Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts

November 3, 2011

It's not OK to post pictures of your Asian child making “Chinese eyes”

As Mei-Ling said, I can’t let this one pass. And you are right, Mei-Ling, my head is now bruised from banging it on my desk all morning. Thank you for alerting me, and for passing on Resist Racism's and Joy's posts in response.

The subject is an adoptive parent’s post of a photo of her child making the “Chinese eyes” gesture (not linking, don't want traffic from there). Still can't wrap my head around what could possibly have been in this woman's mind when she pressed <ENTER> . Equally shocking were the comments declaring the photo “cute.” It's all so wrong, on so many levels, that I hardly know where to begin.

I shouldn’t have to point out that the gesture is so clearly racist that the family should have known instinctively that it wasn't blog fodder. For the child's sake, it should have been handled with seriousness and care. Posting is as if were something that could be chuckled over and then dismissed is an insult to the little girl and a slap in the face to every Asian American.

This all reminded me of the time my five-year-old son came home from school and ran around the house saying “Chinese eyes! Chinese eyes!” It took a couple of seconds to sink in, after which I got a very sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t cute, it wasn’t something to pretend away, and it certainly wasn’t something to take a picture of and plaster on the internet.

It was racism, brought to my family by kindergarteners, the children of the people in my child’s community. And it deserved to be addressed carefully.  Before the adoptive parents in the house tell me for the gazillionth time that I take these things too seriously: don't mistake serious for scary.  It is possible to talk to our kids about difficult, painful subjects in ways that empower our kids rather than frighten them.  Adoptive parents who deny this need to get their heads out of the sand.

The comments following the post demonstrate clearly that ignorance and racism are thriving. I find the fact that the blog's author seems to write to attract this population truly bizarre. Sadly, what I see in the future of the non-white children in this family is a life filled with adoption celebrations and culture tourism, but precious little preparation for the racism they will, without question, experience.

I challenge the author of the blog to reflect on how she will feel 20 years hence when her adult daughter stumbles onto this photo and wonders why it was on the internet. You hold your daughter’s privacy in trust – respect it.

August 18, 2010

Race: An artificial distinction?

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.
Back in July, Jim Webb, a Democrat and Senator from my home state, Virginia, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal’s online edition entitled Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege. If you haven’t read it, do.

The article speaks little to white privilege as we typically discuss it in the transracial adoption community – that is, white privilege a la Peggy McIntosh. The article instead presents a case in favor of ending affirmative action programs.

There are stats which, if unspun, make points that certainly explain some of the frustration voiced by affirmative action opponents. I get that; I understand that when you look at individual life situations, not every white person lives a more affluent life than every person of color, which may lead them to feel disenfranchised. I can understand (not agree with, but understand) why some whites may feel ignored by their government when programs designed to support recent immigrants ignore their own need.

But I cannot agree that the need to support minority communities and reform immigration means that white privilege does not exist. I suspect that Mr. Webb had nothing of Peggy McIntosh’s definition in mind when he wrote this opinion, but the responses I have seen online include many that applaud his point of view and proclaim that white privilege is dead.

It is, of course, live and well. You don’t have to look to affirmative action programs to find it, you simply have to look into the hearts and minds of white Americans who do not accept that their whiteness provides privileges that make their daily lives secure in a way that people of color may never enjoy.

I don’t disagree that the way our government addresses racial disparities is necessarily the best way. But I do disagree that the right response to improving such programs is to say the reason it was started in the first place no longer exists.

We are of many races; the distinction is real. Those of us who are white enjoy the collective benefits that centuries of dominance have provided. It’s up to us to work to ensure that our privilege is made possible for every single person in this country.

May 6, 2010

Top 10 Myths about Immigration

With thanks to Jen of attemptedmother, an article we all need to print and keep in our wallets so we're ready to rebutt statements to the contrary: Top 10 Myths About Immigration. Thanks for the tip, Jen!

April 29, 2010

Paying respect to Dorothy Height

My commute takes me past Washington National Cathedral on Wisconsin Avenue. When I pulled up to the lights just before Mass Avenue this morning, I could tell that traffic was heavier than normal. Crossing Massachusetts, I remembered why: Dorothy Height's funeral is taking place there this morning.

At 7:50, the line of mourners was already down Wisconsin and curling down Mass Ave. But I wouldn't actually call the people waiting mourners; it was clear from the smiles and laughter that today's funeral will be as much a celebration of a truly great life as it will be a time to grieve the loss of this amazing woman.

In truth, I knew little about Dorothy Height before her death made the news. I had heard her name, but knew little about her role in the civil rights movement. Today she is being called the unsung heroine of the civil rights movement, as this New York Times article states, she "was very much the unheralded seventh [member of the civil rights "Big Six"], the leader who was cropped out, figuratively and often literally, of images of the era."

What a towering life!

October 20, 2009

Love isn't enough

Love conquers all.

If you're an adoptive parent, you've probably heard or read these words before. Heck, maybe you've even said them yourself, or believed it at one time or another in your adoption journey.

I'll be honest: way back at the beginning, I believed it, too. But I learned quickly that saying the words and hoping they were true weren't enough to fulfill my responsibilities to my children. I learned that along with that love, you have to act: respect and nurture your child's connection to his or her culture and community, and work actively to end racism. I've written my thoughts about this before - here, here, here, here, and probably a few more places, too.

I've also written from time to time at Anti-Racist Parent, one of the best places on the internet for parents raising children of color to come together and discuss the issues facing them. If you're also an ARP fan, you may know already that there are, to steal ARP's own phrase, changes afoot.

Anti-Racist Parent is now Love Isn't Enough: On Raising a Family in a Colorstruck World, where many new topics will now be discussed:
We talk about race, mostly, but we also want to talk about education and self-esteem and childcare and religion and gender bias and homophobia and the things all parents, regardless of race, worry about…and how all that stuff intersects with race.
Bookmark Love Isn't Enough, and stay tuned for new discussions and more changes.

September 9, 2009

Don't Misses 9-9-09

Couldn't pass the opportunity to blog on this auspicious date. At least I hope it's auspicious.

I'm totally disconnected from my online life - just too much happening in real life at the moment, notably final preparation for bringing The Girl out to college next week. Between the unbearable thought of an empty nest, the torture of the unending paperwork, and a few other emotional speed bumps (mostly related to my recent age milestone and the realization that my baby is joining her big brother and flying the coop), I just don't have the energy to write. All it would be is whining. Maybe I'll whine a little over at the other blog, but not here.

Instead of writing, I've had the energy to clean. It's really strange, actually, kind of like the intersection of a desire to start fresh and one that wants to turn the clock back (although I didn't give in to the overwhelming urge to watch old videos of this kids over the long holiday weekend). I spent all day Thursday thinking it was 2007 - seriously, couldn't figure out why a 6-year contract that started last month wasn't expiring in 2013. That has alternated with a desire to clean house. I started in the garage, then our bedroom, and ended yesterday by shredding three trash-bag-fulls of old paper.

The only recent blog reading I've done recently brought me to an interesting Newsweek article on September 5: See Baby Discriminate. It's about a 2006 University of Texas study into whether or not multicultural videos had an effect on children's racial attitudes. The results are fascinating, as are many of the reactions to the article. A blog search of researcher Birgitte Vittrup's name will give you lots of reading to do on the subject.

While you're thinking about the development of racial attitudes during childhood, be sure to follow the series on race and education that's on this month at Anti-Racist Parent - topics so far include:
Check ARP throughout the month for more.

July 24, 2009

The facts, ma'am, nothing but the facts

More thoughts on the Gates arrest, prompted by the ongoing news and comments by the loquacious BWaters over here.

This particular commenter voiced about the facts, quoted a line or two from the police report and reminded me to read what the witnesses had to say. Interestingly, however, BWaters failed to include Dr. Gates' own account as a possible source of information about this case. I therefore suggest you read them both - here's the police report, and here's Dr. Gates' account.

As for the eyewitness accounts: Just google the Gates case and read them at your own risk. As pretty much everyone (except apparently BWaters) knows, eyewitness accounts are not always reliable and have contributed to wrongful arrests and convictions.

This case definitely has me thinking - about what happened to Dr. Gates, about people's reactions to it, and about where the dialog might take us. I'm going to be dead honest with you: it's depressing to read how many people refuse to see race as a factor in this situation, or argue that racism exists at all. It's frankly shocking (and an example of white privilege at its finest) to see comments that ignore the history of police mistreatment of people of color, suggest that a black man wouldn't react differently to the presence of the police on his doorstep than a white man would, and confuse obnoxiousness with criminal behavior.

It's just plain ridiculous that someone would believe that giving Reggie Lewis CPR proves anything related to this event at all.

Also, a couple of clarifications:

As the title of my first post indicated, I believe racism is at the root of what happened to Dr. Gates. However, readers and commenters beware: I say nowhere in that post, nor do I believe, that Sgt. Crowley's personal attitudes toward race are the issue, and comments here that make that accusation will be deleted. Racism can become so institutionalized that, in spite of protestations to the contrary, we are all capable of racist behaviors. I believe the set of circumstances that led to Dr. Gates arrest triggered just such an outcome.

I'm not sure "racial profiling" is the correct term to describe it, however, although Dr. Gates does in his account.

July 22, 2009

No explanation but racism

Edited 7-23-09 to add:

I'm scratching my head at why the majority of commenters seem to purposely miss this fact:

Professor Gates was ARRESTED - not warned, not admonished, but ARRESTED - IN HIS OWN HOME AFTER DISPLAYING THE IDENTIFICATION REQUESTED BY THE POLICE. There may or may not be racial overtones to the fact that someone called the cops on him, but that's not the point. The point is that in spite of the fact that he had proved to the police that he was in his own home, they arrested him.
I've been trying to put myself in a similar situation, but it's hard. Because I'm white, and have never been questioned about my place in my neighborhood, I don't know if I'd immediately turn to anger as a response. But I do know it's out of the realm of my reality that a cop would arrest me once I'd proved my place there. An admonishment or warning - yes; an arrest - no.

Another commenter said this: "If a suspect, be they black or white, gets in the face of an officer, he's going to get arrested, no matter who he has proven himself to be." For which crime was Professor Gates a suspect after he provided his ID, which is when the arrest took place? At that point, decorum and decibels were irrelevant and the police should have apologized and gone on their way. Richard Weinblatt, director of the Institute for Public Safety at Central Ohio Technical College, points out on his blog:

Bottom line: while the officer was justified in investigating a crime, he stated in his report that he was satisfied that the occupant, Professor Gates, was legally allowed to be there and that no further danger was present. That, from a law enforcement perspective, is THE key phrase. It was at that point he should have left. This became a battle of competing egos.

I think a refresher of Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack is in order. To those of you who are trolling for posts that share my opinion onto which to drop your comments: read that first.

* * * * * * *

Just back from a short vacation, but while I'm catching up, please go read this, along with the other reports on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University and PBS documentarian.

The charge: "loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space." Only Gates was in his own home in broad daylight.

The catalyst for the charge: "a call about a potential break-in at his home that was phoned in by a white woman."

I don't have the energy to read all the (mostly stupid) comments following the article, because I'm just plain sick to death of people rationalizing situations like this. This is racial profiling. Period.

Attention KAAN Conference attendees: Don't miss the session White Privilege: A User's Guide with John Raible, Jen Hilzinger and Mark Hagland.

June 17, 2009

Stand strong against hate

There was a piece on hate crimes on WAMU this morning that explained very clearly why we're seeing a rise in such crimes at the moment. I can't find it online yet, but you can check.

Someone (didn't catch the name) was quoted as saying we're in a "perfect storm" of reasons for this: the election of our first African American president, the economic crisis, broken immigration laws, and the availability of internet communication. It makes perfect sense to me, and also gives a reason for us to be more vigilant than ever against the groups and individuals who believe this way. The murder at the Holocaust Museum is proof positive.

After that tragic event, I decided I needed to educate myself better about hate groups and crimes, and turned to the internet to do so. In the process, I found a hate group map on the Southern Poverty Law Center website. There are 26 hate groups documented for my state alone. Twenty-six. I’m sure there are even more, as I suspect there are many smaller and less organized ones. It makes my blood run cold.

In digging around the SPLC website I also found good anti-hate resources: tons of information, a blog, and a site where you can Stand Strong Against Hate. I added myself to the map, and encourage you to do the same. I also encourage you to add the button to your websites, with a link back to Stand Strong Against Hate - mine's over there on the right.

It will take a lot more than this to stop hate groups, but publicly voicing your opinion is a good start. Learning who the hate groups are in your area is another. Speaking out against them when you have the opportunity is another, too.

Let's just do it. Because the time for these groups to fade into the sunset is now.

April 18, 2009

Don't Misses 4-18-09

What a week at work. I swear my eyes are blurry from being attached to my PC as much as I was. That plus working on sessions for the American Adoption Congress - Adoption Network Cleveland conference next week, plus ever-more college paperwork for The Girl, pretty much took care of the week.

We're having one of those brilliant-blue-sky days in DC - gotta get out in it, so I intend to get out into the yard a bit. It needs it, and so do I.

I do have a couple of things to share, though, some new and not-so-new blogs on race and racial issues.
And now, it's me against the weeds.

April 10, 2009

You won't believe this ...

... but it's true.

Lawmaker defends comment on Asians
Call for voters to simplify their names not racially motivated, Terrell Republican says


OCA representative Ramey Ko's main point in this hearing was the following:
Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.
to which Brown replied:
“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.
"behoove?"

"you and your citizens?"

Please, no one even THINK of trying to defend Brown and her comment - this is pure, unadulterated racism.

April 9, 2009

Lori Phanachone reinstated

April 8, 2009

For more information:
Khin Mai Aung
Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 219
Click here to email

AALDEF COMMENDS IOWA SCHOOL DISTRICT'S DECISION TO RESTORE HONORS AND RECLASSIFY LAOTIAN AMERICAN STUDENT AS ENGLISH PROFICIENT
Honors student previously disciplined for protesting English Language Learner testing

New York, NY — In a welcome but abrupt about face, Storm Lake School District has reclassified Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) client Lori Phanachone as English proficient and restored her National Honor Society membership. After stripping the 3.98 GPA student’s National Honor Society membership for refusing an English Language Learner (ELL) test, the school district has met AALDEF’s demand to restore her membership. The district has also met AALDEF’s demand to reclassify Ms. Phanachone as English proficient.

Khin Mai Aung, Ms. Phanachone’s attorney at AALDEF, said: “Storm Lake is finally moving in the right direction by reclassifying Lori as English proficient, and restoring her hard earned National Honors Society membership. We are thrilled about this development, but continue to seek assurances from Storm Lake on other pending matters.”

Ms. Phanachone was mislabeled an ELL for naming Lao as her home language, without an English proficiency assessment, when she moved to Storm Lake two years ago. Ms. Phanachone has since been subjected to yearly ELL testing while excelling in advanced courses taught in English. This year, she boycotted a yearly ELL test in protest, resulting in a 3-day suspension, exclusion from extracurriculars and loss of her National Honor Society membership.

Lori Phanachone said: “We still need a lot of answers, but I feel really good that my academic honors have been restored, and I no longer have to worry about being classified as an ELL.”

Among other things, the following demands by AALDEF are still pending with Storm Lake School District:

  • Remove all references to Lori Phanachone’s suspension and other disciplinary action from her school records;
  • Assure in writing that it will not impose further disciplinary action on her;
  • Clarify Storm Lake’s procedures for classifying students as ELL upon enrollment; and
  • Explain how and why Lori Phanachone was initially classified as an ELL under Storm Lake’s classification procedures.

# # #

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

April 7, 2009

Lori Phanachone's NHS Membership Revoked

This is unbelievable.

April 6, 2009

For more information:
Khin Mai Aung
Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 219
Click here to email

AALDEF DEMANDS REINSTATEMENT OF IOWA STUDENT’S NATIONAL HONOR SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP AFTER UNJUST DISCIPLINE
Storm Lake School District violates earlier assurance that honors student’s membership is safe

New York, NY—Directly violating earlier written assurances, the Storm Lake School District in Iowa has revoked the National Honor Society membership of Laotian American student Lori Phanachone, after the 3.98 GPA senior refused an English Language Learner (ELL) test. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which is representing Ms. Phanachone, has called for reinstatement of her membership and removal of all disciplinary action from her school records.

Khin Mai Aung, the AALDEF staff attorney representing the student, said: “Storm Lake explicitly assured us in writing that Lori Phanachone’s National Honors Society membership is safe. Now it has gone back on its word. This demonstrates precisely why Ms. Phanachone needs full redress, including removal of all disciplinary action from her record.”

Ms. Phanachone was mislabeled an ELL for naming Lao as her home language, without an English proficiency assessment, when she moved to Storm Lake two years ago. Ms. Phanachone has been subjected to early ELL testing while excelling in advanced courses taught in English. This year, she boycotted a yearly ELL test in protest, resulting in a 3-day suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, and loss of the National Honor Society membership. Contrary to earlier written assurances from Storm Lake’s attorney, Ms. Phanachone received a letter revoking her membership on Friday, April 3. In the letter, Craig Lyon, faculty advisor for the school’s National Honors Society chapter, stated that Ms. Phanachone’s membership was dissolved due to her failure to maintain “standards of scholarship, leadership, service and character[.]” AALDEF is appealing the dismissal.

Lori Phanachone said: "This has really thrown me into a loop. The school's lawyer promised my National Honor Society membership was safe, and now they've revoked it. I'm mad, sad and confused at the same time--I just don't know what to expect anymore." Among other things, AALDEF has further demanded that the Storm Lake School District also:

  • Remove all references to Lori Phanachone’s suspension and other disciplinary action from her school records;
  • Assure in writing that it will not impose further disciplinary action on her;
  • Clarify Storm Lake’s procedures for classifying students as ELL upon enrollment;
  • Explain how and why Lori Phanachone was classified as an ELL under Storm Lake’s classification procedures; and
  • Reclassify Lori Phanachone, and other affected students if appropriate under Iowa and federal law, as English proficient.

# # #

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

March 31, 2009

Thank goodness you guys are smart

I really appreciate your comments, everyone - you guys are smart, that's for sure.

Mama D emailed me with some thoughts that are particularly helpful, and I'm passing them on because they're really wise and "common sensical." I'm quoting, because she said it far more clearly than I could paraphrase:
There is a fine line between speaking for someone and speaking in support of someone. And, who gets to draw that line? You? The person? Maybe it's like racism: If a person of color says something you say that involves that color is racist, it is. Which takes it to the personal level (not all green people think green jokes are insulting). Which brings it back to you speaking your truth.
Think, too, about how the the situation, the people involved, and their interpretations-reactions-
perspectives on whatever is being discussed will influence where that boundary between speaking in support of and speaking for another will fall. APs must learn to read the cues and figure out when it's appropriate for us to offer our support and when it's not. We have to be very careful to let the owners of the issue lead the response.

Now I know why I have trouble with boundaries, and why all of this has been so hard for me to wrap my head around: I love to ride in and save the day. I need to learn that the day isn't mine to save - or at least not the "days" we talk about here.

As I think about this, it seems that it would be acceptable for APs to offer support in the form of references back to writings and references by and for the population we may be trying to support. For example, if we're in an AP forum where people are making false generalizations about adoptees, we can reference adoptee websites, and books and films by adoptees, but should go lightly with our own two cents. If the issue is race, same thing - we should point to references by and for people of color, but leave out our own spin. I think, though, that it would be OK in any case to state our support for those fighting the issues. That can be helpful in and of itself.

LOL, you heard all this already, Mama D, but I'm so exhausted today that I'm cutting corners. Thanks again everyone, this was very helpful to me, and hopefully to you.

March 24, 2009

Strapping on my sword

You must read this post by Paula (I'm posting the ARP link so you can join the dialog there; it's also here on Paula's blog.)

I've been whining in a couple of comment at one of the blogs I read about just how far APs have to go to try to raise awareness about race in the adoptive parent community. I was looking for affirmation that it's OK to contain your work to your immediate environment - responding when opportunities arise, but not seeking them out. I asked the question because in the online community, I don't really want to be where the greatest opportunity to speak out exists. I got a swift kick in the pants for the asking, and appropriately so.

I knew the answer all along, but seriously hoped someone would say that it was OK to keep preaching to the choir. It's not. If we truly believe that racism is an issue that adoptive parents should care about, we have to talk to the very ones who refuse to listen. That's hard work, particularly when you have a day job and little time to give. But we have to do it.

With that in mind, I took my first shot the other day, by starting a dialog about the Lori Phanachone issue in a forum I typically avoid like the plague I sometimes visit. I was pleasantly surprised that several APs jumped right in and voiced agreement with Lori's efforts to fight the racism in the school's demand for her to take a clearly-unnecessary English proficiency exam. A couple, however, dismissed that racism was present out of hand; it was clear that neither had even read the article I linked to, because they missed some pretty important facts about the situation. I think I kept my cool pretty well, and am VERY happy to see that the last word is an eloquent post acknowledging the racism in Lori's experience.

And so, into the fray. And because no one can be a one-person solution, I hope you all grab your swords and join me.

March 22, 2009

Saturday with Alison and John

The Barker Foundation's annual adoption conference was yesterday in Rockville, Maryland. I'm decompressing today; there was a lot to take in.

Last year's conference focused on surrendering mothers, a topic I haven't seen too many adoption agencies use as a conference theme before. This year the conference was titled In Our Own Voices: Adoptees and Foster Youth Speak Out. In the majority of the sessions (there were one or two on more generic topics), adopted people, teens and adults, shared their experiences with a majority adoptive parent audience.

It was powerful. And it was exactly the kind of unapologetic one-way communication that we adoptive parents need sometimes. There was dialog, certainly, but I was glad that most of the communication put adoptive parents in the listener's seat for a change. We need to shut up and listen a lot more.

The day began with a performance by Alison Larkin, the author of The English American, a novel based on her story. Alison was born in the U.S. and adopted by a British couple. She grew up in England, and in an interesting twist of the typical transnational adoption story, returned to the U.S. to get to know her culture and find her first family. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and travels around the country with her one-woman show. Her performance on Saturday drew from her personal experience and from the book, and was hysterically funny. Alison really is a hoot. But she something else, too: a tireless fighter for open records. She made it very clear that open records isn't just an adoptee, issue; it's an issue for everyone involved in adoption, particularly adoptive parents. It was interesting to watch the wheels turn in so many heads, and gratifying to witness so many APs shake their heads in agreement when, at the end of the show, Alison sang the refrain to her ode to adoption: Every child born today deserves to know their DNA.

Alison's book will be coming out in paperback in November, and even better, ABC has picked up the options for a TV series. If the show comes to be, I sincerely hope it retains the story line, and doesn't sanitize the issues.

I also had the opportunity to hear Dr. John Raible speak. Dr. Raible is bi-racial, and was adopted by a white family who made little, if any, effort to provide him with opportunities to be with people who shared his race and ethnicity. You know, I like to pat myself on the back and say that I get what transracial and transnational adoptees experience in "whitesville," as Dr. Raible calls the overwhelmingly white environments in which many are forced to grow up. But there was a moment in the presentation in which he let the pain of his experience reinforce his words, and I am not being melodramatic when I say it brought me to tears. What shot through my head like a bullet was the question How many such experiences have MY children had, but hide for any number of reasons?

This presentation was incredibly moving, but also offered adoptive parents guidance to help their children avoid as much of this pain as possible. He described the concept of transracialization:
Transracialization implies transcending the limits imposed by the process of racialization. If racialization teaches us to fear the racial Other, transracialization draws the Other closer. Whereas racialization exerts strong pressure to keep the races separate, transracialization intentionally crosses color lines. While racialization is based on historic notions of racial superiority, transracialization transforms such notions through its explicit anti-racist orientation.
To transracialize, we adoptive parents must make decisions that may disrupt the plans we previously envisioned for our families: homes in comfortable suburbs, homogenous private schools, etc. Instead, we must put ourselves into the environments that are most likely to welcome our children and give them the cultural, racial and ethnic support we can't provide.

Dr. Raible said something else that really hit home with me. He talked about identity, but as a verb rather than a noun. Many of us consider identity something we possess, a static condition inherited or passed on from person to person. But when you think of it as a verb - something we do - the connection between our actions and their effect on our children's sense of self becomes much clearer.

I also heard a moving presentation by three young woman who had searched and met their first mothers and, in some cases, first fathers. What struck me about all three was their tenacity in the face of the legal and administrative obstacles to reaching the information you and I probably have in a drawer somewhere, or could call someone in our family for right now. It was discomforting, too, to hear how all three of their searches were influenced by fear of hurting their adoptive parents, even when their parents were supportive. I hate it when people feel the need to apologize for who they are, or need to beg for basic human rights.

I'm still absorbing the day, but can say one thing for sure: What I learned yesterday has inspired me to do all I can to spread the word that closed records are unjust and inhuman. Every adoptive parent must stand with adopted people and work to change these ridiculous, outdated laws.

Many thanks to the Barker Foundation for your hard work in bringing this conference to our community, and to all the speakers and participants for sharing your stories and expertise.

March 20, 2009

Do you speak English?

Just in case you're thinking that electing a Black president means racism is dead, this post at Angry Asian Man should bring you back to reality. The original article is here: Student rejects 'demeaning' test, is suspended. It says this about Lori Phanachone, the young woman at the center of the controversy:

Lori Phanachone is a member of the National Honor Society, has a 3.9 grade point average and ranks seventh in the senior class of about 119 at Storm Lake High School.

Lori has been suspended. Her scholarships are threatened. She has been counseled to just lie about her first language, which she rightfully has refused to do. In spite of this glaring injustice, one of the first commenters to the original article had the audacity to write this:

If you are going to fight for injustice in this world then at least make it a fight for a worthwhile cause.
How someone could miss such an obvious wrong is mind-boggling. I take from this comment to mean that this person either believes believes racism no longer exists, or that fighting it isn't a worthy cause. Makes no difference: whether they stem from deeply-engrained beliefs or post-election nonsense, they're both dangerous. Lori's situation provides a frightening example why.

I can look within my own family for proof. My husband's first language isn't English. In college, where we met, he was required on college forms to identify his first language, and he answered honestly. No one ever required him to prove his English proficiency.

He is white, however, and his first language is German, a European language. With the same language proficiency but a different face, I have no doubt that he could have experienced what Lori Phanachone is experiencing now.

Shame on Storm Lake High School and the Storm Lake Board of Education.

Edited to add Storm Lake contacts posted by Angry Asian Man, with a call to support Lori and my thanks. Contact these folks to share your outrage and show your support for Lori.

Paul Tedesco - Storm Lake School District Superintendent
ptedesco@slcsd.org

Mike Hanna - Principal
mhanna@storm-lake.k12.ia.us

Beau Ruleaux - Assistant Principal
bruleaux@slcsd.org

Storm Lake High School phone number : (712) 732-8065


Here's the letter I just sent:
Gentlemen:

As the parent of two children from Korea, the husband of a man who
learned English as his second language, and a former teacher of German and
English as a Second Language, I am writing to express my dismay over your
school's actions regarding Ms. Lori Phanachone's refusal to take an English
proficiency exam.

Because my personal experience touches on both of the areas that are
driving this controversy - language acquisition and race - I feel compelled to
speak out on behalf of Ms. Phanachone's decision to reject your school's demand
that she take this clearly unnecessary test.

What appears to have happened is that Ms. Phanachone's laudable decision to
recognize her heritage by accurately stating that her first language was other
than English has triggered an arcane policy that flies in the face of
reality. This young woman was born in the U.S. and educated in American
schools. To question that reality, regardless of the fact that she first
spoke another language in her home, is racism, pure and simple.

Do the right thing. Reinstate Ms. Phanachone, expunge this incident
from her record, and work to change your policies to prevent similar events in
the future.

February 5, 2009

Hope Deferred for Timothy Cole

On the way into work this morning, I listened to a follow-up on the story of Timothy Cole, a Texas Tech student falsely accused of being a serial rapist – more here, including a repeat of the story: Family Of Man Cleared By DNA Still Seeks Justice.

Brief summary: In 1985, Texas Tech student Michele Mallin was raped in a parking lot. She identified Timothy Cole as her attacker, although police had no physical evidence linking him to the crime and he had an alibi that was supported by several eye-witnesses who could prove he was elsewhere at the time. Lubbock law enforcement officials, however, were determined to convict him, which they easily did with the help of Cole’s erroneous identification by the victim and an all-white jury.

In a strange turn of events, Cole’s cries on his first night of prison were heard by the true attacker, who was in prison for another rape. This man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, kept quiet until the statute of limitations ran out, finally coming forward in 1995. By then, no one would listen, and it took until 2007 for Johnson to reach Cole’s family, who sought the help of the Innocence Project of Texas to clear their son’s name.

Today, Michele Mallin will testify in court in defense of Timothy Cole, and will be joined by his family. Sadly, appallingly, this day comes too late for Cole himself, who died in prison in 1999 from asthma that was never properly treated while he was behind bars.

You know when you’re driving how, if you let your mind wander, you have no recollection of driving a piece of the road? Well, you DC residents will shudder to know that this story so engrossed me that I can’t remember anything between Wolf Trap and Herndon on the Toll Road. It is a textbook example of racism at work in the justice system, including: Mallin’s false identification of Cole (which although I believe was extenuated by the trauma of rape and the fact that she was led to believe that the Lubbock police actually had evidence against Cole, still demonstrates how easy it is to misidentify someone); the lack of even a shred of physical or even circumstantial evidence; Lubbock law enforcement’s utter failure to identify that they already had the actual perpetrator in their hands; the prosecution’s demeaning destruction of truthful Cole’s alibi; and an all-white jury. Add the Texas justice system’s refusal to entertain Johnson’s confession and sub-standard medical care to the picture after Cole’s wrongful conviction, and the miscarriage of justice is complete.

If what happened to Timothy Cole was rare, then perhaps I might feel better about the overall state of the U.S. justice system where race is a factor. But as this morning’s NPR program says,

So far this decade, 34 men in Texas, most of them black, have been exonerated by
modern DNA testing. They spent 10, 15, 20, even 27 years wrongly imprisoned for
rape before being released.
We have a long, long way to go.

More here:

Hope Deferred: Search for a Lubbock rapist sends family on nightmare journey
Hope Deferred: Tim Cole sat in prison while another man kept silent about the truth ... finally, he tried to confess, but no one would listen
Hope Deferred: Tim Cole's family gets DNA report proving what they always knew

August 20, 2008

More thoughts on the Spanish photo incident

... over at ARP. My gut reaction and subsequent reflection led me to more questions than answers. I want to hear your thoughts, so please go over and add them.

To lighten the day a bit, let me share this. I just saw these ladies perform on an Olympic show - they rocked the house!