Category Archives: Racism

The Real Problem When It Comes to Diversity and Asian-Americans

Source –

The lack of Asian leadership in tech sheds light on a larger issue: Asians are excluded from the idea of diversity

Years ago… they used to think you were Fu Manchu or Charlie Chan. Then they thought you must own a laundry or restaurant. Now they think all we know how to do is sit in front of a computer.

It was 1987 when Virginia Kee, then a 55-year-old a high school teacher in New York’s Chinatown, said the above words. She was one of several Asian-Americans who discussed the perception of their race for TIME’s cover story, “Those Asian-American Whiz Kids.” The cover story would elicit small-scale Asian boycotts of the magazine from those who found offensive the portrait of textbook-clutching, big-glasses brainiacs. To them, the images codified hurtful beliefs that Asians and Asian-Americans were one-dimensional: that they were robots of success, worshippers of the alphabet’s first letter, study mules branded with their signature eyes.  read more ……



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A ‘Salons at Stowe’ Workshop Understanding Racial Micro-Aggressions with Dr. William Howe

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center’s Salons at Stowe presents Understanding Racial Micro-Aggressions, a workshop with Dr. William Howe.

The event will be held Thursday, October 9 from 5-7:30 PM in Fellowship Hall at Immanuel Congregational Church, located at Immanuel Congregational Church is located at 10 Woodland Street in Hartford. The event is free, but reservations are required: or 860-522-9258, ext. 317.

The workshop is designed to increase awareness of remarks that may be “charged” or denigrating and will help us understand how others hear what we say and how to communicate without bias.

Workshop facilitator Dr. William Howe is the program manager for culturally responsive education, multicultural education, bullying and harassment, gender equity and civil rights at the Connecticut Department of Education. He is the founder of the New England Conference on Multicultural Education (NECME) and Past President of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME).

Dr. Howe has been an educator for more than 35 years and has conducted more than 400 workshops, lectures and keynotes on diversity, multicultural education and organizational development. He is a regular presenter at state and national conferences and has appeared on both radio and television to discuss diversity issues.

At the Stowe Center, he will lead a workshop that will be enlightening and inspirational with useful and practical strategies to confront prejudice and build community.


The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, a museum, program center and research library, is located at 77 Forest Street in Hartford, CT.  The Stowe Center is open year round for tours and programs. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center uses Stowe’s story to inspire commitment to social justice and positive change.

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Guest Post: A Law Professor’s — and Mother’s — Perpsective on Race



Guest Post: A Law Professor’s — and Mother’s — Perpsective on Race

Posted in Discrimination & HarassmentHighlight

After my first year in law school, I clerked for Professor Kimberly Norwood at Washington University in St. Louis Law School during the summer. (If editing a law review article on statute of limitations is your thing, the experience was nirvana — I even made it to a footnote.)  We’ve kept in touch since then and have shared holiday cards and notes as our families have grown.

Earlier this week, I came across a column that Professor Norwood wrote for CNN about her family’s experiences in St. Louis.  I was touched by that article and reached out to her to see if I could cross-post it here.  She agreed.

I post this piece not to discuss the issues in Ferguson, Missouri – those are best covered by a criminal law blog like A Public Defender – but to share the salient perspective that people in America are still “treated differently based on the color of their skin.” 

For those of us who are committed to eliminating discrimination in the workplace, this perspective should inform our thinking in how we can make sure the employer-employee relationship isn’t tainted by such biases — explicitly or implicitly.   Professor Norwood has also talked about the implicit bias that exists in the legal profession and I recommend that article as well

I thank Professor Norwood for the opportunity to repost her article here.

I am a 54-year-old black woman — a mother, lawyer and law professor. I teach at the Washington University in St. Louis Law School and live 12 miles away from Ferguson, Missouri.

The median household income in my suburb is $85,000 per year. In Ferguson, it is $36,000. In my suburb, 3.5% of the people are black. In Ferguson, almost 70% are black. These are stark contrasts. Yet I share things in common with black people in Ferguson and, indeed, throughout the United States.

When I shop, I’m often either ignored as a waste of time or scrutinized as a potential shoplifter. In June, my daughter and I walked into the china and crystal department at a Macy’s department store. I was about to speak to the salesperson directly in front of me. She walked right past me to welcome the white woman behind us.

My daughter looked at me and said: “Really? Did she just ignore us?” My daughter is a young teenager at the crossroads of “skin color doesn’t matter” and “oh yes, it does.” She is in transition. I felt hurt, anger and embarrassment.

But this kind of encounter happens routinely.

Driving, I tend to have a bit of a lead foot — hitting 45 in a 35 mph zone. The few times I have been stopped in my suburb, the first question I’m asked is whether I live “around here.” Not one of my white friends has been asked that question when they were pulled over by a police officer.

Last summer, my teenage daughter was shopping with four white friends at a mall in an affluent St. Louis suburb. As they left the store, two mall security guards approached my daughter. They told her the store had called them and reported her as a shoplifter, and asked her to come with them. After a search, they found she had nothing. So far in her young life, mall security guards have stopped her on suspicion of shoplifting three times. Each time she was innocent.

I also have three sons. My two oldest are 22. They are 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4 and each weighs more than 220 pounds. One recently graduated from college; the other will graduate in 2015. The youngest is 13. All three like to wear jeans and the latest sneakers. They love hoodies. They like looking cool. These three young men have never been arrested or even been in a fight at school.

Every time my sons leave the house, I worry about their safety. One of my sons loves to go out at night to clubs. I worry about potential unrest at the clubs — yes, black-on-black crime is a problem, and despite what many people think, black people complain about it all the time in their communities and churches and in newspapers and on radio stations.

I also worry about his drive home and his being stopped by police.

The data in Ferguson are an example of the larger picture in the St. Louis County area. Police stop, search and arrest black people at a disproportionate rate, even though they are less likely to possess contraband than white people.

This son of mine who likes to go out at night is big and tall and he has brown skin. He graduated from college in May but cannot find employment. He is an intelligent, clean-cut young man.

But the negative stereotypes automatically assigned to his skin color follow him everywhere, even in job interviews, like extra weight. It reminds me of the airline employee who asks before you can check your suitcase: Did a stranger ask you to carry something or pack your bag? In my son’s case, the answer is yes. He is carrying extra weight, unfairly, and without his knowledge or consent, packed in his luggage.

A few years ago my husband and I went on a cruise. My older boys were teenagers at the time and were taking summer enrichment classes at a school about a mile from our home. They planned to walk to school in the morning. At the top of a long list of things to do before we left for our trip was “e-mail chief of police.”

I explained to the chief that my husband and I were going on a cruise, I was a member of the community and that my two sons would be walking to school. I attached pictures of the boys, explaining that only a couple of black families lived in the neighborhood. My sons did not normally walk in the neighborhood, so they would draw attention.

I offered to bring my sons to the police department so officers could meet them. The police chief and I met and all went well.

But I’ve asked myself: How many parents of white sons have thought to add to their to-do-before-leaving-town list, “Write letter to local police department, introducing sons and attaching photos, so police do not become suspicious and harass them”?

Even though my older boys are men, I still worry about them. I worry about my 13-year-old. This worry is a stressful, and sadly normal, part of my daily existence. My youngest will be 6 feet tall in the coming weeks. He has brown skin.

These young black men have arrows pointed and ready to shoot at them daily — black-on-black crime, police encounters, societal bias and mistrust. Shortly after the Michael Brown shooting, I met with a group of my 13-year-old’s black male friends to explain to them what happened in Ferguson, and what to do and how to respond if they are ever stopped by the police. My words reminded me of stories and fears my grandfather used to share with me about his encounters with police during the Jim Crow era.

These are just a few of the many ways in which people in America are treated differently based on the color of their skin. This has been going on for a long time. I hope the events in Ferguson will encourage people to see the stark differences in the experiences of black people — not just black people who struggle economically but also black people like me — and white people as they go about their routine, daily lives.

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Is colorblindness or multiculturalism better for minorities?

March 25, 2009

Is colorblindness or multiculturalism better for minorities?

If you believe in colorblindness when it comes to race, consider the findings from a  recently published University of Georgia study that suggests a colorblind workplace may not be the best model.

Victoria Plaut, an assistant professor of psychology at the university, along with researchers Kecia Thomas and Matt Goren examined 17 departments in a large health care organization. The researchers measured the diversity beliefs of white employees (managers and non-managers) to determine the extent to which they endorsed either “colorblindness” or a more “multicultural” approach to diversity. Then the researchers looked at how engaged or committed the department’s minority workers were.

The goal was to determine in which departments the minority workers fared better, or were more psychologically engaged—the ones in which white workers subscribed to a more colorblind approach where racial and ethnic differences were downplayed. Or, the departments in which multiculturalism reigned, where differences were recognized and even celebrated.

The study found that “contrary to popular beliefs, workplaces that downplay racial and ethnic differences actually make minority employees feel less engaged with their work,” said Plaut, the study’s lead author. “Minority employees sense more bias against them in these allegedly colorblind settings.”

Plaut said it’s not clear whether the bias is correctly sensed, but research has shown that there’s a correlation between whites who profess colorblindness and racial bias.

“For a long time whites have been told they should not pay attention to race,” she said. “It’s best if we all assume people are all the same, right? But this type of colorblindness often is based on assimilation.”
That means, in some cases, it’s easier for a white person to be colorblind if the person of color acts white, or fits almost seamlessly into the white norm.

She said one of the dangers of the colorblind model is that some might deny the racialized experiences of a worker who is black, Asian, Hispanic or Native American.

“The world is color-coded,” she told me. “Social hierarchy is color-coded. If you float in on your colorblind cloud—however well-intentioned that cloud may be— you’re denying the fact that that reality exists.”

Also, she said, colorblindness can create a hostile interpersonal environment because a worker who might not want to appear prejudiced, ironically may act prejudiced in racial interactions or avoid them altogether.

The departments whose managers promoted multiculturalism had better outcomes—workers of color felt more invested, which may translate into fewer retention problems and lower turnover rates. But that approach was not perfect either, Plaut said. Sometimes in seeing or acknowledging skin color, a white worker may start to view minority workers in terms of stereotypes.

I don’t pretend that this isn’t complicated stuff, which, by the way, has implications beyond the workplace. It’s complicated because people of color often say, ‘See us as individuals,’ which suggests a colorblind approach is preferable. But they also say, ‘Recognize that minorities in their various groups have differences that should be acknowledged and even celebrated,’ which implies multiculturalism is the way to go.

Help me out on this. What do you think?
Click here for the study, published in the online version of the journal Psychological Science.

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Questions Show How Far We Have To Go

Questions Show How Far We Have To Go


(Illustration by Robert Neubecker / June 19, 2014)

 As a woman of color in these United States, I, like many others, experience tiresome misreadings of my color, my gender, my profession and my presence. I can think of the number of times in a variety of retail places where the fact that I had a shopping cart, a visible list, a handbag on my shoulder and a child in tow was not enough to signal that I too was a shopper and not an employee able to do a price check.

Misreadings of my identity and my life have taken place on college campuses where I have taught, places where one would like to think that critical thinking shapes one’s interactions. Is it a post-racial era when a colleague — who is not only white and male but brand new to the position and barely 10 minutes into the job for which I have hired him — has the temerity to ask, “Are you a single mother?” Did he miss the wedding ring? Did he not hear me use the phrase “our daughter” in response to an earlier, awkward question that he posed?

As he asks this inappropriate question, I watch him leap through the fiery rings of his insistent commitment to social justice and civic engagement. I watch him give himself license to be overly familiar and to speak from a place of unthinking white male privilege. All of this adds to the insult that stuns me at first, enrages me later and compels me to address his lapse when the next work week begins.

Are moments like these evidence of a post-racial society? Absolutely not. These moments also have no “post” qualities to them when the hurt and the bother nags at me long after I leave the scene of these cultural, social and psychic crimes.

Yet, my recovery from these moments is speedier and more possible when I insist on asking questions. My gallant husband encouraged me to push back with questions: “What makes you think I work here?” “What makes you imagine that I’m a single mother?”

Asking “what” rather than “why” minimizes easy obfuscation. The pointedly direct inquiry can call the interloper to task, make him pause and, if it’s a good day, reflect.

When I recently tried this lightning quick turn to questions, it was a thoroughly revelatory exercise because not only did I have an immediate comeback, but in an instant, I got to become an observer — although of still more awkward behavior — and I was able to cut short the experience of becoming scrutinized and unseen. When tackling race matters, it can be wholly transformative to craft queries that can facilitate meaningful conversation, reveal collective and individual aspirations, and encourage civic and political change.

As a woman of color born in England and who came to America when I was 12, my journey into race in this nation has been eased and illuminated by my immersion in American literature and history. As a literary historian who focuses on 18th- and 19th-century American and New England writing about race, place and memory, I have had the chance to study the tumult of living in an America that is post-Colonial, post-Revolutionary, post-Civil War, post-Reconstruction and post-industrial.

New Englanders like the gifted poet Phillis Wheatley, Liberator editor William Lloyd Garrison, historian William Cooper Nell, author Harriet Beecher Stowe, feminist activist writer Lydia Maria Child, essayist Ann Plato, public speaker Maria Stewart and journalist-playwright-novelist Pauline Hopkins have taught me and my students the futility of asking whether any era in American history qualifies as post-racial. These writers and activists witnessed massive social changes, testified to unspeakable crimes against humanity, and used the written and spoken word to imagine better worlds.

Their experiences have underscored for me how necessary it is to examine the stories that shape our nation and to learn from the histories that we still have only just begun to write.

Lois Brown is professor of English and African American Studies at Wesleyan University inMiddletown. She will speak at the Key Issues Forum on “Are We in a Post-Racial Era?” The forum is free and open to the public on Tuesday, June 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Conference of Churches auditorium, 224 Farmington Ave., Hartford.

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