Communications · diversity · Gender · politics · social activism · Uncategorized

Watch Your Mouth; I’m Not Your Bitch!

images (1)International Women’s Day was a wonderful day aimed at celebrating women in our culture and around the world. I greatly appreciated all of the men who acknowledged, encouraged, and participated in the event. It’s wonderful to be supported by members of other groups, and solidarity among oppressed groups is especially important because it is a necessary component to ensuring  a more equitable society for all of us.

However, and you knew this critique was coming, I was annoyed this morning while listening to a radio commentator express his feelings about the International Women’s Day event and the issue of sexism. I was annoyed primarily because I felt that there were some elements of sexism that he did not seem to understand well. While I know that his aim was to be supportive, and I appreciated his intent, there were several things that were stated during the discussion that left room for critique.

One thing that annoyed me was that he attempted to put the issue of sexism squarely on Donald Trump’s shoulders. Now, I don’t like Trump as a leader, and I do not appreciate his apparent lack of respect for women, but his election merely tilted the discussion toward a long standing issue that has been diminished  over time as a necessary conversation. Donald Trump is nowhere near solely, or even principally, responsible for sexism.

There is some belief that because women are doing better than women of previous generations, sexism is really relatively benign. And while it is true that women have enjoyed a good amount of progress where gender equality is concerned, there is still much to discuss. Unfortunately, this idea about what constitutes adequate progress gives way to the idea that women really should not have anything to “whine” about. Quit Bitching!

The commentator this morning additionally stated that women fight for women, and men should fight for women too. This is true. However, women don’t always fight for women. In fact, men and women alike have been conditioned in our culture, and many cultures around the world, to believe that women are substandard when compared to men. As a result, women are known to impose a male standard, even at their own peril, onto women.

There are many things that women say to their children, young boys and girls alike, that illustrate the belief that women are not on par with men in terms of social conduct or capabilities; and women say these things because they believe them to be true. I can’t count the amount of times that I have heard the following sorts of comments made to small children:

“Don’t throw like a girl. That’s embarrassing. Let me show you how to throw like a boy.”

“Don’t cry like a little girl.”

“Stop acting like a sissy.”

“Girls should not play rough.” AND ON AND ON AND ON………………………………

My favorites, however, are the “B” word and the “P” word. These words should be no more acceptable than any other epithet aimed at an oppressed group. Yet, these words roll right off the tongue with relative ease for many people, and there is little to no social backlash for people who spews these hate filled words. Why must my gender be the insult that is flung at another in moments of anger or disapproval? Is my gender the worst thing you could think of as an insult? Really? That’s great! I feel inherently worthy!

You should feel no more comfortable using the “B” word or “P” word than you feel using the “N” word or the “F” word or the “S” word and so on. You should feel embarrassed to disparage women. The fact that people spew these hate filled words with ease is reflective of how much our society believes that protection and respect for women as a group is unimportant.

Women’s culture is also undervalued, especially when embraced by a boss. When a boss is accommodating and collaborative (aspects of women’s culture) and a woman, she is typically viewed as weak and incompetent by employees. In order to be an effective boss a woman almost needs to cut her arm off, so to speak, and behave in ways that are “foreign” to her in order to gain the respect of employees. And those of us who are thoroughly aware of women’s culture (i.e., women) also don’t appreciate the “foreign” behavior from one of our own, so we will readily fling our male prescribed insult (the “B” word) just as freely as anyone else.

Finally, the previously mentioned commentator spoke about how men are involved in sexism, whether active participants or as bystanders. Sorry, Mister, there are no bystanders in this game. In a hierarchical system were men are the beneficiaries of sexism every bit as much as Whites are the beneficiaries of a system of hierarchy that involves racism, you cannot opt out. This is a system; a system functions with or without your approval. A man’s lack of individual overt sexism does not result in the loss of any of the benefits of maleness, and that particular aspect of systemic oppression should not be forgotten.

I feel a little better now :0)

Communications · diversity · Education · Interracialism · politics · Uncategorized

Interracialism: A Debt To The Loving Family

mildred-loving-2-800With bigotry seemingly on the rise, in general, as of late, I have noticed an increase in the amount of stares and disapproving head shakes (interpreted as disgust) my family is once again privileged to endure in public spaces.  The southern part of the U.S. has always been my home, and I remember a time (not that long ago, I might add) when things were socially horrible here for my family.  There were even times when I felt that I was in danger in the face of extreme anger.  I honestly cannot count the times that I have been mistreated in public over my choice of a marital partner and/or the race of my children.

Over time, however, my family appears to have gained some ground, so to speak, within our community.  I actually think many people here have gotten used to us, and because we don’t fit the stereotypical beliefs often held with regard to interracial couples, we’ve been allowed a certain amount of acceptance during the last decade or so. Keep in mind, however, that increase in acceptance was a long time coming; more than twenty-five years in the making, to be exact.

While our tolerance as a nation for celebrity interracialism appears to be on the rise, I’m not sure that the same attitude persist with regard to “average” interracial couples, at least not in the South.  More, it’s important to note that celebrity status affords many things that “average” people are not afforded, both materially and socially.

This resurfacing of the old attitudes surrounding interracialism has made me reflect on the intensity of the fight to marry a man of my choice; it was significant, to say the least. Being a White woman in the South, often the belief is that I am the problem in the relationship, and therefore, in the past I often encountered social rejection, name calling, obstructive behavior by co-workers, and ostracizing by extended family, to name a few, all in the name of showing me what I could look forward to if I continued the relationship. Additionally, we (me and my husband) experienced all of the previously mentioned things plus police harassment; the specific reason for the policing was mostly aimed at my husband, and never once did the police encounters involve anything other than nonsense. As a result, I unfortunately no longer trust the police, and that’s a shame.

Last night I watched Loving with my husband, and today I’m thinking about the history of our group members, something that has been hard to define in a country where race is almost never viewed as a fluid construct.

Since America’s inception virtually every aspect of society has been entangled with the myth of racial purity.  As a consequence, interracial unions have historically been at the forefront of social equality concerns.  Miscegenation has a long history in the United States with profound consequences for social life and cultural norms.  Even presently, the language used in the United States indicates the pervasive essentialist thinking among American citizens, as it was invented out of a history imbued with dichotomous race thinking. According to Maria P. P. Root in Racially Mixed People in America, Americans often have a difficult time with the notion that someone is both Black and White.  The average American’s restricted ability to think about race beyond biology has resulted in a nationally limited race based discourse (1996).

In Tripping Over the Color Line Dalmage (2000) stated that in the United States families are overwhelmingly presumed to be single raced families, and the lack of positive language available to describe American citizens who do not fit neatly within prescribed social categories is a direct reflection of a country which has historically been at odds with anyone who challenges the color line.  There is little doubt that both interracial families and the offspring of interracial couples have historically raised questions about how we define race. According to Multiracial Couples: Black & White Voices, biracial children and interracial couples challenge both individual and group thinking that involves discrete, non-overlapping categories (Rosenblatt, Karis, & Powell, 1995). “Multiracial family members, by their very existence, threaten essentialist and racist thinking and thus endanger the color line. The discrimination and hostility directed toward multiracial families reflect continuing efforts to maintain the line” (Dalmage, 2000, p. 31).

Unfortunately, long standing American anti-miscegenation laws have left multiracial people and families “categorized as belonging in either one group or the other” (Dalmage, 2000, p.22).  It is likely that this type of essentialist thinking has left many multiracial family members feeling socially stigmatized.  Interracial marriage has historically signified a rejection of White supremacist values.  As such, those who love across the color line often sacrifice personal reputations and social status while enduring cultural stigma. Interracial love in America has long been interpreted in political terms (National Urban League, 2007).  And the political conversation is not decreasing as contemporary multiracial families are increasingly in search of new family customs and new language that more accurately and positively expresses their experienced social location.

According to Yancey (2007) in Experiencing racism: Differences in the experiences of Whites married to Blacks and non-Black racial minorities, to know Americans intimately is to understand the historical significance of race as a strictly defined social concept with very real socio-political and economic consequences.  While much of American history has been fraught with racial distinctions and the subjugation of certain racial groups within American society, more contemporary views of miscegenation are emerging as prideful family claims aimed at changing America’s dichotomous racial conversation, change that has been more than 400 years in the making.

These changes to the racial conversation surface in the form of new words, family customs, social classifications, and a growing number of multiracial family members gaining access to positions which include opportunities to engage in scholarly research. This opportunity to engage in scholarly research has resulted in a more balanced view of multiracial families and multiracial individuals, invalidating the long held view that multiracial families and individuals are abhorrent or unnatural (Root, 1996).

It appears as if mixed race families, in increasing numbers, are fighting for the right to define themselves for themselves (Dalmage, 2000), rather than allowing the larger population to devise the definition.  The Census Bureau has been principally involved in creating race in America, and previously “designated racial categories left little room for complexities and differences” (Dalmage, 2000, p. 144).  However, the multiracial movement has led to the Census Bureau offering a new way to racially classify members of the American population, classification that was once legally limited to the social distinctions of Asian, Black, Native American, or White.  The American kaleidoscope which began as the earliest English settlers arrived in the new world is becoming less and less of a social burden for those who cannot nor want to deny their mixed race heritage.

While contemporary American mixed race families may, indeed, relish their multi-dimensional family life in increasing numbers, getting to this point has not been easy nor is the journey complete.  Much work continues to be needed in terms of understanding the complexities of multiracial families, and specifically Black/White multiracial families, as these families have been at the center of the race mixing debate throughout American history.  Multiracial families often “travel through hardship, anger, solidarity, unity, hostility, terror, growth, happiness, fear, and uncertainty”  that results, in at least some ways, from life lived between the color line (Dalmage, 2000, p. 17).

I am thankful for Mildred and Richard Loving.

loving-4

diversity · Education · politics · Uncategorized

Just Musing About Education And Democracy

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I’m presently pure-n-tee (as we say in the south) disgusted with the idea of DeVos for Secretary of Education, and now the new commentary surrounding Falwell’s potential involvement as head of a panel ordered by Trump to address issues of higher education has had a “Trumpian” effect on me, a term offered up by MSNBC’s Joy Reid in an effort to describe something unbelievable but fully expected.  That’s how I feel today-utterly disgusted with the notion that any ole person off the street knows what is best for students.

Further, I have full blown dread about all the Trumpian moves to come, especially involving education, which I either have to tackle full on with cortisol pumping as fast as I can make it or try my best to mentally dodge in an effort to self preserve. At any rate, today I’ve spent some time considering why I feel so irritated with Trump’s negligent approach to education in the U.S. The following is what came to mind:

Though in some ways critical rationality leads to a questioning that is unending, members of a democratic society must be able to question aspects of societal life that are deemed worthy, as well as those aspects viewed as unworthy.  This is the only way informed decisions can be made.  It is also the way in which societal roles are redefined, a primary role of effective education.

In Democracy and Education, Dewey posited that “no subject, custom, or value was so sacrosanct that it could not be thought about, reflected on, and reconstructed, if necessary” (Dewey, 1916, p. IX).  He asserted that humans are not predestined to follow any particular path in life, but rather have the ability to analyze consequences of projected actions and thus create plans for “life-enhancing” activities (p. X).  Dewey viewed the school as a miniature society that had the ability to serve as a catalyst for promoting a democratic society.  As a major contributor to the field of education and philosophy, Dewey, as a pragmatist, contributed to the argument that philosophy’s primary concern was to solve human problems in the real world of experience.  This particular philosophical approach deals with the belief that ideas need to be tested and consequences determined to either solve a certain problem or satisfy a specific need.  Dewey’s beliefs surrounding education were informed by the notion that “informed and enlightened citizens were capable of reforming and regulating their own lives” (Dewey, 1916, p. XIII).

Dewey stated, “As a society becomes more enlightened, it realizes that it is responsible not to transmit and conserve the whole of its existing achievements, but only such as it makes for a better future society” (1916 p. 22).  Dewey argued that the school is the chief agency to bring about this end.  He also believed that it is the job of the school to provide students with a balanced environment, where they can escape from the limitations in which they were born, and therefore come into contact with a much more diverse environment.  “The intermingling in the school of youth of different races, differing religions, and unlike customs creates for all a new and broader environment” (Dewey, 1916, p. 23).  Ultimately, Dewey believed that society would benefit from an integration of various life experiences and believed that a member of any isolated group could have no more than a limited world view.

Dewey argued that democracy serves the primary goal of associated living.  Dewey stated that although any education given by a group tends to socialize its members, the quality of the education given depends largely on the habits and goals of the group (1916).  The concept of democracy in education aims to allow for free play back and forth among members of the social group in an effort to keep things from becoming or remaining one sided.  The only way to effectively keep from educating some members of society into socially superior roles while others are educated into socially inferior roles is to ensure a large variety of shared undertakings and experiences.  “Lack of free and equitable intercourse which springs from a variety of shared interests makes intellectual stimulation unbalanced” (Dewey, 1916 p. 93).  Dewey believed that isolation of a group made for the institutionalization of social life and for selfish ideals within any given group.

Education is important in terms of preserving a democratic society.  When thinking and questioning is restricted, the ability of people to control the outcome of their lives is also restricted.  Conformity and compliance are not, and should not be, educational goals of democratic educators.

diversity · political commentary · politics · social activism

Crackpot in the White House

892785cc6c26290cb66d72425c82de1bHave you ever wondered why Donald J. Trump behaves in such an odd, childlike manner without the suggestion of even a modicum of shame?   Or have you found yourself thinking about how President Trump seems to have a view of the world that is based, at least in part, on fantasy?  Perhaps you have even started to believe that we have elected a man who suffers from an undiagnosed mental illness; I will admit that notion has crossed my mind more than once.

Additionally, I have considered the possibility that President Trump’s life long privileged status has led to the development of the entitlement based mindset of a rich brat, where he believes that everyone should kowtow to his desires or be punished.  I personally find the latter possibility reprehensible, but that is because I believe that only a person who has never been adequately critiqued by those rearing him and/or fails to relate to “common” people could develop such a mindset.  Could our President suffer from Affluenza because his wealth and power to punish intimidates those around him, thus resulting in kowtowing?  Perhaps Spicer and Conway may serve as points of reference for future deliberation on the matter.

American sociologist C. Wright Mills coined the term “crackpot realism” in the 1950s in an effort to explain the self delusions that are often present among the powerful elite.  According to Tom Athanasiou in Divided Planet: The Ecology of the Rich and Poor, Mills suggested that “Crackpot realism is realism gone mad, and crackpot realist are those who ‘in the name of practicality have projected a utopian image of capitalism.’ They have information in abundance, but ‘have replaced a responsible interpretation of events with the disguise of events by a maze of public relations.'” (1996, p. 298).  Further, Athanasiou explained that a crackpot realist will frame his or her messages to society’s poor by suggesting that the lives of poor people will be better in the long run as a result of capitalism, while the truth is that the crackpot realist only really sees the capitalistic framework as a process for continuation of his or her “privileged circumstances of life” (p. 298).

Mills actually used the term “realist” sarcastically; He meant to illustrate the self flattery buried in the delusional thinking patterns of the powerful elite, where politicians have long held the belief that they are, in fact, the true realists in society.  Further argued by Mills is the notion that de-regulation efforts meant to allow the free flow of markets in an unrestrained capitalistic economic framework imply an unethical and amoral social position.

Crackpot realism is realism gone array for a number of reasons: (1) capitalistic greed cannot be sustained in the long term because it offers little in terms of justice and equality and (2) unrestrained capitalism is unkind to those who lose in a capitalistic society (Athanasiou, 1996).  Rather, resources must be used wisely by society, with conservation at the forefront of thinking regarding future global sustainability.  The poor must be allowed a living wage.  More, expansion, cautious economic policy, and peace must prevail in order for the global biophysical budget to be maintained (Athanasiou, 1996).

In spite of all of the hypothesizing I’ve done lately in an attempt to try to evaluate and understand the behavior and thinking of our current President, it appears that C. Wright Mills may have provided the answer to my question more than fifty years ago.  The answer is likely that we simply have a crackpot living in the White House.

diversity · politics · social activism

Hope, Goal Pursuit, and Social Activism

 

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Hope is an ontological requirement of human beings-Freire

A number of previous researchers have attempted to define the meaning of hope as well as to measure the implications of hope in various life settings (e.g., wellness, mental health disorders, counseling services, athletic outcomes, academic outcomes, and teaching effectiveness; Snyder, 2002).  While several scholars have developed varying definitions of hope, hope, as conceptualized by Snyder, is a learned process of thinking that relates to goal acquisition (Snyder, Harris, Anderson, Holleran, Irving, Sigmon, 1991; Snyder, 1993, 1995; Shorey, Snyder, Rand, Hockemeyer, & Feldman, 2002).

Snyder, Sympson, Ybasco, Borders, Babyak, and Higgings (1996) posited that goal-directed thinking is comprised of the following two components: (1) pathway thinking and (2) agentic thinking.  Pathway thinking signifies an individual’s ability to conceptualize more than one pathway to goal attainment (i.e., planning), while agentic thinking utilizes thoughts that are aligned with initiation and maintenance associated with movement toward the particular goal (i.e., goal directed determination; Snyder, Sympson, et al., 1996; Curry, Snyder, et al., 1997).

Hope reflects the aggregate of pathway and agency modes of thinking (Curry et al., 1997).   According to Feldman & Snyder (2005), an individual is unlikely to meet a desired goal when either of the components of thought is lacking.  In short, Snyder (2002) delineated that goals serve as targets for “mental action sequences” (p. 250).   In this sense, hope is not merely an inborn personality trait, where some people are naturally hopeful while other people are not.  In fact, Snyder suggested that hope is not an emotional state at all (Shorey et al., 2002).  Rather, Snyder delineated that hope is a “cognitive motivational process in which emotions follow cognitions and then feedback to reciprocally interact with future appraisals in the process of goal pursuit” (Shorey et al., 2002, p. 327).

So while Snyder acknowledges that emotions are indeed involved in some aspects of the concept of hope, the emotions are secondary to the cognitive appraisals (Shorey, et al., 2002).  Hope involves believing that positive outcomes are possible, which inspires personal empowerment (Shorey et al., 2002).  Emotions, whether positive or negative, that result from past goal pursuits are then carried forward into future thinking about goal attainment.

As such, individuals who have been successful in terms of meeting goals in the past are more likely to be involved in high-hope thinking as compared to individuals who did not meet previous goals (Shorey et al., 2002).  Snyder posited that because the role of emotions is complex in terms of meaning variation between individuals, the role of emotions “should serve as an indicator of whether given goal-pursuit thought-to-action chains are perceived as successful or unsuccessful” (Shorey et al., 2000, p. 327).  These goal-pursuit thought-to-action chains when perceived as successful are likely to include a number of accessible resources, some of which are likely to involve the help of other people.

Evidence during the last decade has indicated that social relationships combined with community action are important for overall well-being, and this phenomenon holds true even where communities lack financial resources (Warren et al., 2001).  Kawachi and colleagues (1997) found that the extent of the disproportion between the rich and poor has a powerful and negative influence on social capital investments.

Social capital can be viewed from the location of empowerment and capacity expansion for poor communities (Warren et al., 2001).  Further, the building of social capital can inspire group based identity and political agendas that can foster resistance to institutional forms of oppression (Warren et al., 2001).

According to the Highlander Center (2005), grassroots action must be the catalyst for democratic change.  An activist community begins when a group targets a particular objective and selects the best method for mobilizing resources and acting collectively to achieve their goal (Oakes & Rogers, 2006).  Organizing changes how individuals respond to one another because organizing “is overwhelmingly about personal relationships” (Oakes & Rogers, 2006, p. 98).

Relationships developed within organizing groups extend well beyond short-term goals.  These relationships become power resources (i.e., social capital) for social action with the long-term goals of “building stable, efficacious organizations that use democratic processes to develop the problem-solving capacity and commitment of less powerful communities” (Oakes & Rogers, 2006, p. 99).  Community actions can do more than generate support for local issues; they potentially possess the power to persuade policy makers that change at the government and institutional level is necessary (Oakes & Rogers, 2006).