Halloween: A Culture, Not a Costume

Last year my Halloween post focused on gender, sexism, and sexual objectification through costume.  As Halloween approaches this year, I wanted to write about how often I cringe during my favorite holiday of the year, but I wasn’t sure of which tact to take.  Then last week when I was speaking at a high school, I overheard a student say, “I can’t wait for Halloween!  I’m gonna be an Indian.  I have real feathers, and I’m just gonna use some brown felt to create the dress, and I’ll put war paint on.”

I had my topic.

Then last night, my friend Carla posted the following images to Facebook.

I had my tact.





The posters are created by an Ohio University student group called Students Teaching About Racism in Society.  Their point is clear and powerful.

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Thinking Beyond DIY

I originally published this on another blog called Unleash Brilliance, but since that blog no longer exists and since I’ve had an insanely busy week, I thought I would republish it over here.

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We are undoubtedly a nation of exceptional and brilliant individuals.  We’re taught from an early age that we must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps (ala Horatio Alger) and lead the way through the darkness with our brilliant individualism.  We are expected to live and learn DIY – Do It Yourself.

The problem for me, though, is that I am not wholly convinced that rugged individualism can ever be a path to true brilliance.

Don’t get me wrong . . . I don’t mean to send the message that we should be sheep who all follow in the path of the dimmest and lowest common denominator.  At the same time, though, we should not simply be rugged individuals who go it alone!  True brilliance can only come when we act in concert with other outstanding individuals.

Now, we are living in the midst of some of the most profound change in the history of human beings, and much of this change has come from the amazing creative power of individuals.  The pace at which our world is transforming is mind-blowing!

And This Video is Already Out of Date

 Undoubtedly, though, with all of this change comes an incredible number of challenges.  The foundations of capitalism as we know it are shaken if not crumbling.  War andpoverty are expanding at incredible rates (even as the standard of living rises for an huge number of people).  The gap between rich and poor is widening.  The education system in the U.S. is in shamblesGlobal Climate Change stands as probably the greatest threat human beings have ever faced.

These are global challenges that call for global solutions.  I’ve been incredibly privileged to have traveled the world, and no matter where I’ve gone, one thing has always held true.  From Sao Paolo to Beijing, from San Jose to Jerusalem, each and every person I meet is bursting with brilliance.  However, in the face of such incredible challenges, we cannot afford to rely on the creativity and solutions of individuals.

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Guest Blog – Confronting My Own Racism

I’m always looking for interesting new formats and approaches to the blog, partially as a way to challenge myself as an author and partially to keep my readers interested.  This week I thought it would be fun to publish a piece by a friend and ally, and throughout the piece, I would pose the questions and thoughts that came up for me as I read it the first time.  Below you will find Josh Friedberg’s piece and my reflections in text boxes.  I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the piece in the comments section below!

Josh Friedberg is an emerging essayist, music historian, and singer-songwriter.  A recent graduate of Earlham College, he looks forward to attending graduate school and publishing an essay on racism in narratives of rock music history.  You can check out Josh’s blog by visiting Stuff Joshua D. Friedberg Does.

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It’s funny how much things can change in a few years. I don’t know if a person can go from being racist to not being racist anymore, but I hope I have. God knows what I used to believe about black people, about affirmative action, about what some call “ebonics”–my beliefs were racist as hell. And I have, I hope, sufficiently questioned those beliefs to uproot them permanently. I just hope I never go back to believing what I used to believe, in bitterness over anything. I really hope I’ve changed for good, for real, forever.

I can’t help but wonder if it is ever possible for White people to find a place where we are “not being racist anymore.” Is it possible to completely uproot our racist tendencies that have been so deeply ingrained? Part of me hopes that we can, but part of me wonders if that is simply an aspect of the weight we bear from our history and current reality.

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Talking True LGBTQ Equality

Often when I am presenting around the country, I bring up the issue of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) rights, and I get this response, “Jamie, I understand what you’re trying to say, but I don’t believe it is morally acceptable for someone to be Gay.”

Though I find this sentiment troubling and filled with heterosexism, I find it best not to respond to the question directly.  Instead, I say, “Well, I am not going to engage you on that point.  Instead, let me ask you a question.  Should someone, regardless of their sexual orientation or their gender identity, feel safe to walk the streets and feel secure in their job, in their livelihood?”

Every time I have asked this question, I get the same answer: an enthusiastic YES!

Therein lies the problem.  Our society treats Lesbian, Gy, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning folks as second-class citizens.  How can we even begin a conversation about marriage equality when LGBTQ people cannot walk down the street, apply for a job, or express themselves openly in their workplace without fear?

This morning I was reading the news, and I came across an article describing the findings of Harvard researcher Andras Tilcsik.  Tilcsik sent out the two counterfeit resumes to the same 1700 job openings around the country.  The only real difference between the resumes is that half identified the applicant as having been the treasurer in a Gay college campus organization.  Tilcsik found that those resumes that identified the candidate as Gay (or at minimum a Straight Ally) were 40% less likely to get a call back than the resumes that said nothing of Sexual Orientation.  Notably, there was also tremendous regional differences, with those employers in the Midwest and South much more likely to discriminate than those in, say, the North East.

I suppose I wasn’t at all surprised by the findings of the study, but it did catch my eye because it simply adds to the patchwork of discrimination against LGBTQ people in this country.

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