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.