Is Privilege Offensive?

privilegeI experience privilege. I am college educated. I have a steady, salaried job. I am heterosexual. I have a house and a mortgage. Two cars. Two kids. One dog. I am able bodied. My husband and I are married. Both of my parents are still alive and well. I have health insurance. I have privilege.And, as a young woman of color, I also experience oppression.

While at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity, I engaged in wonderfully challenging and critically affirming discussions over the course of 5 full days (I'm talking 8:00am-10:00pm!) about race, ethnicity, power, privilege, oppression, advocacy, and activism. I love browsing the exhibitor area of conferences because it helps me to build my toolbox for Teaching Diversity in a Diversity Free Zone. One of the exhibitors was for the White Privilege Conference (which I fully intended on going to next year). They were selling "Got Privilege?" shirts and sweatshirts, of which I happily purchased two - one for my friend and one for me.

"Got privilege?"

My friend wore his shirt to work, a rather liberal elementary school in a wealthy suburb of Boston. A few of his co-workers had seen the shirt slogan before or had attended the White Privilege Conference themselves and knew what it was all about. Some of his co-workers even owned the shirt, too. While waiting in the lunch line, my friend was confronted by a co-worker of European heritage who read his shirt and loudly said, "Got privilege? Of course you can wear that! What a double standard! If I wore that, I wouldn't hear the end of it!"

"Huh?," asked my Puerto Rican friend. "What do you mean?" just hoping to get his helping of school-lunch chicken nuggets and potato puffs.

The next few minutes were quite ugly. The co-worker proceeded to tell him how offensive his shirt was, how she didn't think that his offensive shirt had any place in an educational setting.

I believe my friend replied with "Are you kidding me?"

The rest of the story finds the white person going to different groups of people, pointing at my friend, and angrily shaking her head with her eyebrows saying, "Can you believe he would wear a shirt like that?" from across the room.

Thankfully, there are aware people in those groups who told responded with, "There isn't anything wrong with his shirt."

Privilege. Is it really an ugly word? Why is it so difficult for people to realize and accept that they have privilege? Does having privilege mean people are bad? Selfish? Close-minded?

In my experience, it is just the opposite. Recognizing privilege, owning up to your privilege and then actively identifying ways in which we institutionally disempower those without privilege gives us tools in our toolbox. It helps us to call attention to ways in which we play into systems of oppression. It awakens our sense of responsibility and turns on the voice in our hearts to call for change.

The quote on the back of one of the "Got Privilege?" shirts reads: "If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen to side with the oppressor." This is important to understanding how we can build an Anti-Racist family, community, school, etc. By understanding the benefits we experience as a result of our privilege, we can begin to understand those who are oppressed by our privilege. Throughout the posts and comments on Anti-Racist Parent, there are many of us who find ourselves at a loss for words when we see someone oppressing another. And, many of us have been on the receiving end of those hurtful remarks, insensitive comments, or complete lack of acknowledgment. But, have we actively thought of our own ways in which we oppress others?

As parents and educators, I believe there is a fine line between understanding systems of privilege/oppression and guilt. I do not feel guilty for having two living parents. I do not feel guilty for working towards home ownership. I do not feel guilty for being in a heterosexual marriage. I do not feel guilty for having two children and one dog. I do not feel guilty for having 5 more years to pay off my graduate student loans. Having privilege does not equal feeling guilty. However, owning the fact that I experience privilege forces me to open my eyes to the ways in which systems of oppression and institutionalized -isms keep others from achieving. "Knowledge is power" and knowing my privilege calls me to find ways to support humanity that is valued. Peggy McIntosh, who wrote the influential piece "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack", discussed the importance of recognizing and analyzing the types of advantages Whites have simply for having white skin (or, 'peach', as my daughter calls it). In my life, I believe the same goes for the other ways (class, sexual identity, marriage status, education, ownership, health, etc) in which I experience privilege as a woman of color. We all carry around these unspoken Member ID Cards that allow us into these exclusive systemized clubs. But, do we belong to these clubs at the expense of others? At the expense of another's humanity?

As parents and as anti-racists, we must actively participate in a process where every human has a right to not only yearn for life, liberty, and happiness but to actually achieve it. For those looking for practical ways to educate ourselves, our children, and our students, I came across a great website, Understanding Prejudice, that has activities and resources for many age levels. Many of their tools can be put into your "diversity toolbox!"

So, is privilege offensive? How do you teach your child about privilege in your life?

What Am I First?

What am I first?by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Liza Talusan (originally posted on Anti-Racist Parent)

My children seem to have a knack for asking me really deep, thought-provoking questions at the most inconvenient times. Usually this is when we are racing out the door, late for school/work/day care. This time, it happened on the way to driving my sister, a kulingtan musician, to teach at a cultural school in Boston.

“Mommy, what am I?” says my 4 1/2 year old daughter, Joli, from the backseat of the car.

“What do you mean, ‘what are you?’” I ask, as I glance into my rear view mirror for a hint of meaning on her face.

“Like, what kind of kid am I? Okay, Filipino. But, then… then.. what’s the other kind of kid I am?”

“Puerto Rican? Do you mean Puerto Rican and Filipino? Daddy is Puerto Rican. Mommy is Filipino. So, that makes you Puerto Rican AND Filipino.” “But, Mommy, what am I FIRST? Am I Puerto Rican FIRST or am I Filipino FIRST?”

“You’re BOTH first,” I reply, with echos of my mentors on biracial identity models and child development theorists prominently ringing in my ears.

“Will Daddy get mad if I want to be Filipino FIRST?” says Joli in a voice barely loud enough for me to hear her.

“Honey, you are not something FIRST, you are both ALL THE TIME.” “Well, don’t tell Daddy, okay, Mommy? But, I’m going to be Filipino first.”

(cue my breaking anti-racist heart!)

With nearly all of my friends and extended family members identifying as biracial or multiracial — but being neither of those myself — I am very sensitive to situations that individuals find themselves in when it comes to the “choosing” question. I knew that external influences would eventually lead my children to ask the questions. I just didn’t think one of them would ask me questions at age 4 1/2!

Joli seemed fairly happy with my assertion that she is both all the time. I engaged my husband that night in conversations about where she might be getting these messages. I’m quite confident that my family — made up of all interracial couples and children — isn’t giving her the message that she must choose or prioritize. In her diverse pre-school, I have to imagine that they are not giving her those message either. Dora? Sesame Street (given Deesha’s recent post)? Or is it some of those awful Disney shows that we allow her to watch, but only with a parent watching with her?

As a newly affirmed Anti-Racist Parent, I still can’t help but wonder how much influence or environmental control we really have in our children’s lives. I truly admire Joli’s inquisitiveness and maturity about her complex identity, yet it was hard to hear it from a child of an “anti-racist parent.” Since that day, I’ve grown more aware of Joli’s comments about differences she sees in her world. Just the other night as I was brushing Joli’s and Jada’s hair, Joli made the comment that Jada had “prettier hair” (4-year old interpretation: Joli has thick curly hair like my husband; Jada has wavy, loose hair like me). While much of this can be the typical sibling rivalry, I do read into it as a reflection of her growing awareness of her multiracial identity.

I’ve been more aware of Joli sticking up for other people and other lifestyles. The other day, when reading a bedtime story of a family with a mother, father and child, Joli said to me, “You know, Mom. Not everyone’s family is like that family. Some kids have two moms, some kids have no moms, some kids have two dads, some have different types of skin…. that’s important to know.”

(cue my cheering anti-racist heart!)

I have to remind myself that raising my own awareness, that of my family, and that of others is why I do the work I do — why I live the way I live. There are moments of great heartache, moments of great joy; but there are always opportunities for learning and understanding.

And, that is why anti-racist parenting — whether as parents of children, of a community, or of our world — is not a means to an end but a process full of life and meaning. It’s a process that is fluid and malleable. It’s a commitment, a lifestyle, a mantra, a prayer. It is both an outlook and an outreach. Times when I am uncomfortable confronting a racist joke, disabling a racist conversation, or challenging a racist decision, I am awakened to the fact that I am my children’s best teacher. They will make decisions based on what they have seen me do, ways that they have seen me act, and words they have heard me say. If I am to be their best teacher, I need to also be their best student.

Tools for Teaching Diversity in a Diversity Free Zone

(Originally posted on Anti-Racist Parent) I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of how to teach, expose, and experience diversity in a “diversity-free” zone (thanks for the segue Tami!). I directly experience this issue personally and professionally every single day of my life as the Director of Intercultural Affairs at a small, private college in the Boston suburbs, where there are very few students of color. Not only are there very few students of color, there are very few people who have ever met or talked to a person from a historically underrepresented group prior to coming to college. So, each and every single day, I actually get paid to teach diversity in a diversity free zone.

I could certainly go on and on about the challenges of my job serving as a person who is often tokenized in meetings, being the go-to person on issues of diversity, or being the “brown friend” to well meaning people. But I’m assuming here at Anti-Racist Parent I’d be preaching to the choir. So, rather than give my vocal chords a workout, I thought it might be helpful to share the toolbox I heavily rely on each day to teach diversity in a diversity free zone. Reading the comment threads, I also realize that there are people who read ARP who aren’t necessarily parents (broadly defined) but who are teachers looking for ways to add diversity to their classrooms or to their curriculum. So, I hope this at least starts some helpful ideas for people looking for some ways to grow as Anti-Racist Parents:

Turn to your local college. Many colleges have offices like mine - they are called a variety of names: Multicultural Office, Student Activities, Affirmative Action office, Diversity Office, etc. These offices/organizations typically have the responsibility of hosting diversity related events, especially during heritage months like Latino Heritage Month, Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month, etc. Check their websites and see if they have a list of programs (or ask if you can get an email copy of their programs). Call ahead and ask if the program is “family friendly” first, though, if you intend to bring small children. In my case, of the 30 or so programs a year that are diversity related, almost 1/2 of them are family friendly! And, I always love when I get calls from the community asking if they can bring students, children, etc. The other great bonus about tapping into your local college is that the programs are often FREE. At some colleges, specific groups are required to perform community outreach - you may find a number of sororities and fraternities or service organizations sponsoring these events. Again, please call to make sure they are family friendly!

Diversify your library at home. Intentionally buy or borrow books that have diversity represented in them. In our house, we have a great mix of children’s books that have stories around cultural diversity. If your local library does not have them, a number of online sellers will have them. If I’m looking for a particular book, I tend not to go to a mainstream online seller; rather, I find a cultural organization online to see if they have any links to recommended books. By going with cultural organizations rather than mainstream, I get a more accurate description of the book and the position of that cultural group. For example, when I was looking to purchase some children’s stories that were centralized around the Native American experience, I went online to a mainstream retailer, and a number of recommended titles came up. But, when I went to the cultural organization’s website, I found these exact recommendations under a heading “Books That Promote Stereotypes of Native Americans.”! Woah! So, I was really glad I had taken the few extra seconds to see if the books were supported by that group. I think this is incredibly important! Continue to read educational and well written blogs .. like Anti-Racist Parent of course! While you may not be surrounded by diversity, we are often surrounded by ignorant comments. So, reading blogs like ARP give you the tools and understanding to be an “Agent of Interruption.” And, if you are educated, you will pass that education on to your children (or students). I work in a predominantly white institution and am often, by default, the diversity educator. But, since finding Anti-Racist Parent, Racialicious and some of the blogs of people who write here, I have assigned reading these blogs as HOMEWORK assignments to my students! It’s helpful for them to see that there are others out there who share the same language and passion for interrupting racism.

When you can, choose to do business in diverse neighborhoods. I currently live on the town line between a upper middle class, predominantly white town and a middle/working class, predominantly people of color city. I choose to do my personal and professional business in the predominantly POC city.Even with the rising price of gas, I choose to drive a little further to the grocery store and wait a little longer for street parking because it is important for me to do business where there are people of color. I certainly can buy the same gallon of milk, the same bread, and the same box of cereal at the grocery store in the predominantly white (and closer to my house) town, but I choose to make the drive. Again, with the price of gas and proximity, can you do this all the time? Maybe not. But, is it worth doing it enough where your child(ren) see that people of color do the same thing that white people do in their same daily way? Yes. Find shows that include diversity in both positive and negative ways. I am not a fan of pre-teen television (especially now that my almost-5-year-old says she is w-a-y too old for Sesame Street!), but we do watch it. I am specifically not a fan of a certain channel that I feel stereotypes pre-teens of color. But, alas, my daughter seems to have won for now. She is only allowed to watch that channel if Jorge or I watch it with her. We try to steer her more towards the shows that have families of color, and we’ve found some success there. But, she also likes to watch a show that both Jorge and I find disturbingly racist. We do let her watch it, but we constantly ask her questions about what she just saw or heard when an issue comes up. Yes, she’s 4 years old, but I believe the lessons she’s learning about ways that people aren’t treated fairly are equally as important as shows that reflect her ethnicity. It’s never too early to start, right?

But, find MORE shows that are culturally diverse. My absolute favorite show right now is Ni Hao, Kai Lan. I’m sure I’ll find something wrong with it eventually, but for now, I love it. It’s the only Asian show that balances the Asian part with the “I’m a little girl” part. The other day, I asked my daughters if they wanted to have Chinese food for dinner. My 23-month old then said, “Oh, Mama. Chinese. Like Kai Lan!” I nearly cried. Growing up, there were no characters that reflected my ethnicity. I know Dora paved the way, and we certainly embraced her representing our Latino side. But, now, my kids have Kai Lan… representing the Asian side! Hurray! I haven’t quite done my homework on this one, but with the accessibility of YouTube and such, I hope to find more diverse cartoons from other countries out there!

Diversify your music. One of the best ways to learn about other cultures is through music. I have a very low tolerance for children’s songs. I have a responsibility to teach my kids the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “A-B-C”, but there is truly only so much I can take. And, thankfully, their taste in music has evolved, too. My kids listen to anything from classical to Chubb Rock. They can sing “Bebot” (edited version) by the Black Eyed Peas and “I am Not My Hair” by India.Arie.

Be sure to have an inclusive curriculum. If you are a teacher, take a close look at what you are teaching and what you are not teaching. Does your lesson plan only include a white perspective? Are you including the very rich and diverse history of our country or just one perspective? Are you talking about contributions and inventions from people of color or just from white people? As a former teacher, I can attest that more often than not, textbooks tell a very one-sided story. As a parent, is your child coming home from school with only one-sided history? While you may not be able to change the textbooks at school (though, it’s worth the fight!), are you supplementing the school lessons with a diverse inclusion lesson at home.

No diversity organizations? Start your own! There are very few professionals of color where I work, and yet I felt the need to start a support group for us. Unfortunately, a professionals of color group would have been too small, so I opened up the invitation to anyone who wanted to join a Diversity Discussion Group. After my first announcement, about 50 people expressed interest. That dwindled down to 30, then 20, and now we have about 15 who regularly attend the discussion group. There are a few people of color, but the rest of the group is white. When asked “Why did you join this group?”, the answer from both parties was “to meet people who wanted to talk about diversity.” So, from there, we talked about books, issues, media, language, foods, our own heritage, etc. I don’t think we are a diverse group, but we are a group who wants to grow as individuals. Maybe start up a group with parents from your child’s school or play group. Get together and hire someone to watch the kids 1x a month. No time for a book club? Focus on movies from other countries and have a movie discussion group, rotating locations each time.

None of the above will end racism. I know that. But, I do think it’s a helpful start for those who are living, learning and working in diversity-free zones. I know there are others out there with tools in your tool box. Comment? Share? What has worked for others out there?

NOTE: You’ll notice that I don’t recommend simply going to places like soup kitchens or homeless shelters or community outreach organizations to expose oneself to diversity. Believe me, they are important. When it’s linked to diversity, though, I believe this can go horribly wrong as a diversity lesson. Too often (depending on the demographics of your town/city and shelters) people of color are seen as “needing help” or “down and out”. And, this “savior experience” when white people go and save people of color by serving them some food is incredibly problematic. Again, I’m not at all saying that community service is bad. What I am saying is that performing community service as an easy way to expose people to diversity MAY NOT be positive. Largely because community service (at least as defined in the college setting) does not always equal quality contact, discussion and learning. If you are going to link community service with diversity, I ask (beg?) that you also approach it by addressing power and privilege in our society.

Our first Kente Ceremony

Okay, it wasn't quite a "ceremony" this year. But, next year, we will certainly make it bigger and better! I was just testing out the waters to see who would be into it (and how well it would be received).

In my past few years at the college, I haven't seen any students of color wearing traditional Kente stoles over their graduation robes. I have seen it at the other 5 colleges/universities where I have worked, but never at Stonehill. So, I figured I would test the waters and see how it would go.

I initially put out the invitation to over 40 students of color - only 6 got back to me and said, "yes". So, I ordered 12 thinking MAYBE we would hand out a few more.

As it goes, I handed the 6 out at graduation, and then students of color started to come over and ask if they could wear one. I know next year's class is more "identity active" and will certainly do a more formal ceremony for them.

Why a Kente ceremony? There are a number of reasons for doing a Kente ceremony at a college. Most notable is that students of color, for whatever reasons, have a lower graduation rate than white students - especially at a predominantly white college. The kente ceremony honors their achievement, endurance, and commitment to their futures above the obstacles they have faced in obtaining their degree. Traditionally, the kente is worn a ceremonies and is reserved for such occasions.

Brief history The Kente cloth originates from Ghana, West Africa. It is a visual representation of history, values, beliefs and social code of conduct. Each Kente pattern is significant and unique. The stoles that our graduates wore today had red, gold, green and black colors along with a "key" and an "asante stool." Here is the description of their meaning: Red: signifies the blood shed by our ancestors in their struggles and sacrifices Gold: symbolizes wealth; originally representing the gold of Africa Green: symbolizes growth and life Black: symbolizes maturity, intensity, and spiritual maturity Key: represents education as being the key to success Stool: Leadership

The stoles were offered to all students of color (ALANA) as well as allies. As all civilization began in Africa, and the struggles our students of color face are common between all ALANA populations, it was great to see this symbol of unity in this group.

I am so proud of all the graduates, specifically the students of color!

 

WHO GETS TO DECIDE?

For a while now, I've been struggling with people thinking that they decide what to call other people. For example,

1. Who gets to decide who is an "ally?"
2. Who gets to decide what people should be called when referring to ethnicity?
3. Who gets to decide when one has moved from a stage of identity to another?

ALLY
I find that people like to refer to themselves as "allies." In my circle of work, I've heard people call themselves "allies to the gay community" or "allies to people of color" or "allies to women", etc. Yet, when called to task, do these "allies" engage in the political dialogue and empowerment of the community, or do they just like posting the rainbow sticker?

In the ally development circle, one must actually be deemed an ally by the target group. I'm not talking about some formal ceremony nor a sword on the shoulder nor a crowning opportunity. Rather, I'm talking about the members of that target group actually identifying the person as someone who is "down for the cause!" Someone who not only speaks the same political language but who also walks the political journey.

SO, WHAT SHOULD I CALL YOU?
"Oriental." "Black." "African American." "Hispanic." "Latino." "I don't know what to call them!!" I hear this all the time. Frustrated individuals who want to be politically correct but who are annoyed by the effort they need to make to realize that not everyone wants to be referred in the same way. When I encounter people who are so frustrated by this, I always bring up the 'common name' example. I say, take the name "Elizabeth." I have friends who want to be called "Elizabeth." I have friends who want to be called "Beth. Eliza. Liz. Betsy. and, gasp, Elizabeth." Then, there is me. Liza. I am not an Elizabeth, yet everyone tries to sound formal with me and will say, "Elizabeth Talusan!" I never answer. "Elizabeth" isn't my name. I've never answered to it. Yet, when we meet an "Elizabeth," we are quick to make the adjustment to what she wants to be called. And, we would never think to say, "This is too difficult. I'm just going to call everyone 'Elizabeth.'"

That's the same issue for me with the identity piece. There are some Caribbean Americans who do not want to be called African Americans. There are some African Americans would be offended if you called them Black. Similarly with Hispanic and Latino. While there are political reasons (and geographic ones) for calling one Hispanic vs Latino, the point is that it's NOT UP TO ME. It's up to the person to deem what he/she would like to be called.

Tied to this complexity is the the piece of race vs ethnicity. I have a student who has dark, dark brown skin (and hence, often identified by others as an African American woman) but who is Latina. And, while most will likely refer to her as Black - she corrects them with, "I'm Latina." You go, girl!

WHO GETS TO DECIDE WHEN ONE MOVES FROM ONE IDENTITY TO ANOTHER?
Back in 2005, my daughter was diagnosed with cancer. She went through her fair share of cancer treatment and an enucleation of her right eye. Depending on the situation and conversation, I sometimes refer to my daughter as a "cancer survivor" and sometimes I refer to her as "having cancer." Here's what gets me.... when I choose to use the words "having cancer", people are extremely quick to correct me and say, "No, she HAD cancer." The conversation ends there. I glare and change the subject - too furious to continue.

If I'm her mom, and I'm chosing to use the words, "she has cancer", then no one should correct me -- especially when people haven't had to go through what our family went through. And, especially because we are still completely bogged down with doctors appointments 2 years post treatment. With the loss of her eye, we are reminded, physically, every day, of her battle that still has not ended, in many ways.

I've found that these conversations have happened frequently in the past few weeks. I go back to teachings of power and privilege and ways in which we often do not recognize ways in which we impose our power and privilege (and, I'm likely using it now as I have the "power and privilege of blogging").

Food for thought.....

Empire Strikes Barack - genius

It is no secret that the I am a supporter of Barack Obama..... It is also no secret that I love pop culture. It is a secret that, one day, when accompanying my husband to a comic book shop, some random guy came up to me and said, "Excuse me. I think you're prettier than Princess Leia." (I grabbed Jorge and ran out the door vowing to never go back to a comic book shop again!)

That began my obsession with all things Star Wars.

Thanks to the genius minds of whoever created this video.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5f-10R5TpU&hl=en]

Intern Extraordinaire


Just wanted to give a huge shout out to "The Intern" - Jade Franco.

This past semester, Jade has been putting in 8+ hours a week in the office researching issues around recruitment, retention and affirmative action at a predominantly white college. She has been doing an insane amount of research, studying up on conservative and liberal cases, and absolutely expanding her knowledge base around issues of diversity, institutionalized racism and identity. Jade has fully thrown herself into the diversity ring - seen the best of times and worst of times. And, she has managed to survive staying in an office with me!

So, big shouts to Jade for doing an amazing job this semester! She was the very first undergraduate intern and paved the way for the rest to come! Everyone has big shoes to fill, and I can't find the words to thank Ms. Jade enough!

Congratulations, Jade, on all your hard work here at Stonehill! We'll miss you!!

Critical Mass or Culturally Inclusive

Critical Mass or Culturally Inclusive Working at a predominantly white institution (PWI), the conversation of how to increase diversity is at the center of our planning. But, I'm often asked, "What do we do?" In my opinion, there are 2 camps: those who believe that we must do all we can to obtain a critical mass, or a 'magic number' where students of color no longer are marginalized due to their numbers; and there are those who believe we must first create an environment that is welcoming and ready for the group of students (in our case, students of color).

I belong to the second camp... and often advocate for the need to change and transform our current community.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think Stonehill shares characteristics that many colleges our size, location, identity, etc., share. We are not unique. Unfortunately, not at all. We are one of many, many colleges that struggle to diversify the student body, administration and faculty.

I'm often asked to find ways to increase the number of students of color at Stonehill. I do it. But, I do it with hesitation. While I'd love to see more faculty, staff and students of color here, I know what they will face. I know what they're up against.

For the most part, the community is interested in diversity. They welcome the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people. They realize that we are not getting a rich and dynamic conversation without diversity. Diversity is a top priority in our strategic plan, in our office's mission, in the mission inherent in our Catholic identity. While we welcome the opportunity, do we welcome the students?

The "critical mass" camp asserts that we must have more people of color here in order to begin the conversations that will transform our community. That, without a critical mass, students will always feel like "tokens". Without a critical mass, students will always be singled out to speak for the entire community.

As you can tell, I believe that if we bring a critical mass to an environment that isn't culturally inclusive, we're asking for trouble. We can expect even more stereotypes. We can expect even more culturally insensitive comments in classrooms.

I equate this example to the rickety porch at my dad's house - it was built years ago, has been greatly weathered, and lacks sturdy posts. Some of the floor boards have nails sticking out. Back when it was built, that porch was the best spot in the house. We ate on a big picnic table on the porch, hung out with our friends on that porch, and had some of the best conversations out on that porch. Sometime, about 5-7 years ago, we all just stopped going out onto the porch. It began to feel weak. It began to feel unsafe. And, now, no ones goes near it. We are afraid that, if someone steps on it, it will collapse. We are often afraid that it will crumble underneath us. And, while the porch could certainly hold about 2-3 people, we would never even think about putting more than that on there.

The rickety porch, to me, represents a culturally insensitive environment. The group of people is my critical mass. Before I invite a critical mass, or guests to my dad's house, over, I would want to reinforce the community -- reinforce that porch.

Ring in. What are your thoughts? Culturally sensitive environment .... critical mass...?

"Just Get Over It Already"

I hate when people say, "Just get over it already" when the topic of racism comes around. It's often coming from a person in a "historically represented group" who says this to people of a "historically underrepresented group" in this country.

After working 7 days straight, I found myself watching television before getting ready for bed. Jorge asked me what movie I wanted to watch and I replied, "It doesn't matter ... I'm going to be asleep in about 5 minutes." Well, Jorge put on "Mississippi Burning" and before I knew it, the credits were rolling at the end of the movie.

Mississippi Burning. 1964. 44 years ago. That was 44 years ago -- my parents are older than that. By a lot. People often say, "Just get over it already. Stop bringing up issues of race. Race has nothing to do with it." I think that's straight up crazy. 44-years ago, 3 students were shot and brutally murdered while driving through Mississippi registering African American voters. They likely knew that they were going to face violence, yet they still went. As Wilhem Defoe's character said in the movie, "Some things are worth dying for." Unfortunately, during that time, there were also people who believed there were "some things worth killing for." And there were even more people - and an entire system - that quickly, easily, and unapologetically covered it up.

Forty-four years ago. Forty-fouryears ago our country was figuring out how to deal with post-segregation. From an early age, education about how very different Blacks and Whites were took place in homes, schools, churches, town meetings, stores - everywhere.

Now, naturally, I bring up this issue in places like the Northeast, where I work and live, and I often get the response, "That was the South. That didn't happen here. So, I don't have the same issues with race," says the person from the historically very represented group. I fight the urge to say, "Are you kidding??" and attempt to find the teachable moment.

"Yes, your family may not have indoctrinated you but our society, this country, has allowed you to believe that you don't have issues with race."

I am still amazed when educated people make comments (especially around me!) about just how righteous they are. Here are some of my favorites:

  • "I am so offended that ___ thinks I'm racist! He definitely owes me an apology!"
  • "I think people are making too much out of the cover of that magazine. I mean, no one would ever look at that cover and think he looks like a monkey or gorilla! People try to see things that aren't there and just make matters worse."
  • "It's not racial. That's just an excuse."

Oh, the list goes on.....

-Liza

Stereotypes

The other day my little sister (she's 17) and I were talking about men and she asked if a certain stereotypes about black men were true. I'm not going to mention it here. I must add that my little sister is a Latina of chocolate skin tone who goes to a predominately white private high school. Her assumption that all black men must fulfill a certain stereotype really bothered me. Sometimes I think about how have certain stereotypes come to be. Who created these stereotypes? Where was the first time I heard that stereotype myself? Who benefits from these stereotypes?

All of this has got me to think about all the ridiculous stereotypes I have heard about different groups of people....


Women

  • Too emotional
  • Soft, weak
  • Sensitive
  • Soccer Moms
  • Caretaker
  • Not that smart
  • Cook/prepare meals for the family
  • Good housekeepers/maids/secretaries/assistants
  • Love fashion, accessories, clothes
  • Love the color pink, any pastels
  • Must be virginal or "pure"
  • ...But it's natural to be attracted to one another (unlike men)
  • Need long hair to be feminine

Men

  • Hard, strong, faster
  • Confident
  • Can't cook (and shouldn't be cooking, either)
  • Can get the job done
  • Incapable of keeping house/bedroom/bathroom clean
  • Good at manual labor
  • Cannot express emotions
  • Only think with their genitals
  • Love sports, cars, electronics
  • Love porn
  • Either are gay or straight, cannot be "curious"
  • Curious = Gay
  • Thrive in competition
  • Smart
  • Good leaders/bosses/CEOs/Presidents

Blacks

  • Dangerous, criminals
  • Ghetto
  • Poor
  • Can't speak proper English
  • Uneducated
  • Stupid
  • Is probably in a gang
  • Always "fighting the man"
  • Another statistic
  • Love Oprah/Barack Obama/Tiger Woods/Michael Jordan/Michael Jackson/Chris Rock/Dave Chappelle unconditionally
  • Are up to no good
  • All look the same
  • All their men have large genitals
  • Are matriculated in any college because of Affirmative Action
  • Are good at sports
  • Are probably on a sports scholarship
  • Love Southern/Soul food
  • Always think people are being racist against them
  • Unemployed

Hispanics

  • They are all here illegally
  • Most of them are immigrants
  • Can't speak English that well
  • Don't want to learn English
  • Love rice and beans
  • Are "passionate" people
  • Can dance
  • Unemployed
  • Living off of welfare/section 8 housing/food stamps
  • Are stealing jobs
  • Are very proud of their home country / overly patriotic
  • Are ghetto, too
  • Latin lovers
  • Are good with manual labor
  • Have huge families
  • Teen pregnancy

Whites

  • Have no culture
  • Can't cook
  • Have boring food
  • They all love pasta
  • Can't play sports
  • Can't dance
  • All love country music or soft rock
  • Are politically conservative or ultra-liberal
  • Love guns/right to bear arms
  • Love hunting
  • Love Starbucks or any overpriced coffee
  • All their mal-adjusted males go on mass shooting sprees
  • Fear God
  • Want to spread democracy around the world
  • Are responsible for the suffering of all people of color throughout the world, throughout all of history
  • Most are oblivious to their white privilege
  • (Subconscious) Racists
  • All claim to be (part) Irish or Italian

Asians

  • Are all concerned about their "slanty" eyes and their need to surgically alter them to make them more Anglo, less Asian looking
  • Love rice, sushi and seafood
  • Their women are submissive
  • Their men are all chauvinists/strict
  • Are very intelligent
  • Are the "other white meat"
  • Are wealthy
  • Their Chinatown smells
  • Very traditional culture
  • Love electronics / have access to latest gadgets
  • Are all small and thin
  • All their men have small genitals
  • Are stealing all IT jobs, shipping them over to India or Japan
  • Are all (part) Chinese
  • Chinese people put up all their female newborns for adoption
  • Have weird music
  • All Indians love Bollywood movies
  • Only eat spicy foods

Gay/LGBT

  • They are going through a phase
  • They chose to be who they are
  • It's just a lifestyle
  • They are all HIV positive or have some other STD
  • Gay males are responsible for the AIDS crisis
  • Love to go to raves/disco/clubbing on the weekend
  • Are all obsessed with Barbara Streisand/Cher/Britney Spears/Madonna/Kylie Minogue/Janet Jackson/Bette Middler/Christina Aguilera/Celine Dion
  • Are all publicly flamboyant
  • They love to dress in drag
  • All lesbians dress like fat, boring men w/short haircuts
  • If in a relationship, one is the "guy" and one is the "girl"
  • All want to get married / want right to get married
  • All want to adopt children
  • They will raise or make their adopted children gay, too
  • Love fashion / interior design / hair salons
  • Gay males pick each other up at the gym
Food for thought: stereotypes are damaging. There are NO positive stereotypes. They build walls around us, keeping us from really getting to know one another. Yes, there are some individuals who you may think might fit some these stereotypes. But there are also millions of individuals who do not fit the stereotypes of their given culture, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Granted, after reading all these collectively it should be apparent how utterly absurd most of these stereotypes are.


~Jade, The Intern

Dirty Words (Part 2)

...and now the conclusion to "Dirty Words," part 1.
Word of Caution: Please take my following words with a spoonful of sarcasm.

3. Immigrant / Illegal Immigrant

Ever since illegal immigration became a hot-button issue (right around September 11th), our nation has gone from focusing on how "those Muslim terrorists" got into our great nation to diverting their attention to all the illegal crossing of the Mexican border. It still perplexes me that a lot of Americans consider this issue to be in crisis mode. I think the mass media exaggerating a lot and leading us to believe that all of these illegals are crossing the border and stealing jobs from our dear blue collar workers. Oh, wait, don't most people from Ohio believe that NAFTA is the ruining their economy. I don't think we should be so quick to blame Mexico for all of our problems just yet. There is plenty of room for policy reform. Coincidentally, I am also prepping for a class debate tomorrow over multinational corporations and the "race to the bottom." Just Google "race to the bottom" + NAFTA for some fun!

Now, back to the issue at hand. Ever since immigration became this big problem, we went back to the good-old American pastime of hating foreigners/people different from you. Never mind the fact that many Americans trace their ancestry to other European nations. It's different this time around because once all those previous immigrants assimilated. Plus, once they got over the language differences and mostly suppressed their former identities**, they all realized they were White (and Christian) so they shouldn't hate each other too much.

This time around these immigrants don't want to assimilate. They want to speak their native language and (maybe, some broken) English. They want to exhaust all these social service programs such as welfare and section 8 housing but not actually contribute to society in a productive manner. And some of them don't even want to bother with the formal, red-tape ridden process of naturalization. So instead of applying for a resident alien card (aka green card), they "cross the border" and come steal our jobs. It's as simple as that.

I read somewhere (probably CNN) that only 56% of illegal immigration occurs through the Mexican border. So, where does the other 44% occur? Well, from deduction, it would have to be through airports, by boat and the Canadian border. By the way, we should care more about that Canadian border more since some of those terrorists crossed it before they blew some of our building up on Sept. 11th. Instead of getting our panties up in a bunch over putting a ridiculous fence across the Mexican border, we should worry about other issues. Why are these men, women, and children from risking their lives to illegally enter the United States? What socioeconomic, environmental and political issues are plaguing their home nations? What can we as American citizens do to improve our relations with Latin America? How can we secure our borders without making us intolerant to those different from us? Those are the real questions we should be asking ourselves.

Oh, and I do take offense to people linking the words "immigrant" and "illegal" to Latinos. As a Latina woman, I can attest to the fact that immigration is an important issue to our people in this election cycle, but it is NOT the only thing we care about. And we don't particularly enjoy being considered a voting block either. There are 20 countries that make up Latin America (21 if you include Spain). How could it be possible that Latinos are going to vote the same? Just because we speak variants of the same Spanish language does not mean we feel the same about certain political issues. To assume that all Latinos are the same is equal to suggesting that all English-speaking are a voting block, too.

It is ignorant to hate others simply because they are of different national origin than you. You cannot pick where in the world you are born, just as you cannot choose what color your skin is or what gender you are born into. It is also ignorant to assume that all Latinos are illegal immigrants. Many came here legally. Many Latinos are also second and third-generation Americans. Many of those also can't speak Spanish. But what links all of us is our love for our shared sense of culture and past. Of course, Americans have their own hilarious culture, too. I think it is a testament to how great this nation is that so many people from around the world would risk everything just to live here. Go America!

That concludes this discussion on "Dirty Words". Did I leave any good, juicy ones out?
Leave a comment.

-Jade, The Intern

**well, you know that isn't true...especially with Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans. On a side note, Happy Saint Patrick's Day! :)

Dirty Words (Part 1)

Words are essentially a collection of letters that together make sounds and are commonly understood to refer to a object, person, idea, thought, etc. (Please don't quote me on that, I am not Webster's Dictionary). Words have meaning. Over time, words that by themselves didn't mean anything specifically are then given meaning by historical events, such as the words "Affirmative Action" did not mean anything before the Civil Rights era gave them a specific meaning.

I have noticed that along with our regular vernacular, there are a whole bunch of "dirty words" in the English language. Now, I am not talking about the conventional swear or cuss word. I am referring to words that are used to insult or hurt a person or a group of people that otherwise shouldn't be insulting at all. Some of these words are used in certain circles or in discussion of certain political topics while others have become dirty words due to current events or past historical events that have attached negative connotations (and feelings) to them.

So let's review a few current "dirty words"that are thrown around the media:

1. Liberal

Ah, yes. If you are a Republican or Conservative there is nothing worse than being called a liberal. It is a straight up insult! Just go into Google and put in the terms "Senator John McCain" + "liberal" and see how many right-wing political pundits are up in arms about McCain being the presumptive Republican nominee. This is ridiculous! Since when is it preposterous for a candidate or any politically active person have both conservative and liberal viewpoints?

And this dirty word is used on both sides of the political spectrum. Political pundits have also accused Senator Barack Obama as having "the most liberal voting record" in Washington. More liberal than any other Democratic nominee (well, it's only Hillary Clinton left...so his record is supposed to be more liberal than hers). What is liberal being equated to here? Is liberal supposed to mean unpatriotic? Does being liberal mean you just don't believe in God and in our savior, Jesus Christ? Does being a liberal mean that you just have no moral standards? I think not.

As proof of this, just pick an hour to channel surf between CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and the prime time cable news programs to see how often the word liberal is thrown around as something that one should be ashamed of being. I like to think of this dirty word to be equivalent to how women and girls accuse each other of being sluts. One woman will accuse another of being one...then a debate ensues where the accused must defend themselves against the title and prove (through some long list of personal merits, church attendance records, her upbringing, and statements on her commitment to her boyfriend/husband/community/family/ the environment/pets) that she is and could never be a slut. Yup, I think that analogy fits just right.

2. Muslim

I missed the memo that came out after September 11th that all Muslims are extremists that are trying to kill all Americans (which includes me now...see previous post). I missed the second memo from George W. Bush that said that those Muslims that attacked us are in Iraq too. I think it's incredibly sad that the United States government has gone from being supported in their war against terrorism (do you remember how many countries stood in solidarity with us right after the attacks?) to being hated by most state governments for ignoring the UN and going to war with Iraq. Whatever happened to diplomacy? Whatever happened to going through the right channels and not undermining the international organizations put in place after WWII? This is why we are in this mess in the first place...

Anyways, somewhere along the way we Judeo-Christians became convinced that the whole nation of Islam was against us. Millions of Muslims became discriminated against and harassed for practicing their religion and wearing their traditional clothes. Many others were discriminated for just being Middle Easterners who looked like "one of them," regardless of whether they were Muslim or not. America was looking for someone to blame, to ostracize and demean for the actions that were committed against our country. We did everything short of establishing internment camps and locking up every Muslim in them - just like America did with Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. History almost repeated itself!

I personally do not know any Muslims...but I believe that they are just like any group of faith. Most people in any faith (about 99%) will be good, honest, hard-working individuals who love God, love their home, love their neighbors and are just trying to do the right thing every day. Then there is always a small percentage (1% or less) that ruins it for everyone and gets all the media attention. They are the ones with extreme beliefs and who see no contradiction between honoring their beliefs and killing innocent bystanders. Most Muslims are not bad people, just as most Christians and Jews are not.

Just turn on any of those news channels and see how some fear-mongering politicians are trying to spread rumors about Barack Obama being a Muslim....as if it is a bad thing to be. A picture was re-released this week of Obama in Kenya in 2006 wearing traditional clothes that were given to him as a gift. It's just clothes people. Wearing a turban doesn't make you a terrorist. This is probably one of the most non-threatening pictures on earth. If you are afraid of this picture, then you must have some serious disconnect from world cultures. Also, whoever is spreading this photo in order to get people to not vote for Obama is just a horrible human being. Shame on you! Shame on you for making Muslim a dirty word! You sir (or madame) have offended millions of Muslims around the world for insinuating that any politician that puts on a turban (or other traditional clothes) must be a terrorist or an anti-American.

I'm not even a Muslim and I am offended! Moving on...

Part 2 of "Dirty Words" will continue next week.....

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments!
~Jade, The Intern


The Golf Channel reported

Recently, a commentator on the Golf Channel used the words, "They should lynch him in a back alley" when referring to how younger golfers could beat Tiger Woods. You can see the video clip below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bim-EPwhGt0

Tiger has released a statement saying that the commentator's words were a non-issue. While, on one hand, I think it's great that he is a bigger person than to get into a battle here. Yet, the attention should really be focused on what the commentator said and the context of it all. While some are comparing her statement to Don Imus's comments about the women's basketball team, I think this is quite different. Don Imus is known to be a "shock jock" who is well known for saying what he believes - no matter PC or not. We would never expect this to occur on a commentary about golf.....

To throw around the word "lynch" in reference to "how to put someone in his/her place" holds so much political, emotional, and historical power.

Pronounciation

Thanks to Prof. Motomura who shared this article he read from CNN:
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
What's in a Lee?
It was inevitable that in a country in which the surnames Lee, Kim and Park constitute two-thirds of the population that that a Lee became a president. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t dread the day. The issue for a broadcaster is in the pronunciation. The Lees of Korea have the same Chinese character as the Lees of China. But while the Lees of China actually pronounce this Chinese character, Lee, Koreans pronounce this Chinese character, Yi. So in Korean, while spelled, Lee Myung Bak, the president-elect is called Yi Myung Bak in Korean. Now why the Lees simply didn’t spell their last names, Yi, is the question of the day. Perhaps it was deference to their Chinese neighbors, who started the Chinese characters, after all. Or they just didn’t bother. So for generations, the Korean Lees allowed non-Koreans to spell their last names Lee, and call them Mr. Lee. Some Lees tried to break free and actually spell their name Yi or Eee, but they were the exception, not the rule. But now one of them has gone and become president. So what now, does Lee Myung Bak go the route of most other Lees in the country and lead a double life? Or does he come out and declare himself a Yi? We’ll see. From CNN Correspondent Sohn Jie-ae

The Role and Influence of Black Men

I came across this article from a listserv I am on that addresses race in education. Thought it was particularly interesting because I work with so many students who are being raised by their mothers -- who have commented to me about the lack of fathers in their lives. I particularly liked the statement of that Roland Martin made when he wrote "Teenage black girls and black boys should be focused on picking colleges, not the names of babies." As I continue to work with college students and draw upon my work with secondary students of color, I am a believer in Pablo Freire's quote that "Education is a constant process for the liberation of human beings."

Commentary: Black men must reclaim our children
By Roland S. Martin
CNN contributor

(CNN) -- As the mug shots of the alleged killers of NFL star Sean Taylor were shown on television, I kept wondering when we were going to see their parents step forward. I saw a couple of mothers, but their dads were missing in action. Dads matter, and it's ridiculous for us to act as if all it takes is a loving mom. Now, I don't know what it means not to have a father in your life. I'm not familiar with a mom being strung out on a crack binge. And when my parents were called to the school when there was a discipline problem, Mom and Dad didn't go off on the teacher or principal. In fact, I can still feel the pain of my elementary school principal's paddle being applied to my butt when I acted a fool. The principal could only pop me three times. Dad? He had no limit. Bottom line: I can sit here today and celebrate them and enjoy a wonderful life because my parents were hell-bent on raising their children to do right by them, especially my dad.

We can spend all day talking about the ills afflicting urban America -- and there are plenty that are institutional -- but the decaying value of life in inner cities clearly can be traced to the exodus of fathers from the lives of so many young men. Excuses often are tossed about as to why black men leave their children (and their children's moms) to fend for themselves. But a lot of them are just sorry and refuse to accept the responsibility that comes with raising a child. A lot of my colleagues will suggest it's too simplistic to assign such a high value to a dad being in the life of a child. But just take a visit to your local jail, juvenile hall or state prison. You likely will be confronted with a sea of black men -- strong, able-bodied, creative and restless -- who have spent or will spend years and years with a prison number identifying who they are.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, of all the black men in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 29 in 2002, 10.4 percent were incarcerated. Hispanic and white men? Just 2.4 percent and 1.2 percent respectively. If a poll were done on how many grew up without fathers, I can guarantee you the numbers would be staggering. The rampant poverty that exists has led many young blacks to a life of crime, choosing to sell drugs and involve themselves in gangs as opposed to focusing on education as a way out of the cellar of life. But you see, when nearly 70 percent of black kids are born to unmarried parents, likely to a too-young mom, that puts tremendous pressure on grandmothers (and some grandfathers), sisters and brothers to take up the slack. But if the person who impregnated that woman were on the scene, not only helping to pay for the raising of the child but also serving as a strong influence, I just don't believe we would see such a chronic condition.

And the black men who have done their job are scared to death about what the tendency for black men to leave relationships means for their daughters. The day before leaving for vacation, I got word that a good friend, Chicago attorney Reynaldo Glover, had died of pancreatic cancer. He was 64. In our last extensive conversation before he was diagnosed in July, Reynaldo pleaded with me to use my national media stage to be a voice to sound the alarm about what's happening to black men in America, because he wanted to know that his daughter would have a respectable man to marry one day. (I'm sure if she chose to marry someone who's not black, Reynaldo wouldn't mind, but he realized that as a nation, we mostly marry within our race.) I promised Reynaldo that I would do all I can, because this has been an issue for me for many years. In fact, my mom gets angry because I'm always talking about my dad on television, radio and in my books. That's because when you see black men who have "made it," the accolades are plenty for their moms, and their dads are hardly mentioned. I just think it's critical to show daddy some love, too.

This is not an issue that black America can continue to sweep under the rug. I've heard countless folks talk about it, such as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, who noted that his dad left his family when he was a toddler and didn't see much of him growing up. Even in the Republican CNN-YouTube debate, GOP candidate Mitt Romney said fathers are part of the answer to addressing crime in inner cities. We shouldn't shame our young girls who get pregnant, but surely it shouldn't be seen as a blue-ribbon day. Teenage black girls and black boys should be focused on picking colleges, not the names of babies. When a young girl wants a baby christened, her pastor should be asking to meet with the father as well, even if the two don't get along. We also should be telling black women not to lie down with any fool. A moment of pleasure could lead you to a lifetime of raising that child. Alone. A friend of mine suggested more black men need to mentor young black men. I agree. But that's a bandage. If we get black men to handle their business in the first place, no one else would have to stand in the gap.

Unless black America owns up to this problem -- and fast -- we are going to see another generation of young black men who are angry with their lot in life. And the result will be more discipline problems in school, which will lead to folks dropping out, and that is nothing but a one-way ticket to jail. Black men, it's time to man up. Enough with the sperm donors. We need real men to stand up and accept their responsibility. The state of our boys is on us. And no one else.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/12/11/roland.martin/index.html