If you think all #internationalscholars are the same, you’re wrong. If you think we are the same as #domesticstudents, you’re DEAD wrong. – Ancilleno Davis 7/22/2017
Gary: I always took care of my niece, Kayla. She’s had a lot of bad breaks, but I was the one person in her life who always made sure she and her baby had food to eat, a roof over their heads.
Sheila: That’s really nice.
Joel: He assaulted you. He’s a creep.
Gary: People can be more than one thing, Joel.
This is a brief exchange from “The Santa Clarita Diet” on netflix.
unimportant clarification:Gary is a disembodied head that was reanimated after Shiela (a zombie) killed and ate him for assaulting her.
I have been thinking about it alot lately. I watched the episode a few months ago. Since we continue to be surrounded by the crap storm of a) violence against people of color; b) immigration rhetoric and action that describes and or treats human beings and children as animals/ nonentities/ criminals alternatively, and c) global climate change, I need a way to compartmentalize or rationalize the different people I am seeing around me. Especially when two of those people share the same body.
I am studying at a Predominantly White “Public Ivy”. The professors and surrounding community profess mostly liberal views and you can see the “you are welcome here” signs in the front yards and activism is at an all time high. At the same time, laws at the local, state and national level and policies throughout the university are specific to International students in ways that target, isolate and ostracize them or reduce their potential for success.
In one on one conversations, we can see their passion, their commitment to the students and hear the heartbreak in their voices. But in their work, they tell you, “My hands are tied”. They have to choose the hills to die on. And I think I get it. Why push against the system to fight for international students, when you are more likely to be successful fighting for black citizens, latino citizens, LGBTQ+ citizens etc.?
People can be more than one thing.
While the faculty and staff dedicate their on campus lives to the delivery of content equally to all students, which is mandated by law, they have no responsibility to you outside the classroom. Outside the classroom, they do not have to speak to you, break bread with you, etc. At the same time, the most staunch supporters of equal rights and protectors of justice, must also consider the safety of their family, job security etc. so sometimes, they have to be more than one thing.
I can be more than one thing.
I am often one of the oldest students in my classrooms. I have visited more countries than most of my colleagues (and professors). As a matter of fact, even our dog Sokka has visited more countries than many of my students and coworkers. I am always “The Bahamian”. I have worked with Prime Ministers and Princes. I have worked under the sea and on land with endemic, endangered and invasive species. But, noone necessarily sees any of these accomplishments. Perhaps, they just see a student, a foreigner, “a F*$king African American”.
The problem comes when people are more than one thing and those things do not agree.
Most recently my understanding of this came to a head. I had known a former professor since we came here. We have had meals together on multiple occasions and we met their family, even their dog. We have had enough conversations for me to hear the sound of their voice, clearly in my mind. And, we shared views on global climate change, local and regional policy and its effect on various social classes. This professor was a friend and as with friends in small communities, they were friends with others whom I am still friends with. Others that also shared food and conversation, advice, opinions.
This past week, the news broke that he was arrested while traveling. He had solicited sex with an underage girl via an undercover FBI agent.
He was a completely different thing. That thing consumed all the other things he was. No longer a professor, he has lost his family (and his dog), his future, his colleagues, to that other thing.
As I talk to others affected by this, I also see how much all the memories have been tainted. Words spoken now have different meanings, handshakes, hugs, a look, a joke.
People can be more than one thing.
I am trying to deal with this and part of my dealing is writing. Part of my dealing is helping others. So I want to tell you, just as one person you consider a friend may be another sinister thing on the inside, so too can your worst adversary or the most challenging person carry hope for humanity in them.
That unintentionally racist coworker may be the first to offer you a ride in the rain. That foreign student may hold the most american values at heart. The professor that gave you your first F may be sitting in their office waiting for you to come for help. The guy that thinks babies born in america to foreigners are Anchor Babies, may be have the best difficult import conversation with you if you just take the time to sit down with them.
Yes. You can feel betrayed. Mourn this loss. But I feel we owe it to ourselves to go out and make a new friend today, speak to someone who can fill this gap. reach across the void and open a channel.
Take care of one another.
Critically thinking about minority status.
We hear minority all the time. It has become one of those words that people say but do not really understand at the core. Like “Liberal”, “Communist”, etc. these words often have a standardized meaning you find in the dictionary, but can be used in various contexts with different connotation and meaning depending on who is speaking, to whom and most importantly, about whom.
So, let us begin with defining minority (As I use it)
- A minority is a group within a larger group. (I think we can agree on that).
- The minority group can be a numerical minority, meaning there are fewer of them than others in the group.
- The minority can be a power minority, meaning that as individuals or as a group, they have less power. Less power can mean less autonomy, democratic representation, ability to make decisions for themselves or the group, and less ability to move into the privileged group.
So what happens if we apply this standard definition to all of our groups within academia?
A Thought Experiment
I cannot do this part for you.
Think of your favorite minority (M).
In your mind you might choose “Asian-American”, “Black”, “Gender non-conforming”, “Latinx”, “Mentally Challenged”, “Native American”, “Puerto Ricans”, etc.
Now choose your favorite privileged group (P).
In your mind this may be “Males”, “Active Military”, “Rich folk”, “Mainlanders” etc.
These are all common examples of minorities and privileged groups in English-speaking, North American.
Now, substitute your favorite minority into the following statements and phrases. Replace the (M) with a minority and the (P) with a Privileged group. Extra points for publishing it to your social media feed.
- Even after paying for their tuition (M)___________________ have no legal right to be on campus.
- (P)___________________ should be allowed to work 22 hours a week. (M)__________________ should only be allowed to work 20 hours a week.
- Before (M)_________________ come to University, they should provide a bank statement to prove they can afford three years of tuition.
- (P)_________________ should pay less than (M)_________________ for education at our University.
- After arriving at our University, (M) _____________________ should submit to a blood test to ensure they do not have a communicable disease. If they do not submit to the test, they should be dropped from their classes.
- Our University should not hire (M)_________________ this year.
How did you do? Did your minority win? Did it feel good to say any of these things?
How angry would you be if that statement about your minority was an active policy on your campus?
Should you be upset if it is a different minority? No, seriously, go back and put all the other minorities you can think of on those lines.
Did you find the sweet spot? That minority you are okay with doing those things to? Ask your friends, find out where their line is.
Each of these is a redacted version of an active written policy that affects one group on campuses across the United States of America and much of the western world. Some of them were edited for length and content.
International students are members of your academic community. There are no laws that protect them as a minority group. No laws to protect them from policies that specifically target them. (I do love to be corrected though, so please do.)
I hope this allowed you to think about your policies and how they affect those around you. Say “hello” to an international scholar today. Ask how they are doing.
Go to your policy and information manual and search for international students. Check the disparities.
Love, Honor, Justice.
How do you describe social media to your students?
I use the house analogy.
My digital world is a house I build with social media. Each platform is a room within that house. Though they each have doors and windows that open to the outside world, I choose what people can see through those windows and doorways, whether or not I allow them inside and once inside, how far I allow them to go. Even if I let them in, I may still have my most precious possessions locked away like certain family photos. Or only allow certain people further in.
Most importantly, I remind students, if they want to be found for graduate study, internship or career opportunities, they need to have an address, where they can be found. Skype, Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, Groupme, and others also provide a kind of home phone for your digital home so colleagues, friends and family can reach you.
But just as importantly, if there is something you do not want your boss, teacher, or parents to see, don’t put it in these public rooms.
follow the links to connect with me let’s collaborate.
If you know me, you know I am vocal about things I believe are wrong. Especially if they affect me and those I care about. Unfortunately, (for me) I seem to care about more and more people as I learn how connected we all are in the world. I also recognize how important my/our voices have become.
Check your feeds and followings. check your list serves and the professional communications from your organizations, your industries, your leaders. The world is a big place and we cannot respond to everything, but when something happens in your community, to your community, who speaks? What do they say?
More importantly, who is silent? Over the break or during the semester when women, men, members of the LGBTQ community, people of any religion, people from any country or culture are targeted by hate, is there a response?
Are they waiting for a response from someone higher up that they can model their behaviour after? Do undergraduates wait to see how upperclassmen respond? are the grad students waiting for the tenured faculty? Is your department chair waiting for the president of the University? Is the university president waiting for the Governor? Is the Governor waiting for the President of the country?
And you? who are you waiting on?
Tell someone, tell everyone.
I denounce racial supremacists. I denounce international hate. I denounce gender, race and ethnicity based violence and bigotry.
Now, at least I know you will not be waiting on me.
-This is in partial response to the Charlotteville, VA white supremacy gathering (August 11 2017) and violence that followed (August 12, 2017).
This text is going to be shared in video format as well on my youtube channel so check there as well.
As leaders in any field, there seems to be issues related to understanding the needs of your constituents; the costs of your decisions; the reason for making your decision; things that affect our decision making process; the possible collateral damage; and whether we, as leaders actually have the right to make some of the decisions we are making.
I have distilled these issues into the 6 P’s of leadership decision making: Perspective, price, purpose, prejudice, potential, prerogative. Some of these overlap and some may have a greater or lesser impact depending on the situation. this is just a guideline and your community may have other considerations. What would you add to the list? leave a note in the comments.
Many leaders feel they have the big picture view. They have worked in the industry, read all the books, and maybe they used to be the employee or the student they are now representing. unfortunately, it does not work that way. You cannot have had the lifetime of experience you earned and that of even one other person, much less everyone you represent as a leader. Therefore, you need perspective. A leader should consult a financial expert when something impacts an employee’s take home pay, a legal conultant when there is any issue related to the rights of an individual or group, especially government mandated rules and regulations, a health care expert on issues related to human health, well-being, insurance coverage etc. But most importantly, they should consult with the people that they think will shoulder the burden (who pays) and whom they expect will reap the rewards. Remember the perspectives of other groups outside of yours (the other company pays this, the other country did this, the other schools have this) will never be as valuable as the input form your constituents.
So first, recognize your perspective, then get some more perspectives. Consult with as many people as possible. If you cannot talk to any of “those” people before making a decision for/about them, then ethically, that decision is not yours to make yet.
If there is a decision to be made there is some judgment call. One plan of action must necessarily cost more than the other or have different rewards or there would be no decision to make. Now, you may think it would be easy to make a simple choice of do I buy this or that when the difference is price. If you are a leader though, it is not so simple. the solution you choose may seem a reasonable price to you. Imagine a 1500 price increase to an administrative professional who makes $109,000 per year. This price (approximately 5 days work) seems reasonable for some benefit to that single decision maker. However if you are making a decision that affects several hundred people who all make $19000 per year, that 1500 dollars to them costs alot more. About a month’s work actually. It is also likely that the person with $19000 now has to decide between that $1500 benefit and something else. What if you could use $1500 to get your entire family back to your home country in the event of a disaster, death in the family, medical issues etc. Or you could use that $1500 to have medical insurance for one person in the household of three or four? what would you choose?…Hypothetically. So consider price, but speak to your constituents about what the cost truly is.
Why are you making this decision? Is your purpose to make the experience better for your employees, clients, students, administration, sponsors? Each of these groups will be affected differently by the same decision.
If you do not know why you are making the decision, you are not ready to make the decision yet. If you cannot communicate the reason for making that decision without violating your core principles, you are making the decision for the wrong reasons or without enough information.
example: You have to choose between underwater cement and two part epoxy. Which do you choose? Not enough information? Of course not. You need to know the application. Fresh water, saltwater? If you are attaching corals, is it toxic to corals? Can your employees use it? Does it meet their needs, are they qualified to use it, can it work inside the logistic constraints of their day?
Example 2: Your employees need health coverage. What insurance coverage is appropriate for all of them? Trick question. There is no “one size fits all” coverage best for every age, marital status, pre-existing condition, family size etc.
if you get a fixative that kills the corals you are planting? have you achieved the purpose of your decision? If your employees cannot afford the insurance you are making them purchase and therefore cannot afford vehicle maintenance, food, medicine etc. Are you achieving your purpose?
Hey, news flash: You are prejudiced. Everyone is. You may have thought about the situation and tried to make an objective decision, but if you made that decision by yourself, it is flawed.
*You remember how that Bahamian student broke their arm breakdancing and they did not have insurance and your office covered their bills? That was one student. Tragic? Yes. Costly? Perhaps. Representative of all Bahamian students? No. All International Students? No. All students of color? No. Representative of all students? No.
Chances are, you are focusing on the single, target result of your decision. However, many decisions have significant positive and negative collateral impacts. These are often difficult to predict.
I suggest listing all the positive benefits you can think of and all the costs. Now think of who gets each benefit and who pays each cost. Now think of everyone else in your organization. Who is not getting those benefits. Why not? Look at who is paying. How much are they paying? Are the people not getting those benefits paying less? Is the group with the rewards paying more? How much more? Is this an appropriate amount?
Could your target group potentially get a higher benefit if they pay more? less if they pay less? what will they potentially lose (from their perspective)?
One of the most important questions to ask: Is this decision your prerogative?
Do you have the right/authority to make this decision? Are you a Health care expert making an accounting decision?
Are you a domestic administrator making decisions regarding international scholars?
An affluent caucasian cis gender male making decisions about the reproductive rights of black and latin(x) individuals from low income homes across the gender spectrum?
Are you (or were you ever) a member of the group? If not, you may need to delegate this decision to a committee that can properly determine and serve their needs.
*Any similarity to actual circumstances, real or fictional is purely coincidental, but intriguing. please message me if you see some.
Leaders are special people.
During a recent interview I was asked what I thought made someone a good leader and to think of the best boss I have had and what made that person a great boss.
The first to come to mind was Eleanor Garraway-Phillips, of course. In my short time (4 years?) at The Nature Conservancy, I got to see her take the tough stance on several issues and stand up for her employees in the face of government and political will. Not only is Eleanor well able to keep her cool under pressure, but she is one of the most sincerely passionate earth warriors I know. Most importantly, she would get to know her employees and support our personal as well as career goals. Throughout my time with TNC she also helped to encourage me to see balance and take time with family when I could. Though I feel she was sad to see me go, “E” was especially supportive of my decision to return to school for my PhD. Thank you E.
Now I am at Miami University and while the University has its issues with diversity, there are pockets where anyone can feel included, like the Center for American and World Cultures. Here, I get to work with Dr. Mary Jane Berman and Jacqueline Rioja Velarde, two amazing women with an unbelievable amount of energy. The center does an incredible amount of work, but these two ladies are especially great at recognizing the work of everyone involved. From undergraduate and graduate student workers to community members who publicize their events, they always give credit where credit is due. I think this is especially important.
Thank you Jacque and Mary Jane!
You ladies are all super awesome and one day I hope to be able to follow your example!
I am an international student and scholar. Thus far I have visited 9 countries (11 when I count Puerto Rico and the USVI separately). Guess what? People are all the same. We are born, struggle to survive, find love within and outside ourselves, we get sick, age and die seeking freedom, peace and happiness. Everyone.
In today’s world, there are those that point fingers at one group or another, to call them lazy, untrustworthy, evil and the list goes on and on. The fact is, most of these groups have no reliably identifiable phenotype. The Donald lambastes immigrants and Muslims though he needs them to wear shirts and headdresses or carry signs to recognize them. Faculty and staff at our university regularly point out Chinese students’ (lack of) ability, but many cannot tell that some are Japanese, Korean, etc. Some are United States of American. Myself, I walk in and out of situations where I am called African American…someone on the outside creates and applies these labels to the diverse and beautiful people in our campuses and communities. No matter what you think, all stereotypes hurt people in some way or the other.
And guess what? If you don’t use the stereotype, but do not stand against it, you still support it. It’s social economics. People spend energy to express their beliefs and opinions, their revenue is the support of people like them cheering them on and laughing at their jokes. Their costs include ostracism from groups they respect or want to be a part of. If the stereotype user claims to be part of the dominant culture, using stereotypes to victimize subordinate cultures or groups then they and their words already have the social capital and revenue. The victims do not. Now, here we have to realize, because they claim to be part of the dominant culture or represent the dominant culture does not make it true. Most people are somewhere in the middle. Some person at one end of the spectrum spews hate at people at the other end. The people near the oppressor end may align themselves with the oppressor. Those near the victim may align themselves with the victim. Those in the middle say “meh” and either side may claim them based on some superficial characteristic. In the end though, the oppressor has the power and without the support of the middle, the victims will continue to be victimized.
So let us use an analog (strictly hypothetical of course). Suppose a powerful person like a presidential candidate in the USA claims to be the ideal American. Suppose then, said candidate incites his supporters to racism and violent racism. He categorizes a group of people (perhaps an entire religion) as being evil or denigrates people of a particular gender. He is the oppressor. He stereotypes all the people that fit one label (religion, skin color, national origin, etc.) as something bad (terrorist, rapist, infidel, traitor etc.) and makes them a target.
Suppose then a person like an international student fits one of the labels the oppressor uses. This can be religion as mentioned before, some style of dress or even a way of speaking. To be clear, this student is NOT a terrorist, rapist, infidel or traitor. However, this is what he hears people like himself called in American mainstream media regularly.
It’s scary to speak out against someone who wrongs you, when they lead millions of people who look like the people that surround you everyday. If the oppressor labels all those who look like him as allies and none of them deny it, what does that mean? So, finally, suppose the schools that recruit students from countries around the world, all hear the media coverage, but never issue a direct statement publicly denouncing racism, stereotypes, violence towards their students and their students’ families? Can these students feel safe? Are these schools meeting their social responsibilities to their students? How long can they wait before the aura of permissiveness crosses from hate toward non Americans, to those who look like non Americans, to poor Americans, to Black, Latino, Asian or White Americans…and so on and so forth?
Of course I’m just being hypothetical, but really, how long should American Academia, Science, Industry, non profit organizations etc wait before they say out loud and without any ambiguity, that this type of public rhetoric is wrong?