Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'Yeah, I'm biracial"

Yeah, I’m biracial. I can tell you stories on how the first two rows of my synagogue were occupied by the Chinese side of my family on the day of my Bat Mitzvah, on how people would ask my mother if she was my baby-sitter when she would take me places as a toddler, on delicate explanations as to why my father can’t eat the shrimp because it violates the concept of kosher.

But if you want to hear them, find me in the halls. See me after this column. Because we spend way too much time squinting at our skin, peering within ourselves, trying to see the different shades of our own depth, or trying on different lenses with which we can notice the different oddities and scars of the people.

Yes, self-reflection plays a role in the exploration of diversity because we are partially defined and completely influenced by our various heritages. And sure, relating to people of our own cultural backgrounds is fun and fascinating, but we’re just watching the boundaries that separate people.

In a world of the internet and hourly flights to places across the globe, the boundaries that once existed are melting away.

Clubs that focus on their own respective races and cultures aren’t really applicable in this quickly amalgamating international climate because they are enforcing boundaries. Sure, these clubs are helpful for further understanding of individual cultures, but perhaps we should explore cross-cultural exchange and revel the accepting atmosphere of a single club dedicated to the celebration of cultural connections and unity across all peoples.

There is an aching world beyond the borders of Marlborough with which we are increasingly coming into contact thanks to the phenomenon of globalization. Case in point: we just had an all-school assembly showing us first-hand photos and relating to us personal accounts of the hardships people endure in Africa, a continent that’s half a world away but is actually becoming closer than it seems.

Our world, which was once divided by entities such as nationality and spheres of influence, is now becoming one massive global community in which ideas, cultures, and people are colliding more than ever before. As rising global citizens, we need to be aware of and embrace this new community.

The world isn’t waiting for us to finish our self-exploration or school-wide connections that Marlborough’s diversity efforts foster before we can connect to the entire globe.

I’m not advocating an all-school field trip to Africa, but increased connection and communication with institutions across the globe such as the Chimosa School, and further integration of global happenings across the school curriculum can help us broaden the mind set with which we consider the community we are a part of.

This community is no longer just Marlborough School or Los Angeles – it is quickly becoming a global community.

We need to embrace it.

Column by Sarah

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Face It: Are there enough newcomers to the retreat each year to really discuss new ideas about diversity?


This school year was kicked off by the annual upper school Face-It diver­sity retreat. According to my friend and organizer Jasmin Harvey, the overnight seminar was filled with heartfelt dis­cussions, thoughtful insight on racial, socio-economic, and gender topics, and the exciting night games of a sleepover. Unfortunately, I could not attend Face It this year. Because of my busy schedule of SAT work, college applications, and schoolwork, I could only experience Face-It vicariously through the anecdotes of my friends.

The sadness I felt in missing Face- It made me reflect on the overall structure of the retreat. Because the diversity in­tensive demands 31 hours of the week­end, it puts a severe time constraint on the students that participate. Although the Marlborough faculty endorses the participation of the multi-cultural pro­gram, most do not make schoolwork provisions that would make the stu­dent’s load more manageable. Those reasons, and my mother, persuaded me to miss the retreat.

I know this time management issue forces students like myself, who love to share diversity, to miss the intensive for other obligations. Furthermore, the inflex­ibility of teachers to extend deadlines or excuse homework discourages the admittance of new members and further deter students who have not had the experiences from previ­ous years to encourage them to apply again.

Although Face-It is a fantastic retreat, this time issue can negatively affect Face- It in the future because it is affecting the support of the program. The purpose of Face-It is to spread a diverse awareness of the school community, but the retreat cannot achieve that if new members of the student body fail to join, because those willing to make time are often already ac­cepting of diverse backgrounds.

The school should provide an incen­tive to attend the retreat, like a no-home­work weekend for attendees, in order to pull new members to the program. If the same participants come every year, they will probably learn something new, but the goal of total community involvement is not reached. A no-homework weekend would encourage new students from dif­ferent grades to be exposed and hopefully head the program when the upper school students leave for college.

As an alumni participant of Face-It, I would like to spread the word about the great change they enacted in myself in two days. I want the student body to feel less pressured by outside obligations, and by creating a no-homework weekend for participants, students will be able to de­vote all their attention to becoming more accepting.

-Taylor '10


At Marlborough it’s easy for the students’ voices to get lost. Though Marlborough is a private school that embraces diversity, there are still issues within the school that need attention

Face-It, Marlborough’s diversity retreat invites everyone to combat this and speak out without judgment or punishment. At the retreat we discuss issues such as sexual orientation, race, economic status, political views, and religion.

I am proud to say that Face-It has been going strong for four years, and each year new students have participated, a perfect example of Marlborough’s evolution and growing attention towards tolerance.

I have attended Face-It for the past three years, the maximum amount offered, but this year was different for me. Although we did the same exercises, I had different emotions and opinions.

This year I was the senior, thus the leader. With this position, I had to sit back and let everyone else speak. In doing that I learned more about the other students and became enlightened by what they had to say.

I wanted to be that senior at Face-It who makes everyone feel comfortable and have fun and who reaches out to the younger girls to make them feel welcome.

Although almost half of the students at Face-It were new, the overall number of girls attending decreased this year. But even though not as many people attended, in a way, it created a positive effect.

With almost fifty girls, the space was intimate, safe, and open, destroying any fear of judgment and encouraging girls to speak out.

So while I am an advocate for diversity and tolerance and would like everyone who can attend Face-It to do so, I now know that a small group also creates advantages.

The one thing I would like to change about Face-It is the type of person who attends. At this point, most of the attendees are already advocates for diversity and tolerance and are ready to speak out about their issues and issues at Marlborough.

In future years, I would like to see those who haven’t spoken out, but who are curious about what Face-It represents – especially seniors.

Seniors are about to leave the Marlborough bubble and step out into the real world. At Face-It we learn to discuss and speak out on real world issues, and it prepares us to make changes in our community, and the world.

-Jasmin '10

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Affirmative action creates equal opportunity for the benefit of all

As the first early admittance letters arrived during the fall, crude comments spread through the school in regards to my friends’ acceptance into college. “She only got in because she is black,” rang through the halls. Students came to me with that same audacity and said, “I don’t know how they got in, I’m really surprised,” and “You have such an advantage because you’re black.” The worst was, “I need to get poor or have some tragedy in my life so I can get in too.” This incident clearly displays the oblivion and ignorance of our student body.

Affirmative action is a broad, controversial and complex term often used incorrectly. How schools are allowed to consider race in admissions varies from state to state and between public and private schools. Some, like UC schools, are not allowed use affirmative action at all. Other schools, including many that Marlborough students apply to, may use different forms of it. Some might directly consider race in choosing students, and some might consider a candidate’s “life experience,” such as what neighborhood they grew up in or what high school they attended, which can be easily tied to race.

I agree with colleges that use it, because it gives opportunities to highly qualified people who might not otherwise get them. The term “affirmative action” has its origin in President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925, which established a presidential committee to evaluate equal employment opportunities. One of the main goals of the order was to have the panel recommend action to “promote and ensure equal opportunity for all qualified persons, without regard to race, creed, color or national origin.” As Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Affirmative action is the primary tool to promote minorities who have been historically discriminated against. America’s history shows whites enslave and oppress blacks, Native Americans, and other minorities, who suffered through brutal punishments and unpaid labor and who were denied the most fundamental rights of our Constitution. What whites did in the past led to setbacks and challenges for all minorities that still affect us today.

Also, affirmative is about more than cultural minorities – it’s also about gender. Women have been one of the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, so at an all-girls school like Marlborough, we all need to realize that affirmative action helps all of us. Instead of criticizing affirmative action, we should look at the facts and embrace it.

It is NOT reverse discrimination. There is a difference between a majority discriminating against a minority and a majority discriminating against itself. When a majority that controls the decision-making makes a choice to advantage a minority while disadvantaging itself, it’s not discrimination. A better term would be “reduced opportunity,” where a long-lived privileged group agrees to lose some its long-lived privileges.

In reality, a college will not admit a student with a GPA of a 2.0 or a low SAT/ACT scores just because he or she is a minority. When students overcome adversity due to the status of the high school they attended, discrimination, or their other difficult life experiences, they are break stereotypes and the status quo, and they deserve help and a chance to go to a top-ranked college. Also, affirmative action benefits college campuses as a whole. The job of admissions officers is to bring in not just the best academic class, but the most diverse class possible. It would be foolish to believe that a community made up entirely by the same people with the same backgrounds and grades could provide the same range of perspectives as a diverse student body.

I do admit affirmative action is an advantage, but in today’s world it is a necessity. Human nature is to gravitate toward those who look like you and act like you. Members of the majority are unlikely to disadvantage themselves without a policy in place to guide them. Despite the fact that we have a black president, racism and discrimination still exist. Outside of this bubble that we call Marlborough, I have personally been called names, ignored and followed through stores. I receive looks of disbelief and surprise when I say I attend Marlborough, as if I’m not smart enough or don’t have the money to attend such a school. Even on my way to Larchmont, trash and soda cans were thrown at a friend and me by a car of white boys.

It is impossible to put a date on when affirmative action will no longer be needed. Many people believe that today everyone is pretty much equal and are given equal opportunities, but unfortunately this is false. Once a society is built on discrimination, that discrimination is hard to erase. Once a majority with power is created, it defends itself. Once people oppress others and achieve economic superiority, it is hard to change the impact of the wrongs they cause. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for a society to reach absolute equality. Until it does, affirmative action is a necessity.

by Jasmin '10

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Race in the Election

The UltraViolet December 2008

Setting aside your political beliefs and however you may feel about the outcome of this election, when you look at it from a diversity standpoint, there is definitely something to be proud of and excited about.

Barack Obama, an African- American man and the democratic candidate, ran against John McCain, a Caucasian man and the republican candidate. As I am sure you already know, my fellow students, this is a huge deal.

Although I and most of you reading this were not alive during the Civil Rights Movement, we need to remember that it was not long ago that many Americans were fighting for rights which seem somewhat trivial to us now. Only fifty years ago, Obama and McCain would not even have been able to drink from the same water fountain without serious consequences.

Despite the time it has taken us to do it, America has taken a huge step in diversifying our nation and, more specifically, in diversifying our government. Whether you are white, black, Hispanic, or any other race, Americans are starting to feel good about the steps we are taking towards creating a more inclusive country.

In Marlborough’s African-American Culture Club AACE (shameless plug: You guys should come Friday at lunch in C220 it’s really fun!), we have made it a part of our club’s weekly discussions leading up to the election to set aside some time to talk about this great African- American man’s achievement and about how things are playing out. It is not the young Democrats
club or the young Republican’s club so I can’t speak for everyone in the club’s political views, but I’m sure I can speak for the majority of the club when I say this election has generated a general sense of pride.

Just like many other African-American heroes, Obama has heightened the status of African- Americans across the country. By making it this far in the election (keep in mind I am writing this not knowing the outcome), he has already done something that no other African- American has ever done.

So, to me, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the “Bradley effect” has played a role in this election. The way I see it, Obama has already started to pave a new road for minorities and for all Americans.

-Arielle ‘09

What is “acting black”?

The UltraViolet October 2008

To be black today can be bewildering. How do you “act black?” Is it sitting in the hall beat boxing in a circle with your girls, or is it walking, talking and strutting your stuff with an attitude, being loud, or is it wearing the latest Jordans and Nikes to school? What is it?

If you think you’re the only one confused, think again. Many African Americans like me are confused about how to see themselves.

Despite common stereotypes, not all African Americans have the same values and cultural traditions. We all come from different backgrounds and realities. Those in upper, middle, and lower class neighborhoods can have totally different experiences from one another. Essentially what I am trying to say is that not every black person will have the answers to your cultural questions and will “act black.” We all really are different.

Take a journey in the shoes of middle class black America to understand what I am saying. In today’s society, there are many black middle class kids. Speaking as one of these kids, at times it can be confusing to figure out where I belong. Do I revert to the so called “bouche” side where I would be considered acting white? Or do I revert to the side where I’m considered “ghetto”?

Being black and in the middle can mean a hard road and some get-lost-in-confusion, losing your true identity. Middle class black kids, as well as many others, have it hard when they are forced to figure out where they stand. We’re a little too bouche to be “acting black” and not bouche enough to be upper class, “classy.” But do we really have to stand on any side of the line? No! There is no way to “act black.”

People don’t walk around saying “Hey, you’re acting Asian because you got an A on your test.” It’s the same concept. We cannot make such broad generalizations.

There is no way to “act Black.” Sure, there are certain parts of our culture than many Black people accept as a part of themselves, but that doesn’t mean all the stereotypes are true.

On a real note, there is no way to act anything except to act like you. Being real is being you. It’s not fronting about who you are. It’s feeling like wearing purple and green high tops and feeling like you look good in them and not caring what other people think. It’s not trying to be all of the stereotypes that have historically burdened your race. You are so much more than your race. Don’t let others hold you to a standard and degrade you to a judgment. Acting black, Asian, white, Latino, and any other race, means being yourself.

- Ashtynn ‘09 (founder of Common Ground)

Intolerance in the family?

The UltraViolet May 2008

By Ali ‘09

When I first heard about this diversity column, I was a bit surprised. Living in a liberal city that is inhabited by every shape, color, and diverse diversity possible, I thought Marlborough especially had somehow overcome these lines of segregation. I never thought that such prejudice and division would be present in our community.
Well, last week, I was proved wrong. My uncle just sent me another one of those frustrating, disgusting, spam-ridden emails that suggest that America is going to hell because …Barack Obama is a Muslim.

The pictures depict an America where Playboy models are cloaked, where gas prices are exorbitantly ridiculous, and where the national fast food chain (boldly named McHammed’s) oppresses billions of people a day.
This angered and still angers me to no end. On a political level, after the ridiculous Jeremiah Wright controversy, I thought people had finally realized that Obama is, in fact, not a Muslim.
On a religious and biological level, I thought people realized that religion is not a genetically inherited trait. Just because Obama’s father was a Muslim does not mean he is a Muslim. And even if he was, please explain to me why America will henceforth be succumbed to the perceived “evils” of Islam.
Whether my uncle was trying to influence my political bias or just send me some “comical” pictures, the responsibility is now in my hands and those of the 27 other people that received the forward from my uncle. Defending a clear use of stereotyping is easy, but it seems once the issue becomes personal, the proper response becomes more difficult.
This fear-mongering message that stereotypes Muslims as evil is propagated continually because people simply click “send,” but the truth is, I’m not doing anything to stop this exponential growth.
No, I didn’t respond to my uncle in a vehement, strongly worded email, for my obvious upset has been overshadowed by the family dynamics with my uncle, who is already the ugly duckling in the family. No, I’m probably not going to express my personal disgust with his ignorance, because…well, I suppose in order to maintain the partial sense of sanity in my family.
The dilemma is: when issues become more than just an issue discussed at a Presidential debate, the “right action” isn’t taken. Regardless of whether this is my shortcoming or the “norm,” I think I have realized why Marlborough has this diversity column: for my sake, for my uncle’s, or for anyone else who has been on either side of this seeming petty situation.

Afraid of the Afro in the window?

The UltraViolet December 2008

By Julie ‘09

Every day I pass the Runway boutique on La Brea Avenue on my way to school. I have seen it every morning and afternoon for the last five years. In the window, it advertises things like local designers, art shows, and vintage clothing. Every few days they change the window dressing and often I find myself admiring the clothes displayed. Despite all this, I had never gone inside. This is because next to all of the appealing advertisements in the window, there is a huge picture of a black woman. The pictured shows a gorgeous, curvy black model sporting an Afro.

My reluctance to go into Runway was not a racist decision, but one of intimidation. I felt it would be awkward if I were to walk into this store that I pass twice a day and that sells clothes I really like, because I am white. As a white girl living in West Los Angeles, what would I have to write about racism, you might ask? Throughout elementary school I heard the spiel about multi-ethnic rainbows, tolerance, and appreciating differences. Every year since I entered school I attended a dozen assemblies emphasizing the same clichés about creating a color-blind world. Other than those lectures, I never felt I had much experience with prejudice. In my case, I think I just accepted the message and let it go, passing it off because I am a white girl who isn’t actively racist, so obviously, it doesn’t pertain to me.

But how much has all the talk done, if, in my own life, I still make distinctions based on race? This question really stuck with me and nagged me as I continued to pass Runway twice a day. Was I going to let a picture discourage me from shopping there? Finally, I decided it absolutely should not. All the talk I had heard about racism would not change society if I, one individual, didn’t welcome ideas of tolerance and diversity into my own life.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, I decided I would go inside the store. I have to admit I was a little more than nervous as I walked inside. I was greeted with a friendly “Hello” from the clerk, a smiling black woman with braids and a scarf in her hair. A quiet sigh of relief took over me as I browsed the racks. I was much more comfortable at Runway than I had expected to be. I had a blast hanging out in the store and took my time looking at everything. I felt just as at ease in this store as I would have if the model in the window had been white.

When I went into the store that day, I realized I was wrong to have dismissed the clichés about prejudice. Although I am not stereotypically racist, before that day I had subconsciously made the decision not to go into Runway because of my race. That afternoon the message I had heard since first grade finally sunk in: as long as we continue to segregate ourselves, it’s impossible to have a color-blind world.

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