Cultural Insight

Walking the path of global and cultural understanding. This is a glimpse into my journey

Friday, June 23, 2006

Identity Matters

Oregon State University Researchers Find That a Black-Sounding Name Is a Huge Disadvantage When Seeking Rental Housing
A study by researchers at Oregon State University published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology finds that an ethnic-sounding name can have an adverse impact on whether a prospective tenant is able to rent an apartment. The researchers sent more than 1,000 e-mails to landlords in the Los Angeles area inquiring about advertised vacancies. The researchers used three different names with ethnic connotations in their inquiries: Patrick McDougall, Tyrell Jackson, and Said Al-Rahman.
The results showed that Patrick McDougall, presumably a white man, received positive responses from 89 percent of the landlords. Said Al-Rahman received responses encouraging him to apply to rent from 66 percent of the landlords. But when the name Tyrell Jackson was used, positive responses were received from only 56 percent of the landlords.
In the past, similar results have been reported when names with ethnic connotations have been tested in applications for loans and employment. Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Knowing Ourselves as Instructors

This reading sat very well with me. As a reflective practitioner, this article reenforced my awareness about my own bias in the classroom. My cultural identity codes as not white. Nevertheless, my skintone, hair, articulate voice, choice of clothing, globally framed discussions, and diverse social justice oriented topics frequently send mixed messages to students.

I don't fit into their stereotypical framework. A significant portion of a semester can pass by before students get up the courage to pull me aside to pose the big question.
Student: "Um, could I ask you a question?"
Me: Sure
Student: Well, um. What are you?
Me: I'm the Director
Student: No, I mean what are you?
Me: A man
Student: No, I mean what are you?
Me: Do you mean what is my cultural background?
Student: Yeah, what are you?
Me: Why?
Student: Well, everyone in the class has been trying to figure out what you are. I mean your cultural background. I figured I would ask.
Me: What do you think my cultural background is.
Student: I don't know. Maybe mixed.
Me: Do you mean biracial?
Student: Yeah

The conversation continues and we share our cultural histories, influences, and values. The exchange is personal and based on a level of trust established from a variety of conversations since the beginning of the semester. I don't share everything about myself, but students don't share everything either. Pehaps I share more than most professors. Perhaps students share more with me than with other faculty. Curiousity of students about my cultural and social identities shows how important the messenger is to the message we present. The are looking for a social or cultural marker that establishes a clear point of reference. Thoughts based on stereotypes created by media run throught their minds. How do I approach this quy? What makes him tick? What can I say? Where are the boundaries in this class? How much power do I have or don't I have?

Nothing remains in the background. Even if we as educators try to ignore it, students code us as much as they can based on their previous knowledge.

As a teacher of color in a classroom of primarily White students, I know that I will often be challenged as an unfamiliar authority figure. Understanding how to best navigate through the difficult moments is based on an inner peace. I could tell you that for the past two years white students have walked out of my classroom because the saw a black man at the front of the room. Perhaps they just found themselves in the wrong classroom at eight in the morning. They give no statement. No explanation. They just see my face and leave. That could mean anything. When I talk about tough subjects like white privlidge in class, some students are not prepared to have a dialogue. Fine. Maybe part of my role is to plant the seeds that will grow later on.

Race and social justice work is challenging. Opposition sits around every corner. The philosophy I have adopted is simple. One that I learned in Lamu. An amazing ancient island off the coast of Kenya. The waves come in and the waves go out. You cannot fight against the tide. Sometimes you must be patient and just wait until the currents of change work in your favor.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Wow. Where do I begin?
This was much more than I expected. When we think about racist structures or practices operating in a university, hmmm. Are we considering the foundation of these instutions or practices.?
Empowerment through a transformative experience could be exhibited in an online blog or electronic blackboard on racism.

This is very cool. Enter as a guest
Click on the “courses” tab in the upper left hand corner.
Type “Uprooting Racism” in the search box and hit enter.

Students need to be able to reflect (critical reflection) at their own pace. This online thing allows them to address issues in a timly and student friendly format. The thing that I enjoy the most is that it provides students with additional material needed to fulling understand the concept.
The blackboard gives students the skill to create their own tools without relying on the "master's tools or the master's house. " This is on their terms. And in many ways their space.
This is an exhibition of "voice" and "speech" in a gender neutral and racial neutral space.
You could even log on with a neutral name. Media can easily become a valuable tool to exhibit various points the moderator or teacher is trying to make.
I like it.
Ellsworth gives me more than I want in one sitting.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Fear Within

Can present day schooling hurt African Americans more than help?

If the value set or ideologies are based on a White supremacist point of view perhaps the answer is yes. If the purpose of the education is to maintain the existing system, and the existing system is not libratory in nature, the result is oppression of the participants.

Joe Kincheloe mentions that many teachers view education as “good” because their own experiences in education have been good. Without critical analysis of the existing system accompanied by critical pedagogy, teachers are destined to perpetuate a system that supports the regime of truth/ ideological state apparatus/ dominant ideology.

Kincheloe notes in his introduction that “dominant modes of exclusion are continuously “naturalized” by power wielders’ control of information. See Miseducation of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson for more detail on how the minds have been of African Americans have been colonized.

Stunting of Potential
The entire country has low expectations for African American males. Kincheloe would say that we “cannot be understood outside the context that helped shape us.” The United States has shaped the future of African American males through a lens that best suits those in power. Are we trying to stunt the potential of African American males? The political terrain of our country leads me to believe that yes we are continuing to maintain a oppressive system that supports what Kinchloe calls the dominant power. There are plenty of examples of the hostility towards African Americans throughout the history of American educational system.

Politics and education go hand in hand. If a revolutionary curriculum significantly changed the ideologies of young people, the result would be a highly political. Think about protesting the Vietnam war or the American college student response to apartide in South Africa. As students learn about global issues, events and atrocities they begin to find a political voice.

We have talked about how knowledge and truth are manipulated. We have discussed how authority and power change the tides of ideology. We have talked about the role of the teacher and student engagement. So what is the bottom line on this? Nobody in schools is helping young African American males to understand the context of their situation. Who are they? Where are they? Why are they there? Where are they going? One can site any theory they like, the success of African American males directly opposes a White supremacist ideology.

So where does this White supremacist ideology come from? Fear. Fear of genetic extinction. Once you cut through all the political, economic, education, entertainment jargon, you are only left with fear that the next generation of children will be non-white. As Kinchleoe says the dominant power's intentions can "mutate in a kaleidoscope of everyday school life". However, since the begninning of this country, the fear of extinction has always been present. The fear has never mutated. The bond between a person of color and a white person does not produce another white person. That is what I think all this oppression around race is really about.
See what other people say about the fear within

The bottom of page 35 of the Kicheloe mentions withough an understanding of these specific dynamics (race, class, gender, sexual, cultural, and religions prejudice), teachers are too often unable - even with love in their hearts and the best intentions - to protect students from the radioactive fallout of hidden structures of racism, clas bias, patriarchy, homophobia, colonialism, and religious prejudice.

Exactly, the hidden structures are what maintains the system.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Global Education as Global Freedom

From Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Beyond the act of moving from one location to another, study abroad explores the collective nature of education as a dialogical process. The collective nature of this educational experience abroad comes from experiencing a plethora of new cross-cultural encounters. The dialogical process emerges in a study abroad experience when diverse cultures interact with one another. Students are driven to explore new and foreign ideologies which ultimately transform their view of the world. As the trip progresses, students find effective ways to cope with cross-cultural challenges. So what drives a student to explore other cultures and search for clarity and meaning?
“Epistemological curiosity” drives student’s interaction and exploration as they search for answers to the realities of their new environment. Paulo Friere describes epistemological curiosity as the natural curiosity that exists among humans. It is the element that drives our desire to learn from one another.
It is this methodological rigor that takes knowledge from the level of common sense to that of scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge is not what is rigorous. Rigor lies in the method applied in an approach to an object. This rigor allows for a greater or lesser precision in the knowledge produced or found through our epistemogical quest (Freire, 1997, p. 97).

As students begin to make sense of their feelings and perceptions, teachers or facilitators can support the acquisition of knowledge through various activities and discussions. Freire clearly mentions that “the teachers cannot think for his students, nor can he impose his thought on them. Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication. If it is true that thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world, the subordination of students to teachers becomes impossible.” (Feire, 2003). I would agree with this. The real thinking does take place when we are out in the world. This brings up the question of how big is the world to the young African American urban male? With no car and definitely no passport, the world isn’t much more than the concrete jungle.
Without exposure to new stimulus in a manner that supports growth, one is destined to what Feire calls “necrophily” or a static view of the world. “Oppression- overwhelming control – is necrophilic; it is nourished by love of death, not life. The banking concept of education , which serves the interests of oppression, is also necrophic.” The missing engagement or consciousness. This is the similar to the way sociocultural norms are created. Issues of race, sexuality, gender, and religion include the same base of social engagement. Successful study abroad facilitators motivate students to refine their epistemological curiosity by creating opportunities for dialogue, analysis, and personal growth. Freire mentions “as students face problems relating to themselves in the world and with the world, they will feel increasingly challenged and obliged to respond to that challenge.” The appropriate guide can help the student translate many of those challenges through a culturally relevant lens, which helps transforming both the teacher’s and student’s view. Freire considers this type of interaction as “cognitive”. The student and the teacher work toward reflection together which ultimately raises consciousness or “explicit awareness”.

Freire, P. (2003). Critical Pedogogy Reader. New York: Routledge Falmer

Freire, P. (1997). Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedogagy of the Oppressed. New York:
Continuum Publishing Coy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Educational Brainwashing

The art of cohersion or influence is essentially a form of brainwashing. It is the ability of the dominant ideology to push their agenda. Their agenda supports what they beleive is true.

In general, the key factors that exhibit coercive persuasion are:

  • The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual's sense of self to promote compliance
  • The use of an organized peer group
  • Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity
  • The manipulation of the totality of the person's social environment to stabilize behavior once modified.

Could this be some schools?

High pressure timed testing situations. Metal detectors, guards, tracking in organized peer groups. Incarceration for students without full compliance. Bars on windows, large classes, limited freedom of learning styles or social experiences. Elimination of programs related to the arts.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Schooling and Inequality - Foucault Reflection

If the oppressed search for equality they will never catch up to those in power. They must search for a superior education that stresses a revolutionary agenda. The time for playing games is done. Why would the oppressor ever give more than the minimum needed to say in power?

Okay so I may sound a bit hyped up. Believe me, I'm holding back. There is a state of emergency among African American males in this country.

Reading persepectives on Foucault brings up a variety of different thoughts. I'll try to keep on track. But since this is my blog, don't forget to enjoy the ride.

Power and Control in Schools. Image 1.– The School-to-Prison Pipeline
They come back again and again. Everyone knows that prisons make recidivists. Do schools support a recividist agenda as well? Yes they do. So how bad is it really. Most of us realize that poor educational structures and limited socio-economic opportunities can have a significant influence juvenile delinquency. That shouldn’t mean that every "troubled student" in high school should go to jail. Or does it mean that. The high school to prison pipeline is a reality. This disturbing racial disparity carries over to the criminal justice system. The Justice Policy Institute estimates that during this time [between 1980 and 2000], for every one African American male who entered a college or a university, three African American males entered a jail or a prison. With those types of numbers should African American communites trust school districts?
Learn more about pipeline
Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline

Prison Guards Make More Money Than Teachers

Something to snack on while you enjoy the journey
Frequent use of suspension has no measurable positive deterrent
or academic benefit to either the students who are suspended or to
nonsuspended students. ... Disciplining elementary and middle school
students with out-of-school suspension predicts future suspensions and
contributes to students’ poor academic performance and failing to
graduate on time.”
Kids cannot succeed if they are not in school.

Linda M. Raffaele Mendez, New Directions for Youth Development,
Deconstructing the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Fall 2003

School failure is a leading contributor to unemployment, depression, substance abuse,
homelessness, child neglect, delinquent behavior, and incarceration. Academic success is a powerful and necessary intervention. To end the cycle of poverty and court involvement
experienced by depressed neighborhoods, we have to do whatever it takes to provide all
children with a quality education.”
Professor Jack McDevitt, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies
Northeastern University College of Criminal Justice

“Allowing one youth to leave high school for a life of crime and drug abuse costs
society $1.7 to $2.3 million.”
Mark Cohen, Professor at Owen School of Management,
Vanderbilt University
Quotes borrowed from

Our response to “troubled students” in our schools has become normalized. We expect certain students to be bad or act a less acceptable/abnormal fashion. Schools are prepared to move toward extreme measures to maintain these prevailing norms. Foucault would say that our surveillance of social deviants in high school has left society with only one disciplinary option.

Incarceration or Spatialization
Do students of color have safe spaces in their schools? Is their space defined by them or by someone else? What ever happened to detention, calling parents, a heart to heart discussion or peer mentoring? "Schools tend to favor the cultural capita of the so-called middle class (Bourdieu & Passeron,1977), and indeed operate within those same value systems that endorse productivity and in certain forms of cooperative behavior." If students have limited cultural capital does that mean that it is in the best interest of society to throw them in prison?

The Reproduction of Inequalities in the Production of Inequality
Industrial prison complex – Prisons contribute to societal productivity more than we would like to think. Tax breaks for the host city, cheap labor. Additionally the reinforcement of standards and behavior that perpetuates the system. Foucault would say we are simply reproducing the inequalities. The guaranteed low wages without the presence of a labor union make prison labor attractive to many companies like Procter & Gamble and TWA.
Pay as low as .23 per hour for data entry. In my opinion the exploitation of encarcerated African Americans is a just a new form of slavery. During the Holocaust, prisoners of Nazi Germany prison campus saw signs posted upon entry into the prison camps. The signs said. “Arbeit Macht Frei,” translation “Work Makes Free”. Yeah right. We all know how that turned out.

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
-Article Thirteen of the Constitution of 1787

Maintenance of an Infantile State

So lets see what the reproduction of inequality looks like for a young African American male.
Maintenance of the infantile state of the African American Male teenager.
Saggy/Baggy jeans = Sagging diaper of an infant – A baby should be the only one entitled to allow his/her bottoms to drop that low.
Slang definition of home = The crib
Slang definition of woman = ma, or mama
Elimination of strong African American role models in the media = Limited aspirations for adulthood.

Adapted from The Isis Papers by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing: Author of and creator of the Cress-Welsing theory analyzing the nature of white supremacy.

"Generally, the victims of a system of oppression have no alternative other than to accept blindly the patterns of symbols, logic, thought, speech, emotional responses and perceptions that are imposed forcefully upon them by their oppressors. After hundreds of years of oppression, the oppressed, having lost the sense of their own identity, begin to believe that the brain-products of their oppressors are one and the same with their own, failing completely to realize that they did not control their own brain- computers nor their brain-computers' output. The slave's fate is not to see nor reason why, but only to do or die. However, the process of liberation is one wherein the oppressed begin to clearly distinguish their perceptions, logic and thought processes from the oppressors'. The oppressed, then, begin to respect and validate their perceptions and their logic and thought processes, realizing fully that they can never free themselves with the thought processes and perceptions that were a part of the process of their enslavement." -- Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, Author, "The Isis Papers: Keys to the Colors"

Elimination of the traditional African rite of passage into manhood.

Many cultures throughout the world maintain the tradition of a rite of passage into manhood. For example, Jewish communities have Bar Mitzvah. Some indigenous groups send young males on some type of spiritual and physical vision quest as part of their bridge into manhood. These traditions serve several purposes.
The community is acknowledging fact that this young man is no longer considered a boy. The community expatiations for the young man are established. The responsibilities to family and to adulthood are clarified. This moment demonstrates that the young man is a part of something greater than himself. He is a member of a community. The time for foolish games is symbolically set aside as the young man publicly acknowledges his new role in the community. Often codes of power are expressed, providing an important toolbox of cultural capital. His actions and commitment to the community secure his respect and confidence.

So what if this type of experience doesn’t emerge in the life of an African American teenager? They maintain an infantile or childlike state of being. The absence of this type ceremony can leave young men without a sense of self worth in a pivotal time during their lives. The establishment of their symbolic infancy becomes a tool for reproducing inequalities. Although they appear to be grown men, the stagnant state of their lives leaves them essentially asleep. New societal expectations are not officially or unofficially passed on and the chain of community and cultural prosperity is broken. Of course not every passing of the societal torch will include a grad ceremony. Nevertheless, the absence of outstanding male role models in the community can create a significant void in the lives of impressionable young men. Minimal conversations with male mentors, leaders and advocates are limited. No one is effectively defining what it means to be a positive young African American man. I have spoken with many young males who often present off the cuff statements like “I have nothing to lose” or “it’s all good” to describe their circumstances. In reality, their potential status in their community has not been appropriately acknowledged or articulated. These young men want and often demand respect. Yet they are not respected. Young African American males are feared in America. They are negatively presented by our society as unsatisfactory participants in almost every area of American culture.

How do some people get the rest of us to accept their ideas of who we are? That involves the power of belief. Terms to consider - Constructing Truth, Mental Colonization and Brainwashing.

  • Business/ Finance - low business ownership, limited saving and investing
  • Family – low participants, absentee fathers.
  • Music and Culture – presented as Gangster Rap/ drug dealers/ womanizers/ wasteful consumption of diamonds, chrome etc.
  • Politics – Low participation. Limited voter registration and community activism.
  • Sports – They can play but they cannot participate in ownership or senior level management.
  • Education – low achievement, low participation, limited enrollment, low graduation rates.

The cycle of inequality and negative stereotypes is perpetuated by the media, the education system, and the penal system. If almost everything you saw in the horizon was negative, would you take the journey? Awaken the sleep Protect the weak Guide the strong.

What options does a young brother have in his search for role models, rules and codes of power and privilege, as well as social capital? Gangs. Gangs offer very well articulated codes of power and conduct. Their establishment of social capital is clearly defined within their community. Membership through ceremony and rites of passage are demonstrated immediately. The hierarchy of power is transparent. The teenager is provided with a sense of confidence, value in the community (the gang community), respect. The goals of the group are often well defined. The prevalence of gangs across the United States opens up a world of network of opportunities throughout the country .