Tuesday, July 31, 2007
We were watching the Disney Channel last night and at the commercial break, the Disney logo came up and to my great surprise, Tinkerbell-with black skin-fluttered by.
I was so shocked that I asked my daughter what color Tink's skin was. She looked at me like I had gone crazy and replied, "black."
In general, I don't love Disney's story lines-parents being killed, kids being abandoned, the lack of authentic ethnic role models (except maybe for Mulan-but my jury is still out on her, too) and other 'exciting' story lines.
So, for me to be singing Disney's praises is a bit unusual. But, do you think they are 'getting' it. Do you think that Disney execs and creative people have finally realized that the world is more multi-dimensional, culture and racial than ever?
Some people will bash them for 'pandering' to ethnic groups in order to increase their bottom line and stock price. So what. They should be able to reap the rewards of recognizing that the world is not black and white.
Of course, my days of Disney bashing and of rolling my eyes and sighing, 'don't get me started on Disney' are over. I applaud them for making what must have seemed like a risky move-after all Tinkerbell is not unrecognizable. The choice of Tinkerbell to carry the diversity flag for Disney says to me that they wanted the world to take notice.
Don't worry about me, though. There are still plenty of people out there-especially in the media and entertainment world-who still need to 'get it' and provide our kids with realistic cultural and ethnic role model-and not in isolation. They need to be stars, to take risks and model the behavior that will lead our kids to a successful future.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Are our boys achieving less than girls? Are they more discouraged by global economics that they have retreated into their rooms, spending hour after hour getting fat and playing video games?
We aren't surprised to read that girls out-perform boys in school,more boys drop out of school than girls and their reading levels are sub-standard. More girls than boys take the SATs, go to college or express passion for learning.
Christina Hoff Sommers, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, puts all of the pieces together and comes up with the notion that both the schools and popular culture are "failing boys, leaving them restless bundles of anxiety--misfits in the classroom and video-game junkies at home." She goes further, saying "boyhood is toxic: as a pathology."
Clearly, being functionally illiterate is a huge obstacle for later success-how can anyone, male or female get a job without learning to read? Not many.
So what can we do? First, recognize that there is, in fact, a problem. Second, we must shift our resources into spending time with our kids-the more the better.
But this is not a license to micro-manage your kids. In fact, many speculate that it is the lack of "boyhood basics" like competitions, adventures, belonging to groups and mentors that boys need-a need that some believe have remained constant for hundreds of years-that is the root of the problems boys are having.
Apparently, boys need 'structured freedom' and the opportunity to compete for or against something in order to feel good about themselves. Does that mean that these needs are in male DNA code? Or a we just looking for a justification for our boys falling behind girls-a position that they most certainly would not like?
I am the parent of a girl. I have rearranged my life to be around while she is growing up. I try and give her the freedom she needs-without compromising her safety. She likes to compete-and hates to lose. And yes, she is a passionate learner.
But is that because the schools and society are giving her more attention somehow? Is she just naturally a smart and connected kid? Am I a super-mom?
Much as I would like to think that I am the best mom on the planet, I know better. My daughter has an eviable passion for life and learning that is enhanced by the opportunities that surround her.
Why shouldn't our boys have the same experience? And why are we creating yet another divide or 'ism' in our society at a time when we should be looking for solutions to much bigger problems.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Four-year-old camper: Do you got a car?
14-year-old counselor: Uh, I can't drive.
Four-year-old camper: So does your mom bring you here?!
14-year-old counselor: Yeah. I mean, I live in El Cerrito.
Four-year-old camper: But does that mean you live with your mom or something? Aren't you in college?!
14-year-old counselor: Well, the truth is my license was revoked after I ran over those aliens. The FBI was angry because they needed to talk to them about the plans for the United States embassy on Mars, but it has to be kept hush-hush since the North Koreans may be on to them.
Four-year-old camper: Ohhh...
via Overheard at the Beach, Jul 7, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The books you choose for your kids can reinforce or erase the values that you are trying to instill in them. If you want your daughter to aspire to be a princess with a prince to take care of her, then you are great with Cinderella stories. If you want her to get a more realistic picture of the world, you should consider adding other books to your library.
All mediums have power. For some reason if we see it in a book, in a newspaper or on TV we assume that it must be real and true and unfortunately this extends to the ads as well. So if you want your kids to learn to accept and respect others-and to realize that there are other kinds of people living in the world with them then you will want to expand their horizons.
Early exposure to diverse people and ideas doesmake a difference. Kids who are the beneficiaries of this exposure are statistically less likely to become bullies, be bullied or allow anyone else to be bullied. With this kind of skill set-the ability to judge people on their merits and not their look, language, smell etc. your kids will have a much higher chance of long term success.
And it can all start with books!
Each month, we will review a book that we think does the job. You can look at these books at simpleasthat.com.
Today, we are reviewing, Shapesville
Five friends-Robbie (the red rectangle), Cindy (the yellow circle), Sam (the blue square), Daisy (the orange diamond) and Tracy (the green triangle) discuss their differences and celebrate what makes each of them unique. While we are partial to real world examples the message that it is not what you look like—shape, size, color etc. that truly matters. The rhyming text and simple illustrations using bold primary colors is a winner with children.
Do you have any favorites that help you instill and reinforce values in your kids-without hitting them over the head, of course.
Let me know.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Some residents applaud the moving saying that their property values are negatively impact by the number of people and cars at the same location. Opponents of the measures say that this is an attempt to discriminate against people of Hispanic and other ethnic backgrounds.
This controversy does smell of racial discrimination-hidden behind the guise of property values. When are we going to wake up and smell the coffee? This kind of hidden discrimination does not help our children to respect and celebrate all people.
Are the people in question breaking any laws by living in crowded conditions? Do we want to live in the fantasy that they want to live in a house that can't accommodate them comfortably? Let's get real. Everyone does what he or she has to do to take care of themselves and their families. What they don't need is some nosy, racist neighbor making a difficult life more difficult.
What is happening in Cobb County happens all over the world where the price of housing is astronomical. Take a look at Hong Kong and other Asia cities. Large extended families live together in small apartments so that the children can save for their own families and apartments. There is just no other choice.
Instead of making things difficult for different groups of people-almost universally minorities-should we be looking for ways to make things just a bit easier or at least not put up premeditated roadblocks that serve no purpose other than to line a white person's pockets?
This debacle has the look and feel of the immigration controversy recently dinged in Congress. When are we and our government going to create policies that preserve human dignity for everyone?
Today would be a good time to start.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Just reading those words can send shivers down the spines of even the most secure adoptive parent. But when you know the rest of the story-that the child had been in foster care in US because her birthparents lost their income and medical insurance and did not understand that they were potentially giving up their custodial rights. They just thought they could leave her in foster care until they got back on their feet.
Seven year later, the young girl-who has lived with the Tennessee couple-will be returned to her birthparents by the end of July. The judge ruled that the birthparents did not understand the consequences of their actions and in fact, had been fighting for her since they put her into foster care.
Some people are outraged-how can rip away all that the girl has come to know? How can the seperate her from the 'parents' who raised her for the last seven years? Many wonder what the long-term consequences of the decision on the child.
At the end of the day, this girl belongs with her parents-in this case the ones who brought her into this world. In fact, all children are better off if they are raised by their birthparents and in their birth-culture if it is possible.
Now, this doesn't mean adoption is wrong and that all children of adoption should be returned to their birthparents. Far from it. What it means is that we better make darn good and sure that the children who are available for adoption, are, in fact, available for adoption. No glitches in the system should be acceptable.
The heartache and heartbreak that everyone in the Tennessee situation went through is enormous and has to be eliminated-not just in this case but for all adoptions.
It is stories like this-that make national headlines-that reinforce the negative stereotypes about adoption. In this case, it also reinforces stereotypes and myths about Chinese people and their acceptance in this country.
Adoption, like racism, sexism, ageism etc is just another divide-another way for people to seperate themselves from others-and not in a positive way.
We have to stop all the 'isms'. We have to get our kids on a level playing field-no matter what they look like, where they come from or how they joined their families.
Let's do the right thing...starting right now.
With respect and celebration,
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
It wasn't pretty.
But all of the camper and their parents straggled in-all telling their own version of traffic hell. Little did they know-or care-that almost every one else had the exact same story.
Don't get me wrong, it took me three hours to get here....but I didn't feel the need to tell my story-it took everyone a long time, everyone was wet and everyone was sweaty. There was some comfort (although misery does love company, I suppose) in knowing we were all in the boat together.
Since we had plenty of time in the car to chat, I asked my daughter what she liked best at camp. She said, my friends, cooking and culture (she likes culture because the teacher always gives them candy). She didn't mention that she felt comfortable in a group of Asian girls and boys, so I asked her if it felt good to have so many kids around her that looked like her.
After she stopped rolling her eyes and sighing she informed me that it didn't matter that the kids were all from Asia, 'what matters is that we all have fun.'
I wonder if by leveling the racial/ethnic playing field helped the kids simply relax and have fun.
What would happen if everyone felt the same way.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Believe me, this is not a very glamorous camp. It takes place the third week of July-which is inevitably the hottest week of the year. The camp takes place in a church which is not air-conditioned and is a bit smelly. The kids go through seven or eight 'periods' each day. They cook, take language and dance classes, Tae Kwon Do, Arts and Crafts and music.
It is one of the few places that my daughter blends into the crowd. Frankly, I think the environment where all the kids have dark hair, almond-shaped eyes and joined their families throught adoption that is the appeal-and what keeps the kids coming year after year.
I have thought about how she must feel being one of the 'onlies'-only child, only Asian, only adopted kid etc, but since I have not lived those feelings, I can only experience it intellectually.
Today, I was looking for her in the music class and got a more viceral experience.
The kids were sitting in the chapel with their backs to me and were all wearing yellow t-shirts (it was picture day). I had a moment of panic when I could not pick her out of the crowd. I couldn't believe it. She is my child. I know what she looks like. But the pony-tailed, yellow shirted girls all looked alike.
I had to walk to the front of the room, to spot my daughter.
This experience made me wonder what my daughter sees when she is looking for me in a sea of Caucasians. It also reminded me what it feels like to be a minority-if only for a week.
Are you in situations where your kids are in the majority most of the time, or do they struggle to 'fit in' to our Caucasian standards.
It makes you think.
Monday, July 16, 2007
She and her husband made a beautiful couple and were shining with their love and the support of family and friends. It was a great day.
When Becky went to the salon she had been going to all of her life to get a pre-wedding manicure, the manicurists (all Korean) patted her on the head and sighed-"too bad he's a white boy."
While we all chuckled when her mother related that story, it made me stop and think. I am pretty connected to my own biases-they are pretty typical of women my age, reace and background I think. I guess I knew that all people carried biases along with them-I just never really thought that Caucasians as the object of racism. It had just never occured to me (ok, so I am a little slow on the uptake).
And that is a bias in and of itself.
Where it nets out for me is that I need to open my eyes and look at things from other perspectives.
In other words, its time to put up or shut up.
Friday, July 13, 2007
If it is a "joke" that is even worse. "Jokes" can and do reinforce and spread racism and bias. When we think we are 'funny' at someone else's expense-what does that say about us?
Ask yourself if this is funny or racist-it can't be both can it?
I Was Told This Was a Gated Community
Mom: I don't think we can stay at this hotel the whole time.
Daughter: Why? What's wrong? It's not that bad...
Mom: No, there's just so many Mexicans at the pool.
Daughter: We're in Mexico, mother!
--Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Thursday, July 12, 2007
But, today I think my glass is at lesat 3/4 of the way to full!
One of the issues for people raising children of a different race is providing authentic role models. After all, if you are white and your child is Chinese, you can teach him about China, but you can't teach him how to be Chinese. You may have an intellectual understanding of what a child of color might experience, but you would never really know what implications the child's race or ethnicity has-simply because your experience in the world has not prepared you.
Today, my daughter is splashing in a pool with LuLu. LuLu has been in the US (from Shanghai)for four of her 13 years. LuLu's mom is my daughter's Chinese language and culture teacher. When Min offered to send her daughter to be a mother's helper a few days a week, I was estatic-and not just because my daughter would be out of my hair for a few hours-she would have role model. A Chinese teen, born in China and living in a Chinese family.
My daughter took to LuLu right away and I heard Lulu teaching my daughter some Mandarin and practicing what she already knew. LuLu taught her the character for horse-and then played Monopoly with her. They were chatting away like old friends.
I believe that my daughter is starved for friends of color, role models and experiences that I can't give her. I am not exaggerating. Nor am I downplaying my role as her parent. I am just facing up to the fact that as much as I love her I can't provide it all.
Beside her immediate attraction to LuLu, my daughter surprised me by listing her 'best friends' the other day. The are: Delaney (adopted from China); Ping (adopted from China) Kendra (adopted from Cambodia) and Pablo (born in El Salvador).
I was surprised those were her choices-I was expecting the parade of the WASPs.
But her choices tell me a lot about what she is processing now.
So, as you look to raise great kids, don't overlook the importance of developing friends of all shapes, colors and sizes. You don't have to feel awkward in 'targeting' people-after all, if you were a single woman, you might 'target' single moms to engage.
Get your kids used to dealing with people from everywhere, in every color in the rainbow. It might be one of the most important thing you do for your kids!
With Respect and Celebration,
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
When you cook anything with kids, you have to follow some basic rules:
1. Your kitchen and everything in it will be dirty
2. The recipes have to be kid-friendly-they will get bored and cranky if there are too many steps or the recipe is complicated.
3. The kids have to be 'hands-on' with the entire process.
4. You will probably end up cleaning the kitchen yourself while the kids slink off to watch TV.
5. To really be fun for kids-and less frustrating for you-have everything you
will need close at hand.
Last night we made jiaoze (Chinese dumplings). It was a messy and fun experience-and the dumplings were delicious. It gave us the opportunity to talk about dumplings from all over the world-ravioli, pirogi, kreplach, etc. Everyone was amazed at how many people ate dumplings. It really illustrated how similar we all are....and with that, we created one less bias.
In all-it was a home run!
Here is Min's Shanghai Dumplings-you can find all of the ingredients at your local grocery store:
In a large bowl mix together (preferably with your hands)
1. 1 lb ground pork
2. 1 small bag (1/2 pound) of fine shredded coleslaw
3. 1/2 lb baby shrimp (cut them into pieces if they aren't small enough)
4. 1/4 Cup of Sherry or cooking wine
5. Ginger root juice-smash some fresh ginger with the back of a knife and then squeeze the juice into the bowl
6. 2 tsp Salt (or one chicken bullion cube
7. 2 T soy sauce
8. 1 T sugar
9. 1 T sesame oil
10. Won ton wraps (you will need to trim the edges to make them round for dumplings)
Making the dumpling:
Take a tsp of filling and put in the middle of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half. Dip your finger into water and use the water to seal the dumplings.
Put dumplings into the water and cook until they puff up-about two minutes.
Let me know how they turn out.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
It is true that some children's programs do have multi-cultural and multi-racial casts we still have a long way to go to bring those casts and characters to the level they need to be in order to level the playing field by eliminating biases and stereotyping.
However, as Frances Kai-Hwa Wang wrote on
, young APAs still yearn for heroes and positive role models; we are still playing "Spot the Asian" in the media.
We are not only playing "Spot the Asian", we are playing "Spot the person of color".
In fact, a TV commercial for Chuck E. Cheese-that self proclaimed
bastion of multi-culturalism seems to have forgotten to add black children (there was a token Asian and a smattering of Hispanic kids)to the spot! OOPSIE!
I might not have noticed this if I 1) was not raising a child of color or 2) had not read Ms. Wang's article.
Part of our job in eliminating bias and preventing bullying is to NOTICE and then RESPOND when we see things that further stereotypes. So, watch out Chuck E. Cheese, here we come.
What are you going to do?
With respect and celebration,
Friday, July 6, 2007
Girl #1: Rhinos have two horns.
Girl #2: I thought they had one, like a unicorn.
Girl #3: Aren't unicorns extinct?
via Overheard at the Beach, May 26, 2007
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Despite intermittent rain, we spent the day at a pool party. There were about a dozen kids having a great time splashing around and moving from the hot tub to the pool. Pedistrian kid stuff for July 4th.
At one point, the kids were all in the hot tub-eleven blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids and one Asian girl-my daughter. They started to compare their summer tans. Needless to say the blondes were on the pale side of tan. My daughter, on the other hand, gets quite dark.
That is when something amazing happened! As the kids started to even hint that darker skin was not desirable, my daughter piped up and said "just think if all the flowers were the same color-that would be so boring. Its the same with people. Our differences make the world interesting." Then she proceeded to organize the kids on a 'color hunt' in the flower garden. They were able to pick out dozens of colors-including several shades of blue from one hydranga bush. She had made her point.
Needless to say, I was bursting with pride. The other parents looked on in amazement at the entire exchange. First of all, they were surprised the kids started the skin color conversation! Secondly, the ease in which my daughter handled the question and then the live example was a great sight to see.
Then I thought about some of my own rantings on this blog. Sometimes, I seem santimonious and for that I apologize. That is not my intent. My intent is to raise our collective consciousnesses to embrace the fact that we can do something about bias and racism-and it only helps our kids deal with the world around them.
When we do it right-or even if we just try-the results are amazing.
What did your kids do to amaze you on July 4th?
With respect and celebration,
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
I witness something that made more than my buttocks chap! I think my whole body was vibrating in anger!
Here's the scene:
The carnival was crowded and kids were being asked to double and triple up on the "Sizzler" which had quite a line. No problem, right? That is a reasonable request. Some my crew got into the seat (which easily accommodated three kids).
Of course, not everyone could follow the rules? One mom had two girls on the ride-each in their own car! The attendant didn't notice as he was busy getting everyone strapped in (the girls had already been on the ride).
When the ride ended everyone got off the ride-some kids wanted to ride again and so queued up again. Not the girls, though. Their mother was screaming from the sidelines-"stay on, stay on". When the girls made a move to ride together the screaming (and I mean screaming) continued-"don't move," the mom shouted above the din.
This time the attendant did see the girls-first in separate cars and then realized that they hadn't gotten off and were riding again-even though the line was snaking around the corner with other kids (including mine)who were waiting. As the attendant approached the girls, he politely asked them to get off and get back on the line if they wanted to ride again-the same rule that applied to
everyone else in at the ride.
Well, you would have thought that their mother had been stung by a bee-she literally leaped over the fence and started screaming at the kids to stay put. The kids were frozen-they didn't know whether to stay or get off. The mother exchanged heated words with the attendant-"why is this such a big deal-they aren't bothering anyone. I paid my money just like everyone else." Again, the attendant tried to explain that there were other children waiting and that kids had to get off of the ride and get back on line if they wanted to ride again-and that they had to double up if there was a line.
That is when the mother went crazy; screaming at the attendant (who, as a reminder, was doing his job). The attendant finally gave up and the girls continued to ride.
Why did this 'chap my a--'?
It wasn't just the display-which I found disgusting. It was the sense of entitlement that this woman demonstrated. For whatever reason, she felt that the rules did not apply to her family.
What does that mean for her kids-they will likely grow up with a sense of entitlement-to follow only the rules which apply to them-continuing the cycle.
As with all behavior that negatively effects our children and communities has to be stopped-and that buck starts and stops with us. Think about the last time you were talking on your cell phone while driving (which is illegal in several states) or ignored a restaurant's 'no cell phone policy'. When we think about our own behavior, and how many times we teach our kids by example that the rules don't apply to us, we are as culpable as the lady at the carnival.
Are you vigilant in following the rules-even when it isn't convienient-as an example to your kids?
Let's make a committment today to break this vicious cycle!
With respect and celebration,
PS: for more kids book reviews go to As Simple As That . We would love to take a look at your favorite books, too.
Monday, July 2, 2007
And yes, it a lot of cases it is an 'either or' questions.
A look at Census data quickly will tell us the trans-racial families, i.e. multiple races represented-a Caucasian couple adopting a black baby and inter-racial racial families-two people of different races producing children- are two of the fastest growing segments of the US population.
So unless these families live in a truly multi-cultural area, someone in the family probably sticks out like a sore thumb. Which, of course, is the heart of the racial identity/stability controversy for many families.
Jaiya Johns, the author of "Black Baby, White Hands" tells the story of his childhood growing up in Los Alamos New Mexico-where he never saw another black person and only saw other people of color when he discovered nearby Native Americans.
While his childhood was happy and stable, he and his brother did not have any role black role models. They had no one in their family who could understand-really understand what was like to be black in an all white world. It took him many years of exploration and discovery to become comfortable in his own skin. If you haven't read it, you should. You might also like " The Color of Water" which is the story of the relationship and challenges of a family-also stable-with a black father and Caucasian Jewish mother.
But is stability enough? How do you instill a sense of someone's racial who doens't share skin color, background, ethnicity, etc.
If you were to look at adoption message boards today, Caucasians adopting black children are more aware of the need for their children to develop a strong sense of culture. On those boards you will lots of questions about caring for their children's hair and skin. You might not see anything about building a racial identity.
Caucasian parents of Asian children can teach their children about Asia, but they can't teach them to be Asian. That can only come from those who have 'been there, done that'. Caucasian parent of children of color can understand the issues on an intellectual basis-but no matter what they do they will never have the experiences that their children of color face.
Children of mixed race often land somewhere in the middle and tend to move toward other people of color where they feel that they 'belong'. The parent of color in that family is likely to have a better understanding of what the child needs to develop a strong racial self.
So what do you do? Do you move to Chinatown if your children is Asian and you are not? Do you move to multi-cultural neighborhood? Or do you move at all? If you are in a homogeneous neighborhood (and yes, they do still exist) what can you do to help you child of color build a racial identity when he doesn't have any live-in role models.
Tough questions to answer to be sure and deserve careful consideration-and it is hard not to want to jump to either side of the fence or the other.
Some experts say that kids need stability above all else and the racial identity piece will take care of itself-although one would wonder how that could be. Other experts will tell you to move into a neighborhood and school where you child will be living and learning with other children of color-of course, in this scenario the parent would be the sore thumb. You would really have to ask yourself if you could raise 'healthy' children if you were in the minority position. Would you feel comfortable? Could you put your own biases on hold-letting kids experience 'human kind and not just 'our' kind'?
Without moving, parents can try and build a network of people of color that will help their kids see how adults of color 'are in the world'. You can fill you home with items from their culture and cultures around the world. You can travel. You can select books that portray all people realistically. A great example of this is "The Candy Store" by Jan Wahl (read the review at www.simpleasthat.com), you can educate the educators by providing ideas and solutions for how to incorporated multi-cultural/multi-racial/multi-whatever into schools and classroom.
And yes, you will have to run around town tearing down the signs for the Chinese Auction when you see them and speak up when someone belittles any group.
Whichever you chose, stability or racial identity, you are going to have to advocate, educate and take action every day to help create a world that every kid and family feels that they belong.
With a little luck maybe you can even have both!