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Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin (Tone) [India Ink; New York Times Global Edition India]

Being dark made me feel self-conscious.

As a kid I had several nicknames that stung. Darkie, Blackie and Kaalia (pinched from the title of a Bollywood film, about someone with dark skin). My color defined me and it stuck. A friend from school sent me a message on Facebook recently. It read: Kaalia, remember me? When I pointed out that it was insulting, I was called out for being “too sensitive.”

“We called you that with love,” he said. Like that should justify the hurt.

Adoption Is Not A Solution for Poor Children [EJ Graff, American Prospect]

Substitute “families” for “mothers”—some of those children are living with grandmothers, sisters, or cousins—and that’s the right question. Although UNICEF is often quoted as saying that there are 163 million orphans today, few people understand that the vast majority of those have lost only one parent—and most of the rest are living with extended families. In much of Asia and Africa, when children are living in institutions, it’s not because their parents are dead; rather, it’s because their families are too poor to keep them alive or have no childcare during the long days of bringing in the harvest. What we might call “orphanages” are usually child-welfare centers, places for the families to be certain that children are fed, housed, and educated. One African social-welfare minister declared, years ago, that there are no orphanages in Africa, just boarding schools for poor children. Our country has gone through that phase as well; a family friend of mine grew up spending his weekdays in an orphanage in Cleveland, going home to his working mother on the weekends.

Redefining Romeo & Juliet: Reclaiming the “Ghetto” [Digital Is/National Writing Project]

Over the course of a week, I began each class by screening a 3-7 minute YouTube clip. I simply searched “Gangster Romeo and Juliet” and a deluge of student-created videos showed up showing “ghetto” versions of the play. [This was inspired by a conversation about developing this unit with my colleague Peter Carlson.]

This ghetto, however, is technically the community my students live and go to school in. This ghetto is stereotyped by white students in ways that at first issued guffaws. My students found the videos funny at first. However, after a couple of days, students said they felt “mocked.” They said that the videos didn’t show things correctly, were making fun of the community, and actually lacked textual understanding of Shakespeare’s words (several of the films, for instance, abbreviated Abraham’s name the same way that Luhrmann’s did).

Often times, these videos are posing these ghetto versions in lush, rural or suburban communities. I want to underscore that I am not using these examples to criticize the students that have made them. However, when discussing them with students, we have noticed that there are not similar “ghetto” versions made by people of color. And if they are not creating them, essentially, an incorrect truth about what the ghetto is and how people act within it is being reified. My students shifted uncomfortably in their seats as they began thinking about the messages that a critical mass of lighthearted “ghetto” student clips are sending; these paired with YouTube clips of student fights are furthering stereotypes of student behavior and expectations.

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