It's 7:00. My mother gets us ready for bed, and she does three things before we go to bed. She makes sure that we've brushed our teeth, that we've washed behind our ears, and she makes sure that we get a big spoonful of cod liver oil. Yuck! Seven at 7. So, she'd line us up every night before we went to bed and made sure those three things happened. We brushed our teeth, washed behind our ears and got a big spoon of cod liver oil. Fast forward 30 years. Before I go to bed, what do you think I do? I brush my teeth, I wash behind my ears, and I do not drink cod liver oil. But why do you think I do those things 30 years later? Because those things have become a part of what I do. They've become a habit.
But how do we structure, how do we get habits? We get habits through routines. Because I did those things on a regular basis, I did those things on a regular basis, they became a habit. So we know that a habit is a learned pattern of behavior that's become automatic, but what is a routine? A routine is a cognitive, something that you think about. It is also something that is scheduled, so it is a cognitive scheduled behavior that we do on a regular basis. And we do that so much that it becomes a habit.
So if you have bad habits, what does that mean about your routines? You once had bad routines. Smokers, when they first start out, have to think about buying and getting cigarettes until it becomes a habit, and they don't have to think about it.
It's funny, Kung Fu fighters and Wing Chung masters and boxers and athletes, they practice these moves over and over and over and over again. They go through drills. They exercise their mind, thinking this thing through. They stretch. They prepare. They do all of these things so that when game time comes it has become a habit.
Whatever you do on a regular basis, that you're cognitively thinking about, something that is important to you, those things become your habits. Be careful what routines you set because that's a powerful thing, because those routines will become your habits, and those habits become the sum total of your behavior. And your behavior is what people see about how you act.
Philip Uri Treisman is a professor of mathematics and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and also the founder and executive director of the Charles A. Dana Center for Mathematics and Science Education, an organized research unit at The University of Texas at Austin. Treisman, who has been a pioneer in advocacy for mathematics education for more than 30 years, is often considered a “translation researcher”—one who translates research data into practices that have powerful effects in transforming educational outcomes.
Treisman’s findings crystallized the importance of helping students learn to navigate the boundaries of the academic and social worlds of higher education. In particular, helping students to develop and “try on” identities as mathematicians, as academics, and as professionals increased their productive persistence in their studies and, he believed, shaped the way they made sense of the academic content they were studying.
What is racial prejudice?
To be racially prejudiced means to have an unfavorable or discriminatory attitude or belief towards someone else or another group of people primarily on the basis of skin color or ethnicity. For example, John is prejudiced because he believes that the new Hmong refugees in his community are stupid and barbaric because they kill chickens in their backyard. He has reported this to the local police many times.
What do you think should be done in this situation? One possibility is to invite John and Cha (his Hmong neighbor) to a meeting to help John understand the Hmong culture and to help Cha understand the state laws and regulations about killing animals in your home. The meeting should be facilitated by someone who has experience with conflict management and is deemed credible by both John and Cha. This attempt could result in change at the individual level.
What is racism?
When racial prejudice is supported by institutions and laws, racism is present. For example, when the Hmong neighbor, Cha, is arrested and put in jail for killing chickens in the backyard and no attempt is made to understand why he did it or to explain the laws to him (because he does not speak English), racism is present.
What do you think should be done in this situation? One possibility is to invite the police chief and other officers to a discussion about how the newcomers to the community are affecting law enforcement. It is likely that they have tried to explain the laws to the newcomers so that these complaints can stop, but it's not working because of cultural and language barriers. You might want to try and work with the police and local Hmong leaders to develop a strategy for increasing the police department's cultural competence and, at the same time, increase the newcomers' understanding about the laws in this country. This attempt could result in change at the institutional level.
While we can never be entirely free of racial prejudice, we have to be able to identify and address racism because it perpetuates the unearned privileges of some and imposes undeserved restrictions on others. The economic well-being of a group of people is intertwined with racism and unless it is addressed intentionally and thoroughly, a community building effort will not reach its full potential.
Racial prejudice and racism have most been perpetrated in the U.S. by people of European descent against various other groups, such as African-Americans or Latinos. However, because of the shifts in our communities' demographics in some parts of the U.S., racial prejudice and racism also lead to tensions between people of non-European descent, such as between African Americans and Asian Americans. As the U.S. becomes more diverse and the world's residents more mobile, we must be prepared to act in order to reduce the potential for hostility due to differences in our physical traits and other characteristics.
No matter what culture or part of the world you're from, you've seen the results of racial prejudice and racism, even if you've never directly felt it aimed at you. The results of racial prejudice and racism can be seen everywhere: stereotypes, violence, underfunded schools, unemployment, police brutality, shabby housing, a disproportionate number of African-American men on death row, etc. Racial prejudice and racism can be found in many different areas of society: in the media, in service organizations, in the workplace, in neighborhoods, at school, in local government, on your block -- in virtually every area of daily life.
Why is it important to reduce racial prejudice and racism?
Here are some further reasons why racial prejudice and racism should be reduced:
In addition, here are some examples of why racial prejudice and racism should be addressed in your community building effort if more than one racial or ethnic group is involved:
In other words, there are both moral and sometimes legal reasons to act against racism. There are also strong pragmatic reasons as well. Racial prejudice and racism can harm not only the victims, but also the larger society, and indirectly the very people who are engaging in the acts. What's more, some important new research suggests that in some cases, racist actions can cause physiological harm to the victims. For example, a recent review of physiological literature concludes:
"Interethnic group and intraethnic group racism are significant stressors for many African-Americans. As such, intergroup and intragroup racism may play a role in the high rates of morbidity and mortality in this population." (Clark, Anderson, Clark, and Williams, 1999).
While we try not to moralize on the Community Tool Box, let's face it - racial prejudice and racism are just plain wrong.
How can you reduce racial prejudice and racism?
While we try in the Community Tool Box to offer easy, step-by-step instructions for community work, changing a group of people's prejudiced attitudes and an institution's racist actions isn't so simply carried out and it doesn't happen overnight. Reducing racial prejudice and racism is a complex task that varies from community to community, so it doesn't lend itself well to simple, 1-2-3 solutions that can be adopted and applied without having a thorough understanding of the context and environment. Something like this takes knowing your community well and choosing strategies that best fit your community's needs, history, context, energies, and resources.
With that in mind, we offer a variety of activities and strategies you can conduct in combating racial prejudice and racism so that you can decide which of these tactics might work best in your workplace, school, neighborhood, and community.
NOTE! None of these activities or strategies alone will lead to sustainable change at the individual, institutional, or community levels. In order for such change to occur, you have to take actions that will allow you to consistently affect the different levels over a long period of time. Before you decide on the best activities and strategies, do the following:
Actively recruit and hire a racially and ethnically diverse staff. See Chapter 10: Hiring and Training Key Staff for more information.
While it's not enough just to fill your staff with a rainbow of people from different backgrounds, representation from a variety of groups is an important place to start. Contact minority organizations, social groups, networks, media, and places where people of different ethnic and cultural groups congregate or access information. If you use word-of-mouth as a recruitment tool, spread the word to members of those groups, or key contact people. Also, consider writing an equal-opportunity policy for hiring and promoting staff.
Actively recruit culturally and ethnically diverse board members, executives, and managers.
Racial prejudice can be reduced if the staff becomes diverse and raises the awareness of each other, but racism is reduced when power is shared by the leadership.
In order to move beyond racial prejudice and ensure inclusiveness, your organization’s board members and executives should reflect the communities or constituencies it serves. For instance, one group decided to reserve a certain number of slots on its governing board for representatives of the cultural and ethnic groups in the community.
Talk to the people of color on your staff and ask them what barriers or attitudes they face at work. Examine your newsletter or other publications and look out for negative portrayals, exclusion, or stereotypes.
Find out how you can improve your workplace for members from diverse racial and ethnic groups that work there. This will not only give you some practical ideas about what you need to work on, but it will also signify that the needs of every group is taken seriously. Look around at any artwork you have in your offices. Are any groups represented in a stereotypical way? Is there diversity in the people portrayed? For example, if all the people in the clip art used in your newsletter are European Americans, you should make an effort to use clip art that shows a bigger variety of people.
Form a permanent task force or committee dedicated to forming and monitoring a plan for promoting inclusion and fighting racism in your workplace.
Racial prejudice is reduced by developing relationships and ensuring that materials are culturally sensitive, but racism is reduced when there is a permanent task force or committee that becomes part of the governance structure to ensure inclusive and just institutional policies.
Her name was Mrs. Young, and I loved Mrs. Young for three reasons. One, she drove a tangerine orange Corvette, and that was hot. The second reason that I loved Mrs. Young was because she had green hair. Now, she was too old to be a punk rocker, so it was probably an old lady dye job gone bad, but it looked really cool in her tangerine orange Corvette. The third reason I loved Mrs. Young was because I felt that she had my best interests at heart, that she never would do anything to hurt me and wanted the best for me. And so, in 1982 I took a test in Mrs. Young's class, and this was one of the questions on the test. And the test asked, how many planets are there in the solar system? And in 1982, what was my answer? Nine. In 1982 there were nine planets in the solar system.
If I were to ask a six grader today that very same question, how many planets are there in the solar system, what answers might I get? More popularly, I would get eight. Why eight? Why for thousands of years have we had nine planets, and as of recently we only have eight. It has something to do with our concept of the truth. Now if you ask people what the truth is, typically they will say that it's things based on fact. It's based on information. It's based on empirical data.
I want to offer to you that those are small pieces of what the truth is, but the truth ultimately is based on what we know about our world, about our environment, about ourselves today.
I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but I reflect on some of my childhood upbringing. And I look at that upbringing now with a different light, and the truth has shifted for me. For example, I recall when I was a small child going to school, and more recently I have been serving on a board that works with Head Start.
When I was a child I just went to school. And I'm sitting in this board meeting, and things are starting to sound familiar to me. I'm getting flashes of my childhood coming back.
And so, after the board meeting I called my mother, and I said, mom, these are some of the things that are coming to me when I was at this board meeting, talking about the things we need to do to help Head Start. I said, mom, why does it sound so familiar? And she laughs, and she looks at me and she says, son, you were in Head Start. And all of a sudden my whole trust about what it meant to grow up had just shifted a little bit. My truth had changed.
Now, I know that some of you out there will say, well, there is this ultimate truth that does not change, and I can't disagree with that. But what I do know is that people create the truth. And one of two either happens. Either you create the truth for yourself, or other people tell you what the truth is.
Here's another example. So I was taught that time was constant, that 3:00 today will be similar if not the same as 3:00 tomorrow, give or take a couple of seconds for leap year. Something happened more recently that shook my belief in what time is or what time was.
And I don't know where you live, but where I live daylight savings time was moved by a total of two weeks. Now, I have questions about that because I was taught that there were 24 hours in the day because of the earth's rotation and that the earth goes around the sun creating that 365 day year and that those things are constant. And so, I got really confused and concerned when time was moved or changed.
Now, I don't know what this means to you, but for me it meant a lot because if people can change time, what else can be changed? And what I found out as I investigated how time was changed. I figured out that time was changed through legislation.
So, ultimately time is a law and who makes up our legislative process? People interact with the law. People create laws so that we know how to operate with each other, so we know what the confines of human behavior are, what's acceptable, what the norms are. People create those laws.
Now, again, there are some ultimate laws that I'm not really talking about, but I'm talking about those socialized human norms that we've created. And so, again, one of two things happen. Either you create those laws for yourself, or someone will create those laws for you. And so, my question for you is, what is it that you believe that you...
Andre's purpose is to reconnect people to their Dignity and Honor in Being Human.