Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Beyond FRESHMAN YEAR: 2006 National Student Conference on the Mixed-Race Experience

College students of mixed-race heritage and faculty from across the country will meet up in St. Paul, Minnesota, March 31st through April 2nd for the 2006 National Student Conference on the Mixed-Race Experience. The event will be hosted by members of Bridges, “a student organization for bi- and multiracial, cross-cultural, and transracially adopted students” at Macalester College, a highly acclaimed liberal arts school in St. Paul. The theme of the conference, “How Do We Fit In: The Role of the Mixed Experience in a Multicultural Society” will be explored via workshops and presentations throughout the three-day weekend. For more information, go to the Campus Awareness+Compliance Initiative (CACI) site; a link to conference details is provided in a menu under “Updates.”

Monday, December 05, 2005

Beyond FEATURES: “Talk to Kids About Prejudice” article on

My son recently mentioned the term “black humor,” which led to a brief exchange regarding similar terms in which “black” carries negative connotations. We talked about what a black person might think when he hears a reference to “black humor” or when someone with extremely limited gardening skills tells him she has a “black thumb.” “Black Monday” refers to the largest one-day decline in recorded stock market history in October 1987 as well as to the catastrophic October 1929 stock market crash at the start of the Great Depression. None of these terms puts a positive spin on blackness. features a recent article on a similar subject by parenting columnist Dana Williams: “Talk to Kids About Prejudice.” Williams offers some terrific advice and emphasizes the importance of open communication regarding touchy subjects like prejudice (or potentially offensive terms). Whether you’re worried your child may be subject to prejudice or may inadvertently step on someone’s toes (the child in Williams’ article suffers through both, actually), check out this piece for a refresher on how to get the conversation going and keep it on track. Talking about racism on a regular basis can make a huge difference. As Williams notes, “If more people found ways to examine their day-to-day interactions and honestly discuss race issues, our nation would be healthier and more tolerant for it.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Beyond FAIRNESS: The Level Playing Field Institute

Established in San Francisco in 2001, the Level Playing Field Institute is a non-profit organization that “promotes innovative approaches to fairness in higher education and the workplace.” Sounds simple enough, but check out their website and you’ll see why I’ll be returning to this resource many times to explore their impressive array of projects. For starters, the Level Playing Field Institute sponsors campus programs to help underrepresented students in certain fields excel.

“Equality doesn’t truly exist in the U.S. educational system today,” the LPFI site reads, “or in the workplace. Individuals don’t always advance on merit alone, as they should. Many have to work twice as hard to get half as far.”

While education and workplace programs are at the top of their list of priorities, “practical research, awareness campaigns, and strategic funding” are listed as other key areas upon which the institute focuses.

“In all of the work that we do, we seek to change the tone of the conversation about equality and advancement in America from adversarial and legalistic to collaborative. By moving beyond the legal framework of discrimination and harassment to the broader—perhaps more difficult—issues of fairness, subtle bias, and stereotyping, we hope to spark a new and open dialogue about what is truly happening in the educational system and in our workplaces. By changing the tone and shifting the focus, it is our belief that this new dialogue will play a critical role in revealing and removing the hidden barriers, or subtle obstacles, to education and workplace equality.

“Some address…inequities by promoting an approach to fairness which requires only that everyone be treated ‘exactly the same.’ The Level Playing Field Institute, however, stresses the importance of moving beyond a ‘sameness in treatment equals fairness for all’ solution, because it fails to take two major factors into consideration:

1) The multitude of different strengths and talents in the population, and
2) The magnitude of the systemic imbalances affecting millions in the US.

“In order to create sustainable fairness, individuals and organizations must share the responsibility to change the current climate and culture of inequity. We strive to embody this approach to fairness and incorporate it into all of our work.”

It’s one thing to write or complain about pervasive inequalities in our society. It’s another thing to take action to raise awareness and help eradicate the impact of such inequalities. Look for more details on the Level Playing Field Institute and its worthy efforts to create “sustainable fairness” in future posts.