Friday, April 29, 2011

Social Contact Theory

Celia SWK280

Earlier this semester I got a position as coordinator of Paso Doble, a culture and language exchange program, at Pangea World Theater. The objective of the Paso Doble component is:
1) To connect the Latina/o immigrant community and potential allies
2) To strengthen those relationships through bilingual and cross-cultural conversation exchanges; English and Spanish language-learning support; and gatherings focused on social justice and immigration issues.

I found myself applying many of the theories we learned in class to this project. The one that I found most relevant was Gordon Allport’s Social Contact Theory, which states that prejudices is reduced when people of diverse backgrounds communicate under equal status, are potential friends and have shared goals and activities (Rothenberg, 2010).

In Paso Doble this is put to the test when we pair one member of the Latina/o immigrant community and one person who self-identifies as an ally, for Spanish-English conversation exchanges. This dialogue and cultural exchange is further facilitated through monthly meetings in which all pairs come together for social justice and language workshops. At the beginning of the program the participants were a little intimidated by each other, but now it seems they are already on the path of making lifelong friendships. I believe that if we all make an effort to get someone we don’t know a lot about, we will begin to reduce prejudices and respect each other as humans.

Rothenborg, N. (2011). Continuum of Cultural Traits. Social Work 280

Nature vs. Nurture; Appreciating the History of a Culture

Allison - SWK 280

Having a Native American speaker in class last week was a very interesting lesson for me. Her story telling method of teaching caught my attention and made me more curious about her life. I took from what she told us about her life that she is a very wise woman with a lot of knowledge in her heritage. The speaker described that the best way to appreciate the Native American culture is to understand their history. The more people understand any group’s history, the more they can appreciate what that group’s ancestors went through to be where they are today. I thought it was interesting that even though the speaker had been raised by a European American couple, she still recognized her Indian traits, not only physically, but mentally. Once she learned more about her heritage, she could relate to her Indian way of living, a lot of her life was given meaning. She understood the reason why she had struggled in school was because her heritage caused her to learn through storytelling. For example, she learned that as an American Indian person she may have learned better if her teachers had used story telling rather than more standard educational methods. I think this is a great example of nature vs. nurture. Despite her being raised in a dominantly white environment, her Indian traits were not completed covered up by her white upbringing. I think all people should have a chance to learn their own unique cultural heritage. This helps increase self understanding and appreciation for one’s own culture.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

MN Recidivism in Incarceration



As I was leafing through the Star Tribune about a week ago (4/14/11) I came across an article that described how Minnesota leads the nation in incarceration recidivism. This issue is important to me so I took a second glance at it. Since we recently spoke about disparity levels I made an attempt to piece the puzzle together.
According to a new study Walsh reported in the Star Tribune, 61 percent of Minnesota’s prisoners released in 2004 went back to a correctional facility. By comparison nationally there is only a rate of 41 percent (Walsh, 2011). The Commissioner of Corrections Tom Roy went on to challenge the study by stating. “Combining technical violations like use of alcohol with statistics on new crimes is inherently misleading”. I questioned the statements made, especially after taking Social Work 280 and discussing disparities.
Immediately I began to think critically of the arguments and statements as to why we have the problem of increase in recidivism. A few things in the article troubled me. The first is that Minnesota is predominantly a white state and a majority of people incarcerated are of a minority group. Is it possible that micro-aggression within supervision is a contributing factor to recidivism? Also, could the conditions of release be unrealistic? As an educated able-bodied white male I am well aware of the white privilege I carry. However as I have a criminal record, I know how hard it is to fulfill the conditions of release. These conditions are that the person must find employment and a place to live within 30 days. This is very difficult, since jobs are scarce. It is hard to be gainfully employed especially with a tarnish on your record.
I would ask Mr. Roy how he expects people who are released without access to a great deal of resources to find an address, afford a car to get to work, or find a job within the 30 days given. As the second largest piece of the Minnesota budget is allocated to supervising and housing people in correctional facilities behind social security where are we going wrong as a state? I firmly believe this may be due to disparity and micro-aggression, as well as the difficulty in release conditions. It is difficult to find a decent job or place to live due to a criminal record especially if one might face racial micro-aggression or other forms of discrimination. Overall I think that it is deeper than recidivism. I believe it is a disparity problem along with an intolerance of people with a criminal record.

Walsh, P. (2011, April,14). Minnesota leads nation in recidivism. Start Tribune,
p. B4

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"We" not "Me"

by Aaron

One of the things we’ve been learning about in the past week is the difference between individualism and collectivism. Dominant western culture can be categorized as individualistic, “meaning that the most common psychosocial unit of operation is the individual, not the group. Individualistic societies believe that the needs of the group are satisfied when the needs of the individual are satisfied” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 178-179). I do not believe that when the needs of an individual are met the needs of society are met. This is evidenced in the lack of basic healthcare, access to equal education, and affordable housing in the United States, to name a few. I think that we can learn from collectivist societies, which “believe that the individual needs are met when the group’s needs are met” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 178-179). I think that this individualistic culture in which we live has led us to being greedy, selfish and caring more about having things than loving people.
Now, I’m not proposing that individuals should not have the freedom to choose who they are, how they want to be in the world, or what they believe or think; I’m proposing that perhaps there is a middle ground where we think less about how something is going to affect “me”, and more about how is something going to affect all of “us” as a country, state, city and community.
Our individualistic culture in America has led to an uneven distribution of wealth. One of the news items I submitted for this class was an article written by Michael Moore about how “400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer ‘bailout’ of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined” (Moore, 2011). Our society of individualism is costing us our collective wellbeing.
What do you think?

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

Moore, M. (2011, April 27). America is not broke. Retrieved from

Concepts of Time

By Natalie SWK 280
One of the culturally grounded concepts that the Social Work 280 class has discussed is time. The concept of time is something to which I hadn’t given much thought. I have always just assumed that time was continuous like a cycle. For me, time just seemed to be going around and around. As I got older, I started to dislike how America works around the clock. As they say, “Time is money!” When I began working at Caribou Coffee, I was always frazzled that time literally scheduled my day and I felt like an animal in a cage. As I began to mature, I realized that time is really just a form of organization to keep order. I also self-reflected and decided that time literally is. No one can place a label on it because it just is. Even if the sun sets and rises, the sun is still always shinning somewhere else in the world.
Furthermore, in relation to class, we discussed a culture in South America (Aymara) that actually places time on opposites. By opposites I mean that the past is actually the future, and the future is the past in contrary to popular western thought that time moves forward, and the past is in the back. The article, Backs to the Future by Inga Kiderra, shows that this culture shows the future as the past, and the past as the future. The future goes back as something one goes back into. This is really hard for my mind to wrap around. I can’t for the life of me try and figure out how the past is forward. I just think it’s really interesting that they perceive time primarily based on conditioning of the culture in which they were raised. Below, I have included a short poem I wrote in 2007 over frustration dealing with time. It was a period in my life where I was trying to move on past some old friends who were trying to hold me back. This poem just really shows my firm belief that time is never-ending and never stops, just because it is.

Ticking Clocks

Time; far off in the distance,
Old memories fade into nonexistence,
People, Places, Friends constantly change.
One never ending cycle,
Never stopping,
So why should I?

Kiderra, Inga. “Backs to the Future: Aymara Language and Gesture Point to Mirror-Image View of Time.” June 12, 2006. .

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Micro-aggressions and Aversive Racism in Minneapolis

By: Natalie SWK 280

Since learning about the prevalence of aversive racism and micro-aggressions, I have been paying extra close attention to the interactions of people I observe on a day to day basis. I take into account race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and status; anything that is observable to the naked eye. In the article Color Blind or Just Plain Blind (2002), Dovidio and Gaertner define aversive racism as “the inherent contradiction that exists when the denial of personal prejudice co-exists with underlying unconscious negative feelings and beliefs [towards a particular group of people](p.2).” “Racial micro-aggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color (p.1),” says Sue, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, and Esquilin in Microaggressions in Everyday Life (2007). Are these small negative acts and attitudes due to prejudicial beliefs, or are we being overly sensitive, while they truly have nothing to do with discrimination? Many believe the latter of the two, but my research suggesting differently.

With all this fuss over the existence of aversive racism, I decided to test different locations, sit in the backgrounds, and look for signs of micro-aggressions. I chose two different coffee shops to visit and observe, each with differing demographics. I decided to specifically look at costumer-employee interactions. I would pay close attention to eye contact, touch, facial expressions, courtesy/politeness (asking the customer if they would like anything else), and tone.

My first site was the Cooper CafĂ© in the Christiansen Center on Augsburg College Campus. I arrived just after class was dismissed and 2:20 when flocks of people file in for their latte’s and smoothies. I sat at a table with a clear view of the cashier, the only problem with Cooper’s is that all the tables are too far away to be able to hear any vocal exchanges between employees and the customers. I had no choice but to do my research based on body language.

A line began to form and because of Augsburg great diversity I had a wide variety of ethnicities, sexual orientations, and age, ect... What I was lacking in this environment was an assortment of individuals from different economic classes. Everyone I observed was either a college student or a member of Augsburg staff, both identities that, for the most part, mean you’re not in the lower or working class. The cashier was a white male and in his early thirties. He seemed peeved and treated a majority of the customers like they were annoying him. I take note of minimal eye contact, zero small talk (strictly business), and a very straight face. There may be an alternative explanation of these mannerisms, such as the busy rush and the line he was working to get through, but this theory appears faulty when I notice a pattern. A professor orders a drink and the cashier’s attitude completely changes. He is smiling, makes eye contact, and spends practically twice as much time with this customer. It’s as though he’s using impression management to maintain an image and make the professor view him in a favorable way. For a moment I thought they knew each other, but again my idea was proven faulty when the proceeding professor approached and similar behavior was displayed. The cashier made a perfect example of micro-aggression in terms of age-discrimination and/or prejudice concerning social status.

My next stop was at Starbucks located on Riverside and S 25th Ave, not far from Augsburg College campus. When I walked in the front door I immediately noticed I was the only female and, besides the employees, the only white person. Everyone seated in the coffee shop was African and male. Rarely do I experience what it feels like being the minority, and in a way, I found it to be fun. I felt all eyes turn to me as I walked toward the register and I was immediately greeted by the barista. The man ordering in front of me was older, African, and speaking in broken English that was hard for the cashier to understand. The cashier began to speak louder and slower to help ease the language barrier. I perceived this behavior as offensive and rude. The man didn’t speak English as a first language- he wasn’t deaf. When it was my turn to order it seemed as if a look of relief swept across the cashiers have. His eyes widened, his smile enlarged, and he asked me “how’s your day going” as if he truly cared. I waited for my drink to be ready while standing next to my fellow consumer, and sure enough, the barista looked at me, not my companion, and asked “have any fun plans for the weekend?” He may have been flirting with me, but little did he know, in my eyes, his actions were making him the poster child for aversive racism- a HUGE turn off.

After grabbing my Chai tea latte with Soy, I turned and looked for a place to sit. My only option was a chair that was already taken by a man’s arm hanging over it. The man looked at me and saw I started walking towards the chair. All eyes were once again on me as I asked, “Is this seat taken?” He glared, said nothing, and moved his arm. I felt awkward and unwelcome. After an hour of observation I notice I was the only white person that didn’t order my coffee and immediately leave. Only African men stayed to drink their coffee and converse with their friends. About twenty customers placed orders during that hour, and only five were white, two of them female. My seat was out of view from the register but directly next to the drink pick-up window. The barista initiated friendly small talk with all five of the white customers and with only three of the African males (who appeared to be acquaintances, or perhaps store regulars).

Micro-aggressions are right in our neighborhood. Many believe racism is dead after the civil rights act and the US is home of the free where everyone is treated equal. By visiting just two coffee shops I found those statements to be untrue. Every day I hear proclamations like “racism is wrong. I hate racist people,” or “I don’t discriminate.” A few friends of mine were discussing racism and one of them said “I don’t see in color.” Another friend responded with “why not? Color is wonderful. I love seeing in color. When a room fills with different colors I think it’s beautiful.” – This is the type of approach more people need to have while confronting racism, prejudice, and discrimination.

Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Color blind or just plain blind. The Nonprofit Quarterly, 9(2)

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., Esquilin, M. (2007). Microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist. Columbia University

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Few Disparities

Few Disparities
By Amber

In class on Tuesday we talked about Minnesota statistics regarding disparities. The class touched on statistics in Criminal Justice: “Minnesota has by far the highest disparity; blacks in the that state are incarcerated at 23 times the rate of whites.”, Health: “Breast cancer mortality rate for black women is 50% higher that white women.”, Education Quality: children of color and poor children are attending less successful school, while Caucasian children are attending more successful schools. Which leads into the high school graduation rates: 90% for White students, while only 64% for African American students. I found all of these to be horrible disparities.
I found an article from The Minnesota Compass that fits right along with what we were discussing in class. The article talks about how Minnesota takes pride in the belief that every person has the opportunities to be successful, but the article questions if that is really the case. Is every Minnesotan given the opportunity and tools to succeed?
“People of Color make up the fasted growing members of our (Minnesota) population. These individuals will continue to make up an increasing large part of our (Minnesota) workforce” (Minnesota Compass, 2009). People of Color are also the ones who are more likely to live in poverty, less likely to graduate from high school, suffer more from chronic illness, and less likely to own their own home. After reading that article it made it seem that some children are not given the tools and are not being taught the skills to succeed in the economy. So how is change supposed to occur?

Minnesota Compass 2009 Wilder Research

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Melting Pot

By: Jaia

The Hmong culture had changed continuously in so many ways overtime. Throughout the years that Hmong families and community have been in the United States, there have been so many changes within our culture and the Hmong people. I feel as if the Hmong community has changed the meaning of what a true Hmong culture really is, and who Hmong people really are, since their arrival in the United States. In our Social Work 280 class we have talked about theories. I really believe that the melting pot theory fits with the Hmong community and culture because many of us had come and take on or adapted ourselves to the American culture. I also think that not just the Hmong culture has had to adapt. The larger American society has had to adapt also due to the many different cultures in the USA today. America has changed the Hmong community in a good way because we have adapted many things. For example the Hmong communities started to adapt by letting their daughters go to college and let their children live on campus. This is unlike in the past when the Hmong first migrated here, and the parents didn’t let the girls do anything educational, or let their children join clubs and activities. I can tell that the Hmong culture has adapted and changed a lot of who they used to be to make them who they are today as Hmong American. I was born here and I’ve learned how to adapt to my environments by learning from the people around me. And as I learned to adapt to it, I have also witness those after me that have done the same things I did right away, adapting with the help of those who were here before them.
“Past generations of immigrants in America, it is argued, became successful by shedding their historical identities and adopting the way of their new country, which allowed them to achieve social mobility” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 65). I picked this statement because I believed that the meaning behind it is true. Being a Hmong person myself, I can see my culture changing rapidly from generation to generation. In order for us to feel comfortable and fit into the American life and dream, we have reshaped and shaped our culture so many times as the years goes by. The biggest change that we have made is the clothes we wear. We have put away our traditional apparels and accessories in suit cases and boxes, and store them deep in the attic, basement, or the closet. And we have learned to put on the American clothing of jeans and t-shirts; not only here in America, but also in Thailand and Laos, where we mainly used to wear our traditional clothing. During special events we will take them out and put them on, and during the early evening, put them away until another event comes around.
With adaptation and changing come sacrifices. Sacrifices such as the language of the Hmong people. As the generations continue, each generation speaks less and less of our Hmong language. And this had created an invisible barrier between the older generation and the newer generation. My three year old niece, for example, can hardly speak or understand the Hmong language. Every word she says and understands is just English. When my parents talked to her, the invisible barrier would appear; they can neither understand her or her them. And almost like my niece, I find myself constantly talking in English and understanding it more than my origin. I find it very hard to stop all the time and try to speak Hmong to people who don’t understand English. And just like my niece and me, many of the Hmong nowadays speak more English than Hmong, and this is making our language disappear little by little.
I can go on for days and days pointing out many of the changes in the Hmong culture and how we have adapted to the American culture and way of living. We don’t think about these changes on a daily basis, but they are making a big impact on how we live today. By adapting so many things into our culture, we are more successful and we have accomplished many things that we weren’t able to do in the past. More Hmong people own their own businesses and more young women are getting a chance to get a degree if they choose to. Now more Hmong people are pursuing a higher education after high school than ever before. By adapting many of the American ways into our cultures, we have learned to take opportunities that are open to us now that was never offer in the past. But as we try to take these opportunities and become successful people, we are losing the most important thing to us, our traditions, our cultures, our language, and our ancestors.

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

Out of Time

By Melanie

In class on Thursday we covered the concept of “time”, how it affects us day to day and how it is different between cultures. I think we could have spent 3 weeks talking about all the things we covered in two classes (unfortunately we don’t have enough time). People in class had a lot of great insight and ideas that they were willing to share with the class. I have been extremely ignorant in thinking that every person and culture looks at time in somewhat the same way. This is not the case at all; I knew that in the “American” culture everything is controlled by time. Humans are on a constant schedule and whether it works for them or not they have to conform to succeed in American culture. I was looking into my own life and became aware of how much I dislike being on a schedule and that in my personal life my time looks very different from my professional life. When it comes to work, school, any type of appointment I am always on time because it’s the professional thing to do, and being late in American culture has bad connotations. If you want to keep your job, or get a job, if you don’t want to miss your appointment it’s important to be on time. When I made the statement in class that professionally time is important but personally it’s not to me; someone else made the comment that being on time isn’t important in a professional setting in other cultures. This was the basis of our entire class and it really stuck out to me. I have to remember that being “on time” may mean something different depending on one’s cultural context.

I have never realized how negative this idea of time can really be; it causes stress on one’s health and family. Many of us become so rushed and focused on just getting through the day that we lose touch on reality and our relationships. Dominant American culture is considered individualistic, in the power point from Thursday it stated; “Individualistic cultures tend to favor monochronic time” and that “monochronic time is focused more on a schedule than people.” In the dominant American culture many of us are raised to be like this so we never even think twice about it. Ideally I would love to live in a culture that is polychronic because then my personal and professional life would align; unfortunately in the American culture it tends to be very monochonic.

When we were talking about pace and whether our pace is enjoyable, it really started to bother me because my pace from day to day isn’t enjoyable and I always feel rushed. From setting my alarm in the morning until I go to bed at night I am forced to be on a schedule. This isn’t because I want to be but it’s the only way I will succeed. I think many people struggle with the “American” idea of time; we are a society of action and if you don’t get things done you are considered lazy or unmotivated.

So now I know there is nothing wrong with me, that I’m not lazy or unmotivated. I just have a different idea of how I would like to spend MY time. My question is how can I enjoy life at my own pace and find my passion on my own time and still be successful in the “American” culture?

Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. S. (2009). Diversity, oppression, and change: culturally grounded social work. Chicago
Rodenborg, 2011. A Question of Time, SWK 280 Course Handout.

What it Takes to Belong

Brittney SWK280 Blog Entry

Born a white American, I spent nineteen years without ever truly realizing the privileges that were given to me at birth. Reality truly hit when I converted to Islam. Once I proclaimed to be a Muslim, I felt as if I was being kicked out of the culture in which I had grown up. Breaking cultural norms that are so embedded into the society, such as religion, can lead to being ostracized by one’s culture group. For me, this occurred. I feel I have been ostracized by the only culture I know and the culture to which I still believe I belong.

From this personal experience I have realized that religion is one of the strongest parts of a cultural group. A religion brings so much more to the table then just a set of beliefs, but instead religion can define so many things, such as habits, attire, diet, morals, values, beliefs, holidays, income/money usage and even language in some cases (Marsiglia&Kulis,2009).

I think one of the reasons why I have been kicked out of my cultural group is that Muslims tend to be stereotyped by the image that is portrayed by the media and placed under an incorrect label. I also see that all Muslim’s have become a scapegoat even though many problems are being caused by a minuscule percentage of the Muslim community. If people were to take the time to actually learn the religion and make contact with people of other religions, eventually I believe these stereotypes would disappear. The contact theory points to one of the best ways in my opinion for stereotypes to be broken (Marsiglia&Kulis,2009).

I ask you to take the time and watch this video and witness the many prejudices and stereotypes that are being forced on Muslims in this Fox News video. In this video at least the Muslim community has someone trying to defend it, but typically in many Fox news reports there is no defender to be found. The stereotypes are not just being made up in the minds of everyday people. They are instead being falsely created and reinforced by people so many Americans trust such as our media employees and news anchors. These false beliefs about the Muslim people create a barrier and irrational fear between people. This article ( ) gives the statistics of prejudice acts towards Muslim, and shows how these prejudices are growing at phenomenal rates.

As it is said in our text book, Diversity, Oppression and Change by Marsiglia and Kulis (2009), religion can either unite the people or can cause social conflict. It boils done to a simple thing called respect. We need to respect each other no matter our differences, whether race, religion, sex, education, age or social class. We are all humans and if we truly try to understand each other with an open mind, respect and appreciation for each other will soon grow.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Race Class & Gender By Britni

In the last week I have been fortunate enough to witness two very informative presentations on the LGBT community. Coincidentally, a couple of my friends through my internship Tubman, organized OutFront MN to come and speak about their organization which advocates and tries to eliminate homophobia for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered (OutFront, 2011). The next day we had the pleasure to hear from a speaker in our Swk 280 class, who similarly discussed how to be more sensitive and communicate more respectfully toward everyone, especially the LGBT community.

The main idea from these presentations was to learn how to better serve and look out for our clients’ well being. This led me to wonder if children were taught some of these same basic techniques for treating our fellow friends, family and peers more respectfully earlier in life. College was the first time I have ever received any type of education on how to “walk, talk and work” with people. I believe that reinforcing acceptance earlier in life will allow children to grow up less closed minded.

I learned two very important lessons from these presentations. First, language and terminology are important factors in how you address and communicate with your clients, your family, your friends and peers. Secondly, you should be aware of biases in what you hear and/or read in society. A demographic question posed to clients about their sexual orientation could be offensive and oppressive. Asking someone’s “sexual preference” is not the same as asking for someone’s “sexual orientation”. The speaker from OutFront MN compared preference as a fondness for something, rather than a place of origin. “Evidence for a social or behavioral basis for homosexuality can be misused to argue for the sexual preference position, which maintains that homosexuality is a choice made by individuals” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009). This quote from Marsiglia and Kulis backs up what our speaker from OutFront was saying that someone’s sexuality is not a preference. Growing up I did not necessarily prefer that I be identified as a girl; I grew up knowing that I was a girl. It is the concept of gender. I display the traits of a woman through how society decides women should act. All people have the right to show who they really are, and if they are biologically one sex but physically another, they have the right to show society who they are.

Terminology is another way to learn how to effectively communicate with others. I enjoyed how both speakers phrased the topic of how to address those who are different than you, which should be everybody. Ask them how they would like to be addressed! What type of pronouns (masculine or feminine) would they use for themselves? I believe that people have the right to grow up comfortable with expressing themselves in a way in which they decide. Marsiglia & Kulis (2009, p.159) provide a heterosexual questionnaire regarding sexual orientation. I thought about how I would feel if someone asked me these questions, or how someone else would feel if I asked them the questions. If someone asked me if I would ever grow out of my sexual identity I would be hurt because it is part of my identity and there is nothing I would ever do to change that (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009).

Lastly, staying aware of biases and discriminatory language with what I hear or read is important. One speaker made the point that pop culture can convey stereotypes and stated that Hello Kitty is an example of a violent stereotype. It wouldn’t seem so obvious because she’s cute, cuddly and aimed towards girls between the ages of 5-10 years old. Hello Kitty gives the impression that girls are nice and kind but unable to give consent. After all, how could she give consent if she has no mouth to speak up with? This could be seen as violent and unhealthy because it continues the oppressive attitudes towards women by insinuating that they should never speak out against the injustices aimed at them.

Communication is key and being aware of language and the terminology you use is the best way to communicate effectively with others. Teaching children earlier in their education about how to get along with people, I think, will create a better working environment for everyone. “As societal and self-awareness of identity grows social workers and people alike will be able to bring them with unique narratives and life challenges” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009).

OutFront MN (2011). About Us. Retrieved from

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

Class speaker, Personal Communication, March 28, 2011

OutFront class speaker, Personal Communication, March 25, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Disparity and Discrimination Still Occuring In The United States?

This week in class we had the opportunity to touch on the topic of disparity. Disparity occurs when a group of people is either under or over represented among the group of a particular service relative to their numbers in the general population (Rodenborg Handout). We all became aware in class that disparities can happen in many different types of programs including: the criminal justice system, housing access, healthcare, infant mortality, child protection, life expectancy, high school graduation rates, and employment.

The handout that we all received in class included alarming disparities that were occurring in Minnesota. One topic that I found particularly alarming was the disparities regarding employment. It was said that, “The Minneapolis metropolitan area stands out as having the worst relative disparity” (Austin, A. 2010). This area has a black-white unemployment ratio of 3.1 to 1, which means that African Americans are a little more than three times as likely to be unemployed as whites (Austin, A. 2010). Now some people may say that the reason for these disturbing employment statistics is the lack of education of the African American people. However, this theory is false, the ACS data showed that in Minneapolis, African Americans with the exact same educational as whites would still have a much higher unemployment rate (Austin, A. 2010). It is hard to believe that people today are trying to cover up racial disparities by making the excuse that it is due to a person’s lack of education or knowledge. There have been several studies completed that have shown that this indeed is not the case.

I came across a very interesting article that had an example of women experiencing gender disparity. This woman had been fired from Wal-Mart because she was complaining about being discriminated based on her sex. She had discovered that a male employee who had the same job title and less experience was making $10,000 more each year than she was ("Wal-mart v. women," 2011). Her boss defended this disparity by saying that the male worker had a family to support. In my opinion, her boss did not give a justifiable answer when explaining the reason for Wal-Mart's discrimination. Even if she did not have a family to support (which she did, she had a baby on the way) it was not a valid reason for a man to be making $10,000 more when he had the same position and less experience as her. Wal-Mart is a huge company with a lot of power. It would be very difficult for an individual to sue Wal-Mart and come out victorious. So, the plaintiff's in the case have brought up a plan to sue Wal-Mart as a class action. In legal terms, a class action is a civil court procedure where a party or a group of parties may sue as representatives of a larger class ("Definitions: class action," 2009). Class actions allow lawyers to justify the rights of a large group of people where no individual party has enough economic incentive to start a law suit on their own ("Definitions: class action," 2009). Proceeding with a class action would be much fairer rather than dismissing the woman's case and insisting that those other 1.5 million women fend for themselves. So far the case record consists of 120 sworn statements from women who experienced sex discrimination in pay, promotion and also in the work environment ("Wal-mart v. women," 2011). Wal-Mart has a good chance of winning this battle if the court determines that the class isn’t cohesive enough. The court may find that there may be more than one class being represented, which would result in the case being dropped and Wal-Mart would get away with discriminating against employees. This article brings up a very scary question. Are there some companies that are too big to be held accountable of discrimination and disparity?

Austin, A. (2010). Uneven pain-Unemployment by metropolitan area and race. Economic Policy Institute. Issue Brief #278, June 8, 2010.

Definitions: class action. (2009). Retrieved from

Rodenborg, N. (2011). Disparities-A few Minnesota statistics. SWK 280 class handout.

Wal-mart v. women. (2011). The New York Times,

By: Katie

Humans: Out of Tune with the Earth

Learning about Minnesota’s disparities in multiple areas is very depressing but very important. For years I have been asking why stereotypes exist. It seems stereotypes often come from these disparities. As we have learned in class, stereotyping is a biological tendency and a survival instinct. We see members of our own “in-group” as individuals and generalize members of the “out-groups” (Marsiglia and Kulis, 2009, pp. 36). Today, stereotyping has evolved into a whole new entity. Humans have globalized the entire world and different groups have colonized areas they don’t belong naturally.

Here’s what I’m getting at: as we all know, for thousands of years, humans who lived closer to the equator acquired darker skin to protect themselves from harmful effects of the sun. Humans who lived farther away from the equator have developed fairer skin because the sun was less strong. Then, white colonists migrated across seas and into these warmer areas and disrupted other groups’ natural way of existing. We might say that this is where it all went wrong and why our “tossed-salad” country struggles to coexist, but I challenge you to go back further.

Ishmael is a novel written by Daniel Quinn. When I first read this book, it changed the way I view the Earth and the life it nurtures. It changed my politics, which was switched between Social Democracy and Socialism. Now I often reject politics as a whole. Ishmael is a gorilla, but not just any gorilla. He’s a teacher. A human finds an ad in a newspaper for a teacher looking for a student and he goes to a business building to meet the teacher who is sitting, waiting for him in a cage. Ishmael has endless lessons to teach the student, but the main one readers are supposed to take with them is the Law of Nature. This law is that no being shall control nature.

It is easy to see how humans control nature everyday, but when did it first begin? According to Ishmael, out first wrong move was the invention of agriculture. This was when we first started altering our environment to suit us, rather than existing as our natural forms: hunters and gatherers. Why is this wrong? As hunters and gatherers, we were still apart of the food chain. We spent our days finding food for the moment and killing what we needed to survive, just as other animals continue to do. The development of agriculture was our first step in making our lives more efficient, separating other animals from ourselves. We could control our food supply and have time for new things. We were no long starving!

Here’s the problem: when we are no longer starving and always have enough food, population growth occurs. When the population grows, there is further demand for agriculture because we are starving again. This further alters the land and causes further population growth. Many don’t see it, but this cycle of agriculture, population growth, starvation, agriculture… is continuing on today, and because of it, humans have had an enormous amount of time to focus on colonizing the world and developing the land. We have become the only species that deliberately kills off entire populations for the sake of ridding them from this world, even if they live on the opposite side of the world.

What does this have to do with stereotyping? To me, it is one more outcome from breaking the Law of Nature. I say this because by controlling nature, we grow into a monster that disrupted the natural flow of life on Earth. Humans’ way of justifying their control is that the Earth was made especially for us, a belief that is derived from many religions. Our colonization has led us to live in giant populations instead of small communities such as tribes. People are out of control because they naturally generalize others everyday, viewing them as members of an “out-group”, which they perceive as separate from their own.

Some understand that they base their stereotyping off of the disparities we see in systems like criminal justice, housing access, health, child protection, education, employment, etc. These particular disparities are a result of Structural Discrimination (the discrimination and disparity seen in national institutions) and Institutional Discrimination (institutions allow some privileged people to maintain an advantage over others based on group membership (Marsiglia and Kulis, 2009, pp. 39)). Obviously the preservation of stratification in the U.S. is a huge problem for underprivileged groups and humanity as a whole, so by reviewing this purge of ideas I like to call “blog”, what’s my understanding of it?

Yes, the huge problem of disparity in the U.S. (and world) can be derived from mistreatment of others in history, which is derived from colonization, which is finally derived from break the Law of Nature. I know this blog may be difficult to grasp because it would take at least a novel (like Ishmael) to present it more thoroughly and understandably, but I am asking readers to simply consider the notion that things went wrong when the Law of Nature was broken. The stratification we experience in our large populations is only one result of the law being broken. Other results include warfare on a macro level, extinction of plants and animals, exhaustion of resources, etc. I believe if everyone gave this perspective a chance and hopefully even read Ishmael, we would prioritize our lives differently and see where things first went wrong.


Reference List:

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

Quinn, D. (19951992). Ishmael (Bantam trade pbk. ed.). New York: Bantam/Turner Book.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Norms and Values

This week we have started to delve into the influences of our own cultures and the roles they play within our lives. There are numerous ways in which individuals can express their personality—it comes down to where they have learned these characteristics. In our text, Diversity, Oppression, and Change, it states “Cultural norms are values and beliefs that influence the attitudes and behaviors of members of different cultural groups” (Marsiglia, 180). You can learn these norms from your parents, relatives, professors, friends, coworkers or any other individual in your life. One can infer that it is sometimes up to the individual who is expressing a chosen behavior to decide which values to hold onto.

There are numerous norms within my life that I have held onto while growing up. I was always told to be polite when first meeting someone—a handshake was a must. I was always told to be on time when meeting someone—punctuality was something you had to take into consideration. Holding a steady job was a must—doing the best at each task would ensure this. When going out you should be presentable— you should always check your appearance before leaving your home. While reading these norms that I was raised with one could assume that my home was a strick one. These tasks were all normal to me because they were values that have been passed down in my home. They were tasks that I saw my parents doing so I learned them at a young age. I never thought of these tasks as something that have been passed down because they are things that I do on a daily basis.

This week in class we had our reflection on our heritage due. By doing this assignment I can see numerous aspects of the values in my family that I express today. I came from a small, but bluntly honest, Italian family. There are several little things that my grandparents did that I can see within my own life. My grandparents lived in a small town, Palermo, Sicily, and always found the little things to be the most rewarding. My grandparents were people who loved to go to markets and bring home something new for dinner, which always was a production in itself. Although I don’t cook a whole 3 course meal each day I love to go to the local farmers market and learn how to cook something new to go along with my pasta. Did I mention pasta is a huge staple in my life(another thing that has been passed down from my grandparents)? I was also named after my grandmother, Sarah Amato, which is another value you can see within my family. You can see this in numerous families across the world with having names be passed down through generations. It is a traditional that will be around for centuries to come for hope of not losing touch with their ancestors.

This week I have learned not only about diversity and inequality but the aspects of what make up who we are as individuals. There are many things that I have taken in my life for granted without ever looking at where the root of them started. I now have a new respect for my grandparents and traditions that they wanted to keep in the family. I hope to pass along in my own my heritage in order for my children to see the life that our ancestors lived.

By Sarah

Rothenberg, Paula. "Oppression." Race, Class, and Gender In The United States. Eighth Edition ed. New York: Worth Publishers, 2010. 151. Print.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How it Happens

How it happens: Gender and Sexual Orientation
Blog by Abbie

This week our class was privileged to have a guest speaker. Our topic for the day focused on “Working with Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Clients”. In our class we had a conversation about the importance of language usage. We touched on topics such as the difference between sexual identity and sexual behavior, and why we identify with a particular gender.
We discussed how crucial a concept language use is for us as social workers. Personal identity can be very specific to individuals, and we must respect this. We must not label people, but instead let people assign their own definitions to their identities. In response we must respect their definitions and refer to people, as they want. We reflected that the best way to learn about another person’s identity is to ask!
I believe that our culture is socially taught to place people into boxes. We place certain people into the female box, the male box, the homosexual box, and the list continues. A result of this tendency it is difficult to give people the chance to self-identify. I feel that more attention should be directed towards this area, so we can better diminish these habits. I am aware that I definitely have a draw to place people into boxes when I am interacting with them. Our guest speaker said that when we take the time to question our first reactions we would discover our own biases. He said it is also helpful for us to ask ourselves where we received this information (biases, stereotypes, misconceptions).
The next day we met in class, I felt that we had a great group dialogue. We were challenged to ask ourselves what we thought created hostile environments for GLBTI individuals. Some ideas that were brainstormed included politics, educational aspects taught, elders’ responses, religion, and that legal rights are not equal for all partnerships. The Heterosexual Questionnaire provided a new perspective as to what my life would look like if I were considered to be in a minority group based on my sexual orientation (Marsiglia and Kulis, 2009). This new perspective showed me that it is important for me to advocate if society’s hostile environment is to be changed. I feel that the first step that will be important to take is to become an ally, as we discussed during our section on oppression and identity in January.
As a class, our guest speaker challenged us to identify how we knew our own identities as male or female. A few ideas generated were we know by the way we sit, how we walk, or how our reproductive parts are classified. Our Marsiglia and Kulis (2009) textbook states, “The term ‘gender’ refers to the social and cultural patterns associated with women and men; in other words, gender defines what behaviors are expected from men and women and which behaviors are considered out of bounds” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 136). When working with clients this definition is interesting to keep in mind. We will come into contact with various cultures through our work and most will have different definitions of how a female and a male are supposed to act.
A second question that was proposed caused me to reflect out of class. This question was how do I know what I enjoy as an adult? Have I been socialized to enjoy “female activities”? Have I learned to like these activities through positive reinforcement? An example of this in my own life is that I like to put on make up, do my hair, and wear certain outfits. But maybe the only reason I like these things is because I have received positive reinforcement from my family, my friends, and the opposite sex.
In conclusion, I felt that the classes we had this past week were a great training on the topic of language. I also felt that I received new and better definitions of terms. I was given many concepts to reflect and journal about on my own. As social workers, these are all important areas to keep in mind when working with clients.

Marsiglia, F.F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression and change: Culturally
grounded social work. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.
“In America We…” Who Determines American Culture
In this past week’s focus on colonization and how it has affected racial and ethnic minorities, ideas surrounding culture were a continuous theme. Since the beginning of the United States just about every ethnic group that had already existed here or immigrated here has been stripped of its culture. I will start with the Native American population, who were the first group affected by “Americanization”. Native American culture was disrupted as early as the mid 1500’s when Native children were being taken from their parents and given European educations. By 1898 it was being recommended by the U.S. Indian Peace Commission that Native children attend European American schools so that the cultural differences between Native and white European American children would disappear (marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p.119). Then there was slavery. Slavery in itself, given its dehumanizing nature, is a surefire way to lose culture. Slaves were brought from Africa to the Americas in the 1700s (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009, p. 122). Upon arrival slaves were given English names and taught English traditions. The traditional religious practices, ceremonies and general way of life for these people were taken from them.
Other groups, though not brought in as slaves or being massacred and relocated for land, have come to the U.S. and had to change or suppress their cultures to fit in or even survive. My maternal grandfather’s father was a Lithuanian Jew who came to the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century as a refugee when the Jewish population in Lithuania was being chased out of the country by the Russians. Once in America, my great grandfather did not often bring up his heritage because to be Jewish was frowned upon here in Minnesota as well. He ended up marrying a Presbyterian woman and claiming Christianity as his religion. If my own mother would not have done the research and discovered this, I would never have known about my Jewish ancestry. There are so many more stories like this of cultures lost in America. Regardless of how many generations ones family has been in the U.S. What stumps me is that this is a nation of immigrants. Unless people identify as Native American, their families came from somewhere other than America. This country was also established on the basis of religious freedom. Should that not also encompass cultural freedom as well? Why is it that the White European Christian American determines what “American culture” means? Or even whether a culture is good or bad?
Yes, we have our China towns in New York and San Francisco and, more locally, Somali markets in Minneapolis…so…we have bubbles of land that serve as oases for people that may not identify with the dominant white American culture. What about the world outside of these cultural safe havens? Billboards, food, commercial clothing, the people on TV, radio, and every other aspect of American life screams “White America!”. One could argue that like every other country America has its own culture, be it good or bad. This brings me back to the now widely famous YouTube video of the girl at UCLA talking about Asians on their phones in the library. This girl uses the statement “In America we…” referring to cell phone etiquette in the library. It is this statement “In America we…” that closes so many minds. The fact is in America we…forget that this nation is made up of more cultures than what is perceived by the mainstream.
Marsiglia, F.F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, Oppression, and Change: Culturally Grounded Social Work. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Microaggression by Marisol

In class we have been talking about microaggression that people of color experience. Microaggression takes place in different ways. It’s an insult that can be made verbally, physically, intentionally, and not intentionally, and it happens mostly to minority groups. Many times it’s a brief statement someone makes. Usually it’s unexpected and can happen at any time and any place. People of all genders, religions, sexual orientations, and other social identities may experience microaggression.

When I meet people, the first questions I am usually asked is, “where are you from?” If I answer that I was born in the United States, the next question usually is, “Where are your parents from?” or “How did your parents come to the United States?” After it is clearly established I am Mexican the next questions are about how and why I came here. The questions just continue to build up more and more. I believe the bottom line in these conversations is to find out if I really am in the United States legally. Because I have black hair and brown skin, many times people assume I am “illegal”. The common stereotype in this country is that all Hispanics and Latinos are fugitive “illegal” immigrants that bring strife to every community we enter.

According to the article titled Racial Microaggression in Everyday Life (Sue, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, and Esquilin, 2007) it is extremely difficult for victims to address microaggression. Those who experience microaggression go through four dilemmas: 1) Did it really happen? 2) How can I prove that it happened? 3) Does it really have a personal effect on me? 4) What should I do about it or is it even worth doing anything about? This is always a negative experience to go through because it’s something that over a long period of time can begin to have affects on one’s physical, mental and emotional health. If I spoke up for every time I was in a situation in which I was experiencing microaggression, that’s all I would ever do. I would always be in a defensive state, which can get very exhausting. If I said nothing at all it would just become an internal disease that would consume me from the inside out.

In conclusion, I can personally say that microaggression has a profound short and long term impacts on the victim. It is never a positive experience whether it is publically addressed or accumulated over time. The outcome is likely to have negative results individually and to whole communities. I have to build an inner strength and confidence in myself that is unbreakable and encourage others to do them same in order to deal with this issue.


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.

Gender Identity by Amanda

This week in class we discussed gender and gender identities. During his presentation on gender identities and sexual orientations our guest speaker asked a very intriguing question to the class: what is it about yourself that makes you feel like a girl/boy? I had never thought about what it was about me that made me feel like a girl, I have always just known I was a girl. As a child I had a lot of "boyish" qualities. These qualities were often a topic of conversation between my parents and my friends, but no one ever treated them as something that needed ot be changed. Even thought I was never a very "girly" child I always felt like I was a girl. Since the speaker's presentation I have been trying to think of what it is that makes me know my gender identity is girl, but I still cannot pinpoint what about myself makes me know that my sex and gender identity match. Our speaker reitereated a point we have been discussing all semester: when you are a part of a majority, you do not have to think about the identities that make you a majority. This has made me want to learn more about people who are minorities because of their gender identity. According to Flavio Francisco Marsiglia and Stephen Kulis "transgender describes a growing array of people whose gender identity does not fit into a simple binary system in which genitalia dictate a clear turn down one of only two identity paths" (2009, p. 151). The term transgender has become a widely used word to describe many different types of people who live outside of culturally "normal" gender roles. Transgender individuals are often subject to ridicule, stereotypes, and in extreme cases are the victims of physical violence. Living as a transgender individual can cause many barriers for people to overcome; the first of these barriers is an individuals' need to come to terms with his/her own gender identity (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009). For many transgender individuals their battle to accept their own identity begins during childhood. Some children are lucky and have parents who accpet their nonconforming gender identites, but many are not so lucky. Some transgender children are met with families, and the rest of society, who try to force their gender to match their sex. This can cause children to respond with symptoms of depression, fear, anger, anxiety, self-mutilation, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts (Mallon & DeCresenzo, 2006). These symptoms are often viewd as more of a reason to "fix" the transgender child by forcing them to conform to society's gender roles. In reality these symptoms are the result of living in a hostile environment where children are not allowed to be themselves (Mallon & DeCresenzo, 2006). Learning these barriers has made me so grateful that I have never had to deal with the pain of developing a gender identity thatwas different from my biological sex. Learning these barriers has also brought to my attention the necessity of social workers to be sensitive toward and knowledgeable about their transgender clients. When working with a transgender child, social workers need to work on strengthening the parent-child relationship. It is extremely important for parents to be accepting of their child's identity, or at the very least be willing to make compromises that allow their child to express his/her own identity. It is also necessary to keep lines of communication between child and parents open because every child needs to feel loved and accepted. It is alos important for a social worker to find therapy for transgender children that focuses on treating the symptoms discussed above, as opposed to therapy that focuses on changing children's identities. Social workers can also help children deal with the stigma they face in their communities. As social workers we need to everything possible to help our transgender children and adult transgender clients (Mallon & DeCresenzo, 2006). Sources: Marsiglia, F. & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, Oppression, and Change. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books Inc. Mallon, G. & DeCresenzo, T. (2006). Transgender Children and Youth: A Child Welfare Practive Perspective. Child Welfare, 85, 215-241.