Week 1

What we discussed last week in our break-out group was how we learn best. I like a multi-faceted approach--watch a short video, read, think, talk --maybe with someone I don't agree with, think, write, discuss... --- for me learning takes time.
I am hoping to learn more about race and ethnicity as it plays out in the classroom. Students should be determining their own identity--racially and otherwise; we shouldn't be labeling anyone, but that's how it often plays out. How can educators facilitate self-actualization? What can we produce in class that might help teachers reach all our students from diverse backgrounds. Since I like a variety of media in learning materials, I think other teachers might like a video, a podcast, a short pamphlet, a panel discussion... there are a variety of directions we could go in.
I also am personally interested in race and ethnicity in my family. My kids embrace both Ukrainian and Chinese ethnicities, so we do things like put keilbasa in our fried rice, but they still have to pick one box on school forms and they are often labeled as Hispanic based on their appearance.
Looking forward to class....

Identity and me 2015-02-09 22:30:00

 The question that has been racing through my head is why did I take this class? The answer is simple and straightforward on the surface, but like an iceberg, it is much deeper than I even know at this point. Despite growing up in public housing the question of race and identity was not one I struggled with. I grew up in a mostly African American and Hispanic neighborhood and did not know that to many I seemed different and that my friends seemed different. I did not know about income inequality, unequal educational inequality, globalization, the destruction of manufacturing jobs, redlining, race riots, and all the other major events that helped create the disparity that existed right in my own city of Elizabeth NJ. Yes, a part of me knew that just down the street there existed a different reality from the one I was experiencing, but I did not internalize none of this. Instead, I was just an average bilingual kid who was always happy.

I can still vividly remember the day I had my first internalization of racial differences. I was in the library checking out a book about Greek civilization and my Godmother asked me why I was checking out that book. I stated that it looked really interesting, and then she proceeded to ask why I didn't study ancient native Caribbean civilizations or something more of "my" people. I reacted with shock and horror. I stated that ALL civilizations were of my people. I didn't understand why they were not my people just because their skin tone was lighter than me. She told me that "they" would never accept me. While today I, more or less, understand what my Godmother was trying to do and express, it still does not take away from the sense of rejection I felt when she stated those words that I would never belong. It would be many years before I experienced discrimination and racism that brought me back to that memory. Was my Godmother right? Not completely, but I would be a liar to say that I do not question my ability to belong because of superficial reasons that should not matter. While today I can stand proudly as a minority man, there were times where I wished I was more of the norm and wished for the average childhood depicted in shows like The Wonder Years. Those shows painted a picture that was so different of my own reality and for a long time all I wanted was to have that reality.

I took this class not only to learn about the power of language in race and ethnicity, but in reality I took this class in order to discover about my place and my identity. I feel as if my experiences growing up give a human portrait to the issues of identity and race. This portrait is what is currently inspiring me to think of an individual project that involves interviewing various people from my old neighborhood and gauging how they have actually dealt with issues of race, language, and identity. Having a theoretical framework is always useful, but I want to discover how the issues of race, language, and identity play out in every day life. In the classroom we are currently in contains over 20 human beings that have had their own personal journeys in which they have dealt with or not death with issues of race and identity. Perhaps by I interviewing them I would discover not only about their identities but about my very own identity as well. This individual project could then evolve into self portraits about ourselves that we can put together to present to the world......Why did I take this class? I took this class in order to discover more my own story and the stories of others. In short, I took this class in order to get a closer look at the human condition.

Blog #1

As discussed in our very first class in our individual groups, my group made some great points focussing on race and identity. For the most part, all I know is that my mother's side of the family is completely Italian. As for my father's side of the family, I am not quite sure. I know that I am partially Ukranian from his side, but other than that, I am left in the dark about my origins. I had very few relatives on his side of the family, all of which were gone before I was born, therefore; it would be impossible to gather information through family, which would make this a bit of a challenge.

I would love to delve deeper into my own identity, and since I cant do that through living relatives, I would have to get creative. I could explore the options by researching maiden names of family members or even something like ancestry.com could play a key role. However, I think I could get more solid results from a blood test (which I have always wanted to get done out of curiosity). The blood test locates each part of the world that your family is from. I know that it can not pinpoint exact areas, but it does give general locations. So since I am partially Italian, the blood test would locate Europe. I think it would be completely interesting to see my whole family history spread out on a map showing each location that defines who I am. Also, this would allow me to see how my heritage has effected me as a writer, a learner, and the person that I am today.

I would also love to learn about other individuals journeys to find out their complete backgrounds if there are still some unknown pieces of their family history puzzle that they have yet to put together just like I have. I think it would be an interesting idea to share background histories and stereotypes from our own points-of-view and how it has effected us growing up and formed us to be the writers that we are today. 

  • Standards... 
  • Traditions... 
  • The social "norm"... that creates us as individuals. 

We have such a diverse class and I think this idea of sharing our backgrounds and how it effects us as writers and learners could really give us so much more knowledge on the subject than any type of text book ever could.

Starting Out on Our #WritingRace Journey Blog #1

I found it interesting this week that after our class my eyes and ears became mission seeking devices used to obtain information about race and ethnicity. Were people talking about it? How present is it in our society? On TV? In the news? On Facebook even? And what I discovered was that people were discussing race and ethnicity everywhere! There was evidence from watching John Stewart making Jewish grandma jokes, to an article I found on Facebook from the NY Times about a fascinating new book that takes on an anthropological view about how children are raised all over the world, to a great story on CNN about young Native Americans celebrating their culture and discussing the balance between keeping true to their native identities and wanting/needing to blend into American culture (the portrait series "Red Road" that inspired the story includes beautiful and conversational photos). 

So what do all of my thinking and findings mean? Well it means that if anyone didn't think our course was important before, they should now, as conversation about race and ethnicity is happening everywhere. Also, it means that I've been thinking. And thinking. And thinking...about what I would really like to create for this course. In all actuality, I know that I am nowhere near being called tech savvy, more like tech spazzy. This is the first time I am really utilizing Twitter. I don't think I'm the person who is going to make a webcast or even create a movie as that will be crazy challenging for me, but that doesn't mean I do not want to do something important and meaningful for both myself and my own learning process and for the class and my peers. I feel that my short observations and findings this week as well as my love of reading personal narratives over the years shows that people have stories to tell and they want to tell them. They want to be heard. I was thinking of creating a possible project based on interview sessions I would hold with people of diverse backgrounds. After conducting the interviews, I would compare/analyze the findings. In addition, I think as a class I would love to find essays or short personal narratives to read and discuss over the course of the semester. I think this would be engaging and lead to memorable discussions. Finally, perhaps we can create some sort of culminating project at the end where we tell our own stories, an online narrative. Perhaps it can come across as a collection of essays or personal narratives of our own inspired by those that we've read???? We can include photos or artwork to enhance our stories.

I'm sure I will be inspired by others as the class shares out ideas. There is, in the back of my  mind, a possible desire to pursue something in the educational field as well. I just haven't really come up with a concrete idea. However, wanting to push myself a bit out of my comfort zone towards a project that interests me (like the interviews) feels a little exciting (as it is only a thought right now). I am very curious to see what others are thinking up in their heads as we seem to have many wonderful minds at work in our class. Until Tuesday...