level and I should not be trying to prove a point, because waking up every day and having to deal with the world’s most ignorant people is a work on its own.

Joniece writes about the Diversity Poster Campaign
On Tuesday November 17, 2009 the Diversity Committee held its first discussion for the Awareness Campaign. The poster campaign was developed by the original Diversity Committee and was a way for them to actively raise awareness not only about the committee but also surrounding issues of diversity and inclusiveness. The committee is still in its early stages of development and so we are working to bring about knowledge of the committee’s purpose. I was thrilled to see both familiar and unfamiliar faces in attendance at the discussion. A lot of good points were raised and the discussion could have gone on for hours.

Some topics that were heavily discussed were interracial dating, stereotypes, and the culture of Stonehill students. These discussion points either caught someone’s eye, or gave the people in attendance a lot to speak of.

We were initially having issues with the topics expressed in some of the posters one dealing with explaining diversity to a blind person. It was brought to our attention and some may have felt that the poster “had a negative connotation about what blind people can comprehend and understand simply because they are visually impaired. Those who are visually impaired can certainly understand and interpret diversity in their own way without someone having to describe it to them. The question makes it sound like blind people are “less than” or not as smart as someone who is not visually impaired.” Although this is very true, some of the committee members felt that the question was given a negative connotation and it is up to the reader to think about how the question may make them feel. We were definitely not implying that the blind are less than in any way. We were more thinking about the racial aspect to the question. Many people see race as a color so how do you really describe this to someone without giving them examples or representation to support your ideas.

November 8, 2009

What do you think about being a Stonehill student, the judicial system, and "good" hair?

Blayne Lopes says:

Who is considered a Stonehill student? This topic came up while conversing with another ALANA Brothers and Sisters (ABS) Leader because I told him I am not a fan of Stonehill students. Stonehill is sometimes referred to as “Clonehill.” This is because in the past everyone here has dressed similarly and has come from the same geographic region. I think that there is some truth to this stereotype.

In all honesty I realize that I do not feel like a Stonehill student—even though I am a fully enrolled student. I do not wear UGZ, dress in designer clothes, have rich or upper middle-class parents, and never really felt like I could blend into the crowd. My brown skin marks me as different and I have different experiences at Stonehill due to this fact.

It is not unusual to talk to my friends of color about the white majority at Stonehill and we often share many upsetting experiences. Usually we referred to the perpetrators of discriminatory statements or actions (both intentional and unintentional) as “Stonehill students.” A comment usually made during these conversations is that Stonehill students “just don’t get it.” “It” being our experiences as students of color at Stonehill. Not that the white majority will truly ever know what it feels like, but many do not even know our negative experiences exist.

For the most part I love Stonehill and the opportunities that exist here. Many of my interactions with faculty and professors have been positive, but again, there have been many times where I have felt like an outsider on this campus.

I am left with the question:

What does it mean to be a brown ALANA student at Stonehill College?

Michelle Tineo says:

After reading the Article titled Pennsylvania Overturns Many Youths’ Convictions (, it made me realize the lengths some people will go to make a quick buck. The article was about how a judge put many youth in detention centers, many of them innocent, for money. This judge has taken months away from these teenagers lives and gave them a criminal record. The charges have now been overturned, but imagine what how these charges effected the teens in the first place. Being that there are higher numbers of people of color in prisons and detention centers, I cannot help but think this is another example of institutional racism.

I have actually seen an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit where this same situation was happening and I can’t believe it is happening in real life. I cannot help but think that there are other judges out there doing the same and have not yet been caught yet. How many other judges have ruined the lives of hundreds and even thousands of juveniles for money? There is a clear abuse of power in this case and it is at the cost of the lives of youth of color. With this type of thing going on, it is no wonder that some people of color are suspicious of people in the justice system such as police officers. I think they also abuse their power especially when they do things like running red lights to stop people at the end of the month to fulfill their traffic violation quota. And it makes me question who they pull over. Is it mostly people of color?

The abuse of power that happens in the world makes me even more terrified of ever doing anything illegal and even more ever being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Punishment does not seem very forgiving for a person of color. Something like this could ruin the rest of my life. People stereotype people who have been to jail as people that will never change and who are not worthy. I hope I never have to deal with these types of situations.

Joniece Leonard says:

What is good hair?

My definition of good hair is hair that looks and makes a person feel good. People should be happy with the hair they are given and wear it with pride. I do not even like using the term good hair because that would imply that there is bad hair. A hairstyle can look bad but that does not necessarily mean that a person has bad hair. I have come to the conclusion that good or bad hair depends on how the person feels about themselves and the hair that they wear.

Some people go through extremes to change their hair. I myself cannot recall the last time I saw my hair without a relaxer. Since I can remember I have been going to the salon with my mom on Saturday mornings and getting my hair straightened biweekly. For me, this has become common and going to the salon is routine. My hair usually looks good and makes me feel good. I wear my hair with pride.

In the past I have tried many different hair styles. I can recall once wearing extensions in the form of braids during the summer because it was easier to manage since I swam so often. I also remember having micro braids when I was 16 and loving how easy it was to just wake up and go without thinking about doing anything to my hair. For prom I wore tracks and hated it and took them out immediately. These days I prefer to just wear my hair. I do not like anything added to it, I like to be able to just scratch my head, or have someone play in my hair with no worries. The length of my hair is not that important to me. I have cut my hair into bobs, wore a bang, and have had my hair long. The style is not usually important because I feel like I look good, and feel good. My hairdresser always talks to me about the importance of hair. If someone is dressed up and their hair looks a mess then that can bring down their entire appearance. I prefer my hair relaxed and straight. No matter the style, ones hair should just look neat and clean and make them feel good about their appearance.

October 30, 2009

Work Study Insight

Here's what Joniece has to say:
What’s so funny about Big Black Woman?
This topic has always been a question that I have had in mind. Why must a large black woman be the butt of many jokes in television and film? Seeing that black people are already marginalized as it is, being big and being a woman seems to be worse to the media. These women are usually portrayed as being ugly, mean, or rude, but are there not other types of people that also fit this trend.

I myself am a “Big Black Woman” and I do not see myself as any of these things. I am a very smart, intelligent, and beautiful woman who takes pride in who I am. I also have a group of friends that would be considered big and black but they share similar qualities to me. I am aware of how people may stereotype me and although this does not matter to me, there are many girls may age or even older that may have lower self esteem due to how society views us.

I have been taught to appreciate who I am and the body that I have and I know that if I am not happy with then I could do something to change it. In the past I have been with friends of mine and a guy would commit and say to us, "you are pretty for a dark skinned girl" or "you are pretty for a big girl." What exactly are they trying to say by this? Is this supposed to be a compliment? Is he respectfully trying to insult me? I do not understand it at all. How about "you are very pretty" and leave it at that?

I guess society has taught him that maybe finding us attractive is not such a good thing. Whatever the case may be, I know that I am a beautiful black woman and I am very proud of who I am and what I look like.

Elyssa says:
When I first saw the ad for “Latino in America”, I was actually quite intrigued. I was interested in what the media was going to do to portray the fastest growing minority in America. I thought it was going to be stories of hope and success with some emphasis on hard times and people’s struggle to achieve the American Dream. However, according to the reviews on Racialicious, I didn’t really miss out on much.

From what I read it sounded like CNN and Soledad O’Brien did a horrible job and just focused a lot on the negative stories. Indeed from what I read it seemed they just played up many of the stereotypes you hear about Latinos. I honestly thought the series was going to be about how Latinos are changing the face and shape of the American culture. I mean one of the ad’s slogans was “Instead of keeping up with the Jones’, try keeping up with the Garcia’s.” I guess that was a little misleading because according to Arturo R. Garcia from Racialicious, “Most of the people featured were not ‘changing’ their communities- they were being victimized by them. They were pregnant, suicidal (or pregnant and suicidal), caught in an immigration raid, losing their cultural roots, facing an uphill job struggle or isolated in their churches.” Yup, that definitely sounds like stereotyping to me.

You know this kind of bothers me that they can’t do a quality show about being Latino in America without bringing up so many of the negative stereotypes. Why can’t they just focus on the stories of those who overcame them, not the ones who fall into them? I don’t know, maybe my expectations were too high. Or maybe I don’t really know what I’m talking about since I haven’t seen it. All I know is that if it’s anything like what I read about then I don’t want to see it.

Antonio writes:
I had an interesting conversation the other day. I met someone at Stonehill (a college employee) and we got to chatting. In our conversation he asked me where I was from, to which I responded “New York”. He asked “Where in New York?”, and when I responded “The Bronx”, he had a look of surprise. He said “The Bronx? Really?? Isn’t it really dangerous there? I’d be afraid to go there. They’d look at me and shoot me.” I responded, “Like most places, the Bronx has some parts that are dangerous, and it also has some parts that are really nice like Riverdale.” What shocked me most was his next response. “If Riverdale is such a nice place what’s it doing in the Bronx. Shouldn’t its own separate place?”

I hate that I am sometimes immediately judged by where I live. While this person may not have necessarily made any personal judgments on my character based on this, I have met people who have in the past. In the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I was having a conversation with a new student about where we were from. When she found out I was from the Bronx she had an expression of disbelief. “You’re not from the Bronx, look at you. You speak properly, you dress nicely…where are you really from?”. There is just this contant stereotype that is perpetuated about people from a certain place. According to this student, everyone from the Bronx dressed poorly and couldn’t speak proper english. I know from talking to people here that they too have gone through it coming from Brockton or certain parts of Boston. It’s really disappointing that certain judgments are automatically made just on learning where you are from. This isn’t restricted to communities with reputations for being dangerous or low income, it can apply to others as well. I guarantee if I had said “I’m from the Hamptons”, the opposite would be assumed of me. “He must live in a big house and have lots of money. He’s probably spoiled and doesn’t know what its like to work for something.” I have friends on both ends of the spectrum, from both higher income families and lower income families, and all of them have told me of how they have to fight stereotypes before anyone even knows them. This is something that has to change. If we can’t even get past something as trivial as where we are from, how can we expect to begin addressing larger and more pressing matters.

October 29, 2009

Creating a Welcoming Environment

Creating and Sustaining a Welcoming Environment

“Our vision is to promote a living, learning, and working environment in which our individual differences are celebrated, respected, and embraced as an essential part of our Stonehill community.” - Shared Definition of Diversity in the Strategic Plan 2011-2015

What is a “welcoming environment”? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Who is a part of this environment? Who shapes it? Who is affected by it? These are all questions that need to be explored in order to best create and sustain an environment that respects the diverse experiences within our community.

I’ve often been asked, “I’d like to make a welcoming environment; I just don’t know how”. Or, I’m sometimes challenged by people who say, “But, I do have a welcoming environment. I welcome all people.”

To the latter, my challenge back is to say, “Tell me how. Tell me what you do that makes your environment welcoming to all people.” Answers such as, “Well, anyone can come in” or “anyone can use this space” or “I never turn anyone away” often come up. But, unfortunately, those aren’t aspects that necessarily create a welcoming environment.

Now, some have not been bold enough to say it, but I imagine this conversation occurring, “Well, I don’t call anyone any racist names when they walk through the door” or “I don’t assume they don’t speak English” or “I don’t assume that students of color are here on affirmative action.” That’s great. Keep it up. But that still does not create a welcome environment.

So, what does?

I can speak from my own experiences as well as relay some of the stories from our students on campus.


1. See me. When I walk by you, do you say “hello”? When we see each other, do you shake my hand? Do you look me in the eye? Or, do you treat me like I am invisible to you? People of color on a predominantly white campus experience this incredible irony each day – we stick out like a sore thumb; yet, we are treated like we are invisible. If you want to create a welcoming environment, begin by actually recognizing that people of color exist.

2. Make a connection with me. No, I don’t mean take me out to lunch or even ask me about my family when we should be talking about business. I mean, participate in what is meaningful for me and my community. If I am a speaker somewhere on campus, come to the program. If there is a program/panel/lecture/film where you know people of color are going to be in attendance, go to the program. Get some face time. Because, if we see you there, we might make the actual assumption that you care about what is meaningful for us. Or, if you just aren’t able to attend any of the 75+ things that I host all year, then send me an email to say you wish you could go but just can’t make it.

3. Speak to me with respect. If you think I am intelligent, talk to me like I’m intelligent. Assume that I am smart, talented, and here because I worked hard to be here. See that I am capable of achieving above and beyond your own expectations of me. Please avoid talking to me in a way that you think I should stereotypically sound like.

4. Engage me in conversation. The best way to learn about me is to talk to me. Ask me if I’m comfortable sharing my history, my experiences, and my goals for the future; and, in most cases, I will respond positively. If you are genuinely curious about me, I am more likely to share my story with you and connect with you.

5. Understand that I might be outside my comfort zone. For our students of color who were raised in their cultural majority, they say one of the reasons they chose Stonehill is the opportunity to be in the minority. They also say that one of the biggest challenges is to be in the minority for 4 years. For our first generation college students, they might not possess the same familiarity with college lingo, procedures, and processes that their college legacy peers do. So, create an environment that allows them to experience this newness with ease.

6. Show non-judgmental sensitivity. “Unlike other students here, I don’t have the same economic privilege.” For students who are major financial contributors to their own education or to their family, they are not as easily able to accept unpaid internships, volunteer work, or opportunities that do not help support their financial situation. Some have avoided this conversation with professionals because they do not want to have to admit their situations publicly. Showing non-judgmental sensitivity, combined with problem solving to help them achieve their goals, is important to creating a trustful relationship with you.

7. Find where they are most comfortable, and go there. Many people in marginalized groups have found their “comfort spot”. Rather than wonder why they are not coming to you, go to them. Ask to attend a meeting of a group you are interested in connecting with on a more meaningful basis. Look for where they hang out, eat, do homework, meet, and find a way to non-invasively engage in discussion.

8. Hear me. Know that it's hard for me to come to you with a complaint or a suggestion. Too many people have said that people of color "play the race card", so in an effort to NOT do that, I most likely will say nothing. But, if I know that you will hear me without making judgments about me based on my identity, I am more likely to trust you and what you do.

9. Recognize that I experience this world as a person of color. I don't want you to "judge me by my skin", but I do want you to recognize that other people sometimes do. And, I've spent a lot of years working to prove that I am MORE than just skin color. However, my skin color does "tint" (pun totally intended!) how I experience the world.

1. Provide opportunities for me to see myself reflected in what you do. Do you include people of color on panels that you host? Do you bring in guest speakers that have diverse backgrounds? Do you implement a component of cultural awareness and education into your courses, lectures, or discussions? A great way to create an environment that welcomes all people is to include all people.

2. Build your base of contacts who are from diverse backgrounds. The truth is, good mentors are good mentors for all. And yet, students of color often look for mentors of color because there is information that is shared about their backgrounds that is relevant and important to their experiences. One black, male student shared “I never go to certain programs because I know they aren’t going to say anything relevant about me and my experiences.” To create a welcoming environment, individuals need to see that your initiatives include their voices, too.

3. Add culturally relevant visual representation to your office or space. This is not permission to now go and buy up all the Malcolm X, Vincent Chin, and George Lopez posters online. However, it might mean adding a multicultural calendar to your space or an “Ally” sticker to your door (if you are one). It means subscribing to diverse publications, magazines, or resources that can be placed in your waiting room or in your office (and, hopefully, you will have read those, too!).

4. If you are not seeing a particular group using your services or participating in your programs, ask them why. It’s not enough to just blame them for not being interested or apathetic. People may be actively choosing not to go to you or use your services for particular reasons. First, assess your data. What are the ratios in relation to the population? What is your baseline? What is your goal? What informs that goal? Then, as the group what they would like to see and/or what they need.

5. Know that it takes time. Building relationships and trust take time. If you haven’t been actively working on creating a culture of inclusion (as opposed to just saying “sure, I’m welcoming!”), then the work has just started. It can take months, sometimes years, to see progress. But, if you give up, that word spreads fast, too. Stick with your initiatives and, if your goals and steps are right, you’ll see progress soon enough!

October 20, 2009

Dolls, media images, and color-blindess continue to be topics on our bloggers' minds. Read for further insight into what Stonehill students think about these issues:

Joniece Leonard remembers Barbie growing up.

Growing up I was never really into Barbie, but my best friend definitely had a different story. She had the Barbie boat, dream house, and the “my size” Barbie which was supposed to be life-size. I remember the “my size” Barbie being age specific and as children, media commercials told us that her clothes were supposed to not only fit Barbie, but us as well. My friend had a very small frame and I do not remember her being able to fit in any of the “my size” Barbie clothing. She was very disturbed by this because she wanted to wear that princess dress that adorned Barbie so graciously. Mattel did not really address the fact that we all have different body types and “my size” may not be someone else’s size. They were definitely catering to a specific demographic that did not include me or my friend.

I know things have changed a little since I was growing up, Mattel is even coming out with a Black Barbie, but there is definitely still a lot that needs to change. The thing that bothers me about the Black Barbie doll is the fact that it is still called a Barbie. For me Barbie has a certain image that goes along with the name. This image includes being white, blonde, and thin. Simply changing her skin color and lips does not make it a different doll. It is still a Barbie in every sense. If Mattel was going to create a new doll they could have came up with a concept different from the traditional concept of Barbie who we know and label a certain image. Maybe changing the Barbie name and putting a little more thought into the creation of the dolls would make me appreciate their efforts a little more. Barbie is the furthest thing from being anything like a real person, especially a person that looks like me. I never had any dolls that looked like me. Even though I wasn’t too into dolls and I was more interested in playing with any toys my brother had (including his action figures and hot wheels) I never owned a doll that was Black.

Of course my same experience with Barbie and dolls in general extended to other interests I had. I was also very interested in hair, makeup, and baking. The commercials for all of these activities and products depicting little white girls baking or playing with their mom, but again, no one that looked like me. The beauty and baking industry did not take into account that not only white people use their products, but so do the rest of the people of color population. With the changing demographics of the United States, companies like Mattel, the beauty and food industry really need to start expanding their marketing strategies. They also need to ensure that their products are wide-ranging and inclusive to the general population, which is quickly changing from predominately White to predominately people of color.

Blayne Lopes discusses the importance of people of color on television.

After reading a blog on Racialicious entitled, “Meet Rebecca: The Racialicious Review for Heroes 4.5”. I wondered about what it would take to put more people of color on television shows. When I was growing up, I watched shows like The Magic School Bus, Power Rangers, Cousin Skeeter, and Hey Arnold. Although they included people of color on the cast, it was in a very “tokenizing” way. On Power Rangers, there was a token Black Ranger and a token Asian Ranger. On the other shows I watched, the people of color were never the main character, only the sidekicks.

When I was a child watching these shows, I never really thought much about people of color on television. White people were the norm and I never questioned the overwhelming “whiteness” of the main characters. So when I was little, I never thought of being a superhero or a main character. I could only see myself as a villain like the Green Lantern. Again, I never really thought about it…until now.

Now that I am older, I am more aware and more conscious of the images I see reflecting back at me. I am concerned about what the void or negative images of people of color will do to the next generation. What messages are being received? Bad guys are brown and good guys are white. This idea really affects the way children view themselves and others. For me, I never thought of being a hero or a leader because I never saw those types of role models on television. For a white child, it is easier to stereotype and judge people of color if the images on television tell them brown people are bad.

I know I am over simplifying things, but television images are an important topic to address because the average American spends three years of their life in front of a television. So how do we get more positive images of people of color on television? What do you think?

Raul Martinez on elections and color-blindness.

There are those who still believe that the best way to rid ourselves of racism is to live in a “color-blind society” where we do not consider someone’s race when considering them for a job position or a political election. Based on a NY Times article “Colorblind Conundrum For Bloomberg’s Rival” it seems the city of New York is on its way to being colorblind as voters seem to forget that candidate William C. Thompson Jr. is Black.

It has always been a perception of mine, maybe because of movies and television that political candidates are always looking to win over the Black vote, the Latino vote, or another minority group who has a significant swing vote. However according to the article Mr. Thompson is not looking to win over any racial vote. Could it be really true that Pres. Obama has led us into a “post-racial era?” False. I do not believe this to be true because of the comments made by Rudolph Guiliani who is campaigning with Thompson’s rival, Mayor Bloomberg. He made a statement saying that the crime rate will go up under the wrong political leadership. The insinuation is being made that under the leadership of Mr. Thompson who is a Black man, crime rates will go up. Is he saying this because Mr. Thompson is Black? Would this statement have been made if Mr. Thompson was White (or any other race)? Because I can still ask those questions, we do NOT live in a post-racial society. Clearly we have not reached the fantasized post-racial era or a colorblind society.

Who knows if a color-blind society will ever be possible? Is it even a good thing? I take pride in being Latino and I do not want anyone to be “blind” to my ethnicity. It makes me who I am. It is important for all of us that racism is eradicated, but I do not want it to be at the expense of my identity. Quoting from an article, “There is pride in race, and pride in the progress that means race means less than it ever has.” When there are no more hate crimes, and no more internalized oppression I might believe this statement, but for now, we still have a long way to go.

October 7, 2009

Work Study Journals

Here's an excerpt of what Margaux has to say about the newest Disney movie coming out:

As a modern young woman interested in gender bias and communications, I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will: I cannot wait to see the new Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog”. Despite all the things wrong with the Disney Princess machine, I still unabashadly love them. The fact that “The
Princess and the Frog” was even made is really exciting because at long last there is a princess that looks like me! I know what the detractors will say, that there are already two princesses that look like me: Jasmine and Pocahontas. My friends used to call me Jasmahontas because I didn’t look like either of them, but I had to claim them because they were the only characters with melanin in their skin. But do Jasmine and Pocahontas get the same amount of marketing and attention that Ariel and Belle receive? The answer would be a no.

My favorite Disney princess is actually Ariel, and when I was three years old I begged my mother to dye my hair red so I could look like her. As a little brown girl with frizzy dark hair, you can only imagine what I would’ve looked like. But the desire is there for many girls of color who are indoctrinated into the Disney Princess regime only to find that the young women they are supposed to idolize look nothing like them. Although my mother obviously said "no" to my desperate pleas, the question still remained- when was Disney going to reach out to a more diverse market of little girls? After all, we have purchasing power, too!

The whole Disney Princess lifestyle is not without its faults-
it teaches girls that they must wait around for a dashing prince to save them, that the focus is on being beautiful and in distress instead of being independent. “The Princess and the Frog” itself is problematic, as the princess actually spends most of the movie as a frog. One could argue that because the princess becomes an amphibian for the duration of the film, that the message it sends its young viewers is actually negative. However, that doesn’t matter to me at the moment. What matters to me is that there is actually a dark skinned princess with ethnic features as the main character of a Disney movie. That in itself is a major reason to celebrate, and a reason to see and support the movie. Maybe one day when I have a daughter, I can take her to Disney World and she can see Princess Tiana costumes and advertisements. She won’t feel like an outsider looking in, like I did, and that makes “The Princess and the Frog” that much better.

Raul reflects on President Obama's recent Human Rights Campaign Dinner:

Today I read a very short brief in the NY Times on the subject of gay rights.
President Obama is to speak at the 13th Annual Human Rights Campaign Dinner this Saturday. This will be the night before the Nation Equality Rights March, which is on Sunday. The march is calling for people to fight for full federal equality in all civil law aspects of the LGBT community in all fifty states.

The article continued on the subject of how although President Obama is the second to speak to the HRC, and although he is doing this he has not
advocated for gay rights as actively as people had hoped. Obviously, many of us look for instant results in all aspects of life and with gay rights there
are many who are looking for the long awaited change now. Gay marriage
being one of the most prominent issues, I looked for more information
and found that currently there are only four states that recognize legal
same-sex marriage which include state-level rights and benefits. Even though these states have implemented this, federally, marriage is recognized as a union between a man and a woman and federal benefits do not apply to same-sex couples. I decided to go to the HRC website to see what they had to say on the subject and to my surprise not only
is marriage an issue but there are 13 outlined issues that include
the military, adoption, the workplace, people of color, etc. I never realized
that gay rights were much larger than just the recognition of gay marriage,
which seems to be the most discussed issue in the media.

With this newfound realization, I thought the article which downplayed Pres. Obama’s support for the gay rights cause is wrong. The fact that he is
speaking to the HRC and he is working on getting rid of the “Don’t Ask,
Don’t Tell” policy shows that we are moving in the right direction. With any issue of basic human rights, whether it is based on race, gender, age, or
sexual orientation, etc. the fact is that we can see before our eyes there
is a movement for change. Just when will that change

Michelle on the recent visit of Prof. Bernard Griego:

On Thursday October 1st Professor Bernard Griego flew to Boston from UC Berkley. Professor Griego addressed the "Inequalities in Public Health"and through his talk it was evident that Public Health is more than just a discussion about "health care." Prof. Griego described Public Health as “the willingness to take on the big issues” and he identified 3 main part of Public Health which included 1) Prevention, how to stop a problem from even occurring; 2)Environmental changes which consist of social, cultural, physical, and political policies; and 3) Social Justice which means everyone has the right and dignity towards achieving and living in good health. He had includes issues of public healt such as violence, war, obesity, alcohol and smoking.

Racism is a race-based situation in which one feels they have the right to be superior to another race. As citizens we should be able to take steps that will stop racism and its effects on the day to day actions of a large number of groups.

As a student of color in Stonehill College, it seems that every morning is another battle to prove people’s stereotypes wrong. Before they get to know me, many of my fellow students have a preconceived notion of what I am going to act like and what I am going to say. I have to admit, it gets tiring. For once, I wish I could just represent myself as me. While I know who I am, I live with a racial perception that others have of me.

Finally, Rachel comments on the "Lil' Monkey" doll:

As a little girl, my cousin and I would always play and compete with who has the most dolls or Barbie dolls. Of course, my cousin always won. My parents believed that dolls are just silly materialistic things that clog the spaces in the house. During that time, I would play with the white Barbie dolls because I thought she was pretty and always had to cutest dresses to dress her up in. Watching television as a kid, I would always see these girls playing with the white Barbie dolls and it never occurred to me that something was missing. My mother and I went shopping and asked if we could go to the toy section where all the dolls were. I noticed the Barbie doll that was always displayed on TV. But what really got my attention was an African American Barbie doll that had the same facial structure and features, but had brown skin. I was really excited because I had never seen another beautiful doll than the original. Then I thought to myself, how come I don’t see other Barbie dolls like me, Asian. I asked my Mom “Why I can’t find other Barbie dolls like me?” She said they do manufacture it but don’t sell much of it.

I eventually grew out of Barbie dolls and moved onto American Girl Dolls because they had cute accessories. I really loved dolls those American Girl Dolls. Whenever I received an American Girl Magazine, I wanted to have my own, but my parents thought it was too much money. I noticed each girl represented a different historical era and represented cultural ethnicities. I also noticed in the catalog that you can make your own doll to look just like you. I was excited, but I knew it was expensive and could not own one. All through my childhood years, I was searching for a doll that looked like me. They either were not available or too expensive.

Seeing this article on African American baby dolls being identified as a “Lil Monkey” disturbed. I understand that companies are trying to sell dolls, but they should’ve thought of the racial implications and messages before putting it on shelves. Of course it would cause an uproar and controversy because it sends the wrong message to little girls (of all races and ethnicities) across the U.S.

We now live in the 21st century with Barack Obama as our President and to see this type of racial categorization and identification is awful. Many young girls may have no idea of what this means on the surface, but it continues to perpetuate this a negative message.

This reminds me of the study where African American girls picked the white doll over the brown doll because it was "prettier". It is not enough to just have brown-like-me dolls; we have to also send a positive message and avoid reinforcing negative messages.

September 28, 2009

Thoughts from Intercultural Resource Center folks:

It's week 2 of our work-study student posts. Read up on the Tyra show, student list serve exchanges, and race:

Blayne says:

The other day I was watching an old episode of Tyra. The topic of the show was on the GLBTQ community and the conflicts that exist within this group. On the show there was the stereotype a: “masculine” gay male, a “feminine” gay male, “lipstick” lesbian, “butch” lesbian, drag queen, transgender, and bisexual male. Tyra held a social experiment where they had to create the “Gay Kingdom”. They were given the assignment of picking the following roles: King, Queen, Villain, Concubine, Jester, Pauper, and Cook. It was interesting to observe how the participants actually assigned the roles. Part of me believed social and gender “norms” would not be taken into consideration. However, in my experience we live in a society where it seems one cannot escape social norms. The participants assigned:

"Masculine” gay male = King
“Lipstick” lesbian = Queen
“Butch” lesbian = Villain
Transgendered Female = Concubine
Drag Queen = Jester
Bisexual male = Pauper
“Feminine” gay male = Cook

In order to come to many of these decisions, people were placed by stereotypes. I found this to be extremely disappointing. I was witnessing firsthand how negatively people of the same community perceived each other. One of the participants referred to herself as, “straight lesbian” because she loved to wear dresses, heels, make up, and fool males into thinking she was heterosexual. The transgendered female detached herself form the GLBTQ community saying she is a “straight women” and not a part of ‘that’ community. The “masculine” gay male referred to the gay community as heavy into drugs. These are all the stereotypes I hear from friends and society. I was surprised to see people who belong to the GLBTQ community also experienced internalized oppression.

Internalized oppression is when an individual in an oppressed group internalizes all the external messages about their group and acts on it. For example, the standard of beauty for women in America is white, blonde haired and blue eyed. We see this in the media, in movies, in advertising. An Asian woman who is bombarded with these messages may experience internalized oppression and act out by dying her jet black hair blonde or by covering her dark brown eyes with light colored contacts. A more extreme example is when the “norm” is big round eyes Asian women get surgery on their eyes to make them appear more round.

Internalized oppression was happening with the people on Tyra because they assigned each other to stereotypical roles. Roles in which society (and themselves) prescribed each other. This has also been a personal experience for me in the Black community.

Antonio says:

Last week, an email exchange through the student listserv was started by a student about a certain professor on campus. First, this was highly inappropriate, and should not have been conducted in the manner that it was. It was addressed in a matter that is not constructive, and it should not have been done in such a public fashion. Now getting to the actual content of the email, no one should ever be criticized for the accent in which they speak. There are all different types of accents and depending on who is around you and where you are, doesn’t everyone have an accent? Who is to say that, for example, someone who lives in Boston and comes from a Spanish speaking country is the one with the accent? Don’t Bostonians equally have an accent?

Even if a professor has an “accent,” it isn’t something that would necessarily impair learning. Good professors have outlined notes (which are given before class to review) and also offer her time to meet with students individually if they do not understand the material in class. What is most disturbing is that having an accent is equated with not speaking English and not speaking English is equated as a reason to have to “get out of America.” Such a statement is one that only displays the ignorance that is still existent within our society. If that were the case, the United States would lose so many of its inhabitants. Both of my grandmothers for example, can barely speak English. To say that they have to leave the country based on this is not only ignorant, but just plain stupid. Everyone here currently is either an immigrant themselves, or descended from an immigrant. Of all those immigrants, a good amount of them came over without knowing how to speak English. Our country would not be what it is today if it weren’t for the opportunity to come and learn here. We will never make any progress in society if we continue to use language as a weapon for who belongs and who does not.

Elyssa says:

What if color was just another characteristic of humans, just like different colored hair, or eyes? Do you think there would still be prejudices? And if there were, would they be enough to cause hate? I mean have you ever heard someone say, “I hate that person because they have green eyes,” or “I hate that person because they have blonde hair?” But we do hear things like, “I don’t like to mix with that kind,” referring to people of color. But what if race wasn’t in the picture? Would people still develop hatred for people who are different? Would we hear those comments about a person’s eye color or hair color?

Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. People would still find a means of discrimination, whether it’s hair color, eye color, skin color, hair texture, or nose size. I say this because race itself was a concept developed by the white men in the 18th century just before slavery. It was a way to “prove” the inferiority of the people they were enslaving. So the concept of judging someone based on their skin color became institutionalized by people! There is no biological rhyme or reason to it. Those same white men could have said all people with blue eyes are to become slaves and we would not have conflicts because of the color of our skin, but the color of our eyes. So if race hadn’t been developed when it was, it would only be a matter of time before someone conceptualized discriminating people based on something else, like eye color for example.

Speaking of eye color, there is a video on Youtube that proves that people can start disliking someone based on what people in power say.

This video is of a third grade teacher (who is the “person in power”) that told her students that people with blue eyes are better than people with brown eyes, and then the next day changes that and says that people with brown eyes are better. The reactions of the students are somewhat disturbing and it shows that you can pick something arbitrary like eye color and are told to treat people with different eye colors a certain way, people will do what they are told. This shows that prejudices can develop from even the most insignificant differences among the human race. Racism is a very serious thing and is not arbitrary, but if you think about it, it is ridiculous that racism exists.

September 18, 2009

Weekly Wrap Up

We're trying something new here! Each Friday, we are going to highlight some of the writing entries from the work study students in the Intercultural Resource Center.

Each week, they are asked to write a short entry on current events or on a particular assigned topic. Here are short samples of what we received from our students:

Blayne says:
It wasn’t so long ago that they were running and jumping in the jungle to survive." -Race: The Power of An Illusion

The above is a quote - an explanation - that was used to describe the athletic superiority of Black Olympic athletes in the time of Jesse Owens. We were watching "Race: The Power of an Illusion" in my Race and Ethnicity Class. My friend Joniece and I chuckled instantly as we heard this comment and
believed it to be absolutely absurd. There were other students of color in my class, but Joniece and I were the only Black students, and the only ones to laugh with the professor. I found this statement to be absolutely ridiculous.

After the film I wondered how such absurd ideals were widely accepted. This statement was made during the 1940’s and at that time it was an ideal believed by white society. Honestly, I found myself stunned that anyone with common sense chose or could accept such a notion. I wondered if racism and prejudice can override an individual’s common sense? In my experience, race has come to account for some of my successes. People were often attributing my successes or achievements to affirmative action. I also noticed people paid a lot more attention to what I was doing, how I was acting, or what I was saying. There were times that I felt everyone knew more of my
business than I did. As I reflected on my own experience I could not stop thinking about our President Barack Obama.

Celebrity or Racism?

In the short nine months Obama has been President he has faced much scrutiny. The other day in my Race and Ethnic Diversity class we had begin a discussion on Barack and the recent events involving Barack, Serena Williams and Kanye West. The professor made a statement that President
Obama has face more public scrutiny than any president. She continued question the class, “Why do you think he has faced so questioning about his personal integrity?” Some credited to the fact that Obama is the first president to be turned into a celebrity. However, Ronald Reagan was an actor before he was
president and presidents before Obama were ‘celebritized’ due to media. I am only 21 years old but when I was younger I saw President Clinton as a celebrity and sometimes I still do. I could not help but to think his race was a factor in propelling Obama into celebrity status and the amount of public scrutiny he faces.

Michelle says:

As I watched the MTV Video Music Awards (VMA’s) on Sunday and Best Female Video was announced I sat there with my mouth opened that Taylor Swift had won. Of course I felt that there were many more talented artists in the category such as
Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga and Beyonce. However, the biggest shock came when Kanye West interrupted her to merely say “Sorry Taylor, Beyonce had one of the best videos.” I sat there awestruck as I saw tears swim into Taylor’s eyes.
I sat there half laughing/half not believing what I had heard. Had Kanye West really gone up there to say that? Could he not have waited until the end of the show where he could openly discuss the situation with anyone that would listen?

Everyone was commenting on Kanye West’s actions. The next day, it was still a fascinating topic, but new news flooded that President Barack Obama had called Kanye West a “jackass”. Now, trust me, the words I used to describe Kanye West
were worse than “jackass” , but that is one of the many ways that people could describe the incident. Of course, because he is the President, everything he says has to be taken to another level of seriousness. Instead of all the people commenting on the Health Care policies and the other changes he is trying to
make in the country, they are spending time judging him for his comment that "Kanye West acted as a jackass."

I feel that lately President Obama has been under a microscope and every little movement or every word he says has to be clearly planned out in case someone takes offense or takes it out of context. I knew the minute President Obama was elected President, he was going to get bashed whether he did things correctly or incorrectly. He is just a person like you and me, and he has every right to express that Kanye West's move was that of a “jackass” – is it not what every other person in the world was thinking?

The worse part of it was that it was prior to an interview and someone in the vicinity decided to put it on Twitter by saying "Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a 'jackass' for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT'S presidential."Just because he is the President does not mean he does not react to events that happen in the popular culture. In fact I would have found it weird if he did not have an opinion on the topic! How far are we going to push the President until we realize he, too, can have these thoughts just like the rest of us? Just because he is the President does not mean he has to keep his opinions and ideas to himself.

We should be worried about the health care debate that can affect us personally instead of his comment that Kanye West acted as a “jackass”.

Antonio takes a break from pop culture and opens up about langauge and culture:

In today’s society I find myself wondering where culture's place really is. Is there even a place for it? No doubt America has a culture of its own, and it is because of this culture that other cultures fall to the wayside. I myself have experienced this.

I’m half Dominican and half Puerto-Rican. My first language was Spanish, and I didn’t speak a word of English until kindergarten. I was 5 years old, and forced to speak English in a bilingual class. I didn’t know it then, but that marked the point of where I would begin to lose my Spanish. As a child, I spent
a lot of time with my grandmother, who only spoke Spanish. So naturally, I spoke Spanish as well. However as I got older, I slowly spent less time with my grandmother. I spent more time with friends who only spoke English. I began to lose Spanish.

It’s a really strange process. You begin to notice it at first when you’re at a loss for words, not knowing how to say something in Spanish, so you say it in English. But why now? Why do I bring this up now, years after this has already happened? It is because here at Stonehill is where I am reminded of what is happening to me. I am actually right in the middle of my generation, but I am the last of it to be able to speak Spanish. One could go their whole life without speaking a second language and be ok. I only wonder how much harder it must be for those people to whom total assimilation is the only means of survival.

September 2, 2009

On Studying Abroad

ALANA-A Leader, Janna, reflects as she gets ready to leave for her study abroad experience

"So it's Tuesday, I leave for London on Saturday. My attempts at packing consist of putting clothing, shoes, and other items in the corner of my room. I was hoping maybe it would pack by itself, but I know it won't. For some reason this trip is becoming a huge thing for me. I have traveled outside the U.S, however mostly with family and friends. This is the first time I will be going on my own. I think it is finally starting to hit home.

I am leaving for this fall semester to do an international internship in London, England. Why am I so nervous about it? I guess the first reason is it is something new. I am excited for seeing and experiencing all that London has to offer. London has tons of different cultural areas. I am also excited to see all of England - and not just its tourist areas. I hopefully will have time to go and see things that are not always on the tourist map.

At the same time I am nervous -- nervous to see what types of perceptions people will have of me. I went to England once before. In 2004, I was fourteen at the time and, have been told, that Americans were not seen in the best light. I remember one time we were at a castle running in an open field to a doorway. One of my fellow Americans accidently knocked into a European, and the words, "Bloody Americans", was uttered.

At the time, all I thought was, "Wow, that was a rude comment". However, a few years and a lot of education/awareness later, I realize that Americans do not have the best reputation globally. From a social and global perspective, I can understand where people get the stereotype that all Americans are entitled. As I've grown into more awareness, I know that this is something I do not want to be catogorized as. I hope that this perception and stereotype has somewhat dissipated and that I can serve as a someone who does not fit that stereotype.

I think what I am looking forward to the most is meeting new people and hearing different perspectives on everything. I believe that I cannot fully understand nor judge a topic, issue or position until I have heard all sides of the story.

But, I am also excited to live outside of my comfort zone, to be challenged in new and difficult ways, and to bring my experiences back to my college campus and help raise the level of education/awareness in my peers."

We wish Janna the best of luck in London! She'll be blogging from across the Pond, so stay tuned!

August 19, 2009

Race and Healthcare

Once of the issues we'll be exploring this Fall is the connection between health care, health disparities and race. Given all the media attention (some false, some true) that the Health Care reform plan is give, we're including a video of Tim Wise here on CNN. Tim Wise spoke last Spring during our "Be the Change" series.

May 14, 2009

Organic vs Proactive Diversity

cross posted from To Loosen the Mind

written by Tami Winfrey Harris, editor of Anti-Racist Parent

One of my favorite bloggers/writers is Tami Winfrey Harris. She's brilliant, and she can be found at What Tami Said and at Anti-Racist Parent. Here is just one of the many posts that I love:

written by Anti-Racist Parent editor Tami Winfrey Harris

Diversity is important to personal and community development. Diversity is not organic. Kathleen Parker's article two week's ago in the Washington Post helped me to crystalize my thoughts on diversity, its importance and how community's can achieve successful and beneficial diversity. You may remember that Parker wasn't sold on new radio commercials celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act:

Lately, the fine intent of eliminating discrimination seems to have morphed into diversity advocacy.

Before I proceed, let me say that I prefer a world in which not everyone is the same. I like that my neighbors include a gay couple and a single mother and that several languages are spoken on my street.

But happy diversity is an organic process that results when like-minded citizens congregate around shared values and interests. Often those interests and values have evolved from racial and ethnic identities, but not necessarily. Sometimes neighbors of diverse backgrounds share affection for old houses, or window boxes, or pet-friendliness.

That not all people have access to all the same housing opportunities is called life in a free-market society. But the fair-housing folks want life to be more fair, and the ads are warming us up for some really fun social engineering. Read more...

One of the ads that so disturb Ms. Parker:

The wormiest of three ads posted online features a mother and daughter just home from visiting mom's workplace. Daughter is breathless with wonder at how diverse Mom's workplace is, but wants to know why everyone in their neighborhood "looks just like us?" Dum-de-dum-dum.


I tend to think those who disdain proactive encouragement of diversity are really poor students of human behavior and that they don't really believe in diversity's importance. It feels more secure to be surrounded by people who look and think and eat and worship and work and live and parent the way you do. The echo chamber of homogenity is comforting in the way it tacitly approves of your life and choices. Who wouldn't want this? Like seeks like--it is easiest that way. It is the rare person who likes to be uncomfortable.

Diversity done correctly is almost always uncomfortable--at least a little. Living or socializing or working around people who are different--racially, ethnically, politically, religiously, etc.--requires compromise, requires empathy, requires withholding judgement, requires being open to learning. Being confronted with difference can mean having your way of looking, thinking, eating, worshipping, working, parenting and living challenged. It means having your biases and bigotry challenged (and we don't like to think we have any of those, do we?). But these are good things, yes? The discomfort of diversity yields better people and better communities. Diversity done correctly is also almost always rewarding. But it should be clear why it isn't and never will be "organic."

Anti-Racist Parent columnist Susan Lyons-Joell also weighed in on the article:

What do people want in their neighborhood? How about affordable housing, access to decent hospitals, grocery stores and businesses, a police force on your side, and a good public education and the careers that come with it. It’s no coincidence that neighborhoods where those things are missing are those that overwhelmingly are minority-dominated. That’s not the “free market,” that’s institutional racism held in place by economic disparity. Where one grows up can be a burden or a blessing, and it is not easily negated after the fact. Contrary to what Ms. Parker claims, diverse neighborhoods are not produced deliberately and intentionally – they are more often than not a product of economic and social circumstance. For that matter, so are the non-diverse neighborhoods, like the 1950s white-only enclaves that have only recently begun to have ethnic diversity, as those neighborhoods decline and the white people MOVE OUT.

It must be so nice to be able to pretend that a diverse environment is something willfully chosen or unchosen based on your own personal preference and needs. But it’s not. It’s a social justice issue, showing the inequalities, often along color lines, that still exist in America. There’s nothing “free-market” about a social stratum that is stacked against you from day one because of where you live. Ms. Parker, if you’re not committed to fixing it, you’re part of the problem.

Readers, what do you think?

Thanks to Tami for allowing the cross-post!

April 20, 2009

Diverse Friends

Cross posted from To Loosen the Mind

And so it begins -- the marathon stretch of birthday parties, graduation parties, long weekend parties, and just-because-its-summer parties. This weekend was no exception.

Except, this time, my husband, who usually doesn't engage me in diversity conversations (knowing that we'll talk about it for the next few hours) actually turned to me during a birthday party and said, "Why are we the only brown people here?"

"Because. We are," was my witty response. "What do we want them to do about it?"

"I mean WHY are we the only brown people here? It's not like there is a shortage of people of color in this area or anything. So, why, in a room full of about 50 people, are we - and our children - the only brown people here?" He began to go on about how the children at the birthday party were all of school age, ranging from 4 year olds to 6 year olds, and that if this was an actual "school" party (the kind where you have to invite everyone in your class), then why were we the only brown people in the room (note: our children don't go to school with the children at the party - we know the parents from college).

"I don't know, honey. Believe it or not, there are people who don't know any people of color - at least not well enough to invite them to their kid's birthday party."

Husband wasn't impressed. "I just don't understand. I don't understand how kids can be in school and not know any children of color."

Needless to say, the party ended but the conversation didn't.

I reminded Husband of all the posts I have written over the past few years, all of the questions very well-meaning white parents write about how to engage in diversity, and all the frustrations people have about truly not having a diverse circle. Husband wasn't implying that the people at the party were racists nor that they were ignorant. Not at all.

Rather, the point he was making was this: How can we truly teach our children to accept others if the "others" are never in the room. How can we teach children to see the beauty in our diverse skin colors if there is only one color in the room? Religion? Regional accents? Hair texture? Language?

And, while this question often gets posed, it's worth bringing it back again -- can we truly learn to accept all people if we only meet one type of person?

March 7, 2009

Darmouth email and racism

Cheers of joy erupted at the breakfast table (at my Asian family house) when we read that the first Asian president of an Ivy League university was appointed to Dartmouth College. Reading his long list of accomplishments, that included activism in the health care industry and research, certainly helps to diminish the idea the belief that someone could possible pull the "he only got it because he's Asian" card (except for the fact that this is the FIRST time in hundreds of years that this is occuring!).

Then, of course, the other shoe dropped. An email sent out by a Dartmouth student that was.... get this ... included in a larger "newsletter" sent out to over 1,000 alumni and students was an email:

Date: March 3, 2009 11:06:39 AM EST
Subject: Good Morning

This is the Generic Good Morning Message for March 3, 2009.

Yesterday came the announcement that President of the College James Wright will be replaced by Chinaman Kim Jim Yong. And a little bit of me died inside.

It was a complete supplies.

On July 1, yet another hard-working American's job will be taken by an immigrant willing to work in substandard conditions at near-subsistent wage, saving half his money and sending the rest home to his village in the form of traveler's checks. Unless "Jim Yong Kim" means "I love Freedom" in Chinese, I don't want anything to do with him. Dartmouth is America, not Panda Garden Rice Village Restaurant.

Y'all get ready for an Asianification under the guise of diversity under the actual Malaysian-invasion leadership instituted under the guise of diversity. It's a slippery slope we are on. I for one want Democracy and apple pie, not Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen. I know I sure as shit won't ever be eating my Hop dubs bubs with chopsticks. I like to use my own two American hands.

Of course, a quick apology was issued - including the heard-it-all-before-passing-the-buck of "I didn't mean for it to be racist" bull -- and that it was meant to be satirical.

Yeah, people's race/ethnicity can certainly be used in humor as a part of a humorous agenda; however, this isn't funny. It isn't appropriate. And, yes it is racist.

Even more disturbing in some comment threads on the Ivy League blogs is the "guess you can't take a joke" type of line.

Post racial America... uh, huh. Sure.

February 16, 2009

Individual vs The System

cross posted from To Loosen The Mind

This past week hasn't been the best "diversity" week for me. Other than having Tim Wise come to shake things up a bit, the whole issue of walking-the-walk has been on the forefront of my brain and my work.

But, here's what's been ticking me off lately: the act of calling out racism and oppression, only to have people say things like, "Well *I* don't think that about people of color!" or "I've never exoticized anyone!" ... implying, then, therefore, the feelings and experiences don't exist.

This is a key point to understand for those who are loosening the mind. News flash: No, you may not actually personally engage in discrimination, racist acts or beliefs, or oppresion. BUT, if you belong to a group that does, then you must recognize and own up to it. This goes for any group in power -- group. Not just individuals.

I'll make it personal here ... so, yes, I am Catholic in a state that has a whole lot of other Catholics. I am religious, I believe lots of what is in the Bible, I pray with my children at night, I am married to a man. I also believe in gay marriage, a woman's right to choose, and the freedom of all (and no) religion in a person's life. While I'm liberal in my practices and beliefs, I also fully own that I follow a faith tradition that is NOT so inclusive. I've done my best to find the right fit church for me and my family -- one that pays a whole lot of attention to social justice, inequal treatment of others, and doesn't use the word "man" when referring to all people - even in the most traditional of the prayers. Yet, the Catholic church has yet to include gay marriages; and this goes against my very grain. So, in my non-religious realm, I am inclusive, I educate others about the gay community, I am vigiliant about making sure that "diversity" always also means LGBTQ. My children are friends with other kids who have 2 moms, 2 days, and we celebrate them as equally as anyone else. My children do not believe that only a man-and-a-woman can marry -- and they'll be the first ones to tell you that 2 men can be in love and that 2 women can be in love, just like their own mom and dad are in love.

But, when I read and hear about oppression that gay couples experience, I do not quickly run to say, "Well, that's just crazy that you feel that way ... after all, *I* do not believe it. So, therefore, it must not exist."

Then, why are people so quick to say this when the race conversation occurs. When I bring up that Black students are feeling marginalized, others are quick to say, "Well, *I* don't discriminate against Black students" or "I have a diverse staff, so I must be treating all Blacks equal" or "I've never thought of Hispanics as lazy, so that's just crazy that others do"? It doesn't make sense to me...

Individual vs The System.

That's great that you don't think of Asian women as exotic. It's encouraging that you think Hispanics can be day laborers and CEO's It's promising that you believe gay marriage is marriage. But, that doesn't mean the experience isn't real to Asians, Hispanics, and gay couples. It doesn't mean that others don't make up for what you don't do.

The promise is in the belief that we (individuals, communities, schools, political parties, countries, etc) can overcome the system of oppression through the determination and role modeling of individuals who refuse to marginalize others. However, we must be careful not to use the "But I don't do it" line to detract from the very real experiences that do exist.

Tim Wise, in his visit, said, "It seems as if people today use the 'I voted for Barack Obama' line in the same way that folks use to use the 'I have a Black friend' line." I'm finding this more and more true. That, while Obama's victory was a victory for our country and for people who believe in equality, we still have a long way to go. And, even in my Letter to My Children, I don't believe that racism is over just because President Obama was elected. It's too easy to believe that. His election doesn't erase the hate crimes that have happened in my own city in the past few months. His election doesn't mean that all of a sudden workplace discrimination has ended or that people of color aren't statistically experiencing racism.

What it does signal is that enough people are tired of racism. That enough people believe that there is a different story to be told, and that we are eager to hear it.

Good reads:

Between Barack and a Hard Place by Tim Wise -- check it out! Just got my hands on a copy and love it!

February 11, 2009

How Important is Diversity?

Check out this fantastic post over at Anti-Racist Parent about "How Important Is Diversity When Choosing a School?" The question is posed by a parent who is looking for advice as to whether to choose a school that has a good representation of diversity, but I think it's very relevant in the conversation about choosing a college, too.

In that thread, I wrote a comment (#11) about what I thought. Check it out!

From the editor, Tami:
Choosing the right school for a child can be a difficult for any parent. No matter the race of your child, diversity is but one factor to consider among academic and other concerns. Which factor should be paramount? The aggravating thing is that there is really no right answer to that question. They key is determining the right decision for your child and your family at any given point in time.

My response:

I think it’s wonderful when people can choose their school, however I’m in the population where we can’t choose our school. We moved to the city/town we did because it was what we could afford. The better funded school system was just too much for us to afford in terms of taxes, etc.

I agree that it is difficult to be the “only” ( I was one of the onlies throughout my entire secondary education). However, even though a school may be diverse in terms of population, there is so much inequity in how kids are treated based on their race. For example, though a school is racially diverse, are all the Black kids stuck in the remedial programs and all the White kids in honors programs (regardless of academic talent)? Are kids of color disproportionately the ones sent to the Principal’s office or held inside during recess?

I sometimes think the bigger and better questions aren’t necessarily about the population of the students but rather the attitudes of the teachers/administrators. If there are White teachers who “get it” and who teach in a predominantly white school, I’d be more likely to send my bi-racial children (Latino/Asian) kids there than to a racially diverse school where all the kids of color are institutionally discriminated against.

With my 5 year old, I’m also realizing that all the good can happen at her school, but if she comes home and watches certain TV shows, she’s getting negative messages about people of color.

For those of us who can’t choose the school, I think the responsibility is on us - even more so - to make sure that our kids are getting the correct messages about diversity.

I write this, and yet, still wish I had more friends of color growing up..!

Check out the whole thing, though. It's well worth it!

January 22, 2009

A Letter to My Children

cross posted from To Loosen The Mind

To my children:

I didn't write to you on the day that Barack Obama became the Democratic candidate. I was afraid to believe there might be a chance.

I didn't write to you on the night he became the President-Elect.

Fears of what could happen between then and 1.20.09 consumed my joy as words echoed from national news; and actions by local people burning Black churches dampened my hope.

picture-1But, here, now, one full day after he has become our President, I feel that hope has come. Hope is no longer a feeling, it's a reality.

While our ancestors -- both on my side and your dad's side -- were not brought here against their will, nor were they forced away from their families, and weren't beaten beyond recognition, we shared a similar discrimination. We shared similar treatment of being "not American" or "not normal." Your father and I, years after slavery and the civil rights movement, in our short years, have been treated like foreigners, treated as if we were lazy, assumed to not speak English nor to be educated. Because of the color of our skin, people have assumed we were day laborers, thieves, or exotic figures. Because of the color of our skin, people were surprised when we didn't speak with accents other than that of New York City and Boston.

We were rarely considered American, despite our birth certificates, 14 years of U.S. education, college degrees. When we were dating and married, people rarely assumed that we were dating or married to one another. How could it be - an Asian and a Hispanic?

Times were different for our parents -- your grandparents -- and times are now different for you.

For, no longer is "American" only white. The leader of our country, his wife, his children, his family, his relatives, his in-laws -- they are the America that has always been there, but that has been ignored. Othered. Foreigned.

The President you will come to study in your schooling will be the America that you know. The America that your classmates will know. The America that will be written into your textbooks -- information that I had to read about on my own when my teachers only taught that white folks were inventors, black folks were slaves, red folks were savages, and yellow folks were ... well.. yellow folks.

Because of our new President, your books will include a history of American people that is more than white. it will include stories of families who have crossed the seas -- both willingly and unwillingly -- and who are the fabric of our nation. Those stories have always been there. It isn't a new truth; it is a truth that has always been there. Now, it will be told.

The story of our nation is changing. The story you will come to know will be different from the one I learned. It will be different from the one I experienced.

I am hopeful that your story is the American story that will now be embraced. Your multicultural, multilingual, multiracial, multireligious, and multiethnic family looks like the family of our President.

I see your future in his children; I see my future in you

January 14, 2009

Is it worse to call someone a racist or to be one?

A brilliant post by the editor over at Anti-Racist Parent. Chime in!

Please, please, please surf over there and read it!

January 7, 2009

The Right Way?

cross posted from To Loosen the Mind

wrongway1My husband and I have been trying to make more connections with families in our area - a task somewhat difficult given that so many of our family members live within a 1 hour radius from our house. Weekends are usually spent hanging out with the same brothers and/or sisters along with their kids. But, we realize that we and our children need to also get to know more people outside of that small circle -- no easy task for introverts like my husband and me.

Recently, we met up with a friend of mine and her husband who have children in the same age bracket as our kids. They are both white, though the mom grew up and was educated outside of the U.S., and have biological white children. We joined them for brunch at their house which gave the kids time to play and the grown ups time to talk.

It was our first real get-together, so we kept the conversation pretty light. We talked about work, where we lived prior to our current location, things we did over the holiday, etc. At one point, though, the discussion touched race, diversity, and our children. Both sets of children go to racially diverse schools. The mom talked about how she doesn't encourage her children to use racial descriptors when referring to people. On the flipside, she doesn't discourage it either. She said she pretty much waits and sees how her child will talk about a particular person. My husband then said, "For us, we always bring up color and encourage our kids to do so. When our kids describe others in their classes, one of the things they talk about first is whether the child has 'brown skin' or 'peach skin'. There are two boys named Tyler in the school, and when we ask for clarification, we ask if it's the Tyler-with-the-brown-skin or Tyler-with-the-peach-skin."

For my husband, who is Puerto Rican and who, too, has worked in predominantly white environments, he has always expressed frustration in the practice of using every single other descriptor about a person other than race, especially when race is the only thing separating someone from all others. So, it's the "see that guy over there... kind of athletic build .. with the brown hair... with the book bag... standing up straight... with the nice smile...." rather than, "The Puerto Rican guy in that group."

The mom responded with, "We don't bring up race because we're afraid of doing it wrong."

It got me thinking -- I definitely didn't get the "colorblind" vibe from her. Not at all, in fact. She has lived in enough places and knows enough not to live in a whitewashed world. I got the sense that it was a true issue of "I don't want to mess it up".

But I was wondering, how many other diversity saavy parents out there have chosen not to talk obviously about race? Is there a right way? More specificially, is there a right way for white parents? Is there a right way for parents of color? And, is there a right way for parents of transracial adoptive children?

Most parents of color I know always talk about race with their children. I remember when my daughter had just turned 2 years old, and we were walking on a city street. We walked by a tall Black man, and she said, "Mommy, he has brown skin."

"Yes," I responded. "He does."

That was all. No big deal. I didn't "shush" her. I didn't falsly patronize a stranger by saying how beautiful his skin was, how smart the man must be, etc. My daughter's statement about brown skin was just an observation. She noticed his brown skin in the same way she noticed the car that we walked by was red; color was just a part of her vocabulary.

A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues came to me asking for advice. She said that she picked up her 6-year old son from school and asked about his day, his friends, etc. Her son mentioned a few of names of some kids, and then said, "There is also David. But, we don't like David because we don't like Black people." My friend said she nearly drove off the road in shock. "What do you mean we don't like Black people? Where did you hear that? Who told you that??" she screamed, later admitting that she probably shouldn't have reacted so strongly at that moment. "Oh, never mind. Sorry, Mom, I mean, yes, we like Black people. We like Black people, right, Mom??"

My colleague -- again, another person who I consider diversity saavy -- realized her reaction had just simply scared him into not talking about it anymore rather than engaging her son in the conversation. Now, when she tries to revisit the conversation -- even weeks later -- her 6-year old son clams up and says, "I don't want to talk about it, Mom. I'm so sorry. I like Black people. I really like Black people." She's struggling to re-engage him into the conversation. She says she tries to bring up race and the color of skin in very nonchalant ways, but her son immediately flies into apology mode and wants to end the discussion. I encouraged her to buy some children's books that have kids of color in it, etc. Her son likes to hear a bedtime story each night, and so I suggested this might be a good way to introduce the discussion back again without obviously talking about the comments in the car.

My colleague asked questions that many of us hear often: "Where did he learn that? Why did he say 'we' don't like Black people? Am I doing something that is sending him messages about Black people? Is it school? Kids at school? Television that we watch?"

"Probably a little bit of all of the above," I replied.

Was this the "we-don't-want-to-do-it-wrong" example that my brunch friend was talking about? Did my colleague do something wrong by reacting as strongly as she did with her son? Or, was she just sending a clear message that the sentiment of "we don't like Black people" is unacceptable?

So, back to my question -- is there a right way to bring up race? Is there a wrong way?