You are currently browsing the Talking Cultural Diversity blog archives for April, 2010.

Global Accountability: Large and Small

By Thomas Kochman - 04.30.2010

It’s often said that when trees start to rot, they do so from the top down.

This saying, as a metaphor, often applies to societies in a state of decline or decay caused by a failure of those who run them. From biblical times to the present people take their cues on how to behave from those who lead them.

This is especially true today as it applies to those who run our financial institutions.

The rapaciousness of Wall Street, predatory consumer lending practices and exorbitant credit card interest rates targeting working and middle class families by banks have had their effect, not only in undermining populist morale, but populist morality.

Not only do people no longer feel indebtedness is a bad thing, they no longer feel obligated to pay back the credit card debt they have incurred as a result of excessive spending, as shown in a recent BBC news broadcast over mounting indebtedness in Britain, and in a protest first aired in September 2009 on YOU TUBE.

But what happens when people can no longer get credit? Read more »

“What Other People Think About You Is None of Your Business”

By Jean Mavrelis - 04.29.2010

As I wrote in Corporate Tribalism, white women who are “people pleasers”, often feel more defined by what other people might think about them than by what they think about themselves.

Interestingly, first born sons of white woman people-pleasers are also likely to be like their mothers in this way, most likely because mom had more time for her firstborn, male or female, so those first born tend to be like her.

This need to have others like us gets “people-pleasers” into hot water when interacting with anyone except other people pleasers.

I had my own experience with this yesterday. I wrote on a cousin’s blog site that the view in the piece was “naïve”. Then I realized she wrote the piece.

This sent me into people pleaser apoplexy – Oh my god!  I’ve offended! This will ruin our relationship! Like a good people pleaser, I wrote to apologize, saying I didn’t mean to call her \”naïve\”. She responded that she didn’t feel insulted until I suggested that I insulted her.

The ultimate goal of a people pleaser is not to please others so much as it is to make sure other people think we’re caring and nice so that they won’t talk about us behind our back. Read more »

Computer Engineer Barbie

By Jean Mavrelis - 04.28.2010

In case you don’t know it, Barbie markets dolls in a variety of careers.  When the company asked girls to pick the next doll, they selected “Anchorwoman Barbie”.

When adults were added to the process, “Computer Engineer Barbie” won, so the company has produced both dolls.

Betty Shanahan, CEO of the Society of Women Engineers, had something to say about what a Computer Engineer would wear.

The Wall Street Journal traced Barbie’s history, and Ann Zimmerman blogged in the WSJ that the field must be pretty desperate to choose a doll to market the career.  Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

“Twenty years ago, women were awarded twice as many computer science degrees as they were in 2008. Of course, there are more fields open to women today. But that only explains part of the reason this well-paid, fast-growing field, is losing women. “Though we can’t be certain of the cause of the decline, research suggests several likely possibilities,” says Catherine Ashcraft, senior research scientist at the National Center for Women & Information Technology at the University of Colorado. “Many of these are related to the image of computer science and the lack of female role models and mentors. Girls get subtle messages from all sorts of places — the media, popular culture, parents, teachers, school counselors, other authority figures — that computer science isn’t really \’something girls do.’”

I’d like to hear from some of you women engineers out there about your thoughts on Computer Engineer Barbie and the dearth of women computer engineers.

New Border Security Processes: System in Need of Overhauling

By Andrea-Teresa "Tess" Arenas - 04.28.2010

Millions of Mexicans cross the border legally through USA entry points to report to work each morning.  The lines to enter the USA are painfully long.  The line also has stringent rules enforced by the U.S. Border Patrol.

I was told to stop talking and turn off my cell phone while I was about 150 feet away from the USA entry point (in other words, while I was still in Mexico) by a U.S. Border Patrol Agent.

I had been in line for over an hour, the temperature was 106 degrees, and no shade.  My travel partner, another faculty person, fainted from the wait.  Then, we were processed quickly so an ambulance could be called on the U.S. side.

The Border crossing points are in need of a serious overhaul.  The process can be much more humane with some effort from both the U.S. and Mexico. Read more »

Road to Citizenship: Old Family Legends/New Immigration Realities

By Andrea-Teresa "Tess" Arenas - 04.28.2010

The new immigration bill just passed in Arizona –considered “Draconian” by many— places our national immigration policy once again in the forefront of U.S. thinking not only in the White House but also on college campuses and family conversations over dinner.

Whether I am teaching college students at a predominately white campus or consulting with businesses, it is not uncommon to hear people saying, “The undocumented need to get in line and apply for entry into the US like the rest of our families did.”

Another common comment is a similar spin, “My family came here legally with nothing and so should the Latinos.”

I truly understand any frustration, concern, and the like associated with the hot topic of Latino undocumented as the debate on immigration moves forward within the Obama Administration.

However, there are very important differences between the immigration process and criteria in place in contemporary USA society and when the country was founded and opened the doors to waves of immigrants from Europe.

The criteria in Mexico and the USA to apply to immigrate to USA include: owning a home and having a bank account.   Read more »

Mixed Race Mix-Ups

By Jean Mavrelis - 04.25.2010

I met a woman in Oregon who is racially Black and culturally Italian.

My daughter has a friend whose Mom is Irish and African American and whose Dad is German, yet she is racially Black.

My son has a friend with a Polish Mom and African American Dad.

How does this impact mixed race folks where what you appear to be is not who you are, but to claim to be who you are seems to suggest that you are rejecting a “minority” part of yourself ?

I have experienced this at some level, growing up with an Irish Mom and a Jewish Dad, and being the only kid (except for my siblings) named Goldstein at St. Luke’s.

I resented assumptions that I was Jewish, but I’m not sure if it was because I had no Jewish religious upbringing, and it was a misrepresentation, or if it was because of the anti-Semitism I picked up in the environment as a Catholic kid (they told me my Dad killed Jesus).

I’d like to hear from mixed folks about how you deal with being raised culturally one way, yet physically appear to the world as something else.

Women: Backbone of the Family and Society

By Andrea-Teresa "Tess" Arenas - 04.25.2010

Throughout the world, women are the backbone of the family and society. In the USA, women regardless of professional achievements, are still relied upon by the family and society as the central care givers.

As with many Baby Boomers, women are acutely aware of the cultural expectations as caregiver for up to three generations.  First, as siblings; often the eldest daughter is the co-mother in large families of color.  These care-giving roles in such families can continue into adulthood, even retirement.

I am often called upon as the eldest daughter in the family, to solve my siblings work and family life issues, despite their being in their 40’s and late 50’s, since my madre’s early and unexpected death.

As a parent, like so many other Baby Boomers, women of the family continue their financial and personal support to their children through the first grandchild.   Then, the women are expected to be the unpaid child care provider when she has a moment to spare after work and on weekends.

Finally, as we age, we are also becoming responsible for the care of our parents.  Depending on economic status, some women are able to “contract out” for support services for the family ranging from:  housekeeper, cook, nanny, personal assistant, lawn service, etc.

Lower income women are the people the family “contracts out to.”   None of this is news.

However what is newsworthy, is that women can be supported in their roles as “world care givers” by their employer and the employers of family members.   Read more »

“Self-Hating Jews”

By Thomas Kochman - 04.24.2010

The term and expression “self-hating Jew” is generally used to identify Jews –especially American Jews—who, as Richard Greener notes, do not fall lock-in-step with or unconditionally support the policies and practices of Israel’s government especially those of the right wing Likud party.

Yet when I think of “self-hating Jews”, it’s more psychologically and culturally in sync with the pariah status of Jews which in various twists and turns over the centuries, translates into Jews themselves not only expecting, but ultimately, anticipating, inviting and feeding on the hate and aggression that others direct at them.

This pattern of directing the aggression of others against oneself in ways that “combine both sadistic attack and masochistic indulgence” is characteristic of Jewish humor, as seen in the movie Borat –where public decency and decorum is routinely and outrageously flouted—and in its most recent incarnation, the films of Ben Stiller.

What’s funny in jokes and films however, is not funny when flagrant behavior threatens to destroy our global financial structure, or influences the way nation states like Israel behave not only towards its enemies—by reacting excessively to any and all provocations—but also towards its allies and friends, such as proclaiming new settlements in East Jerusalem at the time of Vice President Joe Biden’s visit, putting Israel once again, at the seat and center of public controversy and rekindling the Jewish/Israeli image of world pariah and difficult partner.

Driving and promoting much of this attitude toward the world of course is an all pervasive Jewish/Israeli feeling of insecurity.

As Roger Cohen notes that, “It’s not easy to parse fact from fiction, justifiable anxiety from self-serving angst, in this pervasive Israeli narrative.”

The problem with “unyielding angst”, however, like that of seeing oneself as a “victim”, is that it gets in the way of rational thinking. Read more »

Jesus, Mohammed and Women

By Jean Mavrelis - 04.11.2010

Maybe it’s because she echoes my Irish Catholic world view, but once again Maureen Dowd hits the mark for me. 

When she compares Muslim women in Saudi Arabia and Catholic women in the U.S. I’m right there.  In both cases, culture co-opts religion.

Neither Jesus nor Mohammed excluded women.  In fact, it’s quite the contrary.  Mohammed worked for his wife, transporting goods back and forth to Mecca.

Jesus loved women, and even embraced the “prostitute”, Mary Magdalene.  For me, that’s right up there with Abraham receiving the message he shouldn’t sacrifice his son.

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea points out (p. xv of In Search of Islamic Feminism) that “Islam was the only shared identity of people (in the middle east) that predated western colonization.” And later on p.422,  “ In their struggles for legal and economic equality they stress the viability of the family group, a sense of responsibility to the wider group, the importance of religious values, . . . Muslim, Christian, and Jewish women are combining elements of both East and West to develop several feminist ideologies of their own.” Read more »

U.S. Census in Mexican American Border Towns

By Andrea-Teresa "Tess" Arenas - 04.09.2010

Latinos, are the fastest growing ethnic group in the US. For the past 5 decades the Latino population has nearly doubled every census. Many of them live in colonias, which are small to medium sized, quasi urban, Mexican American communities found predominately along the US-Mexico Border.

Counter to common belief, 95% of the colonia residents are US citizens. Homes are often “self help” housing, which means the owners build the home room by room, as funding allows. Some homes are in perpetual expansion with half incomplete rooms sprouting on the second floors of concrete block structures.

These home owners are hard working, very low income people, who using their self taught construction skills, carve out a new home in a development or in vacant areas. Many of these colonias lack running water and sewer systems. Some connect their electricity from lines running overhead.

Relationships in the colonias are also built person by person, much like the concrete blocks of homes. Each person is added to the family circle through repeated positive interactions, connections through other family members, attending local churches, and “supermercados” (large local grocery stores.)

Extended family members are actually long standing commadres and compadres (best friends), god parents, favorite teachers, who have been added to the family circle as valued, trustworthy, and reliable members of the clan.

Border town colonia residents in the US are in danger of not being appropriately counted in the 2010 Census, according to local census contractors in Brownsville, Texas.

This past week, the US Census Bureau clarified that residents of colonials will be canvassed door to door rather than mailing census forms to the residents. This process was used in the 2000 Census. Read more »