Thursday, April 28, 2016

5 Reasons the Race Question is a Toxic Crisis

"Race" ain't got nothing to do with it (not in the way we think)!


It is about skin colour and putting people into boxes. Race is literally a social construction that needs to be not only deconstructed but thrown out with the trash! My skin crawls thinking about it. We are all the same and made of the same ability to love and be-- Imagine when you turn off the lights- you would know no difference! We should still celebrate all of who we are and not be put into a box. By checking that race box we are demeaning ourselves and our culture.

Ooh.... it's about to get real. I know. I either pissed you off or you are cheering by saying that I am sure. Either way, keep reading. I promise you will understand.

This is one of my longer posts but it is out of love and fuel for wanting to change the status quo that I got inspired to write this. Partly because I am a girl scout leader. What does being a girl scout leader have to do with it?

Well, let's say, I was really ticked off when I saw that inputting the race of my girls was asked to get them a patch they had every right to earn from the council, no matter their race.

I believe whole heartedly that we should be proud of who we are, our skin colour, our body types, and our heritage. Nothing about a person is one folded and fits in a box. Who I am, who you are, should be celebrated and represented in totality.

I posted it on my group I am in for girl scout leaders because I really did not understand this and honestly very put off by it. A lot of people understood. A lot of people also said it was about being able to get grants. I get that. I do. If I am getting a grant though, I would use the information the parents are willing to provide at the time of registration, not the troop leaders in this case. One reason I put other because it doesn't matter. Or shouldn't.

When we are talking about reporting inclusivity of an organisation to a group of people, race doesn't cut it anymore. That is OLD and OUTDATED! It isn't the 1950's anymore. And dare I say, bordering on (institutional) racist, in my opinion. In fact, for an organisation (Girl Scouts) that "don't ask, don't judge" I am surprised this is an issue.

In fact, I will go as far as to say that asking or requiring this is only perpetuating racism and harming groups of people rather than helping them. Just because it is one of the "generalised" and "easiest" ways to group a set of people, it is often misleading and is telling girls (and boys) that they are important based on the colour of their skin rather than who they are as a person (either cultural or internally). This is not intentional but intents don't always translate. Now, of course, it is not the girls filling this out so they are none the wiser but that isn't the point.

I can't tell you how many girl scouts I have that look white but are not. How many girls look Native American but aren't. Would you walk up to someone and say, "I need to diversify my circle and you look Asian, so you fit my last slot of friendship. Please continue to fill out this survey and let me know more about you." Um, hell no! And if you did, I would be surprised if you didn't get slapped.

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First off, Asking once is acceptable, asking every single time, is offensive. 

Let me explain. When a girl scout signs up, just like when they do for school, they are asked their race, the family income, the school they go to, where they live. Normal stuff. But asking their race only when getting patches or doing events, is just down right offensive. It is what it is, but unless you disclose that the person sponsoring the patch or event would like to know for 'this and that reason' then it is just offensive. Even in aggregated form. You have been given the information already and it is in the database. Asking my race more than that one time is just wrong. It is not like an address. It doesn't change

If you choose to ask, make it optional, not required. Some don't mind giving that information. Some do. Respect that choice. I am more put off when you require it than when you make it optional, by the way. At the end of the day, we are all human!

The Race Question isn't Extensive Enough!

I am going to use four different major race groups that they use that bug the crap out of me. 

Let's go with Asian. Pacific Islander and Asian are not the two types of Asians. And to deduce Asians down to this is simply and completely offensive. One of my best friends from college is Chinese. My dad is Japanese. They don't get the choice to say either of those choices on the form. Not that my grandmother would like that. She purposely named my dad an American name to prevent him from experiencing the racism that she and her family had experienced simply because of the colour of their skin. 

Let's go with African/African American. Africa is a huge continent. Boiling all the people of Africa down to one race is offensive as well. African and African Americans do and should take huge pride in who they are. If they are from Egypt, South Africa,  Sudan, Nigeria, the (The Democratic Republic of the) Congo, Kenya-- I could go on and on and on-- That is something that they should take immense pride in. It is that big. They all have different customs and are not the same people. It's the mere judgement of their skin colour. And that is incredibly sad.

 Do you think that the customs of one side of America is the same as the other? Not always. Even cue the hell versus hella conversation in identifying the part of California someone is from. And that is from a linguistic point of view.

 I have a cousin who looks exactly like me and we look like day and night. If someone looked at her, they would not guess she was mixed. So if she walked into a bank, did not disclose this, she would be marked down solely based on her skin colour as "black". How are we supposed to boil down a person from any parts of those worlds as same? We can't! 

Let's go Latino/Spanish. You will see Hispanic versus not Hispanic. You will see Latino or Spanish. Um... cue the *face palm*. Are you kidding me? Okay, again, Latinos and Latinas are proud and should be. But you are taking 3, yes 3, continents and boiling them down to the same race! And that isn't counting immigration even to America. I am talking about Mexico (North America), South America, and Spain. South America is a massively huge continent. You have Brasilians that would count as white, or Brasilians that count as black, or Brasilians that count as Latino. They are Brasilian... period! My co leader of my troop is from El Salvador (and she is awesome). Why can't she put that in? No, she has to lump herself together with people who don't share the same culture as her. 

Let's even go white/caucasian and I will be brief about it. There are many red hair blue eyed people who are Mexican. If they refused to answer the question, went into a bank say and refused to mark their race, they would be put down as white. I have girl scouts that are Cuban, Mexican, you name it, that may look white but aren't. Again, your skin colour doesn't equal your race.

So while things may be said in a politically correct way, it is in those politically correct states that social stigma around your race continues and perpetuates itself when all we have to do is open that up for people to show how proud they are of who they are!

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Let's take it beyond race

If you are truly inclusive, you would know race has something to do with it but not as much weight as you may think in dealing with making sure a group of people are inclusive. 

Race in which someone can check their identifiable's including but not limited to leaving it open for the person to tell us what they are. This can include someone putting down a simply culturally acceptable race (what others see them as), their family races (what biologically truly identifies them),  what they cultural have identified as either in the way they grew up or currently are.

When we are supposed to check off a race, it honestly has less to do with genetics and more to do with the colour of our skin- and that implies and is racism.

Bring truly inclusive is so much more than that. We are teaching kids to look inside themselves and to value themselves for who they are. To think about others that may not have as much as we do. To learn skills in scouting that will take them far.

Being truly inclusive involves doing things like Operation Christmas Child, where you pack basic essentials and basic toys and ship them around the world. Or taking clothes to a shelter. Or learning to build a neighbourhood free library. Or building a bench at the playground that everyone no matter who they are can sit on.

Truly inclusiveness means accepting who we are on the inside and the outside. Not basing some one's worth off it or whether they can earn a patch because a company approves. 

Let's Face the truth

- Many people are multi racial these days. If you think that defining the main race is cool, it's not. 
- Many people are adopted. 
- Many people don't even know their race fully and skin colour is not a race people!
- Some grew up in a different cultural environment and don't identify as their race itself

So there goes the theory that race = inclusivity. 

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Ways We can TRULY be inclusive or identify needs of inclusiveness

- Culture:
Cultural identification can be termed many different ways. I think for many people, it is the main way you grow up. It is the group of people who spend your life around and culturally identify with. You can sit many people in a room and some will identify with a certain culture but on the outside look completely different. As culture is complex, this is a harder concept to grasp for inclusiveness.

- Language:
When you have someone who doesn't speak the native tongue of the language you are in, ours being English, you need to be able to include them. It could be those that speak French, whether from France or from the parts of Africa that use French as the main language. Again, the colour of the skin doesn't become the barrier, the language does.

- Religion:
This is another huge way to see if you are being truly inclusive. There are troops that are solely Jewish or solely Christian, or solely Muslim-- and yes, I know troops like this. Not all troops are like this. But some are. There is not a wrong way if overall as a council there is more of each, I don't see the problem. 

The way I run my troop, I can tell you have Catholic girls, Jewish girls, Muslim girls, Christian girls, Atheist girls, and so forth. I take HUGE pride in this. This is way more indicative to my of inclusiveness because dealing with internal differences is more important than dealing with the difference in the colour of our skin and way more important for the continuation of our human race honestly. 

- Parts of the City we Live In: 
If you live in DC, you know what I am talking about. If you say that you live in Anacostia versus Capitol Hill, you would, of course, know that Anacostia is way more underrepresented than Capitol Hill. Where you live can dictate more of what opportunities a child has than their race. We can even take this to talk about grocery stories and accessibility. 

- Child Status (foster kid, adopted, etc): 
This is something more common for a leader to know and to be able to answer and without saying names for anonymous purposes, this would serve a much better representation if a kid is under represented or not. 

- Income:
This is least ideal but far more indicative than race a lone if inclusiveness. I have had to give $2 to a girl before for bus fare to get to or from a meeting before. I have had girls who I actually wished packed me in their suit cases when they took spring breaks to Italy.

It really boils down to this:

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