How to Respond to Injustice #istandwithahmed

Bring a clock you made yourself to school – get arrested. That’s what happened to 14 year old Ahmed today in Texas.

What’s wonderful is how people have responded to support and encourage this energetic inventor after a day of being handcuffed and continually questioned by police as to the ‘broader context’ behind his homemade clock.

Below are two shining examples of the best that Twitter can offer.

Responding to injustice is as important as identifying its existence: the support the teenager has received from President Obama to NASA to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is exhibit A.

How can you show solidarity or support to someone who needs it today?

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.53.14 PM


How to Get Rid of Political Dynasties

hilaryBefore typing the title for this blog post, I had not noticed that the word dynasty has the word “nasty” in it. Don’t get me wrong. I was excited and warmed by the Hillary for America video in which Ms. Clinton announced her intention to run for office.
Ah, America, the bastion of liberal democracy, who has yet to vote in a female chief. How ironic that EIGHT Muslim countries (including Pakistan and Bangladesh) who did so decades ago. Perhaps we are finally going to have a female president. Hilary is an amazing candidate.

In this announcement video we saw none of the entitlement in her 2008 run-off. “I’m going to work for your vote,” she says with a sparkly smile. Yes, this is more of the tone we want to see not the anger against an upstart young senator.

And yet the fact that this next election may come down to two candidates from two political families, the Clintons versus the Bushes, chills me.

We are faced with the wife of one president and the son/brother of two others.

The 2008 and 2012 elections were vituperative, drawing deep gouges between families, friends, and co-workers.

The 2016 election is going to be an all out war. Brace yourselves world. You haven’t seen a battle like this one.

How to Talk about Race

You’ve probably been in the room when someone starts off with “I don’t want to sound racist BUT —”

The speaker goes on to expand on a stereotype that is likely to make the other listeners uncomfortable.

Or, you’re at the dinner table a friend’s house and without any warning, someone drops the N bomb in casual conversation.

“They like him, for a nigger,” a man said, standing in my friend’s mother’s kitchen.

Lucky for him, and me, and them, my hosts, his Southern accent muffled what I heard, and we moved on.

I grew up in the UnitENGL 103 Privilege Bingoed States as an the child of Indian immigrants. Race was everywhere around me, in how people reacted to what I brought to school to eat to what they said to me about dating.

“Oh, I don’t think of you as black,” was an often repeated phrase, intended as a compliment.

But I’m not white either I would think. So what am I? Who am I in relation to you?

I didn’t have ways to talk about race when I was teenager. The prevalent idea then was that we didn’t have to: the Civil Rights movement had solved all our problems.

Post 9/11 anti-Islamism and recent cases of police brutality show us that race and ethnicity are still very much divisive forces.

We have to talk about them and in ways that are useful, that go beyond excusing ourselves for holding on to stereotypes.

We can begin simply by questioning our assumptions.

A friend, who teaches anthropology gives an exercise which goes like this: everyone in the room anonymously writes down racial stereotypes and passes them in. She reads them out. “Pakistanis smell,” read one card. She keeps going until anyone is so uncomfortable that they call out “Stop.”

Another friend, teaching a class on migrant labor, had all the students play Privilege Bingo. I heard someone present about this at a conference. You restructure the game of Bingo to make all the categories related to positions of privilege: access to education, living within city limits, specific religions, etc. When someone calls out Bingo, thinking they’ve won, you explain the categories.

You can give everyone in the room a ball (or a piece of paper to crumple up) and ask them to toss into the same basket.

On and on. Students seem an easy group to begin this type of dialogue. Talking about race is our collective responsibility.

Have you had any uncomfortable or productive talks about race?