A Way to Understand American History

An original version posted on 3/10/2010 as "Time Is Right For New Social Studies Education after LAUSD Incident" @ Examiner.com

Three teachers at Wadsworth Elementary school in South Los Angeles were suspended for allegedly having students carry pictures of troubled former football player OJ Simpson, basketball player Dennis Rodman, and female impersonator RuPaul during a Black history month parade.

The Black history month parade is an annual event. Each class chose figures from the school-approved list, which dates back to 1985. While OJ Simpson was already on the list, Dennis Rodman, and Rupaul were allegedly written in via pencil.

First, second, and fourth grade students carried pictures of these controversial figures during the parade.

Despite having a remarkable college and professional football career, OJ Simpson has had numerous brushes with the law. He is currently serving time after being convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in 2008.

Dennis Rodman, a former professional basketball player had been a public icon in the 1990s. Since his career officially ended in 2005, he has made appearances on celebrity shows and has had minor skirmishes with the law.

RuPaul has been a big hit within the entertainment industry as an actor, musician, and filmmaker. He has made numerous guest appearances on television, movies, and print media, and currently hosts the reality television show RuPaul's Drag Race. While he himself has had little public controversy, his entertainment personality is associated with lesbian, gay, and transgendered issues, which in the context of marriage has drawn national controversy.

The suspended teachers, who are white, have not been identified.

The controversy came in a Black History month that saw furious public debates over racism at UCSD and many other college campuses. Click here to read "Public debate over racism erupts after student theme party". Also, click here to read "Recapping the aftermath of Compton Cookout and sugggestions for change"

Perspective: Little sympathy for the teachers

The fact that someone, likely the three adult teachers would write in RuPaul and Dennis Rodman shows more than a conscious effort to make some sort of statement.

Making such a statement by using such an impressionable population as a vehicle to this message in an already tense climate where 5,200 LAUSD jobs are on the line, they should have fully anticipated the consequences. Click here to read "California's Public Education in Peril"

Sorry, no sympathy for those teachers here.

"Teaching is the art of changing the brain" says Biologist James Zull.

If these were true educators as opposed to the currently-employed hacks they appear to be, the focus would have been built on getting children to understand why or why not a Black history month is needed.

Based on the boldness of the statement they made, it doesn't appear that they have had that dialogue. They instead taught disrespect for peoples' cultures and traditions.

Their actions make you wonder what they've been telling these children all along and what other political views have bled over into their work.

We need to perceive of American history as a "family album"

I think if those teachers were grounded in a more critical understanding of history, I would be comfortable with them teaching again. If the Compton Cookout invitation writer was grounded in a more critical understanding of history, he wouldn't have so ignorantly tied Black history month with the ghetto culture.

History is not one big cluster of rote indisputable facts, names, and dates.

If I can make a metaphor about history in general, it is this: history is a series of pictures and albums strung together to make a coherent storyline to determine present and future courses of action.

Pictures and albums aren't meant to capture every angle. Sometimes they're blurry, sometimes they're clear. Sometimes the pictures are very representative of a person, sometimes they aren't.

Pictures capture points in history and are endlessly interpreted and judged, regardless of the original intent or focus of the photographer.

We say that in this age of Obama we want to look past race and have it be of minimal consequence. If we want to minimize that difference, the histories we tell students need to integrate people of color.

If we are to minimize the importance of ethnic or racial history months, like Black History month or Asian Pacific History month, we need to look at American history the same way we look at a family album.

Family members who are missing or are otherwise given scant attention in the album feel excluded and less likely to participate in family activities.

The "family album" works best if we equally represent all members of the American family.

Black Americans, many whose ancestors have been in the United States longer than many other Americans only have representatives in the metaphorical album involved in rebuffing slavery and asserting civil rights. It is as if civil rights was the only issue they were interested in.

In the American family album, we already have many landscape photos of people of color, not just black people, as if they are one monolithic entity.

For example, the average 4th grade social studies textbook about California will talk about the great Indian tribes. We only get a landscape picture of them.

We learn that the Chumash were expert canoe builders and had their own system of government. We do not get any sense however that there were any great Chumash individuals who initiated anything of significance. We do not learn of individuals with strong characteristics and traits.

These metaphorical landscape photos contrast sharply to the detailed protraits of white American individuals. In schools, museums, popular culture, we will get plenty of metaphorical and figurative photos of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington --- their mythical characteristics and traits, and most importantly achievements illustrated through popular fables.

With a focus on individual characteristics, we perceive of these individuals having made a difference for everyone. Because they made such a widespread difference, they can rightfully occupy the same place in history as entire groups of people. This feeds the social perception that white Americans do things that make a difference for everyone and are still the driving force behind any kind of decisionmaking.

Yes, school teachers will say a little something about Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, but they get painted as people merely responding to their own social problems. They are not perceived to have these mythic personalities, lacking illustrative stories and fables that could relate to people outside of the black community.

Not learning that individuals of color can take on mythic personalities as well fosters a widespread social perception that people of color act only in accordance with their racial or ethnic groups. As a result, many white Americans assume that people of color have allegiance first and foremost to their racial or ethnic group. From this point, everything they do can be perceived as responding to problems within their own little groups.

Black history month, like other ethnic history and heritage months are an attempt to show that black Americans have interests other than civil rights, and innovations. They should be celbrated because they are likely not going to be any other time.

The idea of Black history month comes from a history of segregation and discrimination which omitted the role of blacks in influencing American culture. Celebrating the month and people in it is celebrating of people overcoming a struggle.

To place less importance on Black history month or other ethnic history months, we need to make a firm commitment towards a "family album history."

The family album history should attempt to reveal a sense of interaction or trading of influence within the different demographics of American history. It isn't a story of extraordinary individuals, presidents, political figures, but a story of networks of individuals, mere human beings wielding their power through their connections with other people as they saw fit.

Breaking Down the Falsities of Texas Public School Social Studies' Curriculum

An original version posted on 5/18/2010 as "Deconstructing the Texas Calls for Social Studies Overhauls" @ Examiner.com

The past few months have seen an uptick in proposals across two states to radically reform public State education in Social Studies and US History.

Officially signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on May 11th, Arizona banned ethnic studies classes in public education because of what supporters say are displays of "ethnic chauvanism."

Most controversial in the law are provisions which ban courses "designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group" and "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." The courses affected include Mexican-American/Chicano Studies, African-American Studies, and Asian Studies, which according to Tom Horne, Superintendent of Schools in Arizona, "divides students up, just like the old South."

If public schools do not adhere to law, they stand to lose state funding. The LA Times reported that the Tucson Unified School District's 14-year old Chicano studies program was a main target of the state law.

The latest call for reform for social studies reform will be decided in Texas tomorrow on May 19th when the State Board of Education will vote on whether to pass a list of proposed changes.

The Texas Board of Education released its 5th and Final draft of required Social Studies curriculum for public schools in April. Much contention has arisen over highlighting the influence of religion on the founding fathers with a notable de-emphasis on Thomas Jefferson's influence and the "unintended consequences" of big government programs such as the New Deal or the War on Poverty. Read the document here.

Also included is a call for a "Celebrate Freedom" week.

Perspective: Texas Proposal aims at selective truth

I grew up learning that the truth was the most important thing to aim for in history.

As I've come up in my education, I've learned that history isn't necessarily about telling one objective truth, but about rounding up primary sources and having subjects share their stories about events.

They used parts of American history to invoke a sense that America is rooted in exceptionality, or in other words "being better" than other people. I am quite sure that this type of thinking hints at a truth, but I am not sure that it represents the entire truth.

History is dynamic, always being made, and contains an infinitude of stories to be understood in one neat way.

If American history can be understood as a big collection of snapshot pictures, Texas is taking only the most flattering portraits of American policy and its conservative bases, but catching only invasive paparazzi voyeuristic ones of liberal and international views.

The view presents US history as every event in naturally and eventually agreeing upon or evolving into whatever happens to be the status quo.

The Texas brand of social studies is bent on suggesting that the origins of equality were already implemented in the document. They had been trying to say that the Declaration of Independence which was declared in 1776 was really the stimulus behind undoing slavery in 1865, how it allowed for women's rights movements in the 1920s, and the driver behind diversity we came to accept in law by 1965.

Saying that origins of equality were already in the Declaration of Independence gives off the impression that equal opportunity was all only a matter of rationalized legislation, like changes were all going to happen anyway, minimizing the struggles of different peoples.

The document is based on minimization of the negative impacts of US Foreign policy and conservative domestic policy.

They really want to call capitalism, "free enterprise" in attempt to negate its negative connotations. If were going to play this game of calling everything by a more positive name, let's call communism, socialism or Marxism by their intention-based positive phrase too: "people's needs-based system."

The way they plan to represent other countries is particularly troubling in their selective application of certain loaded and controversial terminology. Bothersome is their selective employment of the word "imperialism."

Traditionally, "imperialism" has been used to describe US foreign policy in the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century. However, notice how imperialism is something only the Japanese do.

  • "...explain the major causes and events of World War II, including the German invasions of Poland and the Soviet Union, the Holocaust, Japanese imperialism, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Normandy landings, and the dropping of the atomic bombs."

This clause is buried deep in the document and very specific. I only read about Japanese imperialism and a broad "European" imperialism. I didn't read anything about American, France, German, Italian, Belgian, Portugese or Spanish imperialism. It is merely German "invasion" of Poland and Soviet Union, no mention of the driving ideology of Nazism, while the Japanese take on a label of "imperialism" as if Japanese people were inherently imperialistic.

Equally troubling is the framing of the Palestine and Israel conflict. They use loaded terminology to circle Palestinians and Arabs, nonchalantly labeling them "terrorists" and pretending that State of Israel wasn't established under much controversy. By framing it as the Arabs rejecting the state of Israel, it makes it seem as if the Arabs were the problem.

The only things the Texas State Board of Education wants students to openly analyze and question are the people and movements that they decidedly don't like. For example, the document calls for "analyzing the unintended consequences of affirmative action and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society." There is also a call to "Analyzing the effectiveness of the approach" taken by the Black Panthers versus the "philosophically persuasive" tone of Martin Luther King Jr."

It's peculiar how "consequences" and "effectiveness" are a cause for concern with equal opportunity and civil rights programs.

While given the freedom to analyze the tactics used in civil rights era movements, there doesn't appear to be any similar mandate to analyze the "unintended consequences" of the "conservative resurgeance" of the 1980s or the mandated "Celebrate Freedom Week" itself.

The "conservative resurgeance" was a period that saw Ronald Reagan triple the national debt by cutting taxes while cutting social programs. His great work was being able to firmly instill into the American consciousness the image of the black, undeserving "welfare queen", a distasteful and ultimately divisive image upon which a generation of conservative and tea partiers have used to drum up distaste towards social programs.

Texas: Giving a blueprint for Eugenicist thought

The image of the welfare queen is still alive and well. It's an image of dependency, laziness, and all-around incompetence that continually informs popular perception and legislative decision-making.

The image pervades the way Texas plans to do social studies and teach people about America in the 21st century. They do not give people of color or perceived predecessors any credit for their own advances. It's as if any advancement they have made was a result of "other people's" actions, which by default tends to mean "white people."

For example, when talking about the cultures whose people appear to descend from what is now known as Mexico, the only way to understand them is as outgrowths of people prior to them. The people prior to them are Greece and Rome.

  • "...compare the major political, economic, social, and cultural developments of the Maya, Inca, and Aztec civilizations and explain how prior civilizations influenced their development"

Why is there no need to study how prior civilizations influenced the development of Greece or Rome?

Its as if Greece or Rome were people who self-generated themselves and fathered all our ideas, hence fitting this narrative of self-sufficiency coming from one race, the White one.

While the white people were thinking up great ideas in the West, the sparsely populated brown-skinned peoples were just waiting around to be inspired by them.

If white people were the originators of ideas and it is presented that way, it follows that rationally and naturally they would be entitled to ownership over the land; everything in their view was earned fairly. This mentality follows that minimal benefit can be gained from immigration or the infusion of different cultures, which has actually shown to be the opposite in some studies.

They want students to learn that everything of consequence emerged from Europe without any influence or contact from any other group of people whatsoever.

Never mind that Islam and Arabics, some heavy targets in popular American media today for their way of thinking, were responsible for innovations in the medieval era, making contributions to what we label now as "Western medicine." Never mind that the very number system we use today would not have been possible with Roman numerals, but also took Eastern thought to come up with the idea of zero to make the number system work.

The idea of dependency where people from minority cultures need to wait around for white males to come to the rescue is reflected in the way they represent contemporary battles for equal opportunity.

  • "Explain actions taken by people to expand economic opportunities and political rights, including those for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities as well as women, in American society"

This provision reads as if women, racial, ethnic, or religious minorities took little or action on their own behalf. They needed "people" to swoop in save the day and are ultimately dependent on majority action.

The study of US geography also carries a Eugenicist bent.

Specifically, they want students to identify "the effects of population growth and the impacts on physical environment." For over 100 years, this has been a pseudo-scientific way to criticize immigrant populations.

If they were really concerned about the physical environment, children should learn that resources tend to be concentrated in the hands of very few people, and continued hyper-consumption combined with a culture of disposal and landfills, those kind of human activities are the real harm to the physical environment, not necessarily certain demographic groups.

For more analysis of the Texas curriculum proposal:

NY Times deconstructing Texas

The Nation deconstructing Texas

The Nation deconstructing Conservatives who use history

The Social Memory of a Sports Message Board Community on a Divisive Figure

An original version posted on 7/23/2009 as "Message Board Posting: Perception, Language, Memory" @ AMMMO

I think the ripe topic for this is the Chicago Bulls message boards online.

At least for me.

Even if I detest the Chicago Bulls management at this very moment (see Ben Gordon post below), I'm quite addicted to at least following their progress, and after 8 years of recreational posting, I've come to the conclusion that I can't quite get the Bulls nor the message board communities out of my system.

Everything I've learned about arguing and everyday reasoning way back to my SAT test-taking days to my first days studying linguistic anthro, I've learned from recreational message board posting. I figured that much after picking verbal arguments in AOL chatrooms and later sports message boards. As an enthused student of AP US history in 11th grade I aimed to pick apart Republican/Conservative message board responses by referring to moments in history analagous to current conditions. It was a spitting image reflection of what my teacher did to white Republican kids during class, manifested and reinacted in the message board space, race-less, status-less, where I felt comfortable.

I used to go out there thinking that if I could show the facts and nothing but facts, that people would automatically click and "get it." They would understand my point of view and perhaps change their minds.

But I dare say that that has almost never been the case. It takes much more than facts to move anyone. I think it takes almost a religious conversion, meaning a conversion that involves a shift of the body, mind, and soul. In psychological terms, that means moving an entire schema of relations. There are no power tactics available other than cyber-bullying or some kind of fixed groupthink within a message board community.

From my experience, no one really ever admits that they're wrong. And if they do admit a mistake, it's probably because they made an explicit prediction (i.e. predicted 50 wins, player X to suck), and/or they can distance their current thoughts from past transgressions, that is, they can explain away how they were wrong before, but not likely to be this time around.

On Perception and Memory of these Message Boarders:

I was and still continue to be amazed at how fans can watch one basketball game and yet still make different observations.

These aren't flash-in-the-pan comments made, but there is a long-standing community of posters. While there is a steady stream of newcomers, there's also posters who I've come to "know." They will occasionally make reference to their jobs, occasionally talk about their personal experiences, share photos of their newborn children, and even share how they've lost their jobs, or ask for prayers.

So I feel like I've grown emotionally with this online "community", even though I only "know" them through what I've read, but have managed to do so consistently for about 8 years.

But there was and remains a lot of fighting between fans. Fans of the SAME team, usually about the transactions made.

My favorite player, Ben Gordon, was the topic of plenty of message board fighting within the Chicago Bulls message board community, and will probably continue to be a center of controversy now that he's not with the Bulls anymore and moved to a division rival.

I was amazed that no matter how many memorable moments I brought up, no matter how many wins I thought he brought us because of his momentum-swinging style, the same cadre of posters would continue to criticize him. There were very different degrees and reasons for dislike, but for sake of my cognitive sanity, I will simply label them the "haters." Not because I really believed these guys "hated" him as a person, but simply didn't like him on the team.

The same old criticisms by people I perceived as "haters" would be front and center: "he's selfish, he's playing for a contract and not for the team, he doesn't play defense, it won't matter much if we lose him."

I was always curious of what episodic memories anchored their perceptions of his playing ability. Based on what some haters" wrote in the official appreciation thread for him, they could only talk about general semanticized memories about him. The general semanticized memories were memories of habits they weren't fond of:

They cited only general habits ala

"gets posted up by bigger guards"

"dribbling the ball of his foot"

"shooting over 3 defenders"

In the discussion of habits, they could only abstract their memories about him. "Abstracting" means that you forget a few moments and extract the relevant moments to fit with an abstract and general statement. For example, if you have it burned into your cortex that he's "selfish", and make the statement "Ben Gordon is selfish", you'll predispose yourself to remembering only when he was selfish, and filter out any moments when he was "not selfish."

From these general statements, I suspected that these posters seemed to listen more to commentary, hearsay, and analysis about him from reporters and talk radio rather than actually watching the game for themselves. I suspect they remember more verbal commentaries and merely parroted their bullshit on the message boards. As was shown by Jonathan Schooler, verbal memories have been shown to interfere with the expression of episodic memories.

Other than the very last game he played as a Chicago Bull, which was Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in a very memorable series, I was particularly struck by the inability to cite specific moments compared to his advocates and supporters.

So the interesting finding was that advocates and supporters present more episodic memories, while haters present more semanticized abstract memories. The haters seem to have more memory of general descriptions and characteristics as opposed to concrete occurrences.

Episodic memories are rooted in concrete occurrences, while the semanticized abstract memories are mental shortcuts.

The Treatment of White Youth Vandals vs. Black Youth Vandals

An original version posted on 4/13/2009 as "White Guy Tough Talk: White Vandalism, Black Vandalism, 'Other Vandalism'" @ AMMMO

Highly fascinating candid camera via the Everyday Sociology Blog via ABC's 20-20. "Fascinating" meaning I'm extremely surprised that network TV actually does this kind of thing anymore.

In the first video, three white kids are smashing a car in a park. People's reactions? Numerous confrontations and suspicious eyes, but only one phone call to the police.

Incidentally, there was one phone call to the police from that same park, but it was about black kids sleeping in a Lexus. Apparently, they were planning to rob somebody.

In the second video, three black kids are smashing a car in the same park. People's reactions? Healthy distances and 10 calls to the police.

Ain't nothing we don't already know, except it was produced for a mass audience.

Observations on the experiment and one note about how the media handled the story:

1. Look out how far they were: When passersby went by the black vandals, seems like they were more likely to keep their distance, but take more action. Taking from Ruth Benedict, if I were to ascribe a personality to that context and pervading culture in that park in Ridgewood, NJ it seems to be that of passive-aggression.

Black kids weren't people to talk with. They were objects to be thrown at to the police system.

The passersby don't want to deal with it, but they "know" its wrong and want to outsource the engagements and handling to the police. Seems like the popular way in a highly outsourced, specialized society to deal with cultural, ethnic, and racial difference. Let somebody else handle it.

2. The Demographics of the people who did the confronting: There seemed to be a gender and racial divide within the people who actually chose to confront the kids. It's interesting how in the first video with the white kids, it was a bunch of white males that did the calling out, barking out tough guy police talk back at them. They didn't appear to be afraid to walk right up at them.

Meanwhile, in the second video with the black kids, its one white woman, a Latina woman, and an Asian lady jogger who actually confront the boys.

3. The newscast gave no credit to the Asian Lady. Also interesting within the broadcast itself is how the resident sociologist highlights the extreme courage of one of the white guys who confronted the white vandals with the assistance of his wife, but doesn't care to talk about the Asian lady who right went up to the black kids by herself and actually struck up a 4-minute conversation with them. Both pretty dangerous situations, but I guess the white guy tough talk is the only stuff worth showing on television and commenting on TV. Maybe if that Asian lady did it in a Geisha costume, she'd a gotten more air time.

No doubt that this is a pretty good popular revelation, but I wonder what the reaction is to Latino, Arab/Indian, and Asian kids doing the same.

First Memories and Episodes with Race in 1990s Los Angeles

An original version posted on 6/7/2010 as "Graff Board: Share Your First Experience(s) with Race @ AMMMO

I really really really like reading more of what people think and have experienced. It's why I spend hours reading message boards from sports to politics to science. It's why I'm going to study how people think.

Whenever I read what people think, I'm not really judging the intelligence or the quality of what people have to say, I'm just wondering about the worlds they've went to and through to arrive at their viewpoints.

When I was in college and organizing kids, my favorite activity was taking a piece of butcher paper and having kids write about a topic. I saw it as getting people to give their 2 cents and helping them get engaged in a way that couldn't be explained primarily through lecture or verbal conversation.

When I wasn't in college and organizing kids, my other favorite activity during that time was mural and graff touring friends through LA even though I knew absolutely nothing and pretended like I was doing something innovative when it was little more than walking through Boyle and Lincoln Heights.

When I ran the LA Marathon in 2007 and 2008, I ran with T-shirts signed by people who just wrote whatever responding to the prompts of "struggle is..." and "what do you hope for".

So between getting people to write on butcher paper, (loosely) following murals and graffiti, and getting people to write on my marathon shirts, I was just really interested in what people expressed or were willing to express in public.

And being in cyberspace, the interest remains the same. The online message board or comments section on a piece of news or item of interest serves as that metaphorical piece of butcher paper.

However, the impersonal nature of that kind of communication doesn't leave much room for people you actually know to talk about their first-hand experiences on big topics. On message boards and comments, unless there's a developed community, there aren't too many people sharing focused first-hand experiences on big topics like racism, politics, religion.

I want to change that!

I want to know more about those first-hand experiences and memories. I think people form a lot of their world views early on in childhood and adolescence and it would be interesting to unpack some of our early childhood memories.

So now I'm using part of this website's real estate to do something collaborative with the very few people who read my blog: A collaborative Graffiti Board, full of original thought, first-hand experiences and early childhood memories.

Here's how it will work:

I'll start with a post about a topic.

Then, whoever else reads can join in. In the comments section of my blog or this facebook note, you can either theorize about my experience or share your own experience and memories (most important) or linking their answer in my comments to their own blog.

So for the first "Graff Board", I'm asking people to share their first ever experiences with race as many important points as you could remember.

So here are my first ever experience(s) with race straight from childhood and adolescence. These aren't in any particular order, feel free to point out stuff.

1) Singing U.N.I.T.Y's hook ("who you callin' a bitch") at the Lucky's supermarket at random as a 9-year old. A middle-aged black dude was staring at me like "WTF are you doing", either because he was shocked that a young kid was using profane language in public or because I was a whitish type kid.

Whatever it was, that disapproving stare was the first time I remember I felt like I didn't belong doing a certain activity. That was the first time I felt that hip-hop or rap, which I felt "belonged" to black people, wasn't an activity I felt I could "belong" to.

2) I remember thinking while in Daycare in the 2nd grade, there was no such thing as ugly black women. I was like "wow, they're all so beautiful." This was at a Catholic school where the population was a mix of Filipino, Latino, white, but not so many black people. I don't know why or how, it was just something I thought.

3) The dude I considered my best friend in my early elementary school years was the one black kid in our class, Erik Wade and this other kid named Christian who had the coolest Ninja Turtles kick ball.

Erik invited me to his house for his 7th or 8th birthday. Our elementary school was located in Los Feliz, but for some reason Erik lived really far away, which I didn't "understand" was South LA.

I was wondering why no one else from school was there at his party.

I remember accidentally running into some other family's house by mistake and thinking "oh, they're black too...OK!"

In retrospect, knowing my dad as he is now, the political views he apparently holds steadfast too, and the racism that some Filipinos do hold, I am really surprised that he would go out of his way to take me to South LA like it was anyone else's birthday and how he and my mom would both welcome Erik and his mom to my birthday parties.

4) In Kindergarten at Commonwealth Elementary where initially I was bused to Pico Elementary because I wasn't prone to speaking and had a Spanish last name, I was taken to an ESL class.

5) In high school, the prestigious Loyola High School, I felt almost obligated to hang out primarily with the other Filipinos. I knew coming into the school that it was the "white school", pretty much the only school I knew in LA (which in my personal childhood geography didn't include West or East LA).

That said, I also became privy to the racially-segregated geographic differences. All the Filipinos were from Eagle Rock or Glendale. Some Latinos came from the actual neighborhood. The white kids came from either the Palisades or Pasadena, neither of which were part of my personal childhood geography. Far as I was concerned as a non-driving 9th, 10th, 11th grader those places were each at least an hour away.

6) When I was about 11 years old, I had just decided that I was going to be like my godsister, Cheryl and become part of the "cool teenager" category. I was going to like rap and hip-hop. My official entrance into rap and hip-hop started with Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise, and I started listening to Power 106 and 92.3 the Beat.

When I went to Disneyland for my little sister's birthday and I was standing in line waiting for a ride, somehow I got into conversation with a white person named "Doug." Him being a white guy, I assumed he was into rock and roll.

For the next 10 minutes, I went on to bash KROQ.

I sincerely thought I was "educating" him.

/First time I was really discriminating against someone.

7) After I had officially declared myself "into" rap and hip-hop, I decided I liked all kinds of TV shows with black people too, whether it was In the House with LL Cool J, Wayans Bros, Fresh Prince, to Malcolm and Eddie, to Sparks, to Homeboys in Outer Space.

I remember someone actually brought up those shows in class.

The teacher said she wasn't familiar with any of those shows.

8) "Goody two shoes" was a marker of "whiteness" for me.

I marked the few white kids in elementary school as "goody two shoes." I wasn't that, least in elementary school, but I had a strange affinity for drawing people with collared shirts and imagining what it was like to live in the suburbs.

So there you have it, my first experiences with race as a kid and as an adult.

Now either say something back about my experiences, your first memories, episodes on race.

Non-Democracy in Action on Tape

An original version posted on 9/19/2009 as "The Town Halls on Health Care Shout Again: Speak English" @ AMMMO

We now return to...The country that won't let you speak if you want some kind of health care reform. And even less if you speak Spanish.

During a town hall meeting on health care in Connecticut, Bishop Emilio Alvarez asks a question in Spanish and gets booed, yelled at, harangued by anti-health care people.

Some people might retort "I could understand why he got heckled. He should've spoken English, he was addressing an English-speaking audience."

Just because you speak a certain language doesn't mean you shouldn't have a voice in a public town hall meeting in a so-called democracy. Believe it or not, other people who speak other languages other than English have opinions too! Perhaps with even more insight.

The purpose of the town hall is to give individuals floor space to speak with politicians and dialogue in a civil manner with politicians and fellow civilians.

'Civil manner' is something that the anti-health care people in the town halls seem to interpret loosely and/or altogether ignore.

Not sure why exactly the bishop asks his question in Spanish because he seems perfectly fluent in English, but sometimes it's just more comfortable to speak in the native tongue.

As a grant-writer, it's important to use language as carefully and precisely as possible. You don't want to mince words.

Perhaps Bishop Alvarez had the same concerns when speaking Spanish. And perhaps his question wasn't necessarily for the audience, but instead for the Representative.

When speaking a non-native language it's not as easy to convey the emotion, the drasticness of your speech, and/or to be taken seriously. You can be more incisive and specific in your native tongue.

I can sort of speak Spanish if given a paper, and Tagalog, but I wouldn't feel comfortable at all asking any sort of question in those languages. I can talk about basic, functional items, like asking where the bathroom is or how much something costs. But if I had to make a nuanced, educated respected point in somewhere like China or the Phillippines, and I had the green light to speak in English, I'll take that opportunity and hope that the message gets across to the important people.

The Answer to the Weight of Stereotypes on Test Performance: Get Amnesia!

An original version posted on 4/4/2009 as "Stereotype Threat, Obama Effect, and Social Memory" @ AMMMO

It's a question I've been interested in since I read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel when he compared his academic knowledge of biology with the knowledge of "uneducated" healers. It's a question that evolution, Darwinism explained away by saying that colored people were closer to apes than "normal", "regular" white humans.


The question: Why aren't brown, black, yellow people the ones coming up with scientific and technological innovation?

Why do disparities in educational attainment, test scores, income persist between racial and ethnic demographics persist? Why aren't people seeing that this is their opportunity to pull themselves up by the bootstraps?

Most saliently, most importantly, and straight to the point, are people of color inherently retarded or something that they can't do simple stuff like go to college and earn middle-class income jobs?

Those questions act as reinforcements of a documented social psychological phenomena called the Stereotype Threat.

Countering the stereotype threat, in comes research on a phenomena called the Obama Effect, described here by the Situationist, reported first via the NY Times:
[R]esearchers have documented what they call an Obama effect, showing that a performance gap between African-Americans and whites on a 20-question test administered before Mr. Obama’s nomination all but disappeared when the exam was administered after his acceptance speech and again after the presidential election.

...In the study made public on Thursday, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues compiled a brief test, drawing 20 questions from the verbal sections of the Graduate Record Exam, and administering it four times to about 120 white and black test-takers during last year’s presidential campaign.

...On the initial test last summer, whites on average correctly answered about 12 of 20 questions, compared with about 8.5 correct answers for blacks, Dr. Friedman said. But on the tests administered immediately after Mr. Obama’s nomination acceptance speech, and just after his election victory, black performance improved, rendering the white-black gap “statistically nonsignificant,” he said.

Even though it's a very small sample and over a small time period on one test, it's something to be looked at and hopefully taken into account with our mega-informocracy and online social networking.

The claim is that Obama's position as the most powerful man of one of the most powerful nations on the planet and his identity as the product of a multi-racial demographic primed the African-American testtakers for confidence. The idea is that those clips of Obama, a positive achievement by an individual who is categorized within "African-American" seem to work subconsciously on its viewers' confidence and is directly correlated to their improvements in their scores.

With priming figuring prominently in this study, this should bring up the question of what everyday media from the school to the public and popular discourse primes students from historically disadvantaged demographics to think the way they do.

This brings up questions of social memory: what do demographics internalize and take with them as somewhat important when they take the test? What kind of baggage do they carry with them? How does that baggage manifest itself in the unconscious and implicit memories?

Trailing off my posting on identity and amnesia, I'm thinking that if members of the African-American demographic did not carry with them the socially-constructed and reinforced, yet unconscious meme that they were inherently intellectually inferior in the first place, there wouldn't be as many gaps.

It seems like there would need to be a mass social amnesia about that meme.