February 28, 2011


Each month, we highlight some of the reflective posts of our work study students. Unedited, they blog about observations, experiences and thoughts about diversity in their lives as seen through their lenses.

Reflection from Wanny:
Today, February 27th, is the Independence Day of one of the most beautiful islands in the world, Dominican Republic (D.R). On this day D.R declared their independence from Haiti and changed it’s name to what we call it today La Republica Dominicana (D.R). My parents both immigrated to this country from D.R. With them, they brought history, their native language, treasured traditions, culture and unique customs different from those in the United States.

On days like these I remember I have two sides to myself. I have my Dominican side and my American side. I celebrate February 27th in the same spirit I celebrate July 4th. I speak English with the same fluency that I speak Spanish. It is an experience not everyone can say they have and from those that can, very few realize how important it is.

It can be difficult to juggle the two especially when cultures are what clash. Growing up my parents never understood American schooling. The idea that their child had to leave for college was probably one of the hardest concepts for them to grasp. This past Thanksgiving, a holiday we started celebrating once we came to this country, the most incredible thing happened. Right before my father said grace, he looked around the table and for the first time in a long time I saw my father cry. At first I didn’t understand why but then he began to speak. He said “In this country there comes a time when your children must leave you. Of course, they leave in hopes to achieve a higher education. This is something I had never experienced until Wanny, my first daughter, left to college last year. I give thanks because in the hurt of having to let go somehow our family found the strength to come closer together than ever. Having your baby who is growing up but still very much a child leave you is one of the hardest things I have had to do since I got to this country.” Right then it hit me. I had never thought of the fact that in D.R kids live at home their entire lives up until they save up enough to move out or find a companion to move in with and if neither of those happens there is nothing wrong with living with your parents. In America kids attend boarding schools all the time, they leave to college and are expected to live on their own as soon as possible. Living with the parents is almost a bad thing in the American culture.

Despite the differences between the cultures and the views I have because I was born in America compared to those of my parents who were born in D.R, we still manage to find some common ground. I must say that’s the beauty of it.

Que viva La Republica Domincana en su dia de independencia! Y que viva la Dominicana Americana!



Each month, we highlight some of the reflective posts of our work study students. Unedited, they blog about observations, experiences and thoughts about diversity in their lives as seen through their lenses.

Reflection from Astopheline:

Article Summary:
The article discusses pop singer Beyonce’s recent photoshoot with French fashion magazine, L’officiel Paris. The Pictures show the singer dressed “African”, spotting a blond wig and blackface in one of them. The photoshoot was an attribute to Nigerian musician and human rights activist Fela Kuti, and Beyonce was supposed to represent an African Queen. However, what makes the photographs controversial is the blackface, as it was not necessary.

The History of Blackface:                                                   
I recently discovered of blackface history from my Learning Community, because one of the courses focuses on entertainment in the American culture. My professor explained how back in the 1940’s white people used to host these entertainment shows; where they would paint their faces black and act out all the negative stereotypes of black people. The shows were deep-rooted in racism, and they were offensive to black people.  

Blackface on a black person:
One might wonder where the offense is in Beyonce wearing blackface since she is black; however, the fact that she is black is what makes it inappropriate. When white people painted their faces black they were trying to appear black. Therefore, why would a black person paint her face black to appear black? Is the photoshoot trying to imply that Beyonce is not black enough?  

February 17, 2011


Cross posted at To Loosen the Mind
Asian Americans are widely viewed as "model minorities" on the basis of education, income and competence. But they are perceived as less ideal than Caucasian Americans when it comes to attaining leadership roles in U.S. businesses and board rooms, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside.
This study is so obvious fascinating for so many reasons.

I go to meeting after meeting, professional conference after professional conference, panel discussion after panel discussion, and I am usually the only Asian American in the room. Sometimes, no lie, the only Asian American in the building. Okay, I'm lying. I'm probably not the only Asian American in the building; but, I'm sure as heck one of the few who I see out in the public light speaking my mind, facilitating workshops, stirring up controversy, and doing what I do best: BEING A LEADER. What do we need? We need more Asian Americans in leadership.

That's why I love ASPIRE. ASPIRE is an organization of amazing Asian American women who are committed to learning about, sharing, and passing on leadership that empowers others. ASPIRE rooms are filled with dedicated, motivated, passionate, and socially just women who strongly believe - and practice - thoughtful mentoring. And, through these interactions, meetings and shared spaces, we encourage leadership. 

At a fairly early age, and I mean in my 20s, I was taught I could be a leader. I was taught that I had the confidence, the intelligence, and the maturity to actually influence minds, hearts, and pocketbooks of people. I was encouraged to study Public Speaking, was mentored through effective lesson planning, lead professional workshops, and facilitated difficult and meaningful dialogue. I took charge over groups, programs and projects. Outside of my family, (my parents still believe in a "low profile" kind of existence) I was taught to tell my story, to serve as a spokesperson, and to be the public face of a number of causes and organizations. And, I was speaking out about things that my family - my culture - told me I shouldn't be talking about: race, power, racism, privilege, personal issues, strength, and leadership.

In short, I was groomed for Leadership.

But, don't get me wrong. I fought for every single step I've taken. I've had to battle stereotypes, bust through some glass ceilings, and work 200x harder just to get a seat at the table. And, despite my ability to work across the aisle, to approach situations with confident assertiveness, and possessing the qualities of  an outstanding leader, I walk every day in a body that is still poked with the glass shards from above me. I feel the sting of the bamboo ceiling, the cuts of the glass ceiling, and the every day assumption that I am not a leader. And, if I don't walk carefully or duck my head low enough, the glass ceiling reminds me that its there. Every day.
If there are no examples of leaders of your race or gender, you're less likely to believe you are leader-like and consequently you don't aspire to be a leader," he explained.
I'm 35 years old young. I've been a professional student since I was 5 years old. I've seen a lot of people, been to school with a lot of students, and played with lots of kids in the school yard, study room, on the athletic fields, and in road races. I have never had an Asian American teacher. Never. I have never been in a classroom where an Asian American stood in front of me and taught me, encouraged me, or learned with me. Now, the statistics show that Asian Americans are high achievers in education, in doctoral programs, and in post-doctoral programs. Yet never, ever, have I had an Asian American (or Asian national, for that matter) educator.

I've never had an Asian American coach.

I have never had an Asian American supervisor or boss.

I have never had an Asian American adviser or mentor.

And, only last year, did I work on a staff with an Asian American colleague.

I am currently the only Asian American director at my work.

I've been around the educational and professional block a few times, and yet the neighborhood has looked remarkably unremarkably the same.

So, if We are a model minority. If We are a culturally educated population. If We are supposedly surpassing the majority population in jobs and taking over coveted spots in higher education, then why are We not in leadership?
Asian Americans represent approximately 5 percent of the U.S. population and are projected to account for 9 percent of the population by 2050. However, they account for only .3 percent of corporate officers, less than 1 percent of corporate board members and about 2 percent of college presidents, despite their higher representation in business and professional occupations.

While there are institutional and structural challenges (along with inherent biases) for Asian Americans in leadership, I strongly believe that the first step is in being aware of the very stereotypes that we, and others, hold of us as Asian Americans:
Traits often associated with Asian Americans, such as social introversion, emotional withdrawal, verbal inhibition, passivity, a quiet demeanor and a reserved manner.

For many of us, those traits are true (just as they are with any person, regardless of race). Our challenges as Asian Americans -- if we aspire to leadership positions -- is in breaking down those stereotypes in a genuine and functional way. Know the stereotypes. Come up with a personal strategy that is comfortable for you, genuine to you, and resonates with you. Then, use those strategies to bust through the glass/bamboo/crap covered ceilings. Once you do, once you're on your way, inspire other Asian Americans. Let them know it's possible. But, do more than just tell them. Show them. Help them. Work with them. Mentor them.

It's not that we aren't good leaders.

It's that we are perceived not to be.

But, the perception isn't just in the mind. It's institutional. It's structural. And, it's real. We need to find ways to productively increase Asian American leaders in positions of influence so that we can show -- as a community of people -- that we are good leaders. That we are agents of change. And, that we are here.

February 16, 2011


Each month, we highlight some of the reflective posts of our work study students. Unedited, they blog about observations, experiences and thoughts about diversity in their lives as seen through their lenses.

This post is from Wanny, a sophomore ALANA-A Leader:

Top Ten Racial Stereotypes

10. All White people lack rhythm
9. African Americans are good at basketball
8. All Asians are geniuses
7. Hispanics don’t speak English very well or not at all
6. Native Americans love to gamble
5. All Asians know kung fu
4. African American men are well endowed
3. Middle Easterners hate Americans
2. White people are racist
1. Hispanics are all illegal aliens

I found this list on a blog I was reading. Below the list there were hundreds of comments about all of the stereotypes. One comment stuck out to me;Everyone is subconsciously racist! It is part of the human defence mechanism. We don't want strange looking people coming into our territory as they pose a risk to our food and women. Its only natural, as long as we don't start race-hate groups and start violence because of it. Its a two way street also, as minorities are as racist as anyone except they are quickest to label everyone else as racists. In fact white people have a racist label attached to them continuously through the media and even throughout their schooling. A whole group of people are blamed for the actions of racist individuals, both past and present. You do not have to feel responsible or ashamed because of others actions, only your own.”

I believe racism stems from ignorance. No one is subconsciously racist. Although at first glance, it might seem like this person is onto something they really aren’t. What is the definition of “strange looking people?” The usage of those words shows the individual’s lack of education on the subject. The person who wrote this is referring to everyone who is not white. This person goes onto say, “Its a two way street also, as minorities are as racist as anyone except they are quickest to label everyone else a racist”; of course right after defending white people by claiming that they’re victims of blame that carries back decades.

I have met people who have these same thoughts. They find nothing wrong with it. It’s not about a whole group of people being blamed for actions made in the past that weren’t their own. It is rather simple. Racism happened in our past and it still happens today. Hard to believe and sadly it is the truth. Although we personally are not responsible for all of it, we do have a responsibility to educate ourselves. Neglecting to learn about “the actions racist individuals” have made is in one way reinforcing the ignorance that leads to racism in the first place.

There is a difference between not knowing and feeling hate towards the unknown.


Each month, we highlight some of the reflective posts of our work study students. Unedited, they blog about observations, experiences and thoughts about diversity in their lives as seen through their lenses.

I like to think that passion almost always overcomes doubt; that it keeps hope nearby and reassurance alive. Lately, doubt has been prevailing. When I got to Stonehill, I did not think I was going to be so involved with diversity. Today, I am thankful that I am. I have learned more than I anticipated. Acquired skills that I didn’t even think existed. Most of all, I met some of the most amazing people ever.

The struggle of diversity on this campus never seems to dwindle. Though I have been given the tools to take on this struggle, at times I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. The office of Intercultural Affairs holds tons of events for students to partake in. Their mediums vary, there are documentaries shown, panels held, even speakers are invited to share their expertise or personal stories. It’s sad when I attend a program and the people who are there came only for extra credit, or only 6 people show up. The resources to learn and expose one’s self to diversity are available. There is even an Intercultural Research Center that most students at Stonehill don’t even know about. If they have heard about it, usually it is described as the “small room next to the SGA office.” Comments like this make me think that the work I do on this campus goes unnoticed, but still I continue to move forward.

My passion has always directed the choices I make in my life. So, when a merit point is the only reason people show to an event it makes me wonder why I even bother. I know change does not come easy nor does it happen overnight. So I fight and keep hoping that at the end of the day, these efforts are reaching someone. However, now-a-days the little victories just don’t make the cut. My doubt begins, with the inability to change what surrounds me.


Each month, we highlight some of the reflective posts of our work study students. Unedited, they blog about observations, experiences and thoughts about diversity in their lives as seen through their lenses.

This reflection is from Astopheline, an student from Rwanda.

This question has been brought to my attention numerous times since my arrival at Stonehill College. I have met people of color on this campus who consider themselves black, but are prone to anger when someone calls them African Americans. I understand that not all black people are African Americans, as I identify as Rwandan. However, it is irritating when people make it seem offensive to be African American. Any black person in the USA should acknowledge that he/she will be assumed to be African American at first glance because it is the usual. Some individuals have claimed that they dislike to be called African American because they are very proud of their heritage or country of origin. However, when one digs deeper you find that they just do not want to be associated with African Americans. The term African American to these individuals implies the stereotypical black person in the USA, which are ignorant and called “false assumptions” for a reason.
I have thought about this issue of black versus African American for a while, and I concluded that the words are often used interchangeably in this country. African American is sometimes used to refer to race and ethnicity and I find that to be wrong. African American should be a nationality that is exclusive to black Americans who want choose to identify that way. Some black immigrants want to maintain their native country nationalities (For example; Haitian American, etc). On the other hand, black should be the race/ethnicity. In this case, on census forms black and African American could be two different categories. This could be the answer to the question of who is African American.


Each month, we highlight some of the reflective posts of our work study students. Unedited, they blog about observations, experiences and thoughts about diversity in their lives as seen through their lenses.

On Facebook there is a fan page that I follow entitled “Mixed and Happy: I support Mixed-Race Families!” This page has been a safe haven for those who embrace the concept of interracial relationships, families and adoptions. The page allows its members to engage in discussions on race and of course people have the opportunity to post pictures of their very own “mixed and happy” families. A couple of days ago, however, the page was virtually attacked by another fan page called “I Don’t Support Mixed Marriages.” I literally felt sick to my stomach reading some of these bigoted comments on how this group was using the Bible to justify that interracial relationships were a form of blasphemy. I kept telling myself that this has to be a joke. Do people really think like this? I can’t believe people actually had the audacity to post something like this! And who knows how many other hate groups exits on Facebook. 

Some of the most obnoxious comments posted include the following:  

“Best group on the web, we are not meant to mix.”

“Multiculturalism is the death of all nations, tribes and boundaries. It's rabid socialism at it's finest.”

“Black women, if you date/marry a "white" man, you are selling yourself short. It would be better for you to be single and work than to marry a traitor who will not build up you or your community.”
“go kick rocks with a group who accepts half-breeds”

1.      Half-breeds?!!! I know she is not talking about bi-racial people! She better be referencing those designer hybrid dogs. 

2.      Speaking of rocks, since this group likes to reference the Bible I have a little passage I would like them to read as well. Chapter 8 of John’s gospel in the New Testament talks about a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery and has been condemned to be stoned. When some of the town’s people go to Jesus for an approval to proceed with the woman’s punishment the Lord remains silent until he finally replies “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8: 7).  The point I am trying to make with this Bible passage is who are we as humans to judge others and how they choose to live their lives. Only God can judge us!

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. But the most painful thing I read were the continuous comments that made the argument that mixed race children did not even have the right to live, implied they were disgusting and disease ridden and how dare their parents even think of allowing them to enter into this world. 

As a biracial individual, I felt hurt reading these remarks. This is the way God made me and I know my life has a purpose! How dare they say that my parents, from being in an interracial relationship, have doomed my existence? If anything they have taught me to be accepting and tolerant of others. But most importantly I was taught to not let comments from these types of groups to break me down.  I am NOT tainted. I am NOT a fetish. I am NOT vermin. 

A person cannot help who they are attracted to or who they may fall in love with. 

Love is love. 

The last time I checked, the Bible (which the hate group freely quotes) was promoting acceptance not bigotry. For example our Lord proclaimed “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

These people are proclaiming that it is their right as an American due to the First Amendment among other things to publicly express their opinion. You know, life is ironic. What makes me laugh is the fact that these people are so wrapped up in their own nonsense that they have failed to remember that the man ensuring that those rights are protected is our BIRACIAL president.


Each month, we highlight some of the reflective posts of our work study students. Unedited, they blog about observations, experiences and thoughts about diversity in their lives as seen through their lenses.

Reflections from Ariel:
Gran Torino which debuted in 2008 is a film about Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who has been recently widowed and forced to accept the changing elements of his life and neighborhood. Kowalski is an open racist who has lived in the same Detroit neighborhood which has now in recent years been populated by a large Asian community and crime. It appears that the only two things Walt Kowalski cares about now are his golden retriever and his 1972 gran torino. When Thao Lor, his teenage neighbor, attempts to steal the gran torino as part of a gang initiation Kowalski comes armed with a M-1 rifle to greet the thief. He does not shoot the young Hmong American but is required to have him participate in an act of penance for his actions. Kowaski has Thao participate in a series of tasks in an attempt to teach him how to act like a man.
In my opinion this film was a success in appealing to a wide audience range in terms of both age and race. It not only focused on issues of race yet also touched upon psychological disorders and ageism. It analyses the construction of the new American family. The nuclear family unit has now evolved into different denominations such as single families, same sex couples and even gangs. It also raises the notorious question of what it truly means to be an American. Clint Eastwood was appropriate for the role of Kowalski due to his past work with western films such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He represented the rugged American hero who saved the day from foreigners and protected the sacredness of white privilege.

This film also provides a commentary for how racism has subtly seeped into the larger American culture. In one scene Walt Kowalski walks into his barber shop and decides to tell the owner a joke, “Oh, I've got one. A Mexican, a Jew, and a colored guy go into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, "Get the f*** out of here." The two men laugh and continue to tell more jokes throughout the film. George Lopez, Kat Williams and Dave Chappelle are among a group of American comedians who use racial stereotypes as a form of entertainment. The reason this is successful is because Americans are fascinated with anything that is taboo such as sex, intoxicants, and especially racism. People only find it acceptable if the comedians are people telling the jokes are from the particular targeted group. This statement however is far from the truth. The original intention of this form of entertainment may have been to parody the absurdity of stereotypes yet it has now evolved into an acceptable form of vulgar opinions. Ignorant people, however still feel that they have the ability to use derogatory words such as the n-word with the excuse that they were only quoting a comedian and not really saying that statement.

Gran torino for me was essentially a story about a racist who turned into an ally for the Asian community. It sends the message to American society on the importance of being a positive ally to the minority groups. Minority does not only include people of color yet also includes other underrepresented groups such as women and the LGBTQ community. Each day certain people like myself wake up each day and contemplate what types of racism might be encountered. The Stonehill community never fails to amuse me with their ignorance on a campus such as this where white privilege is clearly present. But the particular people I encounter here I would not name racist, they just do not know any better due to different life experiences and perhaps being sheltered to a lot of things which I would consider the norm.

February 12, 2011


Originally posted at To Loosen the Mind

I grew up in a white, Irish Catholic suburb of Boston. My town was so overwhelmingly Catholic that I saw my same school friends 6 days a week -- Monday through Friday I saw them at school; Sunday I saw them at CCD, a Catholic education program that teaches children about sacraments of the church, biblical readings and how to always feel guilty for bad thoughts and deeds.

As kids, we always geared up for Christmas and Easter. I'm sure the few Jewish students and the even fewer Atheists at my school somehow managed to get swept right into the mix of Catholic and Christian holidays.

But there was one day -- one day -- where everyone seemed to share the same interest. The same background. The same heritage.

That day was St. Patrick's Day. A day when, no matter if you were Asian, Black, Hispanic, Jewish, or Italian, you were Irish.

Sure, slight correction. You may not have been suddenly and magically made Irish for the day, but you sure as heck wore green. A sea of children became unrecognizable as the chill of the March landscape became overwhelmed with kelly green, lime green, dark green and white green. If we moved fast enough, our group of children appeared to be wisps of grass blowing in the cold March air.

Everyone wanted to be Irish.

Working at a Catholic college, the ramp up to St. Patrick's Day reaches epic proportions. Though many do share the ethnic Irish heritage, few embrace foundations of the religious meaning of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Rather than attend church in observance of a holy day of obligation, many go to the local church, the Church of Beer. And, like nearly everything on that day, even the beer is green.  No matter where you go or who you are, you are wished a "Happy Saint Patrick's Day!"

Though my family is not Chinese, we celebrate Chinese New Year. We don't go all out -- we don't close up shop, surround ourselves with family, nor eat until our bellies extend past our knees. Rather, we take key aspects of the tradition and share it with our children. Admittedly, we Google which Lunar New Year it is and which animal sign is associated with that year. We wear red. We clean the house thoroughly the night prior. We sometimes get a new haircut (if we've planned enough in advance). I have a stash of red envelopes in my office drawer that I take out once a year and present to my kids.

On that day, I wish everyone I meet a "Happy New Year." Mostly, I get funny looks. Usually, I have a second to explain that it's Lunar New Year. Then, I nearly always get "But, Liza, you're not Chinese."

My response: "Recognizing that others celebrate traditions around the world isn't dependent on me being that identity."

I'm not being un-authentic. I know that I'm not Chinese. And, I know not to go so far as to offend a cultural tradition that spans thousands of years. I don't pretend to be Chinese nor do I pretend to know more about Lunar New Year than the average person. But I do know that we need to expand our view of who's holidays we celebrate, who's holidays we hear about, and who's holidays we see as weird or strange.

I want my children -- my students, my colleagues, my friends, strangers -- to be reminded that our country is made up of many different cultures and traditions. That the beauty of the United States is that people have the freedom to celebrate their faiths and beliefs without persecution. And, of course, we don't always live up to that foundational belief of our country when we deem other people's cultural traditions as "not-American."

I recently was having coffee with a Vietnamese friend of mine who said that, earlier, a white woman smiled at her and said, "Happy New Year." Though the exchange was brief and seemed friendly, my friend was pissed off. "Why the heck does she have to assume that I'm Chinese? This whole we-all-look-alike mess has got to end!" she exclaimed. "Girl," I replied. "I kind of give that lady props for even knowing it was Lunar New Year. After all, how many people don't even give a damn right now or who think that celebrating lunar-rabbit-anything is some ancient Chinese secret?"

I admit. On Chinese New Year, I wish everyone a "Happy New Year", too. But, it's not because I ignorantly think everyone is Chinese; I do it because I want to honor that we almost never get to celebrate our cultural heritage and most certainly never have it recognized by our fellow Americans. When I wish you a "Happy New Year", it's because we share a community of memory, a shared experience of simply having black hair, almond shaped eyes, and an assumption of what we sound like even before we open our mouths. We share a common experience of being both invisible and being a model of success. We share a common experience of being both loved and hated. We share a common experience of being both motivated and overbearing.

While we may never be able to know every cultural holiday nor every cultural tradition, it is important for us to include the diverse perspectives that make up our country and society. So, if I wish you a Happy New Year or Happy Saint Patrick's Day or Happy Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Eid Sa'eed, or Happy Earth Day .. it's because I want you to know that we can respect traditions of others. That, to be a truly inclusive society, we must include the traditions of others.

So, happy day to you!