Archive for the ‘THEMES’ Category


11 Aug

Tolerance or Acceptance is where you may even like individual people in a group but you are still wary of or uncomfortable about the group as a whole.acceptance (1) You may hear people suggest, “Hey, he or she brings some good energy, but let’s not have too many of them.”  It’s as of people are thinking, “We will let in a few exceptions and we’ll decide how and when they get in. We’re still in control.”

For instance, I walked into a drug store and one aisle was marked “Hair Products”, but then up against the wall it said, “Ethnic Hair Products.” This display sent a subtle message. Some people are accepted – we let them in the store – but they are not in the main aisle. They are relegated to the side aisles; they are not mainstream.

The real products, that is the “real” people are the center of the universe. They are the sun. The groups that are being tolerated are satellites or distant planets.

I’ve seen this Acceptance concept displayed in textbooks. More inclusive history books will contain, for example, a chapter entitled “Settlers to the West” and then it will have a special sidebar that says, “Black Settlers.”

Wait a minute! Aren’t they all the settlers? Now, again, the good intention can be to include, but these textbooks are still keeping “Black Settlers” separate, not really part of the mainstream.

It’s similar to ethnic groups who have been Traditional Outsiders being given their special celebration months. When I was going to school, a lot of groups were absent from the curriculum. They weren’t even mentioned. So we can all appreciate the progressive that celebration months connote.

I am a professional storyteller and it’s a joke among those of us who provide school assemblies to talk about “our month” – be it Black, Latino, Women and so on. True valuing would mean the history and culture of each group is embedded throughout the curriculum all year long.

At the Acceptance stage, the “accepted” groups are still not part of the center. And the people in the center hold the ultimate power to define identities and make decisions for themselves plus others.

But truly integrating different groups history, achievements, communication and learning styles and so on is easier said than done. Often staffs are asked to teach things they never learned. In their over busy, demanding lives now they have to go back, study and create new lesson plans. Departments have to fit in tons of meetings to revamp the syllabus, coordinate prerequisites and fit the new classes into common core standards and measurements. Change is not easy even when it’s so desperately needed.

But for those who have done it they will tell you it was worth it to move to true valuing because students who feel seen, heard and valued do better in schools.

NEXT WEEK: How do I know if my school is truly valuing differences?



23 Jun

This is not light summer reading but if you want to understand the injustice people of color still receive today and why some groups are still angry and locked out of the American dream, I strongly suggest two books about the criminal justice system:book recommendation

 The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Cornel West

On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City (Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries) by Alice Goffman


JUNETEENTH: A Celebration For Today

16 Jun

Did you know that in some states the news of emancipation from slavery didn’t reach people until much later – in the case of Texas not until two and a half years later? The Emancipation Proclamation was made official on January 1, 1863 and, yet, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union


Army was not able to read the news of freedom in Texas until June 19, 1865.

Some say it was because a messenger was killed on the way to deliver the news. Others state that President Lincoln’s

authority over the southern states was precarious and so a deal was struck to allow one last cotton harvest in Texas. Others say it was pure greed and cruelty: the slaveholders weren’t about to give up their free labor source without resistance.

The “Juneteenth” order read:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States,


 all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

 For the formerly enslaved and those who supported them, initial shock evolved into jubilation which quickly turned into the reality of navigating a way forward in a country in which African Americans had had no legal status or rights. Currently, this day is celebrated to commemorate all that has been accomplished and to give a model of hope and persistence for all that lies ahead.







Moving from PC (Politically Correct) to PC (Personally Caring) Language

09 Jun

Language is never neutral. I’m not talking about choosing our words to be “politically correct,” but to become more aware of what we arefor language communicating – intentionally and unintentionally. This debate over language isn’t arbitrary or frivolous. One group has had the power to name things, has had the power for so long that we are blind to the biases and put downs associated with so many “common” words. The greatest sign of respect is to call people what they want to be called.

To make it simple: ask the people you are involved with what they prefer to be called. Not in a manner that puts them under a microscope or asks them to speak for their group such as: “What do “you all” want to be called?” (“Well, all twelve million of us have taken a vote and…”) Instead, ask people as individuals what they prefer and be ready to share your preferences as well. This means we need to make connections; this means we need to talk to each other.

Instead of feeling put out by the need to consider language, we could rejoice in the fact that we’re finally becoming a multi-voiced nation. People are beginning to name themselves and no one group of anything wants to be called any one thing.

Language is a living, breathing, ever changing art form. We could take the attitude that it’s interesting and even fun to play with words so that our descriptions are more clear, more accurate and more sensitive. We could take the time to learn other people’s preferences not to be “right” but because we care not to hurt each other. When we choose different words we help people see a different reality. A different shared reality is the foundation upon which we can build a transformed society that works for everyone.




26 May

We already know that Columbus did not “discover” America as there were people hairalready living here. But what if some of the first to settle in the northern hemisphere weren’t even First Nations but Asians?

A team of Danish scientists have uncovered a tuft of dark brown hair in Greenland that has led them to theorize that 4000 years ago there was a tribe of humans that trekked from North Asian to settle into what is now called Greenland. The DNA collected from the hair traces back to Asians, not Native Americans or the Inuit people who live there now.

This suggests that the first humans to colonize the American Arctic were Asians/Siberians, distinct from the first people who arrived in America more than 14,000 years ago.

Of course, the research goes on but the theory suggests that the travels of early Asian groups may have been wider than previously considered and that perhaps there were multiple migrations from the Bering region into the American Arctic


For more information:


Challenges Asian Americans Face Today

19 May

 How much do you and your students know about Asian Americans? Do they know the discrimination Asian Americans still face today?


Research shows that Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing victims of hate crimes in America. 17% of Asian American boys in grades 5 through 12 reported physical abuse, as compared to 8% among white boys. 30% of Asian American girls in grades

5 through 12 reported depressive symptoms, as compared to white girls (22%), African American girls (17%), or Hispanic girls (27%).

14% of Asian Americans live below the poverty line, compared to 13% of the U.S. population.

In addition, while jobs pay Euro Americans $522 per every additional year of education beyond high school, Asian Americans make $379 per every additional year of education. According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Asian-American men born in the United States are 7 percent to 11 percent less likely to hold managerial jobs than white men with the same educational and experience level.


Fair Housing Month – What Do We Do Now?

28 Apr

Open Communities

What’s to be done today? We can live in the welcoming, secure, diverse communities that so many of us desire. But to do this, we must become knowledgeable and proactive. We must deliberately connect affordable housing to other life improving opportunities for all of us. With vibrant, mixed income communities throughout our entire nation, we can create strong tax bases that break our current cycle of advantages for some and diminished prosperity for others which equals calamity for all of us. We all lose with any system that isolates us from each other. True opportunity is the only way to create lasting stability and peace.

I believe an educated public can help create local and national policies that promote the everyday interests Americans share across age, race, class, income, religion and other lines of difference. We all care about job security, reasonable medical and housing costs, safe childcare, good schools, time with our family and friends and living near our place of employment. We all long for a feeling of safety and belonging. Where we live, and the opportunities to which we have access are crucial to these shared desires finding a common reality.

How do we do this? By getting involved in local fair housing groups that can show us how the pieces of the puzzle fit together – how school funding affects opportunity, how fair and affordable housing builds stronger communities and a more secure real estate market and so forth. To fashion healthy communities where people are supported in pursing t
heir limitless possibilities we’re going to need to be informed, aligned and organized.

In my community, I work with Open Communities of the North Shore ( I know there is a similar kind of group near you.

Is April’s Fair Housing Month the time for you to say “Yes” to establishing more fair, secure and welcoming communities?


Fair Housing Month – The Second Wave of Segregation

14 Apr

Chgo Public Housing

With the isolated black and white areas in place by the 1930s, many U.S. cities began to move into their second wave of segregation. In the 1940s, U.S. Congress gave cities huge federal grants to acquire rundown urban areas. With that money, the cities bought up the mostly black “slums” (that it had been instrumental in creating in the first place), tore them down and, then, handed the land to developers who were supposed to build enough replacement housing for the people who had lived there. Well, we know how that story ended.

Instead of being relocated in their home neighborhoods, the cities housed the displaced people in public housing towers that violated all federal standards for density. The hyper segregation of today’s cities could not have been sealed without the help of local and federal governments and this second wave of segregation which eventually created large, fortress-like, all-black areas.

Those displaced by “Urban Renewal” and those dislocated by public housing construction, provided real estate agents with a steady stream of desperate people searching for homes.  These people became the fodder for the real estate agents’ block busting schemes (“Buy low from the white people, sell high to the blacks”) that forced many white people to leave homes and communities they loved. In a modern day Machiavellian scheme, one group was played against another and everyone lost except for the unscrupulous business people who made millions and the politicians who had now fashioned separate, more easily manipulated voting blocks.

Next week: Today’s housing patterns


April is National Fair Housing Month

01 Apr


Poor house 1930Good house 1930We say that home is sacred and it’s easy to see why.  Our homes hold more than our belongings and even more than our memories.  They hold the key to the possibility or impossibility of true opportunity. Where we reside can determine our education, our jobs, our ability to create prosperity and even the likelihood of whether or not we’ll live in health. Vibrant, diverse communities where people interact in dignity and have every opportunity to blossom into their full human potential has never been fully experienced in this nation.

In my one-woman show, Dividing Lines: the Education of a Chicago White Girl in 10 Rounds, I set out to discover why Chicago like so many other U.S. cities was so segregated. I discovered that there was a time when Chicago was more integrated. The first strategic and protracted wave of segregation came during the 1920s when through bribes, threats, violence and other illegalities such as Restricted Covenant laws, politicians and others in power set out to create separate white and black residential areas. Black people were herded into the oldest, wholly inadequate and massively overcrowded sections of town.

In my research I heard stories from people who lived through this period. They told me of trips to the emergency room because of young children being hit by fallen plaster from rotting ceilings, old people being trapped in tenements because the landlords refused to fix stairwells and whole families killed in fires because greedy, predominantly white landlords had strung extension cords and makeshift wiring to create yet another improvised apartment in a basement, attic or storage shed.

With so little housing supply for Blacks, white business people made fortunes from life-threatening housing. With no mortgages for Black people and no Open Housing laws in effect, African Americans had few alternatives but to live in these dangerous, dilapidated buildings in the designated “Black Belts” of our city. While African Americans rose to the challenge and created incredible cultural institutions and support systems, they were left, nonetheless, vulnerable to the vultures who came to feed and capitalize on their physical entrapment.

A black family could protest and move out, but where were they going to go? And with so many other families desperate to move in what leverage did anyone have who tried to stand up to the injustice of deplorable living conditions?

Meanwhile, in the white areas, politicians and others who benefitted from these divide and conquer tactics fed on white’s fear and existing prejudices. They pointed to the rundown areas as proof that blacks were unfit to live with and said that competing blacks would pry away the working class whites’ tenuous hold on the ladder of economic security.

Thus, by the end of the 1930s our cities began to take on a familiar look with more prosperous white areas and more rundown black neighborhoods.

Next week: the second wave of segregation



24 Mar


Groups build their identity by saying who they are. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when we go beyond a description of who we are and start to place judgment on who’s “more than” and who is “less than”, we get in trouble. We human beings are endlessly creative at coming up with these better than’s and less than’s. Therefore, we are limitless in how many prejudices we can have.

One way to identify your prejudices is to think of any group with which you identify –city dweller/country kid, athlete/theater person, smart/not interested in academics, Republican/Democrat. Then, identify any groups viewed as different from or in actual opposition to your group.

Trust me, if any group is seen as opposite or very different from your group, you will have been given some misinformation about them. Catholics have been given misinformation about Protestants and Protestants misinformation about Catholics. Young misunderstand old and old misunderstand young. Smokers think nasty thoughts about non-smokers and non-smokers say negative things about smokers.

What jokes do people tell about a neighboring state to yours? If you live in Minnesota, you know the Wisconsin jokes, but you don’t necessarily know what they say in Montana about people who live in Idaho. It’s almost like sibling rivalry. You’ll mock your brother or sister because they’re in close proximity and you’re defining yourself against them.

Groups also define themselves in part by who they are not – nothing wrong with that. It’s just when we start to rank who’s cool (us) and who’s not (them) that we get in trouble.

As a human being we have a limitless supply of prejudices. Sometimes, no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get rid of our initial negative judgment about individuals or groups of people. Often we learned our stereotypes and prejudices when we were frightened and we can’t seem to stop that first emotional reaction that goes on inside of us.

However, here’s the good news: if we become conscious of our judgments, we can stop ourselves before we ever treat someone badly. That’s called managing your prejudice and that’s something you, all of us, can do.