Thursday, March 31, 2011

The After-Shocks of Racism in America By: Emily

History helps people understand the present. If history is not studied or understood, it repeats itself in a slightly more modern way. Learning about history informs and explains why cultures are the way they are. As a child I was baffled by the idea that people would be divided based on the color of their skin as I finished watching “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”. My skin color changed when summer finally showed up and then changed again when winter came back with a vengeance; I could not grasp that people would be judged based on an ever changing idea of race. As I grew up I realized it was not just the people today that had these strange beliefs but the people before them, and the people before them. I learned that values and beliefs were based and influenced by beliefs that have existed since the beginning of the United States.

The class watched the video Race: the Color of Illusion a few weeks ago, which described the impact slavery and other forms of oppression have on America’s current society. The fact that housing value decreases when African Americans move into the neighborhood upset me to my core. It is not a matter of new beliefs but remnants of views that existed hundreds of years ago. In the Elk v. Wilkins case of 1884, John Elk was looking to gain citizenship in America. Due to his Native American race, the court decided against him (As excerpted in Rothenberg, 2010, pp.54-541). According to the court documents, though Elk was geographically born in the United States, he did not belong to the white group and therefore was not a citizen based on his place of birth. He would have to have been born white to qualify for citizenship (Rothenberg, 2010). This case example demonstrates a current phenomenon. If a person does not look “American” (i.e. white) then that person will run into the question “Where are you from?” Though the person may have been born here, they are considered to others to be foreign or not American. This microaggression stems back to years of court cases on the subject of citizenship where the courts decided citizenship based on race.

Current issues such as housing depreciation and microaggressions can be traced back to beliefs of ancestors that continue to linger in society. History can help people grasp the reasons why society continues to battle these issues, even if they look slightly different, and also can help formulate remedies to these mind-blowing beliefs.

Elk v. Wilkins. In P. S. Rothenberg (Ed.). Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study (pp. 540-541). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Response to a Student’s Rant about Asians

When spring break started, I was super excited to set the concepts and theories that I learned in class aside and just relax. However, I soon discovered a youtube video that got me thinking about these concepts ( I was very surprise by the content in the video. The video was made by a student, who is white, at University of California, Los Angeles. Basically the video was about the student’s frustration with her Asian peers. When I first saw it, I didn’t think much of it and I found it to be pretty funny. I watched it a second time and I felt pretty offended. I wasn’t sure if I should take her comments as something racist or not. I wasn’t really sure what she intended to say or truly meant. I was confused and I’m still asking myself if this video is something that needs to be addressed as much as it has been. Right when I realized that I was questioning my feelings on what she says in the video, I thought about the concept of micro-aggression. According to Sue, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, and Esquilin (2007), they described micro-aggression as a small behavior towards an individual or group that is either intentional or unintentional and it can also be seen as an insult. However, I felt that her message was very clear and something more than just a small insult or such. This student offended so many people that many of them started responding back to it. The student even received e-mails and threat messages so she is in great danger right now.

During my whole spring break, this video was constantly brought up and I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. It really made me think about things that I have learned and discussed with others in social work 280. In the video, the student mentioned that she has a problem with how Asian students always have their family members around in the dorms to help with laundry, dishes and more. Immediately, I thought about culture differences between me, an Asian student, and her. Many Asian cultures including mine are family oriented, and it is very different from the American culture where it emphasizes individual more. I wondered if she knew that. Or, did she need to be educated about our culture? I also thought about the social contact theory. The contact theory involves an individual to have contact with people who are different from them in order to reduce prejudice. According to the Marsiglia and Kulis (2009), “ prejudice is an expression of people’s unfamiliarity with each other and the inhumanity they carry within from an early age” (p 71). I definitely tried to figure out where she was coming from and asked myself if she really had friends from the Asian culture. I thought that University of California was very well rounded by Asians immigrants so I was definitely confused by her take on Asian people.

There were many things that she said and that really led me to question my feelings about her video. It’s been a week and I still can’t figure how to respond. I don’t completely understand my reaction to this video. This video really makes me question her thoughts on what “American Manners” and if she considered that we, too, are Americans. I still sorting through my feelings and thought about this video. I can’t figure how I am really feeling about this video. Should I be offended? Am I? How do I respond to her and not sound racist or deceive her? I am also still thinking about things that I have discussed in social work 280 such as conformity, discrimination, privilege, identity and more to help me to understand my feelings. Although I am confused about my feelings, one thing is clear: I hope that no one will be physical hurt from this video.


Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression and change: Culturally grounded social work. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri J. M., Holder, A. M.B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286

UCLA Girl’s Asian Rant. Retrieved from:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An Example of Systemic Racism in Modern America By Jessie

Did you know that low-income communities of color have 50 percent fewer grocery stores within the radius of their neighborhoods than their higher income, predominately white counterparts (Treuhaft &Karpyn, 2011)? Or that in low-income supermarkets there is 20 percent less produce available, and what is available is 30 percent more expensive (CCPHA, 2008)? Finally, are you aware that adults who live more than a mile away from a supermarket are 25 to 46 percent less likely to have a diet rich in nutrients, leading to an increased risk for developing diabetes, liver disease and heart disease (Treuhaft & Karpyn, 2011)? If you are like me, then your answer is probably no, you did not realize that this was the case.

The lack of food access in low-income, minority neighborhoods is an example of systemic racism. According to Marsiglia and Kulis (2009), systemic racism is a form of discrimination that has been adopted into the systems of our society and become commonplace. It seems fair to assert that most people who live outside urban areas do not realize that food access is even an issue: it is so ordinary that we don’t even consider the inequality behind it. Therefore, we are playing into systemic racism and we don’t even know it.

When we do gain awareness of the issue however, it can be tempting to find ways to rationalize it. For example, we may argue that cities have a lot less land to develop grocery stores on, that the stores really aren’t that much further apart, or that there are likely other reasons behind the poor health members of low-income minority neighborhoods face. By doing this, we are engaging in another form of racism: naturalization. Naturalization is a “frame to normalize events that could otherwise be interpreted as racially motivated” (Bonilla-Silvia, 2001, p. 134). When we are grabbing for excuses to explain why things are the way they are, we are attempting to naturalize the issue as opposed to trying to raise the awareness of it and fix it.

Systemic racism and naturalization are both on a slippery slope. Before we realize it, we may be engaging in one or the other. They are particularly tricky concepts because they are so subconscious that we usually aren’t aware when we are doing them. The best thing we can do is try to be as aware as possible, and make changes based on what is illuminated to us.

1. Treuhaft, S. & Karpyn A. (2011). The grocery gap: who has access to healthy food and why it matters. Downloaded on February 11, 2011.
2. California Center for Public Health Advocacy (2008). Designed for disease: the link between local food environments and obesity and diabetes. Davis, CA. Retrieved from
3. Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression and change: Culturally grounded social work. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.
4. Bonilla-Silva, E. (2001). Color-blind racism. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Applying Many Aspects to My Life By See

Throughout my entire life, I never really thought about gender roles and never really applied any theory to my life. I probably did but it wasn’t a big deal to me at the time. Taking the SWK280 course, I realized that almost everything relates to me and my culture. For example, I grew up in a patriarchal culture because the men seem to do everything in or out of the house. “Because patriarchy is male-centered, women and the work they do tend to be devalued, if not made invisible” (Johnson, 2010, p. 157). The Hmong men are being self centered, many Hmong women suffered and had many of their rights taken away. For example, as young Hmong women marry, their rights are taken away. They cannot do certain things like dancing in front of Hmong parents or stay out late because they have to cook for their in laws.

Although Hmong men never really meant to do any harm, it still happens. Because of this, I feel that women should have the rights to do what it is that they desire. In addition, I grew up with structural roles. Some of these roles are being a daughter, sister, and a Hmong woman. I have the role of doing chores around the house while my brothers don’t do anything. In addition, I have to respect everyone and am not able to speak my mind. Most of the time, I feel trapped within my own culture because I’m always kept inside and don’t get to go out and explore. I’m pretty sure most Hmong women would feel the same way as I feel.

Although some people might say this is unfair, it makes sense to me and my culture. For one reason, I was born into a family where I was taught my roles. I was kept inside because my family wanted to protect me from harm. In addition, over the past years the Hmong culture has (sort of) evolved and is more open. For example, many Hmong women are able to go out of state and study and are able to explore the world by themselves.

Johnson, A.G. (2010). Patriarchy. In P. S. Rothenberg (Ed.). Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study (pp. 153 – 162). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.