Beginning in colonial America, the myth of the drunken Indian persisted throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The current, more “enlightened,” explanation for the high incidence of alcoholism among Native Americans, concludes that since they were exposed to alcohol for only the past few hundred years, they were genetically unprepared and, therefore, have little genetic “immunity.” American Native people, therefore, have little tolerance for alcohol, become intoxicated on small amounts, and, consequently, experience high rates of alcoholism. This belief, like many others concerning Native American culture, adds to the stereotype of genetic inferiority that continues to influence white American thinking.
Riding happily on the London Underground’s crowded Piccadilly Line, I was headed for the famous Harrods’s Department Store. My fellow passengers were a diverse group. They included two young Asian women, several people from India or Pakistan, a Sikh man with the signature maroon turban, several black people whose accents indicated Caribbean or African origins, several white Brits with various British accents, a few white American tourists, and next to me were two young men, one black, one white talking about their families in South Africa. I sat, taking it all in, and thinking “This is what I love about London. Such diversity and all living together, mostly peacefully, going about their lives. What an interesting and exciting place! So unlike east Tennessee!”
BAHA’I VIEW 1938
On Christmas Day 1938 the head of the Bahá’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, wrote a very important letter to the Bahá’i communities residing in the United States and Canada. (The letter was later published as a book under the title The Advent of Divine Justice.) It was the eve of World War II. The Empire of Japan had already invaded China in July 1937. In March of 1938 Nazi Germany had absorbed Austria into the Third Reich. In September 1938 the Germans forced Czechoslovakia to cede part of its territory to Germany. On November 9, 1938 many German Nazis attacked and destroyed Jewish businesses and synagogues in the pogrom later known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). Against this background of world events, Shoghi Effendi wrote this letter.
If the truth be told, I wasn’t considered to be a diversity expert until I wrote a book, Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain, which touches on the subject. I am, however, a Black British female of Nigerian origin who happened to live with a white working class family during my foundational years. Not only have I lived in both Britain and Nigeria, I’ve travelled extensively to different parts of the world. I have friends from varying backgrounds as well and I’ve also had the opportunity to work with people from varying backgrounds and countries and I’ve learnt a lot from them, too.
I recently found myself watching the “Doll test” An experiment where children, black and white are shown two different dolls at the same time and asked questions such as which one is pretty, nice, bad and ugly. Most of the children, black and white alike point to white doll when it comes to the positive attributes and the black doll when it comes to the negative attributes.
The Doll Test
I’ve watched experiments several times before – they’re probably just as old as me! This time though, having recently been interviewed a few times on the subjects of “Skin Tone Memory Bias” and “Unconscious Bias” I found myself reflecting deeper. Is the experiment perhaps flawed in it’s design and by virtue of the questions asked? Do the questions actually lead the child to make unnecessary and indeed unhealthy choices?
As a starting point, I found myself wondering, what was in the hearts and minds of those children when they walked into the room that morning and how would they have responded if they were presented with a different set of questions.
What would the children have said if they had been asked what was nice about each doll instead of being asked which doll was nice and which was bad? Having been asked what was nice about each doll, they could have then been asked the follow up question as to whether there was anything bad about the dolls.
On the other hand asking them which was nice and which was bad sends a message to the child that one was better than the other and they had to choose which one – regardless of their mind-set when they walked into the room.
Alternatively, what if the children were just simply shown a black doll or a white doll and asked what they thought of it. They could then have been shown a doll of the other colour. I suspect that there responses may not have been so stark and they would have probably focused on other features rather than just colour.
I believe that a key problem with the research is that its approach stems from and feeds into our adult prejudices and conditioning. I’m not saying that children are unaware, but I don’t believe it is the starting point with their thinking until we condition them. I wonder what was in the hearts and minds of the children when they entered the room; I wonder what was in their hearts and minds as they left.
If they were not making distinction on the basis of colour when they entered the room, the seed was planted by the time they left. The problem is that in our day to day interactions, we often teach children to think in terms of colour and in line with our other biases, conscious or subconscious.
I should cut the brother a check … a humongous one at that; one with lots of zeros at the end of it. Seriously. I’m talking about one for Leonard Pitts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at The Miami Herald. You’ve seen his name appear in this column a number of times before. You see, aside from being an extremely gifted – and courageous – writer, he makes my job easier. I say that because he occasionally provides me with tantalizing topics and eyebrow-raising quotes for bridging his insights on external issues into our kaleidoscopic workplace.
To honor the success of Asian Americans in this country, I would like to highlight the professional lives of five prominent Asian female executives. They have demonstrated a sense of pride in their own heritage and that this has not diminished their professional success in the western world. They are among the most powerful women in the U.S.
Not long ago, Texas made history. It became a majority minority state. In other words, the minorities together make up more than 50% of the population. Here in Texas, diversity is a buzzword. Not only does it attract attention, it gets people excited, who now want to jump on the bandwagon to organize diversity initiatives such as cultural sensitivity training or setting up a diversity council.
The nation is crying out for universal health care reform to provide adequate health insurance for the diverse citizens in the nation. Yet, American diversity includes a group of individuals who remain silent as they continue to face limited access to health care because of their limited English proficiency (LEP). A study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in April, 2008 indicated that during 2004-2006 almost one third of non-elderly Korean Americans in the US do not have health insurance.
To many of us, the idea of using two sticks with one hand to pick up a piece of chicken or vegetable from a plate or bowl and putting that same piece of chicken or vegetable into our mouth without dropping it is beyond one’s imagination. However, this is what one out of every five people in the world does at mealtime on a daily basis. These people with such dexterity with chopsticks live in what we call “chopsticks nations” such as China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.