THE SKY IS FALLING… THE SKY IS FALLING

By guest blogger, Jeff G.

 We all know the story of Chicken Little and how the moral of the story is to not always believe everything you hear.  For many of us, this can be quite difficult because we are taught from a very early age to take information at face value (i.e. – teachers, media, family members, etc.).  At the very least, most of us go from grades K-12 without questioning our sources of information.  For some of us, we reach a point in our lives where we learn that we have to dig a little deeper to find the truth.

 

For me, that point came very early in my college career…I remember that day so vividly because it was the day that forced me to strip away my foundation and anything I ever learned about “our” great country…America.

 

I was sitting at brunch with one of my fellow RAs and one of my friends from Afghanistan.  Wanting to know why we received the day off from classes, my friend asked me, “Why do Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus?” Everything that I learned in school rushed through my mind:

 

§  Columbus sailed the world to prove it was not flat.  So he hopped aboard the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria…He DISCOVERED America and everyone was happy.

§  Europeans fled mother land in order to escape religious persecution.  They decided to come to America.  When reaching a giant rock (Plymouth Rock…kind of like the back in the colonial day version of Ellis Island) they realized that the land was inhabited by “Indians.”

§  Europeans turned into Pilgrims

§  The Indians loved the Pilgrims and they had a nice dinner together…we call this Thanksgiving.

§   John Smith married Pocahontas…Disney made millions.

§  America went through a revolutionary war, signed the Declaration of Independence, and called America our own.

§  Colonial America continued to grow in the name of Manifest Destiny…

§  Native Americans lost their land, still had Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but now lived on reservations sanctioned by the Government.

 

Then it hit me…

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Quick shouts

Anti-Racist Parent cross posted my piece on Having References, and I cleaned it up a bit for them. They have a much more active comment thread than I get, so check out the stuff over there.

 

Also, glad to see I’m not the only one thinking about the “Being Brown” deal. I’m adding Rice Daddies to my blogroll – I know one of the writers there, and he’s got great insight. Just as a side to the post on there, I sent it to a few of my friends who responded with “Why does he hate the Philippines so much?” And, my response is, “I don’t read it as ‘hating the Philippines.’ Rather, I read it as reflecting on why many of us have issues with the dark/light aspect of skin, or why our older aunts always say how ‘pretty we are for being mestiza.'” And, the damn skin lightening creme has always made me cringe. 

 

Still busy at work! Will try to put up something original sometimes soon. In the meantime, check out the great stuff people are doing on the Blogroll. 

 

Thanks!

Liza

Halloween: A free pass to be racist?

Cross posted from Intercultural Affairs
Here we go again… Halloween.

I actually like Halloween. I love getting dressed up. I love getting the kids dressed up. I love seeing how creative people can be (I once showed up in a long nightgown with a sign that said, “Freud.” — get it? I was a Freudian Slip.). I still laugh at the couple costumes that are Peanut Butter and Jelly. And, yes, the recycled Justin Timberlake costume of “Dick in a Box” cracks me up.

But, I also cringe when Halloween comes around. Does Halloween, with it’s intentional 24 hours of dressing in a way you normally wouldn’t, give you a free pass to be racist?

While perusing the daily newspaper fliers to find something creative to be this year, I was hit by the number of racist costumes. Here are some of my personal “favorites” that were all within 2 pages of one another:

The Geisha Girl
Chinese Delivery Man (but with a big rice hat)
the Jamaican Dreadlock hat
The Sumo Suit (for both kids and adults, thank God)
The Ancient Chinese Secret costume (wig with top bald part and long black braid)

I’m not the only one thinking about it. Here is a great post from Racialicious that was originally posted at Angry Asian Man about “Asian Hair for Halloween.”

So, does Halloween give us a free pass to dress in ways that might insult another culture?

The argument some present is that dressing in these costumes aren’t offensive, rather they are honoring the traditions of that culture (… you know where *I* stand on that!). Yet, is there a difference? For example, one Halloween, a young 5-year old white girl came to my door dressed as a Geisha. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I simply said, “Oh! What a pretty dress!” Her mother then responded with, “Thanks! We lived in Japan for 4 years and were excited when Sally could finally wear the dress!” Hmm… I wanted her statement to change my feelings, but I still felt like there was something wrong there. Should I have felt better that they got the dress in Japan, that her family had lived in Japan for years, and that, it seemed, they were filled with great excitement for this moment? If the mother had said, “Thanks! We got it at Target,” would I have felt differently? I don’t know… But, something still didn’t feel right.

The conversation with adults has also come around with the Sumo suit costume. Seems at every college I work at, there is always some sort of Sumo Suit wrestling thing going on at Orientations or Fun Weekends. I hate the Sumo Suit. I hate that people (regardless of race) “dress up” as a large individual and then just pound into each other. What tops it off for me is when their helmets are shaped like buns. Yes, buns.

Is this offensive? I find it to be. I know that the sport of Sumo is highly respected. It’s cultural. It isn’t just about a couple of fat guys belly bumpin’ one another out of a ring. There is an art. There is a meaning. There is great respect around the sport. Sorry, but watching a bunch of drunk college students belly bump each other with “Take that!! Hiiii–yaaaa!!!” doesn’t seem respectful nor sacred to me….. WHY do we still rent these things???

The issue of Costumes also irked me when watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics this year. The American commentators kept saying how beautiful the individual COSTUMES were of “exotic” countries. Newsflash, American commentators – they aren’t wearing COSTUMES. They are wearing CLOTHES.

Oh, Halloween. A free pass to be racist or a day of cultural respect? Hmmm….


The Importance of Reference

I know… I should be doing other work, especially given that my last two posts were about how insanely busy it is in my life right now. But, with only 26 minutes before the debate, I felt compelled to write about a conversation I had with my older daughter on the way home from school.

This post is about “references”. No, not job references or character references — rather, the ability to be able to refer to some thing, some one, or some concept that, essentially, will make sense to a 5-year old. Not too long ago, I wrote about how I was watching the Republican National Convention with my daughter. While watching it, we saw the McCain photo slides of men in turbans and dark skin with machine guns, and then images of the American flag. I watched it horrifed. My husband nearly threw the remote control at the television in utter disgust of the connection the video was making. My 5-year old said, “Do those people want to kill America? Does the “N” family want to kill America?”

NOTE: The “N” Family is a close family friend of ours who are Muslim. They practice full covering, are very religious in thought and practice, and one of the most loving wonderful families we know.

I nearly wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe that, even without any hateful words coming from the television, my 5-year old was getting the message that people who looked like the “N” family wanted to “kill America”. I was thankful that, at that important learning moment, I could help her work through what that meant. I asked her questions about her favorite memories of the N family. She quickly and easily retold her favorite memories with a smile on her face. I asked her what she misses about the N family (we only see them 2x a year). Again, with great honesty, she talked about their fun adventures at the park, the way their Mama hugged her tight, and the funny stories they told each other each summer.

“Do you think the N family wants to kill America?”

“No, Mommy. Then why do those people want to kill America?”

“I am not sure. But, I know that just because some one looks like those people doesn’t mean they want to kill America.”

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Still busy.. so, here’s another link

Sorry all! Still swamped at work and home. Thanks to one of our readers, “Tams”, here is an interesting — I hesitate to say “great” — link on the Chronicle of Higher Ed site. Sometimes it gets locked out after a while, so sorry if you click and it doesn’t work.

Very intellectual (which, I’m not often a fan of) discourse about “diversity”.

Thanks readers! Let me know if you have links you want me to post. Can’t promise I can get to them soon, but I’ll try!