diversity · family · Gender · social activism · Uncategorized

Honoring A Mother And A Brave Battle Buddy

20170308_115356A couple of years ago I unexpectedly lost a good friend, someone I had known since I was a teenager. My daughter sent me a text early one morning to break the bad news before someone else got to me. Needless to say, I was in utter disbelief. I struggled to make sense out of it, cried and eventually, I was simply overwhelmed with sadness, especially for her children and all that they had lost.

Jennifer was my battle buddy for all intents and purposes. We were involved in a social battle that united us early on in life, as we were among the only people in our area involved in this particular battle. Jennifer and I were both white females in the south who built multiracial families. We shared more than simply our involvement in this social battle; we shared overlapping social experiences and daily norms. We also shared the way we chose to approach the the hurdles put before us.

I enjoyed knowing that Jennifer was here on Earth with me in this particular space and time. In fact, I used to refer to her as the other me in the world. I could talk to her and she understood my point of view because she had also lived through similar circumstances that many other people may be removed from in such a way that they can only sympathize; Jennifer could empathize.

Jennifer, quite frankly, was beautiful, smart, kind, confident, and a fully committed mother to her two children.  She had her own style, a flare that she could care less whether it was embraced or not by others-part of her confidence. She never tried to be something that she wasn’t; She was comfortable in her own skin.

I never saw her when she didn’t immediately yell out upon seeing me “Hey girl!” And she was always interested in an update on my children. My favorite memory of Jennifer is of her wearing her hair in a loose bun atop her head and a humongous pair of sunglasses that covered a large portion of her face, smiling ear to ear. After she died, I started to wear my own big sunglasses in honor of her. They must look pretty bad on me because people comment on them a lot, but I don’t care. I simply say in response, “That’s okay; I’m wearing these for Jennifer.”

Jennifer in her own way changed the world we live in today. She took some knocks, rejection, more than a handful of set backs and kept right on going, as confident as ever. Marriage is not on the surface a political act, but it does have political consequences, whether those be positive or negative. Jennifer lived her life IN her beliefs about diversity.

Today Jennifer has two young adult children. Her daughter is now joining me in wearing humongous sunglasses in honor of her mom. We would like you all to share this post, and if you like, add on to it your own picture of you in a pair of your own humongous sunglasses.

diversity · employment · Gender · legal issues · political commentary · social activism

Bill For Genetic Testing At Work: Attempts to Limit Your Individual Pursuit of Happiness

thIt appears that 1984 is upon us, at least in a figurative and scary as hell sense. Apparently, George Orwell was on to something far bigger than any of us could imagine, and perhaps more elaborate than anything he could imagine during the time that his novel was written.

Over the years the concept of big brother watching us all has emerged as increasingly plausible, even likely, in terms of arrests related to internet use and so forth, where evidence of government entities surveilling the public seems apparent. But today, actually a few days ago, no, actually a couple of months ago, I became even more concerned about the looming notion of big brother being all up in my personal business, to speak frankly.

According to the Washington Post in an article published today titled You May Face Penalties At Work For Refusing Genetic Testing by Lena H. Sun, recently a bill has been proposed, already passing a U.S. House committee vote, in an effort to enact a law that would allow employers the right to genetically test employees, something that is currently illegal at a federal level.

Currently, the government must obtain a warrant or individual consent to collect this type of private citizen information. More, employers currently have no rights to private citizen information without voluntary consent, as the collection of such information is out of alignment with current employment laws surrounding disability and non-discrimination work practices.

However, the Trump administration aims to circumvent these currently held federal legal positions through new law that would allow the gathering of personal information by employers, specifically your genetic information, for use as part of a “wellness” program, where the goal is to “reward” some employees with reduced insurance rates for “healthy” living and “punish” employees for less than “healthy” life choices by up to a 30% increase in premium costs. An interesting concept for an administration that doesn’t seem to believe in science, something that should define the parameters of healthy living.

As for this whole bill turning into law? How about, um, no! And the answer is no for a number of reasons. First, I don’t want an employer to tell me what to do in my nonworking hours; that’s none of their business. And contrary to some beliefs held by employers, I have nonworking hours. Additionally, I want my employer to stay out of my family history, because in general who I am related to and what they have passed to me is none of my employers business either-way too nosey.

An employer doesn’t need to know what genetic markers I have or not. Next, employers will probably want a pregnancy test as part of hiring practices. Or maybe gain the legal right to speak directly with my physician; that’ll certainly make managing health in this country difficult because no one will want to talk to their physician. For an employer, the only concern should be whether or not I do my job correctly during the hours for which I have been scheduled to work, hours that are dictated to a large existent by federal law, at least for now. That’ll probably be the next thing to go.

Second, I don’t trust any employer to keep my information secure. My employer has had student information hacked a number of times, and the last thing that I need to worry about is my genetic information being freely released into the world. I already have to worry about my social security number and my transcript information as it is. Additionally, while we have FERPA law in this country, I know that it is extremely easy for everyone who works within a school to gain access to internal records; I feel sure that the same is likely true in many work settings. I don’t need everyone in the office knowing my personal business; we are not family, we are associates.

Third, this type of absurd law would almost certainly lead to discrimination in an ever increasingly hostile environment, especially at the government level, where racial, ethnic, and sexual identity politics are concerned. In short, the average employer cannot be trusted to be objective in employee hiring, firing, and evaluation when our current administration seems to have an agenda to return to the 1950s in terms of the social subjugation of specific groups, and as a caveat, we have lying Sessions as our AG.

Additionally, I am not in agreement with anything that further restricts my freedoms. As it is, we are all only as free as our culture will allow, and if you don’t believe that is true because for some reason you believe as an American you are free, test the outer limits of cultural norms and see what happens. You’ll line up with what we will allow, or you will be punished every day until you do. We already live within a set of rules that have been slowly chipped away at by many people before us who made gains in terms of restrictive social issues. These brave Americans worked toward removing those social restrictions so that we all could enjoy some measure of influence over our own pursuits of happiness, something that they had not been afforded. Their understanding that personal freedom was at stake was the very reason for the commitment to a slow chipping process. At this point, I am unwilling to return to a more socially restrictive time; it was simply too miserable for many of us who dared to push those limits previously mentioned.

Finally, Ervin Goffman’s 1963 Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity instructed us on what it means to be socially discredited versus discredible in terms of stigmatization. People who wear their identity (i.e., race, sex) are discredited upon inspection. However, many others are discredible (i.e., learned information that discredits such as physical or mental health, arrest records, etc.). Opening up genetic testing to employers is simply another avenue that allows the latter to happen without your involvement.

This recent push from the Trump administration is just one more reminder that we are dealing with a fascist leader who cannot be allowed to erase all of the hard work of those who lived before us and who worked tirelessly, and often in miserable social conditions, so that we could all be more socially free.

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)

diversity · Education · social activism · Uncategorized

Exposing Who I Am

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Teaching can be both the best and worst job at any given time, and I have never been shy about admitting that to other people. Some people believe that teaching is a calling, and therefore, there should be no complaints on the part of those who have been called into service. Other people, of course, believe that teaching is a profession, where the skills involved in teaching have been developed over time in an educational setting. I’ll go out on a limb and say that both beliefs are simultaneously true.

However, there are simply aspects of education that are not that enjoyable, such as policy issues, state legislature influences, budget, classroom behavior issues, etc. I’d be flat out lying about enjoying much of those aspects of my job. And God knows that I hate a department meeting where we (educators) are lectured on things like whether or not we should come up with new ways to satisfy our “customers.”

Frankly, that position has always irritated me. I’ve even had students tell me that they pay tuition, and so I actually work for them. No, um, not today, love. At the college level students pay for an opportunity to learn from someone deemed to be an expert in the field, and that’s it.

My students are not my customers any more than I have been a customer for my mother to accommodate. Had my mother aimed to satisfy me when attempting to teach me, I feel fairly sure that I would be a very different person today, likely a person with less than adequate skills combined with an overinflated sense of self. My mother was tough on me, expected my best efforts, and in many cases, she had excellence in mind; at this point, I appreciate her standard for my conduct.

Additionally, I never had a coach in any capacity that did not demand my best, and the result was that I thought highly of that coach. The truth is that I worked hard for people who demanded my best and then rewarded my improvements. Set a high standard, expect them to meet it, and then praise them to high heaven when they do.

Treating students like customers, however, implies that I must aim for their complete happiness all the times. I feel fairly sure that the care that goes into good guidance cannot always leave people happy, and I am more committed to education than I am to a returning customer. Making students happy is a responsibility of the administration and support staff; I was hired to teach.

My students learn fairly quickly during the semester that I view them as “one of my own,” but never will I see them as a customer. Customer suggests detachment, where what happens after my students leave me happy with the service that I provided is no longer a concern for me. But I feel just the opposite about my students. I feel they are a reflection of me, my influence, and my ability to teach. As such, what happens to them after they leave me does matter to me.

Yesterday after a lesson on research and evidence evaluation, which included discussion about what it means to have good critical thinking skills, one of my male students shared that he was unsure why he felt so emotion (his lip quivered while he spoke and he needed to stop a few times before continuing), but he wanted to thank me for caring about my students enough to make them work, and as a consequence, think. He apparently appreciated that instead of providing the answer, I typically refuse, telling them instead to figure it out and get back to me in ten minutes. Then after they try, and only after, will I guide them to a clearer understanding of the concept.

Our students, just like our children, know when someone is holding them to a high standard out of care for their welfare or simply to be hard. A high standard in an educational setting sends a message of great concern for the success of students. Because I do care about the culmination of my students’ education efforts, I must teach with integrity everyday, whether it is the model my employer believes grows a business or not. My chosen profession is teaching, and some days my “job” is a joy!

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.