Friday, June 29, 2007

What do you get when you cross a horse with a zebra?

Why-a zorse, of course!

In what must be the ultimate "inter-racial" relationship, a safari park in Germany bred a horse and a zebra and getting-you guessed it-a zorse!

A male zebra and a female horse "accidentally" produced a baby zorse or zebroid.

The little cutie, a female, is unusual-not because she is the product of her parents but because instead of morphing the traits of both parents which results in muted striped all over, this gal has only two patches of strips!

Officials at the park are concerned that the little zorse be lonely without anyone who looks like her and so they are searching for a boyfriend for her. They fear that she will be ostracized and then become depressed because she is different.

It appears that being different when you are young-whatever the circumstances-is not desirable. Remember that they next time you see or hear something that might make another kid feel different or somehow not worth as much as someone else.

If it could happen to a zorse it could happen to all of our kids!

Have a great weekend! And if you happen to see a zorse roaming around your neighborhood who looks like he needs a friend-have I got a girl for you!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Daniel and the case of the 'dirty' money!

Remember I told you about my new caregiver-Daniel (the manny)? Daniel is a pleasant All-American kid, finishing up college and aspires to teach math to middle schoolers.
Kind of your 'average Joe', so I was surprised when he told me the story of what happened to him at a local gas station.

He needed gas, but didn't have much money on him, so he was scrounging around his car looking for loose change. When he tried to hand the attendant his money-which he admits was a little sticky-the attendant shouted at him that he was not going to take his 'dirty money'. Of course, 'dirty money' doesn't always mean that the money isn't physically clean-but is generally assumed to mean it is tainted somehow-at least in our country.

Oh, by the way, keep in mind that the attendant was of Middle Eastern descent and may have, in fact, been disturbed that the money was not clean (as in spic 'n span clean-not legimate clean).

Daniel responded to the attendant with a snide and inappropriate comment about the gentleman's gratitude for the honor of living in the United States.
Needless to say, this generated an equally hostile response from the attendant and Daniel ended up leaving the money on top of the counter and stalking away. With his anger Daniel took away a little more evidence to support his 'truth' about people from the Middle East and maybe even all immigrants.

What really happened?

Was the real problem that the attendant didn't want to take money that was dirty, sticky or otherwise unappealing. Maybe he wanted Daniel to find money that was more acceptable. I think that is a reasonable explanation for the encounter.

Daniel reacted as he did-not because he is a bad person but because he has biases that get cemented by the media-don't all Middle Eastern people hate Americans and are just waiting for the next opportunity to cause our country harm-and other experiences.

Don't get me wrong: there is a lot of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East and there are people, though not exclusively of Middle Eastern descent that are planning our demise-and this becomes our opinion of all people from the Middle East.

Daniel fell into a classic stereotypical racist trap-one dictated by his biases about people from the Middle East.

What do you think Daniel would have done if the gas station attendant had been a white kid? Probably would have found some cleaner money.

We have to actively work against knee-jerk biased reactions. Education helps. So does a cool head and the presence of mind to understand why we think and act like we do. No one says it is easy-but at this point in world history do we have any choice.

Makes you think, doesn't it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I was all set to go on a rant about 'park-ism'. A study of the public parks in New York City has discovered that the quality of public parks is related to the affluence where they are. Approximately, one out of nine parks in NYC is 'below standard'.

No kidding! Is anyone surprised by this? Parks in the more affluent areas of the city have non-profits-like the Central Park Conservancy-tending to them. In the less affluent areas the parks are looked after by the NYC Parks Department.

So, congratulations to trend-setting New York City for adding another 'ism' to our vocabulary!

Speaking of parks, someone overheard the following conversation on a playground-it is the best example of how to deal with racism that I have ever seen.

Child #1: Is that your mother?
Child #2: Yes.
Child #1: Why is she white and you are black?
Child #2: Because I am adopted, and black people have more melanin than white people do.
Child #1: Oh, let's go on the high bars.

Talk about out of the mouths of babes! These kids have the right idea-they took the emotion and judgement out of skin color by using-facts! What a concept!

Skin color, like many other physical traits, is evolutionary. People with darker skin don't sunburn as easily as those with light skin. So doesn't it make sense that people who evolved in warm climates would have darker skin. The skin color is nature's protection against the sun's damaging rays. It is not a signal of anything else. We have added our own spin to skin color.

Imagine what would happen in the world if we filled our children with facts and left our own smoldering biases in the garbage where they belong? Would our kids have the ability to view people as people or would skin color, country of origin, language, stature, sex and age be the criteria for evaluating people.

Don't get me wrong-race and culture do matter. To be 'color blind' is ridiculous. The question remains, can we accept people as they are and make judgements from facts and not from biases that have been cemented into our psyche.

Let's take the first step today and stick with the facts!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Illegal aliens", Paris Hilton and Raising Kids.

I know, the link between illegal aliens, Paris Hilton and raising great kids seems a bit esoteric on first glance-but stick with me and then see if you agree.

Today's top news stories are Paris Hilton's release from jail (I know, I know you are relieved for the poor girl, too) and the heated debate on the pending immigration laws.

First of all, I want someone to tell me what an "illegal alien"? Do they come from Jupiter or another planet? Can people be illegal? It can't possibly be illegal to be a person, can it?

We do have upwards of 13 million "UNDOCUMENTED" people living in the United States. I know that using accurate language doens't always translate to good sound bites, but don't our kids deserve accurate information-information that isn't inherently judgemental and prejudicial?

It wasn't that long ago that my daughter was an immigrant. Yep, she came to the US on a green card and went through the citizenship process complete with holding up her right hand swearing to defend the Constitution. She is a pretty smart kid and has made the connection from immigration to racism pretty quickly ("why don't people like people from Mexico, Mommy?" when she saw a group vehemently protesting the legalization of undocumented workers who were primarily from Mexico). How I responded to that question and what actions I took-if any-were critical to her.

Next up is Paris Hilton-while most people claim to be sick of Paris it is one of the most viewed stories online-far outstripping folks interested in legislation that could materially influence our kids futures. It doesn't make sense to me that we would give a hoot about Paris, let alone be hungry for all things "Paris".than other topical issues. Yet, there it is-Paris Hilton as a role model for kids. I don't know about you, but that scares me.

So we have two interesting role models-one of intolerance and one of arrogance. How is a savvy parent supposed to deal with these less than desirable role models?

Raising great kids takes guts. We have to take a stand-they have to walk the walk and talk the talk. You can't claim to be anti-racist if you make cracks about
'those dirty Mexicans are taking our jobs." Even ethnic jokes have to be thought through. You can't claim that Paris Hilton is nothing more than a synchophant yet eagerly devour news coverage about her. Your kids GET this....and then they become you!

Parenting and raising great kids-kids with a realistic and accepting view of themselves and others-is done by example. Kids learn by what we do first and what we say second-Just remember that the next time you swear under your breath or sneak a smoke!

Ask yourself what your interest level in Ms. Hilton would have been if she was a Hispanic person that didn't have the documents to 'work' in the US? More interesting- is what would have happened if Paris wasn't white and priveledged?

So you see, the link isn't so esoteric after all. Its all about role models for the next gen.

Have a great day.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Parties, People, Perspective

It was a great weekend-the weather was good, we went to a great party and to the beach. I actually had a chance to sit and watch my daughter play with a new friend.

She met the new friend at a pool party (yes, life is tough!)on Friday afternoon. She was nervous before the party, wondering if she would know anyone, would anyone play with her and other jitters. She called me three or four times to tell me that she was just going to drop off the gift and come home.

When I arrived to pick her up she was right in the thick of things; laughing and splashing. Needless to say she did not want to leave.

I wondered what had turned the tables for her-so I asked her. She replied, "look at the kids, Mom. They all look like me." When I looked, I saw only one other Asian child. I said, "there is only one Asian girl." My daughter then looked me with an expression the said 'why do I have to explain everything'. She sighed and said, Maaaaaa, they are all different colors."

And they were.

It makes me wonder if I am doing the right thing by raising her in an all-white neighborhood. It makes me wonder how I can really help her develop her sense of self-as an Asian American woman.

I don't have the answers, but I am sure that she will help guide me. In the meantime, if you have any ideas let me know.


Friday, June 22, 2007

NYC-paying for grades!!

The New York Times has been reporting on the mayor's plan to begin paying kids for grades and attendance. Educators are up in arms because they want kids to love learning. The program is meant to improve the performance of black and Hispanic students and are part of an overall anti-poverty plan.

Funded by private donations, the program will also pay adults $150 a month for keeping a full-time job and $50 per month for having health insurance. Families can also recieve $50 per month per child for high attendance rates and $25 for attending a parent-teacher conference.

Kids in fourth grade can 'earn' $25 for each PERFECT SCORE on standardized tests and $5 for just taking the test. Seventh graders will get a more cash to show up-I guess seventh graders are worth more money!

The program will launch in 40 schools in primarily lower-income areas.

Ok, the good news is it won't cost me any money and could actually help some people.

I do have issues for encouraging kids to be 'perfect', as in get a perfect score and you will get rewarded. I also have a problem with being rewarded for just showing up. Would I be less skeptical if the program paid for each book read or some other empirical measure that didn't involve being perfect. Maybe. I am not really sure.

What does bother me is the racial implications that poor and minority students can be bought. What bothers me is that no one seems to be addressing the root problem-racial inequality in the schools. Why not pay teachers more? Why not provide more resources? Why not develop a 'pay for behavior' plan that doesn't decimate the kids' self-esteem by making them live up to being 'perfect.'

I am all for encouraging all kids to do well in school but I am not for putting pressure on them to be perfect.

Maybe somewhere in this scheme there is a plan that will work to motivate kids and their parents to achieve great educational heights-but the answer is not in making kids perfect.

Kids have way too much pressure on them already. They don't need anymore.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cultural Awareness Runs Amok

I saw this on and laughed out loud. I am usually so focued on the seriousness of cultural and racial diversity that I miss the humor-but this sure hit home for me.

"Her" People Love Fashion at a Bargain

Older woman: Excuse me, miss?
Younger woman: Yeah?
Older woman: Your veil, your burqa is very beautiful. I didn't know your people were allowed to wear it in bright colors.
Younger woman: It's not a burqa, it's a poncho. I'm Jewish. It's for the rain. I got it at TJ Maxx.

--53rd & 7th

Sometimes we all just try too hard.

I hope this makes you laugh-and think!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Help Fight Child Abuse-DONATE NOW!

Five words you don't want to hear: "you just missed Brad Pitt"

We just missed Brad Pitt and one of his sons when we were in New York City. I am sure Brad and I would have hit it off beautifully becaues Angelina Jolie Angelina and I have a lot in common.

Ok, so she is a young, beautiful and a talented actress and I am a 40 something, slightly overweight, harried mom who and can't act her way out of a paper bag-but really here is what we share:

1. growing our families through adoption

2. trans-racial families

3. working moms

4. a deep committment to make the world a better place

Angelina and Brad have the eyes of the world press on them all the time. I have a seven year old velcroed to me most of the time-but I have you. And there are kids that need your help (and you don't even have to adopt them!).

Child abuse-running the gamet from bullying to death-is a huge issue right here in the good ole US of A and there are MILLIONS of children that need to be protected right now. On behalf of these children I have set up a fund-raising program thru Firstgiving-a safe and well respected online fundraising operation-to raise money for Love Our Children, USA ( a nearly decade old non-profit dedicated to ending all forms of child abuse. And knowing the executive director, Ross Ellis as I do, they will succeed.

Here is the link to the site:

Any little bit helps-and no contribution is too small. Someone very wise told me once "it takes a lot of raindrops to fill the ocean".

So let's let some raindrops fall into our ocean-starting right now.

Now let me get back to Jolie-Pitt watching-maybe next time, I will get to have that little chat with Brad. And I hear that he really IS that handsome.



Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What color are you?

Seems like an easy question, doesn't it. But, it sure stumped me when my daughter (who was born in China) asked me what color she was.

She knew she wasn't black and she knew she wasn't white, but she couldn't figure out-in a world where lots of things seem black and white-where she fit in. Never mind that 2/3 of the world's population shares her physical traits-she wanted to know where she was on the color spectrum.

She knew our black friend Gloria's skin is pecan brown, and the people she sees in Jamaica remind her of the ebony keys on the piano. Her friend Chasen's skin is lighter than Gloria's and is more like a creamy chocolate. But she still didn't know what color she was.

She compared her skin to mine-I am of Italian descent and my skin is decidedly olive-y-and she announced that she didn't know why I was white. "Snow is white, vanilla ice cream is white-you are not white, Mommy," she said. And, you know, she is right.

"If I am not white, then what color am I," I asked. She looked at the bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter and pulled out a peach, a plum and an apriot. She thought for a minute and said, "you are peacicot-a combination of peach and apricot. Not what I had expected, but at least she didn't pull out the green apple!

She began to see that people are not black or white, they are ebony, pecan brown, peachicot and creamy chocolate and every color in between. She is learning that the world-and people are a rich tapestry of shapes, colors, smells and sizes. But she still couldn't quite fit herself into the spectrum until she saw a toucan on TV. When she saw the toucan's beak she spotted a color that she felt best represented her---and it was a beautiful yellowish color.

As she began to feel comfortable with her 'color' she looked at me and said, "we are all such beautiful colors, but I don't really think it matters-what matters is what is inside."

I couldn't have said it better myself-in fact I wish I had said it.

What color are you? How would you answer the question. For me, I am quite content being peacicot! And take a good look at the toucan's beak when you get a chance....maybe you will see yourself!


Monday, June 18, 2007

Site Meter

The "Chinese Auction" and other idiocy!

I saw it again-a flyer in a local business advertising an upcoming "Chinese Auction." I just shook my head and thought 'when will we ever get it right?' My daughter-born in China-wanted to know who was being auctioned. She was afraid that it was a child that someone no longer wanted!

Yikes! Who knew that language that we take for granted and shrug off as political correctness run amok could have such an impact on a child.

Remember when we routinuely used expressions like "Mexican stand off", "Indian Giver" without giving it a second thought? Did any of us realize that the term "Dutch treat" was coined because someone thought the Dutch were cheap! Remember when sitting cross-legged on the ground was called sitting like an Indian?"

We don't hear many of these deragatory and insulting comments-kids in schools today sit like a pretzel or criss cross applesauce. But still we use deragatory language unconsciously all the time. It is hard to change old habits. Many of us are not conviced it is a big deal. Of course, those that think it isn't a big deal probably aren't in the group that is being derided.

So, today I am roaming around town taking down the signs for the "Chinese Auction" and replacing them with new flyers eliminates the word "Chinese". Some of you may think I am over-reacting, but then again, maybe your child wasn't afraid that she was going to be auctioned off. Believe me, that would change your tune in a heartbeat.

Are you conscious of your language (and I don't just mean four-letter words) and the impact they have on children? What are you going to do today to make sure you are part of the solution of preventing bias and later bullying and not part of the problem.

Friday, June 15, 2007


We Mandu-Do you?

I've learned that one of the best ways to fight racism and bias in my family is to introduce diverse and culturally interesting things into our daily routine. One of the easiest ways for us is food.

Dumplings are found in nearly every culture-and I have never met a dumpling I didn't like! We stumbled on this SIMPLE recipe for mandu (Korean Dumplings) and thought I would share it.

1 lb chop meat
1 stalk scallion-chopped
1/2 head Chinese cabbage-chopped
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
3 tsp soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 package mandu or wonton skins
vegetable oil

Dice all of the vegetables and mix with the meat.
Add soy sauce and sesame oil.
Put 1/2 tsp of the mixture in the center of the mandu or wonton skin
Coat the edge with beaten egg
Fold to seal edges and pan fry in vegetable oil until golden brown

Now, I don't believe that eating dumplings is going to cure bias and it effects-but it can't hurt, can it?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Summer is here..hire a 'manny'!

Summer vacation has arrived at my house and the words "I'm bored" have already escaped my seven-year olds lips. To make matters worse, most of the schools in the area are still in session and none of the summer activities have started-not that it matters. My daughter has adamantly and steadfastly refused to go to camp for the summer. She wants a babysitter (of course, what she really wants is for me to spend the summer with her as her entertainment director-which just ain't gonna happen!). So, I got her a babysitter.

Back to the babysitter saga. I think I interviewed 15 or 20 college age girls. Not one of them was a 'doer'-someone who could keep a bright and energetic seven year old out of my office. They didn't bike, swim, play soccer. They didn't like board games, reading or going to the library. They did like to get their nails done and play inside. I was beginning to get discouraged. Would I ever find someone who would keep my child safe while keeping her busy?

Then along came Daniel. That's right, Daniel-a 21 year-old college student-and yes, he is male.
And yes, he is great!

When my mother heard the news she was aghast-'a boy, what is wrong with him that he wants to babysit.' She didn't seem to hear the part about his great references and that he was going into elementary school teaching. She could only focus on his sex! In her mind, boys should not be babysitters and if they were they must be pedophiles.

Talk about bias-or yet another 'ism' and right under my nose.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes.

My daughter 'graduated' from second grade today. It was a lovely occasion. As I sat with the other parents at the poolside graduation party we reminisced about the school year that had just ended. As we chatted, one of the children-the only black person in the class-was reprimanded by the lifeguard. One of the parents shrugged his shoulders and said, "I knew it would Samuel who got into trouble-you know how these people are."

These people? Just who were these people? Were 'these people' black people? Were they young people? Were they boy people? Second grade people? Or people not like him? More importantly how did we get from one kid's behavior to these people?

I was horrified by his statement and his attitude and I contemplated ignoring him-after all, I was enjoying a rare afternoon out of the office. But I knew that I couldn't. I don't think we can pick and choose when and if we are going to fight racism. We either do it-or we don't. So, I did-and it felt good.

Later, when my daughter got in the car she said to me, "I liked the way you stood up for Samuel. It made me sure that you would stick up for me-you know that I am a person of color, too."

I learned a great lesson today. You can talk about the issues like racism, but it doesn't count until your kid sees or hears you take a stand against racist behavior.

Today I put my money where my mouth is....and I hit the jackpot.

What would you have done?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Satire or Racism-is there a difference?

Over the weekend, I went to see my cousin’s daughter in her first Off Off Broadway play-a satire, mocking Italian-Americans from New York. The play was written and directed by an Italian-American and several of the cast members were Italian-American. Since I am an Italian-American from New York, I suppose they thought I would laugh at jokes--instead I was thinking about the line between satire and racism and when does satire cross the line into racism-if it does.

Do we use satire to hide racism? Is it satire if we pick fun at members of our own racial, ethnic or cultural group and racism if we direct comments and behavior toward another group?

I looked up the definitions of racism and satire and here is what I found--satire is a literally tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vices or weakness. Many definitions state that in order for it to be satire the intent of the ridicule is to correct or change the subject of the satiric attack. Most definitions assert that the satiric attack is ‘witty’ and implicitly constructive.

Racism, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “a belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race-especially to distinguish superiority or inferiority vis a vis other races.” The Merriam-Webster's Webster's Dictionary adds racism “is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities. The Macquarie Dictionary adds that races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures. All of the definitions incorporate the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others.

I guess I don’t really see the difference between racism and satire. Satire does seem like a license to promote racism. The fact that satire is supposed to ‘correct’ something seems preposterous and pompous.

No, I didn’t laugh at the jokes mocking Italian-Americans. Maybe they were just not funny. Or maybe, the differences between satire and racism are just too close to call and I would rather err of the side of caution.

Whatever the reason, I would encourage you to look at how you look at satire-and make sure it really isn’t racism.

Cheers, Deb

Friday, June 8, 2007

Welcome to Raising Confident, Compassionate and Respectful Kids.

On this blog we are going to focus on discussing easy-to-implement strategies to expose children to diverse people and ideas-and its benefits. Decades of social science research has show us that children who are exposed to a wide variety of people and ideas are far less likely to become biased-or worse-and are less likely to tolerate bullying behavior in any form.

Kids who have the ability to interact successfully with all kinds of people can face the 21st Century with confidence and skills that will serve them a lifetime.