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Entries in multiculturalism (3)

Tuesday
Jan312012

"The Month": Race, Difference & Diversity

Have you heard of The Week?

It summarizes op-eds on "hot" current event topics for the past week.  Like Cliff's Notes.  Cliffs' Notes.  Whatever.

Let's do a The Month post for my blog.

Wait!!

It's going to be good!!

Don't!!

leave!!

Early in the month, I posted "How to Talk so People (or Racists) will Listen".

JM Randolph of accidental stepmom pinpointed how this situation can be awkward:



It's difficult to speak up when confronted with intolerant beliefs.  For me, it's exasperating if it's my own family or people I'm close to. Sometimes, I don't even bother because I know the person enough to know my words won't make a difference.  I wonder, though, is speaking up about these issues about changing someone's mind or is it about making a statement about who we are and what we're willing to tolerate?

In "The Help... in Mississippi or in Pakistan", we discussed K. Stockett's best selling controversial novel, The Help

Kailyn elaborated on the objections eloquently and passionately:
What pissed me off about the book was the widespread popularity of it. For me it was the feeling of, “What? The experiences of my family are only valid if they are told by a white woman?” The more and more I thought about it, it just all felt like more of the Great White Savior being played out.

When I read literature about India, Pakistan or even Muslims written by individuals outside of those cultures, I can feel like that.  Sometimes, those perspectives seem to emanate from academic ivory tower conjectures. That's not to say that only African Americans can write about African Americans, etc, but people write best when they offer their truth as they have lived it.

Still, while I agree with some of Kailyn's assessment, but Windyfairy offers the zero sum of my opinion:
Part of racism was that ethnic people were stripped of their voices. [...]Maybe what we should take from this story is that there were people willing to work together for the same goal, despite their differences. Maybe what should be important isn’t who told the story, but that it was told.

It's entirely possible that my not being African American is a factor in my tendency to agree with that.

It was also my birthday on the 9th. In addition to a MACBOOK AAAAIRRRR(!!!), I got an extraordinary "present" on my Facebook wall from Dave2 at Blogography.


I celebrated Dr. M.L.King, Jr.'s birthday here in Memphis this year, too. It was significant and beautiful experience for me.  One comment in particular on that post from RW, however, brought home a stark reminder of the realities of our times.
There’s no question but that for a lot of white Americans this is viewed as a “black” holiday that they have to just put up with not getting their mail on.

Including my family, there were six individuals who were not African American at the event I attended. I can unequivocally say that for me "black" or "African American" are rarely the first words that come to mind when I think of Dr. King.  Do people really still see him as an African American hero and not just a plain old American hero?

Megan finished out the month by graciously offering a guest post in the style of her blog  One Thousand Words (Or More).  I was honored to celebrate her talent and beauty with you.

Finally, I want to extend thanks to Nyt, and like bloggers.  As someone who can often fall on the other side of political and social issues than me (and most of the readers here), Nyt often takes the time to express opinions here. Disagreeing is more than just "okay", it is needed. We can never be less for acknowledging "the other side" and taking the time to consider opinions oppositional to our own.  Being open minded means, well... being open.

Most posts this month were inspired by race, difference and diversity.  As always, I'm impressed with the respectful nature of the dialogue here and want to thank everyone for respectfully participating in conversations that could have gone horribly awry.

Also I've started a Native Born Facebook page, where I'll be posting articles, videos and fascinating things relating to my blog.  And Star Trek.  Vampires, too.

Photo Credit
Thursday
Jan262012

7 Ways to Trot the Globe without Actually Globetrotting

Emma ... Not in East India... but East Memphis.

Traveling abroad offers opportunities to expand our understanding of different cultures, people and subsequently different perspectives. To me, a useful education has less to do with the levels of academia that have been traversed and more to do with successfully processing the existence of ideas outside of the paradigm of one's own thinking.

All that said, it's entirely possible to live a multicultural life without ever getting a passport.

The Internet, coupled with the rise of immigrant and first generation communities and populations throughout the world, presents most people an opportunity to sample the cuisine, clothing, food and some aspects of specific cultures without ever really leaving their homes.

1. Food. My fellow Americans, there are nations whose food is served within our borders that are not Mexico, China, Thailand or Italy.  Next time you go out to eat, don't let the "mood for Mexican" stand in the way of your expanding horizons.  Cuban, Argentine, Ethiopian...  The worst that could happen is that you don't like Ethiopian food which I think is better than not knowing what Ethiopians eat. Or thinking that they don't eat at all.  WHICH.IS.SO.ANNOYING.  It was a freaking region, not the entire country, the famine lasted two years, and it happened twenty five years ago, people.  Let it go.

2. Festivals. Ethnic communities put on a lot of "festivals." It's a way, I think, for us to feel connected to one another, but also an attempt to reach out to other communities and teach them something about us.  Just go. Bonus: there will be cheap, delicious food there. Food is a totally educational thing.  Just ask Anthony Bourdain.

3. Forging friendships. You're looking around for a someone to start a conversation with? Pick someone who looks like they're from somewhere other than where you're from. Is that politically incorrect?  Probably. I just think it makes for more interesting conversation and, you know, it could initiate world peace if people did it more often. Just.  Um.  Be cool, okay?

4. Books. Most public libraries have collections of international authors.  Book clubs are excellent sources. Not going to lie, Oprah's Book Club is my go to -- it offers a diverse range of authors in terms of national origin and race. You can search key words like "author" and "<a nation you'd like to visit">, too. A book isn't a substitute, but it is, again, better than knowing nothing.

5. Fashion. I'm not talking tunics from Target.  Nations like India, Japan, Malaysia, Kenya and yes, even Pakistan have thriving industries devoted to the haute couture that are directed at their own nationalities.  Scanning the international versions of Vogue that are available online offer insight into a culture's values concerning beauty, fabrics, industry and, of course, the feminine ideal.

6. Film.  Netflix is rocking it with the foreign films. Bollywood selections alone will take you on a veritable tour of the entire subcontinent.  Be warned, though, if you do ever go to India, few women look like Aishwarya Rai and pretty much nobody is dancing (well) in the streets.  If you're on a budget or don't have Netflix, did you know libraries lend movies!? For free?!  True story.

7. Avoid caricatures and remember that a micro-experience isn't a substitute for the real thing. Disclaimer: Keep in mind that experiencing a culture outside of its national origin is experiencing a representation of that culture. As Americans, what's our national food?  Our national dress?  Our national culture? My response to that is, it depends and yours may be more specific.  While we may have an unusually high diversity factor in the U.S., it's a mistake to assume that other nations are homogeneous in their ideals and culture.

These things aren't specific substitutes for travel, but often we set aside our dreams because there isn't time or money to do and see all the things what we want to.  Truth is, though, you can do a little bit now while working towards making what you really to want happen, too.

Have you traveled the world recently without really leaving home?  How?
P.S. Oh. Yeah. Happy Birthday, Adam.
Wednesday
Jan252012

Perspectives: Color by @MsMegan

One Thousand Words (Or More) is a collection of  subtle, yet breathtaking photographs published on the web by my dear and trusted friend Megan. Brief snippets of wisdom accompany each of her posts and the style of the blog reinforces that I'm blessed to have her in my feed reader. Products inspired by the blog can also be found online at the One Thousand Words (Or More) shop and you can find her on Twitter at @MsMegan

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It's the color that makes life interesting.