Black Books Matter: The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Literature

by Channon Oyeniran

Reading is essential to everyone, but I think most importantly to children! For this Tuesday Justice post, I want to focus on children’s books and the importance for kids to read diverse books and read (or hear) stories with main characters who (unfortunately) aren’t normally showcased.

Why it’s important for Ara:

WhatsApp Image 2018-07-09 at 10.02.30 PM

My son, Ara, loves to read! Every night before bed either my husband or I will read him a story, and on the nights when we are both too exhausted to read a bedtime story to him, he will remind us! One of his favourite books is Please, Baby, Please by Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee. Not only is reading to children important at his age (my son is two, but much younger in the photo), but it is also important to choose books and stories that represent and reflect who my son is, his life and his realities. More and more I am on a search to find books for Ara with main characters who look like him and stories that showcase black people in a positive light, rather than through the negative views that all too often describe black people. I also want my son to read stories where he sees characters from all walks of life that teach him to be accepting of everybody he meets and encounters. 11340497Living in Toronto, I know my son will encounter people from various cultures and backgrounds, and we want him to see everyone as equal and important. Representation of black people and other minorities in a positive light, especially for children, deeply matters because for far too long, black children grew up without seeing powerful, strong role models who looked like them, whether in books, on TV or in real life! (In fact, this is such an important issue for me and my desire for my son to grow up with the experience of seeing black people just like himself has even made me want to write a children’s book on black history in Canada. Stay tuned…)

Why it’s important for white children:

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Not only is it important for black children to see themselves represented in an uplifting and positive way, but it is also important for children who aren’t black to also see black children represented in this way as well. For centuries, black people have been portrayed in a negative way, oftentimes being displayed to the masses as foolish, stupid, angry, dangerous, uneducated, oversexualized, etc, etc, etc. There is no shortage of negative images and portrayals of black people, so when we are portrayed in a positive and uplifting way, it is crucial that children (actually, all people) see these images and hear our stories. When we open up our children’s minds and hearts at an early age to diversity and inclusion, they grow up to become adults who treat others equally and don’t judge people based on isolated experiences. But rather, their upbringing and the stories they read as children would have shaped their views about people who look different than them. Reading is so powerful and the stories that are told can be even more powerful! That is why starting our children at an early age to read stories about different people and cultural groups is significant to their growth, learning and shaping as human beings and global citizens.

Marley Dias & #1000BlackGirlBooks:

“I’m working to create a space where it feels easy to include and imagine black girls and make black girls like me the main characters of our lives.” – Marley Dias

download (1)Marley Dias definitely understood at a young age the importance of reading and the importance of finding stories where the main characters are black girls. At the age of 11, Marley was tired of reading stories that had the same main characters, main characters that didn’t look like her or anyone in her family. So in November 2015, Marley launched the campaign #1000BlackGirlBooks, with the mission to find and list children’s literature that have black girls as the main characters. As of June 2017, not only did Marley accumulate more than 9,000 books, but she also obtained her own book deal! Marley said of her experiences with books before she started the campaign, “Frustration is fuel that can lead to the development of an innovative and useful idea.” After doing some research, Marley realized that there was a lack of books that had black girls or girls of colour as the main character and that if she was frustrated by the lack of representation in children’s books, then many other people probably were too.

Marley said after doing research and being in a position to try and change this problem, “I had a lot of choices about how I was going to address this problem. Option 1: focus on me, get myself more books; have my dad take me to Barnes and Noble and just be done, live my perfect life in suburban New Jersey. Option 2: find some authors, beg them to write more black girl books so I’d have some of my own, special editions, treat myself a bit,” she said. “Or, option 3: start a campaign that collect books with black girls as the main characters, donate them to communities, develop a resource guide to find those books, talk to educators and legislators about how to increase the pipeline of diverse books, and lastly, write my own book, so that I can see black girl books collected and I can see my story reflected in the books I have to read.” 

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She, of course, chose option 3 and I’m so glad that she did! Not only did she see a problem, but she recognized the gap and decided to fill it. Now, this campaign has not only benefitted her but benefits other children, and impacts the education system, so that more books on diversity are taught to all students. I love what Marley Dias has created and I love that she is shining a light on an issue such as reading that is so instrumental in the shaping of our children’s minds, thoughts and foundation.

So, now what? 

At Tuesday Justice, we like to let our readers what they can do, how they can get involved. This one is easy:

Read books to your kids!

Read books with diverse characters. Read books that tell stories about people of other ethnicities, other races, other cultures. Read books that teach empathy and inclusion.

And if you don’t have kids, buy those kinds of books for your nieces and nephews and cousins and friends’ kids.


For more information…

Books for children:

Black Panther Resource List

As I thought about how to address Black Panther on the blog, I realized the best thing that I could do is exactly what we always do at Tuesday Justice: provide LOTS of resources! It’s been by reading various articles that I have come to better understand why this film is so needed, so beautiful, and so loved.

by Michelle Palmer

IMG_0905I’ve purchased advance tickets for a grand total of three films in my life, Black Panther being the most recent. One of the friends I went with told me as soon as the credits rolled, “You have to do a Tuesday Justice post on this!” (At least, that’s how I remember it. I was still reeling from the overwhelming beauty of the whole thing.) My first thought was, “But how?!” How do I, especially as a white woman, write about what this film means? How do I try to communicate its importance? There were so many issues that the film touched on that we talk about here (modern slavery, historical slavery, mass incarceration, immigration, refugees), but I wasn’t sure I was up to the task.

First and foremost, I wanted my dear friend and Tuesday Justice co-founder to share her thoughts on the film. As a proud black woman, passionate about her heritage, I couldn’t wait to hear her reaction to the film. She graciously agreed to type it up for us!

Channon: “The excitement that I felt leading up to the evening that I was to go and see Black Panther was indescribable! I’m not normally someone who gets caught up in the hype of something, and that was the case leading up to the Black Panther’s release.seun and channon before black panther However, as I started to read more articles on the movie on Facebook and started to see all the of the clips of people going to see the movie decked out in their African attire, I started getting excited about going to see it!  The evening my husband I went to see the movie, we definitely dressed in our Nigerian and African attire (see pic) and even did a mini photo shoot before leaving for the theatre! LOL Getting to the theatre (45 mins before the movie even started!), we were with a long line of people waiting to enter. We finally got to go in and waited with anticipation for the movie to begin and once it did, man, were we blown away! It’s not just that there was an all-star cast or that the story was from the Marvel comic series or that the storyline was great and entertaining. It was the fact that I was watching a movie with an all black cast, with a black director, with a black woman as the costume designer, showing the masses what Africa is and will be as a continent when we unite, rise up and take back our voice and story that was taken so violently from us centuries ago. My favourite scene of the movie (there were many!) is when King T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) goes to be crowned King of Wakanda and all of the various tribes and people of Wakanda were standing on the mountain in their various clothing and traditional jewelry. The colours in that scene were so bright, so colourful, so vibrant and all of those people represented the different people, traditions, customs, cultures and languages that make up the African continent today! I also really like all the symbolism and meaning that the movies contained (e.g. the Jabari people being reminiscent of the Maroon people of Jamaica) or the green, red and black outfits that Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira’s characters wore in the casino scene, representing the colours of the Pan-African flag. The movie was just full, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and was proud to see myself and my heritage represented!”

IMG_0607.jpgAs I continued to think about other ways we could talk about Black Panther here on the blog, I realized the best thing I could do is exactly what we always do at Tuesday Justice: provide LOTS of resources! As a “colonizer,” it’s been by reading various articles and editorials that I have come to better understand why this film is so needed, so beautiful, and so loved. Like Channon, I arrived at the movie theater 45 minutes early with my crew. We didn’t have a photoshoot beforehand, but I did manage to sneak a (terribly lit) selfie with the stunning Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). And it really did feel like something special from the time we stood in line to the very last tag scene. And after three viewings, it still feels like there is so much more for me to unpack and understand.

I started a list, only to be surprised with a much more comprehensive list. Dr. Brian Keith Mitchell, history professor at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, produced a fantastic reader list for faculty to use in classroom discussions of the film, which made it way to my mom’s inbox (she’s on staff at UALR) and which she thoughtfully passed on to me! (Thanks, Momma!)

Admittedly, I’ve not read every single article on the list, but the ones that I’ve read (or watched) and that have helped me the most are listed first (with excerpts). The remainder are listed below and categorized, thanks to Dr. Mitchell.

  • Why ‘Black Panther’ Is a Defining Moment for Black America by Carvell Wallace for the New York Times – “This is all part of a tradition of unrestrained celebration and joy that we have come to rely on for our spiritual survival. We know that there is no end to the reminders that our lives, our hearts, our personhoods are expendable. Yes, many nonblack people will say differently; they will declare their love for us, they will post Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela quotes one or two days a year. But the actions of our country and its collective society, and our experiences within it, speak unquestionably to the opposite. Love for black people isn’t just saying Oscar Grant should not be dead. Love for black people is Oscar Grant not being dead in the first place.”
  • Race, Barriers and Battling Nerves: A Candid Conversation With Oscar’s Only 4 African-American Directing Nominees in 90 Years by Lacey Rose for The Hollywood Reporter – John Singleton: “There are enough people now that you can go to, to have a conference with or to say, “I don’t understand this world, can you help me?’’ So, I’m not assailing against anybody white trying to do a black story — try it, but get someone to help you. What’s interesting when you see Black Panther is you realize it couldn’t have been directed by anybody else but Ryan Coogler. It’s a great adventure movie and it works on all those different levels as entertainment, but it has this kind of cultural through-line that is so specific that it makes it universal.” behind the thrills black panther costumes
  • Costume Design in Black Panther from OkayAfrica (Video)
  • Black Panther’s Costume Designer on Dressing Every Woman As a Queen By Lindsay Peoples for The Cut – “When you put on your shapely garments and your beautiful color palette, and you wrap your hair and you put that knot at the top, you feel a sense of pride. Even though Wakanda is made up, it is still a part of the continent from which our ancestors came, and it gives people a context with which to think of people of color in a positive way — instead of in a radical militant way or a negative way. We’re making Africa chic again, and I hope when women see that, they go, ‘Tomorrow when I go to work, I’m going to wrap my hair up!’” – Ruth E. Carter
  • Black Panther director Ryan Coogler thoroughly breaks down the symbolism and visual effects of the Casino Fight Scene from Black Panther from Black with No Chaser (Video)
  • Why museum professionals need to talk about Black Panther by Casey Haughin for The Hopkins Exhibitionist – “The first step after this movie is to publicly confirm the reality of the situation; museums need to step up and acknowledge the fact that Killmonger’s anger in the exhibition and the experience he had were not entirely fictionalized, but rather a magnification of museum practices in the modern world. The next step is to listen. Listen to people of color, to communities, and to whole countries who see themselves both robbed by and cast out from international institutions. By communicating openly with the audience of a museum, professionals can determine how better to adapt their practices and make the institution a place that is relevant and respectful for all visitors. Until a truly symbiotic dialogue is established, this scene in Black Panther will represent the reality of museum politics where fact is truly more alarming than any fiction.”
  • Ryan Coogler Breaks Down The Making Of ‘Black Panther’, Black Girl Power, & Building Wakanda from Hot 97 (Video)
  • ‘Black Panther’ is a chance for black moviegoers to finally just enjoy the show by Zack Linley for the Washington Post – “It’s something many white filmgoers just don’t get. I’ve seen it many times: someone claiming it’s a double standard to celebrate all-black movies while calling all-white movies racist, or resenting that race is being brought up at all. It’s only a movie! Can’t we all just enjoy it? This is a question you would ask only if you had been overwhelmingly represented in every genre in every era of American film, and you simply don’t understand the sense of urgency for those of us who have not.”
  • In ‘Black Panther,’ Black Women Thrive by Erin Canty for Man Repeller – “Because I am a 32-year-old black woman immersed in a cinematic universe where black women thrive, I am overjoyed for the children who will grow up seeing these confident, courageous women taking up space and telling stories that are larger than life. black-panther-latitia-lupita-danai-angela-1_13005521_ver1.0I think about the young black girls who will watch these women and grow up inspired to carry out big dreams of their own. I think about all of this, and I am delighted.”
  • Feeling White Privilege When Watching Black Panther by Zoe and Ama from Not So Young and Dumb (Podcast) Also available here for non-Apple users: CastBox
  • The Feminism of Black Panther vs. Wonder Woman BY SHOSHANAKESSOCK – “I could continue to break down the narrative even further by speaking about the power of all these women and their representation as women of color, but as I said there are POC out there far better equipped to handling that conversation. In the matter of that topic, I step back and want to speak less and listen more. But in contrasting Wonder Woman and its feminist ideology alongside that of Black Panther, I can only conclude that while Wonder Woman brings us a kind of exceptionalist feminism, Black Panther brings us a vision of what a truly gender-equal society can accomplish, breaking down the barriers of gender stereotypes to present opportunity for anyone to be anything they wish in their full complexity and freedom of choice.”
  • Black Panther Is the Most Feminist Superhero Movie Yet (Yes, including Wonder Woman.) by Aisha Harris for SlateMoving as it was to see so many little girls dressing up as Wonder Woman, the fact that Black Panther has a wider variety of Wakandan women is a crucial step toward truly progressive feminism on screen.
  • The Most Important Moment in Black Panther No One Is Talking About by Benjamin Dixon for Progressive Army – “It is in that sadness that the film demonstrates the potential for the greatest impact: There is no Black Panther coming to save us. There is no Wakanda to go home to. And in the absence of such wonderful dreams, we — Black people around the world — must continue to stand up and be the fantasies of which we dream — just as T’Chaka told his son, King T’Challa, as they stood in the solemn moment of the ancestral plane, ‘Stand up. You are a King.'”
  • The ‘Wakanda Curriculum’ Is One Teacher’s Attempt to Take Black Panther Conversations to the Next Level by Julie Muncy for Gizmodo – “Tess Raser, a teacher of sixth graders at the Dulles School of Excellence in Chicago, has built the “Wakanda Curriculum” to drive discussions in advance of and after viewing of Black Panther. As Blavity reports, Raser was inspired after her own conversations about the film to take those debates—about black revolution, black feminism, and the legacy of colonialism and anti-black racism—to her students.” The 46-page unit can be found HERE. (More resources for teaching about Black Panther: The Best Resources For Teaching About The Black Panther Movie)

19panther-students-superJumbo.jpgBut this next one was far and away, THE BEST….

  • ‘I Took 7th Graders to See “Black Panther.” Here’s What They Said.’ [The New York Times]

 


Academic Food for Thought  

  1. Introduction to the Wakandan Syllabus
  2. ‘“Black Panther” Forces Africans and Black Americans to Reconcile the Past’ [Buzzfeed]
  3. ‘The Revolutionary Power of “Black Panther”’ [Time]
  4. “Black Panther” and the Invention of “Africa”  by Jelani Cobb for The New Yorker
  5. ‘Behind the Scenes of “Black Panther”’s Afrofuturism’ [Wired]
  6. ‘How “Black Panther”’s Costume Designer Created a New Vision of Africa’ [Refinery29]
  7. ‘“Black Panther” Is Great. But Let’s Not Treat It as an Act of Resistance.’ [The Guardian]
  8. ‘“Black Panther” Is Not the Movie We Deserve’ [Boston Review]
  9. Black Panther Movie Boldly Tackles Black Excellence – Refinery29
  10. Killmonger is the real hero for those who refuse to assimilate into an elitist blackness that leaves many behind
  11. How Black Panther Echoes Afrofuturism and Disses French-Speaking Africa
  12. The Viral ‘Black Panther’ Middle School Curriculum Provides Parents Real Insight
  13. The ‘Black Panther’ Revolution – Elitist
  14. “Black Panther” Is Inspiring Black Brazilians to Occupy Elite, White Shopping Malls
  15. ‘Black Panther’ is a revelation but also a reminder of what we’ve been missing
  16. “Black Panther” villain Killmonger is a symbol of Black pain
  17. Opinion | The Afrofuturism Behind ‘Black Panther’ – The New York Times
  18. How ‘Black Panther’ Changes Marvel’s Message – Forbes
  19. The Real History Behind the Black Panther – History in the Headlines
  20. Black Panther’s symbolic African costumes – HeraldLIVE
  21. Black Panther: The Ultimate Alt-Right Hero | Squawker
  22. The Racial Politics of Black Panther | Psychology Today

Overviews/Ending

  1. Black Panther – Rate And Discuss With Spoilers
  2. Black Panther End Credit Scenes: What Happens, And What They Mean
  3. One Major Mistake Black Panther Makes
  4. Why Black Panther Included That Character In Its Post-Credits Scene
  5. The 9 Funniest Moments In Black Panther
  6. Why Black Panther’s Surprise Cameo Didn’t Happen Until The End Of The Movie
  7. The 9 Coolest Wakanda Inventions Shown In Black Panther
  8. Kendrick Lamar Gives ‘Black Panther’ a Weighty Soundtrack

Reactions

  1. What Marvel’s Chris Pratt Thought Of Black Panther
  2. Oprah’s Review Of Black Panther Is Better If You Read It In The Oprah Voice
  3. What Marvel’s Kevin Feige Really Thinks About Black Panther
  4. What Michelle Obama Thought Of Black Panther
  5. How Disney’s CEO Reacted To Black Panther’s Success
  6. Review: ‘Black Panther’ Shakes Up the Marvel Universe
  7. Black Panther’ Brings Hope, Hype and Pride
  8. ‘“Black Panther” and the Revenge of the Black Nerds’ [The New York Times]
  9. Black Panther Review: the Marvel Universe Finally Shows Us Something New

MCU Connections

  1. How Black Panther Sets Up A Possible Future For Iron Man
  2. Black Panther Has Some Shocking Similarities To A Recent Marvel Movie
  3. How One Black Panther Scene Nods At The Original Iron Man Movie
  4. Why Black Panther Doesn’t Have More Ties To The Larger Marvel Cinematic Universe
  5. Ta-Nehisi Coates Helps a New Panther Leave Its Print
  6. The Black Panther Reading List
  7. Black Panther Royal Family Tree (Video)

Characters

  1. All The Major Characters You Need To Know In Black Panther
  2. Is Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger Marvel’s Best Villain Yet?
  3. Where Black Panther’s Shuri Goes From Here In The MCU
  4. Why Black Panther’s Agent Ross Is Different From The Comics
  5. Did Black Panther Reveal An Important Development For A Key Marvel Hero?
  6. In Defense of Erik Killmonger and the Forgotten Children of Wakanda
  7. ‘Black Panther’: Why Not Queen Shuri? (Guest Column)
  8. Why Black Panther’s T’Challa Is a Better Man Than Most Superheroes …

Gender

  1. Finally, “Black Panther” Is a Movie Black Women Can Celebrate’ [Independent]
  2. ‘Kevin Feige on the Future of Marvel’s Women’ [Vulture]
  3. Black Panther Breakout Letitia Wright Smashes Disney Princess Expectations
  4. Princess Shuri: The Hero We Needed | The Amherst Student
  5. There’s a True Story Behind Black Panther’s Strong Women. Here’s …
  6. The women of ‘Black Panther’ are empowered not just in politics and …
  7. Black Women Are Black Panther’s Mightiest Heroes – io9 – Gizmodo
  8. Black Panther, black women, and the politics of black hair | Cinema
  9. The power of ‘Black Panther’s’ army of African women – The Lily
  10. In ‘Black Panther,’ Wakanda’s Women Are Both Funny And Fierce
  11. The Powerful Women Of ‘Black Panther’ | HuffPost
  12. After Black Panther and Wonder Woman, Batgirl needs a female …
  13. The Women in ‘Black Panther’ Rock – Why ‘Black Panther’ is a Win for …
  14. Get to know the Dora Milaje, Black Panther’s mighty women … – Vox
  15. The Female Cast of Black Panther Is So Freakin’ Badass, I’m Crying Tears of Joy
  16. The Most Important Debate in Black Panther Is, Unsurprisingly … – Elle
  17. How Danai GuriraOkoye redefines the female warrior in ‘Black Panther’

LGBT

  1. ‘“Black Panther” Screenwriter Joe Robert Cole Addresses Rumors of a Deleted Gay Scene’ [ScreenCrush]
  2. ‘Don’t Play With Our Emotions: “Black Panther” and Queer Representation’ [The Root]
  3. Could There Have Been a Lesbian Romance in Black Panther? Let’s Investigate

Director/Cast Takes

  1. Ryan Coogler’s Open Letter To Black Panther Fans Is Wonderful
  2. The Amazing Black Panther Set That Led Daniel Kaluuya To Recognize The Epicness Of Black Panther
  3. The Best Wakandan Technology, According To Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan
  4. Black Panther Director Ryan Coogler Explains His Infinity Stone Decision
  5. The Stars of ‘Black Panther’ Waited a Lifetime for This Moment
  6. Black Panther’s Director Ryan Coogler Breaks Down a Fight Scene
  7. Black Panther designer Ruth Carter reveals the African symbols … – Syfy

Box Office

  1. Why Black Panther Overperformed At The Box Office
  2. Black Panther Made Even More This Weekend Than We Thought
  3. Black Panther Box Office: There’s A Party Going On Over At Marvel
  4. After ‘Black Panther,’ Will Hollywood Finally Admit That Black Films …

Opposition to Black Panther

  1. ‘Alt-Right’ Group Takes Aim At ‘Black Panther.’ Ryan Coogler …
  2. Alt-Right Group Tries To Take Down Black Panther Film – Refinery29
  3. ‘Black Panther’ Targeted By Alt-Right Trolls Who Also Tried to Tank …
  4. An alt-right group threatened to attack ‘Black Panther’ on Rotten …
  5. Racist trolls are saying Black Panther fans attacked them. They’re lying …
  6. Black Panther: Twitter bans trolls who claimed white cinema-goers …

OTHER:

  1. Can Superheroes Be Woke?: Black Liberation and the Black Panther
  2. ‘Black Panther’ teaches women how to show up for themselves in life and in love
  3. The power of ‘Black Panther’s’ army of African women
  4. ‘Black Panther’ fully embraces its blackness — and that’s what makes it unforgettable
  5. Wakanda forever: The overt feminism of ‘Black Panther’
  6. ‘Black Panther’ Cast Made Sandra Bullock Cry ‘As A Mother’

 

 

 

 

 

When They Get the Story Wrong: Muslims, Ideology & Terrorism

The truth is that nobody knows what actually causes terrorism to a point where we can generalize the motivations of all terrorists. There are different levels of explanation – social, individual, structural or political motivations – and whilst each may play a part, the dominant narrative takes a religious ideological approach as fact without any demonstrated scientific basis.

Guest Post by Tom Pettinger

“Religion had nothing to do with this. We watched films. We were shown videos with images of the war in Iraq. We were told we must do something big.”

– failed 7/21/05 London Underground bomber, Hussein Omar

ad67f2_ade1bfe5d3b947eebf8b2466c0ac3ff5-mv2How well do we as a society really understand the causes of terrorism? Since 9/11, and especially 7/7 in London, we’ve been fed the line that Islamic ideology, rather than politics, causes extremism, each new ‘Islamist’ attack apparently proving the theory. And because the theory that terrorists are mentally deranged has no scientific basis, what really drives individuals to engage in this kind of socially deviant and devastating behaviour, sometimes even to a point of killing themselves as well? Is it primarily religious ideology? Is it politics? What is the effect of choosing one narrative over the other?

Following a ‘jihadist’ attack, news coverage hysterically focuses on how individuals were radicalized by an increasingly fanatical Islamic ideology (white-supremacist attacks, conversely, receive far less attention), often with a backdrop of a failed personal life or a lack of integration into modern Western society. The actual motivations for the attacks are rarely investigated. 9/11, the Boston bombing, 7/7 in London, the Brussels attacks, Paris, Florida, Madrid are frequently implied by media and politicians to have no aims other than instilling senseless terror on the basis of a warped interpretation of Islam. 7ZPVBUXU6FFVHFUFFB7FYW3WDQIt is often ignored that such atrocities attempt to accomplish a goal or communicate a political message. All definitions of terrorism have at their core some political or social aim, but aside from passing comments, we don’t hear about these in news coverage. There is a growing body of literature (see here, here and here) that suggests this direction has been encouraged by governments to silence dissent over their foreign policy; it is in Western governments’ interests to ascribe the attackers’ motivations to reasons other than their military interventions and the so-called ‘War on Terror’. It’s a natural defence mechanism to place the blame for attacks like 9/11 on anything but their own actions (be it invasions, drone strikes, or Guantanamo).

George W. Bush notoriously claimed, “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” This has become commonly accepted; the media and politicians incessantly bombard us with this idea. However, The Defense Science Board, a Federal Advisory Committee established to provide independent advice to the US Secretary of Defense, wrote in 2004 that,

Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.

As well as politics appearing central to acts of terrorism, further problems with taking religious ideology as the principal driver of terrorism are that:

  • Most basically, there are people who possess what society deems as ‘radical ideologies’ yet don’t engage in violence;
  • To take ‘religious ideology’ as equivalent to brainwashing is misguided when a group’s beliefs are debated to a point where they sometimes split apart;syria-war-anniversary-body-image-1426292826
  • Radicalization scholars have found an ideology is only acquired following incorporation within a group;
  • Studies have consistently found “no empirical support” for many ideologically-focussed approaches to de-radicalization or countering terrorism, suggesting it plays little part in their radicalization;
  • And above all, there is nowhere near enough scientific research into individuals’ motivations to cast generalizations (and where studies have occurred, they often find social interactions play the most important role).

Governments totally ignore the attackers’ motivations in explaining terrorism; look up basically any attack on the West – what do the attackers say? Political grievances and aims are always central. Boston Marathon BombingWhat did the Boston bomber scrawl on the inside of the boat? It wasn’t challenging freedom and democracy, but US foreign affairs and the deaths America has caused. What did the Woolwich attacker say in the street when he was standing over Fusilier Lee Rigby? It wasn’t about creating an Islamic State, but lamenting the suffering Western invasions have brought to other parts of the world. What motivations did the failed US underwear bomber Abdulmutallab give during his court case? Not the rewards from martyrdom, but US tyranny and its oppression of Muslims. As an aside, it should also be remembered that those most affected by ‘Islamic’ terrorism are other Muslims. (Stats can be found here, here, and here.)

The truth is that nobody knows what actually causes terrorism to a point where we can generalize the motivations of all terrorists. There are different levels of explanation –  social, individual, structural or political motivations – and whilst each may play a part, the dominant narrative takes a religious ideological approach as fact without any demonstrated scientific basis. If that perspective only seems like common sense, it’s because it has been constantly emphasized by politicians and the media over time. hassan_reutersNo study has had anywhere near sufficient access to terrorists to show any causation. However, these unfounded assumptions cause us to view certain communities (those perceived to be Muslims) as suspicious, based purely on correlations with widely-publicized attacks that have previously taken place. In Britain for example, following the IRA Birmingham pub bombings, those with Irish accents were viewed with suspicion and hostility; similarly, the now-suspect ‘Muslim community’ is placed under constant suspicion of being a potential threat following jihadi attacks. Studies into the creation of suspect communities show they are treated with disdain and blamed for attacks, that they experience negative interactions with the police, racism and discrimination at work, and feel unsafe walking around and like second-class citizens.

“We are constantly demonized, all through the media. I used to go to the cinema every weekend…I’ve given up because every time I would go…there’s at least one hint somewhere [that Muslims are terrorists or cause terrorism] – and in newspapers and the media as a whole, constantly we’re demonized.”

– Anonymous audience member, Evening with Arun Kundnani, YouTube

The West spends billions on domestic counter-terrorism efforts taking this unproven and highly presumptuous ideology-based explanation to minimize the threat from suspect communities. Desktop6-005A frightening consequence of this drive is that particularly within the US, in borrowing predictive principles from the widely-criticized British Prevent Strategy, a network of 15,000 informants has developed to target Muslims, and the practice of entrapment (“tricking someone into committing a crime in order to secure their prosecution”) has escalated. The FBI has even killed Americans on American soil based on opportunities the agency itself has provided to ‘vulnerable’ Muslims. (A recap of the events can be found here, but Arun Kundnani goes into more detail in his book, The Muslims Are Coming.)  Judges have repeatedly noted that these entrapped individuals would not otherwise have engaged in such deviant activities had the FBI not placed them in the ‘wrong place’ at the ‘wrong time’. Judge McMahon, sentencing the Newburgh Four, said,

Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr Cromitie, a man whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope… I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except [that] the government instigated it, planned it, and brought it to fruition.

Activists Demonstrate Against Recent Rhetoric Against Muslims And Refugees Near Trump Tower

Governments have gradually diluted the threshold for ‘terrorism’ charges: in the UK, non-violent extremism is now a criminal offence, and thousands of children as young as four have gone through the British de-radicalization program. Umm Ahmed, a British Muslim, was jailed for 12 months for the possession of Inspire Magazine which she had obtained to keep updated with her brother’s trial (apparently reading the magazine online does not land you in jail, but possessing it on a USB stick does!). In sentencing her the judge said that Umm posed no threat, that she had no intent to harm, that she was not a terrorist – and even that she was a good Muslim – but that he had to imprison her based on her possession of the magazine.

The idea of a distinct and definable ‘Muslim community’, separate from the rest of the population, has been encouraged by the provision of cohesion funding that targets places with a certain number of Muslims, and by politicians calling for this apparently distinct community to condemn the latest attacks as though they were in some way collectively responsible. David Cameron in his (in)famous multiculturalism speech called for moderate Muslims to condemn the radical ones, and Trump similarly called on Muslims to “report when they see something going on”. cariprotestnwexpy4This leads to Muslims being seen collectively as a threat, and advancing the perception of them as separate to ‘the rest of us’. In turn, like after the recent Manchester bombing, we see a rise in hate crimes against those perceived to be Muslims, who are often approached in public and told, “shame on you… for what you did”. People have been killed as a result of anti-Muslim attacks, although like other right-wing extremist attacks, they get far less attention than what is considered ‘Islamist’ violence.

We have become obsessed by denouncing those engaging in political violence as deluded Islamist ideologues, when in fact, by their own testimony, the attacks they carry out seem much more like retaliations for Western policy decisions, like invasions and occupations, support for Israel (which is taken as definitional support for the oppression of Palestinians), Guantanamo, drone strikes, and so on. Claims that ideology is the overriding explanation are wholly unfounded and exist to minimize Western governments’ responsibility in motivating the attacks. However, because of these narratives being endlessly repeated, we have succeeded in separating Muslims from non-Muslims, and non-Muslims from Muslims, allowing totally irrational fear and distinction, rather than unity, to triumph.

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For more information….

Representation Matters!

All people deserve to feel seen and heard, and with stats like the ones presented here, we can be sure that certain stories aren’t being told and certain people aren’t being seen and heard. And it is through stories that we learn, we grow, we empathize, we connect, and we must (and can) do better.

by Michelle Palmer

“It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty, so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror, first through their own families — as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys — and see themselves, and have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent and capable. This is something I want for every child of every race.”

– Beyoncé

Awards season is upon us! Love it or hate it, it’s a good opportunity to think about representation. [UPDATE: What is representation? It’s “the portrayal of someone in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.” In this context, we’re talking about how (and how much) minorities are portrayed in media.] Last year was the year of #OscarsSoWhite, and this year’s Oscars is quite a bit better in that respect. There’s certainly still work to do, but it’s a step in the right direction. Today, I hope to show why that’s important and how you can help. And I’m going to do so primarily the words of those more affected by these realities than me.

[Disclaimer: While this post primarily focuses on women and African-Americans, these same principles and concepts apply to all minority groups (Asian, Middle Eastern, Latino, LGBT, disabled, etc.). I hope to cover these groups further in future posts.]

The Stats:

Last year, the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at USC studied the top 100 films of 2015. Here are the main findings of the report:12f5742decd32a87bdbe12dee6a18b43

  • 31.4% of all speaking characters were female.
  • 26.3% were characters from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.
  • 2.4% were characters with disabilities.
  • 49 films included no speaking or named Asian or Asian-American characters.
  • 17 featured no Black/African American characters.
  • 45 films did not include a character with a disability.
  • Only 32 films had female leads/co-leads.
  • Of those, only 3 of those female leads/co-leads were women from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.

It’s clear that women and people of color are underrepresented. And women of color are affected doubly so. Another report offers these stats: Of all women in the top 100 films of 2014, 74% were White, 11% were Black, 4% were Latina, and %4 were Asian.

Why These Stats Matter:

Lupita Nyong’o sort of introduced me to this whole representation thing and why it matters back in 2014. That’s the first time I really remember thinking about it consciously. She was recalling a time when she “felt unbeautiful,” and I think it sort of shocked me into paying attention….like how could Lupita Nyong’o have ever possibly felt unbeautiful?! I mean, look at her! But she did, and seeing someone like herself on screen and in print made a difference in her life.

representation.jpg“I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin… And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no conservation, she’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then…Alek Wek. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me, as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden Oprah was telling me it wasn’t.”

[See the whole speech here.]rs_634x1024-160710073516-634-leslie-jones-cm-71016

But it’s not just Lupita. It’s also Leslie…

“When I was young, my dad always let me listen to comedy albums. I always knew about comedy, I always loved comedy. The day that I saw Whoopi Goldberg on television, I cried so hard, because I kept looking at my daddy going, ‘Oh my god. There’s somebody on TV that looks like me! She looks like me! Yay! I can be on TV! I can be on TV! I can do it! Look at her look at her! She looks just like me.’”

[See the whole video here.]

whoopie_goldberg-00089And it’s not just Lupita and Leslie. It’s also Whoopi…

“When Star Trek came on, I was 9 years old. And I saw this show and there you were and I ran through the house saying, ‘Hey! Come everybody! Quick! Quick! Look! There’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew from that moment that I could become anything I wanted to be.”

And if none of that convinces you that representation is important, go ahead and check out this list from BuzzFeed, and let their 23 examples get all up in your feels like they did mine.

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Good Representation

But it’s not just about representation. It’s about good representation.9b03fe0c254aa7d20c6376a05fc632d2

In a report from 2015, Dr. Martha Lauzen, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, analyzed the top 100 films from 2014 and found similar results as the report mentioned above, but she also found that female characters were generally younger than their male counterparts, less likely to be portrayed as leaders, and more likely to be identified by their personal rather than professional roles, such as “wife” or “mother.” Recently, Hidden Figures, a 2017 Oscar nominee for Best Picture (which also grossed $144m worldwide at the time of writing), has been a force for undoing the stereotype that a film with women in the lead roles won’t sell. The most recent Star Wars films, both of which have female leads and both of which have earned over $1b worldwide, have also gone a long way to prove the point. Of course, one year with several of these female led films isn’t enough.

grid-cell-5562-1468378667-4In my opinion, much worse is the poor representation that Black men receive, representation that has real-life consequences. Leigh Donaldson makes the case: “Not only does the media’s reluctance to provide more balanced perspectives of our African-American male population worsen cultural division among all people, it enables judges to hand out harsher sentences, companies to deny jobs, banks to decline loans and the police to shoot indiscriminately. The mass media is certainly aware of its vast power to shape popular ideas, opinions and attitudes. They should become equally cognizant of their role as a mechanism of social change for the better of all.”

If you disagree, here are a few reports that may challenge you:

What do we do about it?

“And the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering. And you make them stand up for themselves.

– Adele (to Beyonce)

imageIn response to Adele’s words, author and activist Ijeoma Oluo said, “Personally, I had a second of ‘huh?’ when Adele was speaking, but I saw that she was trying to do something different. She first said ‘me & my friends’ and then stopped & specifically added ‘my black friends’ – this is honoring our specific experience.” And that’s step #1:  Honor the specific experience of those who are not like you. Recognize that what’s being portrayed might mean more to someone else than it does to you, and that’s okay. 

Step#2: Use your position to create, promote, and showcase any media (music/tv/film/news) that does representation right. If you’re thinking, “What position?” read on: 

– If you’re a teacher, use resources (books and videos) with healthy representation.  (And if you can’t find any, get in touch. Y’all know I love to do some research! Seriously.) Here’s a great list for the little ones: 28 Black Picture Books.

– If you’re an artist, find ways to make your work diverse and inclusive.

– If you have any connection at all to Hollywood or a newsroom or a newspaper, encourage healthy representation and call out the unhealthy stuff.

And even if there’s no way you can use your job to promote or create healthy, diverse representation, you can still use your consumer power to make a positive difference. Acknowledge it. Support it. Point it out. Praise it. Go see Moonlight. Tell your friends about Atlanta. Watch Lemonade and stream Coloring Book. DVR Queen Sugar. Share that cool story from Upworthy

All people deserve to feel seen and heard, and with stats like the ones presented here, we can be sure that certain stories aren’t being told and certain people aren’t being seen and heard. And it is through stories that we learn, we grow, we empathize, we connect, and we must (and can) do better.

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For More Information (A section for updates)

  • Jon Cho on Representation – “Working so steadily, and so eclectically, doesn’t mean he’s choosing roles blithely. In this talk with Pop Culture Happy Hour host Linda Holmes, Cho presents as someone who’s thought deeply about the performances he undertakes — and those he pointedly doesn’t.”
  • Princess Shuri: The Hero We Needed | The Amherst Student – “The importance of representation in media cannot be understated. For too long the heroes children had to look up to were the James Bonds and the Indiana Joneses of the cinematic universe. Recently, female heroes have been creeping on to screen (i.e. Wonder Woman, Rey, the female Ghostbusters), but “Black Panther” brought new representation to people of color. In her article for Vanity Fair, Johanna Robinson wrote, ‘After a packed advance screening of Black Panther in Los Angeles last week, two young boys went bounding ahead of the crowd leaping for joy and punching the warm night air. They weren’t pretending to be Black Panther, or even another Wakandan warrior. They were pretending to be Shuri.’ Shuri is exactly the hero we need, and she’s exactly the hero that everyone wants. What these boys recognize is the enviable power of a young, female hero. And though it is the young women who may be able to more intimately see themselves reflected in Shuri, she provides an example for all young people for just what power they possess. The realm of representation on screen is only expanding and thus is bringing new meaning to what it means to be a hero.”

5th Tuesday Guest Post: Islam & Religious Freedom in America

Completely different religions can coexist in America just as easily as different denominations of Christianity. There aren’t campaigns where Methodist try to convert all Baptists, and churches with totally different beliefs collaborate to accomplish work in the community. The same type of collaboration is possible between churches and mosques.

by Josh Shelton

825810372208816128-png__700There’s debate about whether the recent executive order can fairly be called a “Muslim ban.” On the campaign trail, the proposal started as “a total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the US” and evolved into “extreme vetting.” When asked if the executive order had anything to do with religion, Former Mayor Giuliani also described the President’s intention as a “Muslim ban.” Legal permanent residents (with green cards) were also affected by this ban. Iraqi interpreters and other soldiers who fought and served alongside US troops are also barred from entering the US.

Whether the President intended to target Muslims or just possible terrorists, many Americans have a very hard time making any distinction between refugees, peaceful Muslims, and extremists.

Michael “Duke” Lowrie is a Bossier City candidate for the Louisiana House of Representatives this year, and he has proposed boycotting any business that employs a follower of Islam—not businesses making political or religious statements—literally any business with a Muslim employee. Lowrie went on to say, “I will challenge every Islamist (sic) I see to denounce their false god and religion. Those Islamist (sic) here walk among us in stores and we act as if they’re no different than any of us. Well I’m sorry they are different.” Far from being an isolated case of Islamophobia, Lowrie’s candidacy comes at a time when violence against Muslims has risen to post-9/11 levels.

Imagine if a politician was making these kinds of harsh statements about Catholics, Pentecostals, or Baptists. It may seem incomprehensible today, but there have been times when Americans were this paranoid about other groups of Christians.

Persecution of Christians in America

https3a2f2fblueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com2fuploads2fcard2fimage2f3649662f08147d4b-988a-4a3f-b23d-4f2838a2a4b5In spite of America’s historical emphasis on religious freedom, virtually every religious and ethnic group has faced paranoia and oppression at some point. Catholics and German immigrants are two noteworthy examples. Anti-Catholic sentiment was present even in the colonial era, such that the founding fathers made a point of being inclusive. In the Bible riots of 1844, Catholic homes and churches were destroyed. Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon faith) was killed by a mob the same year. Even as recently as 1960, JFK had to give a speech assuring voters that he would not “take orders from the Pope.” What’s interesting is that the average believer still has a very limited understanding about the differences between different branches of the Christian faith. Modern Baptists generally speaking aren’t more informed about Catholicism than their ancestors; they have just learned that coexistence is easy and beneficial. Denominations can have fundamentally different ideas about the path to salvation, and yet they can also collaborate on work in the community.

Elevated Tensions in Times of War

 

Language barriers, cultural differences, and the threat of concientiousobjectorsterrorist attacks all heighten people’s anxiety about Muslim immigrants. Again, history has relevant examples for comparison. Amish and Old Order Mennonites are now viewed positively as hard-working Christians adhering to a peaceful and simpler way of life. Back in WWII, however, these communities were viewed with extreme distrust. Why would someone come to America and refuse to integrate into our culture? Many communities still persist in speaking Pennsylvania Dutch instead of English, even after generations of living in America. Even more incomprehensible, many of these able-bodied men were conscientious objectors in a war against German and Japanese imperialism. To an unsympathetic observer, it was easy to see the Amish as Germans on American soil.

All across America—Texas, Washington, and Michigan all have entire towns dedicated to German culture. Turbans and mosques seem threatening to many Americans, and yet we have come to see towns of German immigrants as tourist attractions. People who lash out against Muslims also end up attacking people of completely different faiths. Over 500,000 American Sikhs practice a religion from Southern Asia, and yet they are routinely harassed by people who perceive them as Muslim.

“But Islam is Different”

Some people claim that Islam doesn’t deserve protection as a religion because it also has rules governing diet, clothing, and other lifestyle choices. Of course, any Christian who opens their Old Testament will see long lists of laws governing everything from diet to fabric choices. Others have spread misguided fear about “Sharia courts.” The truth is that Americans are woefully uninformed about Islam. We’ve been at war in the Middle East for decades, and yet Americans know only a handful of second-hand stereotypes about Islam.

shepard-fairey-inauguration-posters-design-graphics-illustration_dezeen_2364_sqa-1-411x411
A 2007 photo of Munira Ahmed was the basis for the poster made by Shepard Fairey.

Nearly half of Americans do not know a single Muslim, and a majority of Americans know either nothing at all (30%) or not very much (25%) about the Muslim religion and its practices.

With over 1.6 million adherents, Islam takes many different forms in different cultures. Still, the vast majority of believers are concerned about extremism and opposed to groups like ISIS. Peaceful Muslims are potential allies in the prevention of terrorist attacks. On the other hand, making life harder for all Muslims will play into the East-vs-West narrative presented by ISIS and other extremists.

Myths About Islam

While Americans know incredibly little about Islam, we have all heard a few catch phrases  of propaganda that make religious war seem inevitable. The most problematic falsehood is that “Christianity and Islam cannot coexist.” The religions can and do peacefully coexist in countries all around the world. I personally spent two years in Cameroon, a country that borders Nigeria. I lived in two Muslim towns with a Christian population around 20 percent. I witnessed more tension between Baptists and Catholics in Louisiana than between Christians and Muslims in Cameroon. It is not a perfect democracy, and yet Cameroon maintains a high degree of religious tolerance nationwide.

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A Methodist Pastor and a Muslim Imam collaborate together in Dallas.

Completely different religions can coexist in America just as easily as different denominations of Christianity. There aren’t campaigns where Methodist try to convert all Baptists, and churches with totally different beliefs collaborate to accomplish work in the community. The same type of collaboration is possible between churches and mosques. In Sweden, this kind of inter-faith cooperation has helped to find housing for refugees.

Founding fathers like Jefferson and Washington made it clear that America’s religious freedom extended to Muslims. Now, Christians must also determine a Christ-like response to refugees and immigrants with different cultures and faiths.

KARIM SULEMAN


For More Information…

MOST IMPORTANTLY….

Here’s a GUIDE to what you can do when you see Islamophobia in action.

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Making Multiculturalism Work

“There are practical reasons for keeping the doors open…The economic benefits are also self-evident, especially if full citizenship is the agreed goal. […] Our government repeats it, our statistics confirm it, our own eyes and ears register it: diversity fuels, not undermines, prosperity.” – Charles Foran

 

by Channon Oyeniran

In the post I wrote in November titled “Multiculturalism: A Primer,” I talked about what multiculturalism is, its benefits, and briefly discussed which countries adopted the concept of multiculturalism (Australia, Canada and the UK). Multiculturalism is defined as: “the peaceful coexistence of a culturally diverse or multiethnic populations in a country.” In a time when immigration and migration is ever increasing, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a closer look at why multiculturalism works in the Canadian city of Toronto and most other Canadian cities. I recently read an article by Charles Foran titled, “The Canada experiment:  is this the world’s first ‘postnational’ country?,” which you can find in its entirety here. It stated that as 2017 began, “…Canada may be the last immigrant nation left standing. Our government believes in the value of immigration, as does the majority of the population.”

harmony

Why is that? Why have multiculturalism and stable immigration policies worked for Canada? I think it’s important to look at this because this world is constantly changing, revolving and growing, and people are regularly moving and changing their locations (voluntarily or involuntarily) and where they choose to call home. I want to look at why this concept of multiculturalism works in Canada and hopefully show the benefits that can come along with it if other countries adopt it and work towards its main purpose.

Multiculturalism in Canada187345019_thinkstock_can-flags-multicultural-72dpi

A definition of multiculturalism in Canada’s Multiculturalism Policy specifically states that the “value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation.” Multiculturalism is a concept, introduced as policy in 1971, by then Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau (father of current prime minister Justin Trudeau). This formalized policy states that it will “protect and promote diversity, recognize the rights of Aboriginal peoples, and support the use of Canada’s two official languages.” The policies and an act surrounding multiculturalism in Canada have allowed people from all over the world to come and live in Canada, bringing with them their various cultures and traditions.

Multiculturalism has offered Canada the opportunity to be more diverse in every aspect of its society, whether it’s bringing new skills to a job, new ideas and thoughts to a classroom, or new food to a neighbourhood. Multiculturalism in Canada continues to bring together talented people who bring their innovative and interesting ideas and skills the country, thus allowing it to thrive! Also, because there are so many different people from other countries who have made Canada home, there is no single identity that Canada claims, as stated by current Prime Minister Trudeau. He said that,  “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.” Foran’s article states that, “The greater Toronto area is now the most diverse city on the planet, with half its residents born outside the country.” So with half of the people from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), born outside of Canada, there is no defining identity like some other nations that pride themselves on being French or British or American, for example.

Why does multiculturalism work in Canada?

canadian-flag-mosaic-by-tim-van-horn-2010Multiculturalism in Canada works for a variety of reasons, one of which being the stable immigration policies that have helped to shape the very fabric of our nation. Canada has been a well-accepted destination historically for immigration since the early twentieth century. Authors Stephen Castles and Mark Miller in their book, The Age of Migration -International Population Movements in the Modern World, say that: “Canada remains one of the few countries in the world with an active and expansive permanent immigration policy, which aims to admit the equivalent of 1 per cent of its total population of about 30 million each year.” Therefore since a steady and increase wave of immigration started in Canada after World War II, people from around the world, from all different backgrounds have settled in Canada and have called it home.

Benefits of Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism works in Canada because it’s preserved in our laws and the very fabric that makes up this nation. Here is why multiculturalism is a good thing and benefits multiculturalism-2012.pnga country who adopts it: Not only does multiculturalism allow different cultures to experience one another’s native foods, music, clothing, stories, but it allows people to be exposed and learn from different cultures, thus broadening the minds of the citizens who live in multicultural societies. Foran’s article also adds that, “There are practical reasons for keeping the doors open…The economic benefits are also self-evident, especially if full citizenship is the agreed goal.[…] Our government repeats it, our statistics confirm it, our own eyes and ears register it: diversity fuels, not undermines, prosperity.”

How YOU can get involved…

Keep reading, because this is the important bit!! Whether or not you live in a country that fully practices or accepts multiculturalism, there are ways for you to embrace multiculturalism in your own life. 

The trouble arises when we are not spreading love or understanding for people in our own neighborhoods who are different from us. They might be of different backgrounds, identities or faiths. Practicing love and understanding should be a norm for everyone. The dream to travel and see the world starts in our own towns.

Becoming culturally competent, diverse and inclusive involves knowledge, attitudes, and skills that may seem overwhelming for any individual or agency to achieve. It is important to remain aware that cultural groups are not homogeneous in beliefs and practices

  1. Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures.
  2. Invite a family or people in the neighborhood from another culture or religion to share a meal with you and exchange views on life.
  3. Rent a movie or read a book from another country or religion than your own.
  4. Invite people from a different culture to share your customs.
  5. Read about the great thinkers of other cultures than yours (e.g. Confucius, Socrates, Avicenna, Ibn Khaldun, Aristotle, Ganesh, Rumi).
  6. Go next week-end to visit a place of worship different than yours and participate in the celebration.
  7. Play the “stereotypes game.” Stick a post-it on your forehead with the name of a country. Ask people to tell you stereotypes associated with people from that country. You win if you find out where you are from. 
  8. Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures; learn more about Hanukkah or Ramadan or about amazing celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Spain or Qingming festival in China.
  9. Spread your own culture around the world through our Facebook page and learn about other cultures.
  10. Explore music of a different culture.

People want to learn, and when they come together to share the experience of knowledge, social divisions often dissolve. When spaces are programmed to celebrate diverse cultures and histories, there is an even greater impact. The power of learning and exploring should not be underemphasized.

Multicultural education is more than celebrating Cinco de Mayo with tacos and piñatas or reading the latest biography of Martin Luther King Jr. It is an educational movement built on basic American values such as freedom, justice, opportunity, and equality.


For more information…

2017: “But what can we do?!”

Some days it doesn’t feel like enough. In fact, a lot of days it feels like the little things I do aren’t enough to make any difference at all. But if none of us do anything because all of us feel like it’s not enough, then nothing will ever get better. We need EVERYBODY to play a part: liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, independent… EVERYBODY. If we ALL do what we can, I promise we can have #ABetterNextYear.

by Michelle Palmer

On the second to last day of 2016, I was eating dinner with friends, and we were talking politics (I know, I know…it’s against the rules, but we did it anyway). I’m not sure we were so much talking politics as we were lamenting them. And eventually, inevitably the question came: “But what can we do?!?!”

I’ve been thinking of that question a lot ever since. “But what can we do?!?!” Turns out, there’s quite a lot.

(SIDENOTE: If you don’t lament the current state of politics as I do, you are still absolutely and unequivocally invited to join us in our quest for justice & freedom for all! I know several people who voted for the incoming administration for very specific reasons but are not necessarily on board with every decision and position, and if that’s you, you are ESPECIALLY invited! Please continue to use your voice. We don’t have to agree on everything to work together.)

#ABetterNextYear

Immediately, my friend Sarah’s December project came to mind. She called it #ABetterNextYear, and every day she did something to end 2016 on a positive note and set up 2017 to be BETTER. (So inspiring!!) Her own words are better than mine:

“I knew there were a number of things I wanted to do to bring my life more in line with my values, like moving from a large bank to a local credit union, subscribing to more media publications, increasing our charitable giving, and connecting more with neighbors and friends. […] It was also a way to push me out of my comfort zone: I connected to a local anti-racism group and committed to deeper work with them in the year ahead, I made calls to voters and elected officials to advocate for progressive causes, and I put my children’s book manuscript back out in the world in hopes of finding a publisher.

[…] I especially valued that it gave me a reason every day to think about how my actions impact those around me. It showed me how easy it can be to work for the world I envision, step by step, even through the smallest of acts.

I love that! “It showed me how easy it can be to work for the world I envision, step by step, even through the smallest of acts.”2017.jpg

Okay, I get it. Some days it doesn’t feel like enough. In fact, a lot of days it feels like the little things I do aren’t enough to make any difference at all. But if none of us do anything because all of us feel like it’s not enough, then nothing will ever get better. We need EVERYBODY to play a part:  liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, independent… EVERYBODY. If we ALL do what we can, I promise we can have #ABetterNextYear.

In addition to all of Sarah’s ideas, here are a few based on our topics here at Tuesday Justice:

Race & Multiculturalism

Check out Channon’s Multiculturalism Primer

Remember that Black History matters, and figure out ways to learn more, share more, celebrate more this February than ever before!

Join us in fighting racism through empathy and experience: White People, Let’s Fix This, Part I and Part II.

Join in or support a peaceful protest for civil rights.

Modern Slavery:

Join Free the Slaves in recognizing Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month: “New Year, New Congress, New President, New Possibilities”

Learn about modern slavery with our Modern Slavery Primer

Find out more and get involved with an anti-slavery organization like International Justice Mission or Free the Slaves.

Social Justice:

Watch 13th, and then read our Companion to 13th to find out about several organizations doing work to end mass incarceration.  

And if criminal justice reform is dear to your heart, here’s an excellent resource! http://harvardlawreview.org/2017/01/the-presidents-role-in-advancing-criminal-justice-reform/

LOUISIANA FOLKS, this is for you! Make Louisiana better for women → http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/01/louisiana_women_rankings.html

https://igniteforchange.org/

Even as I type out this list, it feels painfully inadequate. But I have to tell myself what I told you already…We need everybody to play a part. I hope and I pray and I believe that you, dear readers, can find something either here or in your heart that you can do to make 2017 #ABetterNextYear.


Here are a few more links about what you can do to resist, protest, and fight for what’s right:

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