October 3, 2010
A recent NY Times article highlighted the success at Brockton High whom with more than 4,100 students, nearly twice the size of Stonehill’s student population, has proved itself to be a model for large high schools. As a Stonehill student, I’m constantly encouraged to go “into the streets” and assist the many non-profits that help Brockton residents. However, I find sometimes that the message can be condescending and have a bit of a “savior complex” attached to it. I’m not saying that the efforts of Stonehill students are not noble or worthy of praise, because they are. However, can one help a situation that they don’t feel connected to? How can you truly help someone without understanding their strengths and recognizing what they have, as opposed to what they lack? If we can recognize that, then by bringing our own talents we can truly assist an organization, a community, or even a child.
Perhaps, this is what the administrators and teachers at Brockton HS have realized in order to prepare their students for academic success. Perhaps, they were finally able to understand that the key to helping students achieve is to understand their background and to not pity their circumstances, but to complement their abilities with their own. Clearly, the quality of the Brockton HS educators is outstanding. Through identifying and addressing the academic as well as social needs of each student, we can create change. In addition, if we can understand the needs of a community and truly go “into the streets,” we will create a more “just and compassionate world.”
Allure magazine’s “Faces of the Future” article attempts to promote mixed race people as innovative and trendy. I found it offensive that the magazine labeled the concept of multiracial people and interracial relationships as futuristic, considering that they are present today. It just reminded me of how forgotten we are as a people. We are still here and have been here since the beginning. The model for the magazine had fair skin, freckles, straight hair, full lips, and Cleopatra like eye makeup. Although this was an artistic interpretation, it was still upsetting to me that not one of her ethnicities were represented. She is essentially what the photographer viewed her to be. Based upon this picture no one would ever imagine that she is actually Barbadian, German, Irish, Creole, Scottish, African-American and Blackfoot. I feel that in real life multiracial individuals are continuously misrepresented or mistaken for other races.
In my own experience, when people ask me the notorious “what are you?” question one of two things will happen without fail. The person will either be completely surprised as to what I have to say or will sound disappointed and say something such as “oh, so you’re just black and white?” In my mind I’m thinking, “No, I’m not just black and white; I just explained to you that I’m Portuguese, French, Irish, English and Liberian.” For the sake of being polite, I just nod and say “yes, I’m black and white.” What’s wrong with being “just that” and why do people feel unfulfilled when they meet someone who is “just black and white?”
I looked at the picture again, just shook my head and thought that this is the stereotype of my people. Exotic, intriguing, desirable yet clueless about their culture. Was this our contribution to society? To populate the world with as the article says “biracial super babies?” What happened to the importance of unity, interracial relationships, and cultural tolerance? A person could be mixed with ten different ethnicities, but what good would it do them if they are not embracing or practicing at least one of those cultures? Apparently that will not matter in the future. This article was sending the message that what the future is seeking is not cultural diversity but attractive people.
August 9, 2010
Talking about adoption was something easy for me; it is not a taboo topic for me. During middle school some of my friends thought that talking about my adoption would be painful or a topic I wouldn’t talk about. One friend time and time again always would say this, “I really don’t want to offend you or get you upset, but …” Then she would process to ask me about being adopted. I found it super annoying how she approached the subject and I told her that. I understood she felt it was an extremely personal topic and did not want to push me on the issue. It is a very logical explanation and also seems like the “politically correct” way of asking this type of question. At the same time having the context in front of the question for me made it awkward. I am a very honest and upfront person; if something is too personal I will say “I’d rather not share,” but usually I will tell you anything. I hate awkwardness; I would rather not have awkwardness in my life. My point: ASK FROM THE HEART. My final example happened recently. This spring was the first time my parents attend my dance team nationals in Daytona Beach. They had been on campus twice for a few days before over these past three years at Stonehill, but had never really gotten to know any of my dance girls. In Daytona Beach the first night we went out to dinner as a team with everyone’s family. I sat with one of the other girl’s and her two parents. We had a nice conversation and I was extremely grateful that my parents were down with me. Later that night the girl informed me that her mother asked in private if I was adopted, because “She(as in me) looks exotic.” While I laughed off the comment it still irked me in way. I guess this girl’s mom wasn’t comfortable with asking my family this question. If she had asked this question at the dinner table it would have been another conversation at the dinner table, and not an awkward conversation. We’re in the 21 century and there are plenty of interracial, international families all over the place. I believe it never hurts to ask someone, like the say “you never know till you try.” Why not ask that question, if it bothers someone they will tell you. My point is people need to have courage to ask questions. When I say have courage to ask questions I am referring to asking me if I am adopted or why am I so tan compared to my fair skinned parents. I won’t be offended or hurt, I would be more happy to talk to you about being adopted, and how I identity myself. Let’s all just avoid awkward situations because there never fun to be in.
July 20, 2010
The story begins two weeks ago, a week before the Lacrosse World Cup. The Iroquois Lacrosse team, known as the Nationals, is comprised of six Indian nations in the Iroquois Confederacy; this team was ranked fourth in the world. On Friday July 9Th, 2010 this team was denied by the British Consulate visas to travel for the competition unless the team and entourage were granted permission by the U.S government to use their tribal passport and papers stating they would be allowed re-entry to U.S. In the past, Indian Nations who issue their own passports have used it for international travel without problem. These passports however have parts that are handwritten and do not contain holograms. This has been part of the reasons for “need” of documents from the U.S. government for the U.K government.
On Wednesday July 14, 2010, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, made a onetime deal to provide the paper work asked by the UK government in the morning. By afternoon though, the UK had changed their tune. The UK will only allow them to travel if the team and entourage use United States or Canadian passports. The Iroquois lacrosse team was forced to forfeit the first game and hoped that the issue could be resolved between the two parties. However, as of Saturday July 17, 2010 the Nationals remained in New York unable to travel or participate in the Lacrosse World Cup. Ultimately the Nationals were excluded from this event and were not able to participate in the sport which they love.
This is a prime example of where our system in place are wrong. The Iroquois Confederacy is its own sovereignty and is its own nation. There is no reason that these player’s or fans should be required to have a passport that is not their nation's passport. If other countries believe it is alright to deny one nation the same right as every other country this is a problem. There should have been an exception for this situation. This can still be a learning situation for all parties involved. If both the UK and US government work with First People (Native American is not the accurate term anymore) Nations in creating a way that recognized this nation passports but also meets security needs into the future. As a world we will not be hindering others from their own rights, and respect each nation for its way of providing documents. Respecting the difference between documents, and not discrediting them because of "security flaws." By working together it will only make it a more equal world.
If you would like to read more on this here are the following articles on this subject.
April 20, 2010
- As I'm receiving resumes and cover letters electronically, I'm simply saving them to my desktop. The problem is, there are individuals who will inevitably get lost in this first step. Why? Because they aren't putting their names as part of their files. For example, a few people have sent me attachments called "resume" or "myresume" or "coverletter." Guess what? As I save those files, the computer asks if I want to "replace existing 'resume' file?" etc. If I hit "yes", the previous person's resume gets lost. If I hit "no", your resume gets lost. As you want to make this step the easiest for the person receiving your resume, be sure to title your resume and cover letter, preferably by your LAST NAME and FIRST NAME.
- Better yet, since I now have about 50 files of resumes and cover letters, make it easy -- put BOTH in ONE. Yes, that's right. Just call it "Talusan.Liza" and have your cover letter lead your resume in the document.
- Cover letters -- it's not hard. Just "google" my office. You'll see who the director is (me) and what my title is. While the resumes technically go to the HR email, they are all forwarded to me. One way to get my attention as I go through the sea of files is to actually use my name. And, yes, please spell it correctly. One way to get lost in the system? Send it "To Whom It May Concern" or "Search Committee."
- My job requirements as listed in the position highlight attention to detail. Demonstrate this even before I call you or email you by a) researching my name, b) reading the job description and c) making sure you don't send me your "CollegeX" resume that you meant to send to another school.
- Speaking of cover letters, this is where you need to explain why you are specifically interested in this position, in working at this institution, or some information about why you'd want to work with me. My former mentor gave me fantastic advice: never use adjectives about yourself that you could use for your dog/cat/favorite pet. Loyal, hard working, friendly, and disciplined do not cut it in this work. Tell me about your philosophy on teaching, on diversity, on working with students. If you can't describe why you are important, you won't be able to describe why diversity work is important.
Quick list of how to stand out:
- Actually address the letter to me!
- Using your cover letter to talk about your interest in Stonehill, not just repeating your resume
- Putting your documents into 1 file
- Tell me you know someone else that I know (networking)
- Use your cover letter and resume to actually address the job I posted -- I spent a great deal of time crafting the description. If those are the qualities and experiences I'm looking for, you should demonstrate to me that you have them.
Questions and suggestions? Chime in!
April 18, 2010
For me, the most important exercises in being an ally do not rest in the times when I’ve been successful, stood up for others, or challenged inequity. For me, being an ally means constantly revisiting the times when I’ve failed to be an ally. Some of those times are due to ignorance — they happened in my pre-awareness phase. Some of those times are due to inexperience — not sure how to address something that I know is wrong. Oftentimes, they are due to inability — my lack of courage and strength to stand up for what is right.
I’m an ally-purist. I believe that being an ally is more than just putting up a sticker on your office door. It’s more than a rainbow keychain. It’s more than saying you have a _______ friend (insert Black, Asian, Gay, DisAbled, etc) or that your ______ (same inserts) thinks you’re cool. Being an ally means acting and reacting; moving forward and reflecting backward; and stepping up when you’ve failed. Being an ally means calling more attention to your failures than your successes. So, I’m coming clean here and calling out a few of the many, many times when I’ve failed to be an ally. Reflecting back doesn’t mean wallowing in the past. Rather, it means learning from the past so that we don’t repeat it.
My senior year in college, I went through the “trying to be down” phase. I was the 21 year old who called things ghetto. I’m sure at age 21 I referred to things as gay, lame, or crazy. I was too ignorant to realize my own ignorance. And, at age 21, I was supposed to be an adult. In a few months after graduation, I was attending a major urban university and beginning my internship in a very openly gay and supportive school. Despite having attended a diverse undergraduate college and being somewhat involved in the multicultural organizations, I was ignorant. My years spent in a predominantly Irish/Italian Catholic town — one in which race, ethnicity, social justice, equality was never brought up — kept me sheltered from the rest of the world. Heck, it kept me sheltered from the bustling city just miles from my own doorstep. I grew up with negative stereotypes about Blacks, Latinos, people with disabilities, individuals who identified as gay, the poor, the formally uneducated, and even negative stereotypes about my own Asian people. My earlier college years never challenged me on those notions, and I continued to hold on to them through my senior year in college.
I remember — very well — sitting at a dining hall table with a number of Black and African American women who I worked with in my last year of college. I remember trying to be cool. I threw around racial slurs, racial stereotypes, and hurtful remarks. At one point, a white woman who was sitting with us turned to me and said, “Liza. That’s enough.” I remember saying, “I’m just kidding. They know I’m just kidding!” I was too ignorant to even realize I had gone too far; instead, I blamed the group of women for “not being able to take a joke.” Yea, I was that girl…. Needless to say, those women never talked to me for the rest of the semester.
While I remember that day so well, I don’t remember the day I realized I was a total jerk. I remember having feelings of sadness, embarrassment, and shame. It wasn’t a particular program, moment, book or speaker who woke me up; rather, it was a progression of learning that made me realize what I had done back in 1997. In 2000, I had gone to a shopping mall to do some wedding shopping, and I saw one of the women who had sat at that original dining hall table. She approached me with a smile, surprised that we were seeing one another in this random shopping mall. We hugged, and she said, “It’s so good to see you!” I felt embarrassed. I wanted to say something at that moment — apologize for my rudeness, my ignorance, my stupidity. But, I couldn’t find the words. Our encounter was brief, and after she walked away, I began to cry. Though she didn’t seem angry or upset (and she could have chosen to walk by me and not say anything), I felt ashamed. In 2009, more than a decade from that first encounter, I got back in touch with this woman as well as with a few others who sat at that dining room table. I wrote them lengthy apologies for what I had done, what I had said, and what I had failed to learn back in 1997. None of the women said they remembered that day at the dining hall; I have never forgotten it. There was something very healing about asking for forgiveness. To acknowledge when I have failed as an ally, and especially as a newly reformed social justice practitioner, has been the most impactful exercise of my life.
Facebook has a funny way of challenging former behavior. Recently, a friend of mine from elementary school posted a photo of our 3rd grade class at the State House. Individuals tried to figure out who was who — the bad haircuts masked many of our former faces. Quickly, a number of friends who, much later in life came out as LGBT, began to talk about ways of knowing they were gay back in those photos. I began to reflect on the many students who still feel unsafe coming out as college students. I felt the need to call out my own behavior by apologizing for not creating an environment where my former 3rd grade classmates felt they could be who they authentically were back in school. They waited — for many reasons, I’m sure — until they reached adulthood to date partners of their same sex, marry, and start families.
One particular person — a man who I have known since 1st grade — has always stuck with me when I think of LGBT ally work. I remember sitting on the bus with him and watching school yard kids play “The Fag Test.” I remember this distinctly because I had refused to partake in it. Essentially, a classmate would take your hand, palm down, and begin to vigorously scratch the top of your hand. If your skin peeled off, leaving an awfully painful mark, you were NOT a “fag.” If you made the person stop before your skin peeled off, you were “a fag.” I didn’t want to take the test. I feared pain. I feared being called “a fag”, even though, truthfully, I had no idea what that word meant. I just knew it wasn’t good to not have the mark.
I lost track of that male friend, but had connected back with him through some other mutual friends much later in life. I remember someone telling me that he had finally come out of the closet. I made a snide remark (one I had learned from a college friend) that “D is so far in the closet, he has discovered Narnia.” I thought it was funny, clever, insightful. Never did I think, or own, that it could have been hurtful, offensive, ignorant. I see my friend now, in a loving relationship with a wonderful man and now the father of 2 beautiful boys. Though we all knew, somehow, that D was gay, even when we were little, it was never spoken about in our lives. I think of D whenever I fail as an ally to the gay community. I think of D whenever I fail to speak up against homophobic remarks, “funny” jokes, or witness the pain of a student still living an inauthentic self.
Allies don’t rest in the joy of a job well done. Allies continue to reflect on the ways in which we have failed to stand up for others, failed to speak up for ourselves and our identities, and failed to create space for dignity and respect. Though it hurts to reflect on those moments, those moments keep me grounded in what I am called to do — to serve a greater good, to serve a greater version of myself, and to serve a greater purpose on our planet.
In what ways have you reflected on past behavior that has shaped your current behavior?
February 11, 2010
"I don't see color; I just treat everyone as humans."
I hear this statement all the time. I treat everyone as humans. While it is a perfectly appropriate response -- after all, I'd prefer not to be treated like a dog, a pancake, a rug, a chair, an apple, etc. -- it just doesn't make sense to me. Responding that we should just treat everyone as humans often implies that "I treat everyone as just the same."
Treating me like a human, on one hand, is comforting. I'm happy to know that you will treat me as a thinking, intelligent, moral, able, evolutionarily advanced creature on this planet.
Treating me like a human also ignores all of the uniqueness that makes me who I am. After all, my identity has been shaped by all the unique experiences I have had. At the most general level, I am a mother, wife, and sister. On a slightly more defined level, I am young mother, a working-out-of-the-house wife, and a sister in a large family. On an even more defined level, I am a young mother of three, a working-out-of-the-house wife in an interracial marriage, and a sister in a large family affected by cancer. Each of these levels can be broken down even more. And, each of these levels and these experiences have shaped who I am. Simply treating me like everyone else doesn't speak to the levels that impact how I see the world, how I make decisions, and how I approach situations.
The other day, I hosted a workshop for a group of Stonehill students. And, as expected, this topic came up again. In this context, though, a student asked about the issue of hyphenating the American identity. "Sometimes, people want to be American. But, then those same people say they want to be known as Asian-American or Chinese-American. Why can't they just choose to be American?"
I asked the group to look around the room. In this room, at Stonehill, I asked the group if they could safely assume that everyone here was from Stonehill. "Yes." We agreed that everyone in that room was a Stonehill student. Now, if I asked the group to introduce themselves, it would be unlikely that anyone would start off their personal introduction with "My name is ___, and I am a Stonehill student." We don't have to say we are "Stonehill students" because it's assumed given our location, the time of day, the way people look (average college aged in the room), etc. I then pointed out that there were 4 men in the room and 20 women in the room. I asked, "Is it safe to assume that there are situations in which you are treated differently at Stonehill because you identify as a man or a woman?" Students responded with examples of residence hall room/roommate assignments, bathrooms, single-sex sports teams, etc. While it is my hope that you are all treated equally in terms of encouragement for achievement, opportunities made available to you, classes you can get in to, leadership positions you can apply for, etc., the truth is that you experience some things differently based on how you identify your biological sex.
Now, I'm going to take the leap and assume there is more to know about you than just "you are a Stonehill student" and "you are male or female." I'm also going to take the leap and assume you want to be known as just "the girl in the North Face jacket" or "the guy with the hat on." There is probably more to you than just what you are wearing. I'm going to assume that you all have a first name, a last name, and maybe even a middle name. For some of you, your name is really important to you. If your name is "Jennifer" or "Matt" or "Lindsey" or "John", I'm going to assume that you aren't exactly the same as the other "Jennifer" or "Matt" or "Lindsey" or "John" in the room. In fact, if we were in a room full of people with those names, you might want to distinguish yourself by using your last name or a nickname. We begin to see how, yes, we all started out with something that we had in common -- being Stonehill students -- but that there was more to you than just that piece of information.
Let's assume you are a Stonehill freshman. On the Stonehill campus or at a Stonehill event, you might choose to identify yourself as "Hi, I'm ____. I'm a freshman." Simply saying you are a freshman means something here on our campus. Yet, say you went back to visit some teachers in your old high school. You are approached by a new teacher in your high school, and you introduce yourself as "Hi, I'm ____. I'm a freshman." That context means something at that high school. The teacher might very well assume you are a freshman at that high school. It would be important for you to say, "Hi, I'm ____. I'm a freshman at Stonehill College." Or, maybe you wouldn't even mention Stonehill. Maybe you would say, "Hi, I'm ____. I graduated from this high school in 2009." You as a person haven't changed just in your visit; but, the way you describe yourself has changed based on your surroundings and the context of your identity.
You are still treated like a human while visiting your high school, however your experiences and the way you identify yourself take on new meaning.
Now, let's look at the experience of attending college. As students, you have chosen to go to college. Likely, you have a reason for going to college. At it's most basic level, you must be assuming that there is something different about the experience of going to college vs not going to college. I'm also going to assume that you, in fact, believe that people who do go to college and people who do not go to college are humans. I would hope that all people -- whether they go to college or not -- should be treated as humans. And, yet, there is something different about your experience. Likely, if you were applying for a job, you'd want me to consider the fact that you went to college and that the other applicant did not go to college. You're both humans, yet there is something different about your experiences. I'd even guess that you'd want me to treat your application different from the application of someone who did not go to college. I certainly would hire the best person for the job, and you'd probably want me to take into account that there is a benefit I get from you as a college graduate.
The list of examples and definitions can go on and on. At the heart of it is this: we should always treat one another with respect, courtesy, and as if we are intelligent and wise. No matter if you went to college, if you are male or female, if you are black or white, or if you are tall or short -- we are united by the common bond of humanity. Yet, within our own identities, we have a diversity of experiences that have shaped who we are, decisions we make, and situations we encounter. To only treat one another as generic humans means we fail to see the other layers of who we are and who we have become. There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to make the more important layers of our identity visible to others. And, there is nothing wrong with treating one another as if the layers they share have impacted who they are as people.
Treat me like a human who is made up of many layers. See what makes me different from you. See what makes me the same as you. And, together we can make our world a much more interesting place.
February 4, 2010
This was my first year attending the Black History Month Convocation. This is not because I did not want to go before, but Liza and Donna would always seem to plan their events while I was in class. I enjoyed listening to the stories of the other students and faculty members that were speaking. I really appreciated that some students came out to hear our stories, give us their attention, and ask meaningful questions.
Convocation got me thinking about what Black History Month really means to Stonehill. I have often heard from naysayers that there should not even be a black history month, but I feel like it is important. There are many black people that did a lot of good for the world and for other black people. The same people that made it possible for me to be go to school and gave me the ability to be writing this blog response. I was surprised that the room was filled because attendance at black history month events is not always the greatest.
I can recall during my junior year when the cafe decided that they would be celebrating black history month. For them this meant barbeque ribs and fried chicken and a sign that read “come celebrate black history month.’ I have to admit I did find it amusing, I actually laughed for the rest of the month but once I got past the amusement I was upset. Is that really all that they think of black people, and they had the nerve to serve Sushi the next day. Some celebration!
…TO BE CONTINUED
January 20, 2010
So, we hope you continue to follow our students as they write about their personal experiences and reflections! Happy new year, and welcome to the Spring semester!
Liza Talusan, Director of Intercultural Affairs
Joniece is a senior at Stonehill. She is the Chair of the Diversity Committee (Student Government Association) and an active member of the community. She is a 2nd year Resident Assistant.
How do stereotypes of black women effect the way we raise black girls?
People are defined by what they do and not always by who they really are. My experiences and social situations have shaped not only who I am but also who I am becoming. Over time, I have realized that society plays a major role in many of the significant decisions that I have made in my life. Due to personal experience, being a Black Lower Middle class female has its advantages and disadvantages based on the environment that I may be in at any given time. Because of my appearance I am required to answer questions that not everyone has to answer, and oftentimes I find myself defending who I am not only to people that do not look like me, but also to people that look like me.
Because I am a black woman, oftentimes other black people expect me to fall into some sort of “statistic” and have children now if not sooner. When I see people from high school or even in the past when I have met guys, one of their first questions to me is “how many kids do you have?” I feel very insulted when I hear this question. It seems as if people group all black females from Roxbury into a single category and assume that we are all pregnant or already have children. I have heard from different males that I know in Boston that girls from Roxbury have a bad reputation. It seems that it is thought that all of us are very sexually advanced and will just have sex with anyone. Since I am nothing like any of the stereotypes described I still do not like that this is sometimes the first impression that people will have of me. This could also possibly hinder someone from getting to know who I really am outside of the negative views of girls that live in proximity to me. I have found that when I initially meet other black people, presumably males, I do not immediately tell them where I live. I let them get to know who I am first and then I disclose the appropriate information. This allows people to base their views of me on my personality and they type of person that I am.