Tag Archives: Multiculturalism

Trayvon Martin Foundation Must Reject Profiling of Students

by Christopher Paslay

Speaking out against profiling should include the hypocrisy of affirmative action against American students.

In March of 2012, the Trayvon Martin Foundation was established in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.  A Florida-based non-profit organization, one of the Foundation’s major goals is “increasing public awareness against all forms of profiling.”

According to its website:

The Trayvon Martin Foundation will use resources and tools to bring social awareness to similar cases.  In this decade, we are still fighting some of the same issues that prompted the Civil Rights Movement as it pertains to injustice and racism.

Although Daryl Parks, the Martin family attorney, stated that George Zimmerman’s murder trail was not about racial profiling (despite that fact prosecutors insinuated otherwise), the non-profit foundation named after Trayvon clearly is.

When it comes to using race as a means to profile, America remains divided.  Conservatives tend to fight for universal colorblindness, striving to, according to Dr. King, “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  It is liberals, ironically, who are obsessed with viewing everything in society, from college admissions to academic test scores to the demographics of police and fire departments, through the lens of race, gender, and sexual orientation.

In December of 2011, I received my M.Ed. in Multicultural Education from Eastern University.  In a course titled Urban Education, we had a discussion about the concept of “colorblindness” in American society, and its ramifications.  I took the position that colorblindness was an admirable goal, and that as a society, our ultimate ambition should be to simply view people as people, not whether they are black, white, gay, straight, etc.  This, I stated, would be the highest form of tolerance and multiculturalism—looking past superficial cultural differences to the universal characteristics that join us all as human beings.

The professor used my viewpoint as a springboard into a lesson on social justice.  “Colorblindness,” she told the class, “is a code word for white supremacy.”  She went on to explain that striving for a colorblind society was dangerous, because when people no longer took race, gender, and sexual orientation into account, society would revert back to a culture dominated by the White Western Establishment.  It was our duty as good citizens, she surmised, to be cognizant of other’s differences, so we could not only celebrate them, but make sure they were equally represented.  In other words, colorblindness ran counter to social justice.

It is liberals, not conservatives, who are obsessed with profiling.  Affirmative action, a policy that dictates we must look at a person’s race, gender, and sexual orientation when making decisions about employment, education, and the dolling out of government contracts to businesses, is a prime example.  Amazingly, as the liberal establishment deceptively spins the Trayvon Martin tragedy into a lesson against racial profiling, they have no problem with the fact that the University of Texas at Austin profiled Abigail Fisher, a white woman who insists she was denied admittance into the school because of her race.  Liberals also appear unmoved by affirmative action policies that keep many deserving Asian American students out of the nation’s top universities simply because too many of them are highly qualified.

According to an article in the New York Times headlined “Asian Americans in the Argument”:

“If you look at the Ivy League, you will find that Asian-Americans never get to 20 percent of the class,” said Daniel Golden, author of “The Price of Admission” and editor at large for Bloomberg News. “The schools semiconsciously say to themselves, ‘We can’t have all Asians.’ ” Mr. Golden says it is helpful to think of Asians as the new Jews because some rules of college admissions, like geographic diversity, were originally aimed at preventing the number of Jews from growing too high.

Just like Obama’s enforcement of his own health care law, liberals’ outrage over profiling is situational.

For example, it appears okay to profile a person when it comes to public education.  The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights conducted a report that surveyed 72,000 schools serving 85% of the nation’s students.  The report used race and gender to profile the differences between students on a wide range of issues including discipline, work readiness, school finance, and dropout rates.  In addition, No Child Left Behind uses race, native language, and socioeconomic status to profile the results of student achievement on standardized tests and to rate the overall quality of teachers and schools.

It also appears okay to profile when it comes to awarding government contracts to small businesses (especially minority owned), and when it comes to hiring and firing police, teachers, fire fighters, and any kind of state or government worker.  It appears okay to profile when it comes to processing a non-profit organization’s request for tax exempt status; or when hiring coaches in the NFL; or when awarding Oscars for Best Actor; or when requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice get involved in charging a person with second degree murder in a shooting that was deemed by local authorities to be self defense.

It’s not okay, however, to profile a person to protect your own neighborhood and family.  If there have been documented burglaries in your neighborhood by people of specific races, wearing specific clothing, and a person of that very race, clad in that very clothing, is wandering around suspiciously in the rain after dark, a community appointed neighborhood watch captain cannot stop and observe this person.  That is profiling of the unacceptable kind (as is instructing that person wandering around in the rain not to dress in specific clothing that may very well provoke misunderstandings with authority).  Better for that neighborhood watch person to go about his business and look the other way.  Better to let 100 suspicious-acting folks wandering in the rain after dark break into your house (and continue to dress in a style of clothing with suspicious connotations) than accost one innocent person.

I have no qualms with the Trayvon Martin Foundation “increasing public awareness against all forms of profiling.”  So long as “all” really means all, including profiling of the progressive liberal variety.


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Filed under Multiculturalism

Is being ‘on time’ a matter of cultural perspective?

by Christopher Paslay

America’s future career counselors are being taught that meeting deadlines and showing up on time for appointments is a matter of cultural perspective.

Last December I received my master’s degree in multicultural education from Eastern University.  In my Urban Education class our professor gave a mini lesson on “time orientation,” and explained how being “on time” was culturally relative.

“In some cultures,” she said, “‘on time’ means arriving 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  In some cultures it means coming fifteen minutes after the scheduled time.  And still in other cultures, ‘on time’ means you arrive at exactly the time scheduled.”  She was serious and not being facetious in any way.

The first thing that struck me after hearing this was the term “Black Time,” a slang and racially insensitive phrase used by people (including some African Americans) to describe a person who shows up late for something.  One of my best friends in high school was African American and his father used to say to him jokingly, “Be home in time for church—and I mean on time, not Black Time.”

The idea that time orientation is culturally relative, outside of multicultural education programs,  is absurd.  Time, unlike many other subjective entities, is one of the few things that is objective and fixed.  For those like my Urban Education professor who don’t believe so, try arriving at a train station 15 minutes after the train is scheduled to arrive and see if you catch the train.  Or, come back to your car 15 minutes after the parking meter runs out and see if you get a ticket.  Or, show up for a job interview 15 minutes after the scheduled meeting, and see if you get the job.

Time isn’t a matter of cultural perspective.  Those who believe this are in for a lot of pain and suffering.

Yet this reality doesn’t stop progressive multicultural theorists from teaching impressionable young minds that time is culturally relative.

This summer, I’m back at Eastern taking a class in Career Counseling as a requirement for my School Counseling Certificate.  The book we are using in class is called Career Counseling: A Holistic Approach, by Vernon G. Zunker, the acknowledged guru in the field.  In chapter 9 of his book, titled “Career Counseling for Multicultural Groups,” he gives a blueprint for counseling African Americans, Asian and Pacific Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Whites, pigeon-holing each group with generalized stereotypes—all the while warning future counselors against the dangers of stereotyping.

Zunker goes on to say that different cultures have different “work values,” and different ideas of “appropriate behavior” and “appropriate dress.”  Zunker states, “Thus, it is not surprising that one cultural group may generally view a behavior as being appropriate, but members of a different culture may view that same behavior as gross or insulting.”  Interestingly, Zunker gives no examples to back up his premise; so much for teaching future counselors that they should help students and clients to speak, dress, and behave in a professional manner on a job interview or in the workplace.

Back to the notion of time orientation.  Zunker states:

Among some cultures, differences in time orientation from the dominant society can present barriers to effective career planning and other time commitments that are normally assumed in career counseling.  In traditional career counseling, the client is expected to be on time for appointments and abide by a set of time rules to complete certain counseling interventions.  In many collectivist cultures individuals are not as obsessed with being on time and maintaining a strict time commitment.  A Navajo Indian woman asked me if the next meeting would be “Indian time” or “American time.”  She explained that “Indian time” is “whenever we get together that is convenient.”  Being on time for most counselors is viewed as a positive value, and lateness is often misunderstood as a symptom of indifference or a lack of basic work skills.  In this case, I learned firsthand that time orientation has different meanings for different cultural groups.

Zunker’s theory on time orientation stops here.  There is no follow-up advice or instruction to future counselors about how to address the problem of lateness or missed deadlines by clients who have an “alternative orientation” to time.  Zunker is mute on the issue, and his silence is his own approval.  In other words, by not stating that these behaviors are faulty (they are, in his words, a “misunderstanding”) he is signaling to America’s future counselors that it would be racially intolerant or culturally insensitive to expect clients to conform to the dominant culture’s definition of being punctual and meeting deadlines.

So how do we explain the misfortunes that happen to clients whose time orientation is culturally relative?  Why is it that people with alternative perspective on time habitually miss trains and buses, get parking tickets, are hit with late fees by the IRS and credit card companies, get their utilities shut off, and never get hired for jobs?

According to social justice advocates who embrace a multicultural theory, these people are caught in the throes of institutional racism and the cultural oppression of a dominant white society.

In short, these people are all victims, and future counselors are being indoctrinated by theorists like Zunker to expect as much.


Filed under Counseling, Multiculturalism

Joey Vento, Multicultural Ideology, and the ‘Speak English’ Sign

by Christopher Paslay

(In memory of the recent passing of Joey Vento, I am re-posting this article which originally appeared on Chalk & Talk on 2/14/09.)

“This is America.  When ordering, please speak English.”

By now we know the story.  Joey Vento, owner of the famous Geno’s Steaks in South Philadelphia, placed a small sign in the window of his restaurant asking customers to order in English.  Although the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations filed a discrimination complaint against Geno’s (which the commission eventually lost), Vento said the sign was never meant to be offensive.

“This country is a melting pot, but what makes it work is the English language,” Vento told members of the commission.

How we react to this “speak English” sign says a lot about who we are and what we believe in.  Those who find it offensive are probably cultural pluralists.  Those who agree with its message are most likely assimilationists.

If you’re not familiar with these concepts, allow me to elaborate on their meanings.

According to James A. Banks, author of Cultural Diversity and Education, “It is extremely important, argues the pluralist, for individuals to develop a commitment to their culture and ethnic group, especially if that group is oppressed by more powerful groups within society. . . . each member of a culture or ethnic group has a moral obligation to join the liberation struggle.”

In other words, cultural pluralists believe you should not only be permitted to speak in your native tongue, but you should do it with pride, and resist anyone or anything that tells you otherwise.

On the other hand, according to Banks, assimilationists believe the following: “. . . strong ethnic attachments are dysfunctional in a modernized civic community.  The assimilationist sees integration as a societal goal in a modernized state, not ethnic segregation or separation.  The assimilationist thinks that the best way to promote the goals of society and to develop commitments to democratic ideals is to promote the full socialization of all individuals and groups into the shared national civic culture.”

In other words, This is America.  When ordering, speak English. 

Today, the debate between cultural pluralism and assimilation isn’t limited to chessesteak shops in South Philly.  America’s schools are jumping into the fray as well.  Educational policy makers and those interested in school reform are battling over ideas and curriculum in regards to multicultural education.  And like the heated debate over Vento’s sign, each camp has a set agenda and interprets research very differently.

When it comes to education, the pluralist believes that the cultures of ethnic groups are not deviant or deficient in any way, but are well ordered and highly structured—although different from the dominant culture.   To quote Banks, pluralists believe “curriculum should be revised to reflect the cognitive styles, cultural history, and experiences of cultural groups, especially students of color.”

Educational assimilationists believe that learning characteristics are universal across cultures, and that the socialization practices of the dominant culture enhances learning, while the socialization styles of ethnic groups hold their members back from succeeding in school.  “Emphasis should be on the shared culture within the nation-state because all citizens must learn to participate in a civic culture that requires universal skills and competencies,” Banks writes of the beliefs of assimilationists.

Both the cultural pluralist and assimilationist concepts have their drawbacks.  The pluralist theory is lacking because it often fails to prepare students to cope adequately with the real world beyond their ethnic or cultural community.  And because learning characteristics are not always universalistic, but to some extent, cultural-specific, the assimilationist theory is not completely foolproof.

The answer to curriculum reform is what Banks calls Multicultural Ideology.  Banks states, “. . . educational policy can best be guided by an eclectic ideology that reflects both the cultural pluralist position and the assimilation position, but avoids their extremes.”

In other words, we need educational policies that promote social cohesion and a minimum of mainstream socialization, but at the same time, take into consideration a student’s learning style based on his or her culture or ethnic background.


Filed under Multiculturalism

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (part two)

by Christopher Paslay


After reading the second half of Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? I would like to commend her for having the courage to bring the issues of race and racism in America to light.  There are those who believe talking about race can only cause more frustration and serve to polarize the races even further, but I agree with Tatum when she says that there is a psychological cost of silence.  “As a society, we pay a price for our silence.  Unchallenged personal, cultural and institutional racism results in the loss of human potential, lowered productivity, and a rising tide of fear and violence in our society.”


I agree wholeheartedly.  No topic in America should be taboo, especially the topic of race.  Communication is the best way to promote understanding and solve problems non-violently.  Tatum’s book is a powerful (although extreme) tool for challenging racism in America.  It’s a radical wrecking-ball crashing through traditional thinking, forcing everyone who reads it to reexamine the way they view race relations in the United States.


However, this doesn’t mean we should embrace all of its ideas and accept them at face value.  There are many concepts in Tatum’s book that are off-base and oversimplified—points that come from a worldview that is limited in scope and perspective. 


For example, in Part III of her book, Tatum presumes to tell us all how to understand “Whiteness in a White Context”.  If I recall correctly, isn’t Tatum black?  Then how exactly does she have the life experiences and credentials to write about the thoughts, perceptions, prejudices and inner-struggles of white Americans?  Because she’s taught at SpelmanCollege, a historically black liberal arts college for women in AtlantaGeorgia?  Because she’s held workshops and roundtables on racism with white liberal college students?  Because she’s interviewed “angry white men” and can now understand the psyche of those white Americans who disagree with her ideas and politics? 


Tatum has misrepresented whites in several areas.  Because whites are supposedly the “unexamined norm” of society, she claims they “can easily reach adulthood without thinking much about their racial group.”  She also states they “tend to think of racial identity as something that other people have, not something that is salient for them.” 


I can see how Tatum might have arrived at this misconception.  During her workshops on race, it’s quite possible that many of her liberal white college participants were so guilty about being white, they hesitated to mention it as part of their identity.  This seems to be an offshoot of our politically correct culture: when it comes to discussions on race, being white is synonymous with being the bad guy. 


The reality is, many white people do think about their racial group and identity.  We are not permitted to come out and celebrate being white (unless you want to be associated with the KKK), but we are proud of our heritage.  Think about it.  How many whites do you know—young and old—who wave the Irish flag (St. Patrick’s Day; Irish American Heritage Night at Citizen’s BankPark)?  How many whites are proud of being Italian (ever see the T-shirt that says, Italians do it better)?  How about the Greeks?  And the Poles?  And the Jews?   


Tatum also misrepresents whites when it comes to Affirmative Action.  She claims that white folks who believe in Affirmative Action are healthy with a positive self identity, and those who disagree with it are confused and suffering from something she calls “aversion racism”.  Tatum defines aversion racism as “an attitudinal adaptation resulting from an assimilation of an egalitarian value system with prejudice and racist beliefs”.  In other words, if you don’t believe in a system that awards jobs, contracts and college admissions to people based on skin color, you are a racist who is “breathing the smog of racial biases and stereotypes pervading the popular culture.”


I’ve been teaching racially diverse students in the PhiladelphiaSchool District for 12 years.  I’ve worked for the Philadelphia Youth Network for six summers, spending time with students on playgrounds in Southwest Philadelphia, in basements of churches in North Philadelphia, and in rec centers in a dozen other parts of the city.  I am fair, open-minded, and compassionate.  But because I don’t agree with Affirmative Action, Tatum presumes I’m a racist (although I’m white and would already be a racist by default, according to her philosophies). 


“When the dominant identity of Whiteness goes unexamined, racial privilege also goes unacknowledged,” Tatum says.  “Instead, the achievements that unearned privilege make more attainable are seen as just reward for one’s own efforts.” 


Nothing exemplifies the hypocritical nature of Tatum’s reasoning more than this statement.  Tatum insists whites are privileged, and therefore given preferential treatment (and because whites haven’t examined their “Privilege,” they falsely believe that what they’ve been given is based solely on merit).  At the same time, Tatum’s an advocate of Affirmative Action, a system that gives preferential treatment to people because of their race (people who falsely believe that what they’ve been given is based solely on merit).    


Do you see the double-standard here?


Although Tatum’s book is radical in its ideologies, it is a powerful way to confront racism in America.  However, I think the title is misleading.  Instead of calling the book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, Tatum should rename it, Giving the White Man a Taste of His Own Medicine.  This would be much more accurate and honest.  


Christopher Paslay is a Philadelphia schoolteacher.  His new book, The Village Proposal: Education as a Shared Responsibility, is now available from Rowman & Littlefield .  To order a copy, click here.      



Filed under Achievement Gap, Multiculturalism

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (part one)

by Christopher Paslay


Currently, I am working on a master’s degree in multicultural education at Eastern University.  This semester I’m taking EDU 517—Multicultural Education.  Here is an excerpt from a reflection paper I wrote after reading the first 90 pages of Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?       


          “. . . I guess Tatum gave me a more technical understanding of race/ racism in America; now I’m more hip to the buzz words such as internalized oppression, dominant and subordinate societal groups, and White privilege—the language created to shift power from the dominant society to the subordinate minority culture.    


Here are the things that I liked about the first 90 pages of Tatum’s book.  She maps the identity development of African Americans from the early formative years all the way through adulthood.  As a teacher, if I could walk away with one bit of knowledge it would be the importance of recognizing how children—particularly African Americans—form their opinions of themselves and their culture.  It was good to see that Tatum pointed out that young black children (especially adolescents) need to mindfully reject negative stereotypes and find more positive role models. 


An example of a role model Tatum would undoubtedly approve of would be none other than Barack Obama.  I recently read in the New York Times about the “Obama Effect,” how Obama is so inspiring that his mere presence as U.S. president is raising scores of black test-takers.  As for the rejection of negative stereotypes—maybe our society could start by cleaning-up the gratuitous sex, violence and materialism found in the hip-hop culture; as educators, we must find substitutes for hip-hop music, possible substituting jazz and blues for gangsta rap. 


Of course, there were also things about Tatum’s book that I disagreed with.  To be frank, I found the underlying premise of the text quite hypocritical.  On the one hand, Tatum claims she wants to end racism and bring equality to all people by breaking down barriers and developing a true multicultural society.  Yet through the first 90 pages of the text, she unconsciously (or perhaps consciously) manages to divide the races, creating an us versus them mentality.  Nothing in the book is about synergy, teamwork or sameness—it’s always about a dominant and a subordinate; an oppressor and an oppressed; an insider and an outsider; a privileged and a marginalized. 


Granted, I’m not going to deny that these situations exist in American society.  But the problem with Tatum is her philosophy behind who and what should be the catalyst for change.  In Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, the message is quite clear: Change DOESN’T come from within—but from OUTSIDE.  White society is racist.  Period.  And black people and minorities are the victims.  Period.  (Ironically, Tatum says in her book that many black students are “uncomfortable with the portrayal of their group as helpless victims” during lessons on slavery).  Tatum mentioned that during most of her workshops on race, white students rarely mentioned being white.  This makes sense.  She seems to be big on creating an atmosphere of white guilt, so why would anyone want to admit that they were white?


According to Tatum, white people are privileged, and they must bear the burden of recognizing this privilege and feel guilty about it (this guilt will supposedly help end racism in America).  But if you subscribe to this logic, than all people should feel guilty about something.  Handsome people would have a Handsome Privilege (being a good looking person sure opens a lot of doors in America), and intelligent people would have an Intelligent Privilege (brains also gets you far in this country), etc.


Although Tatum means well, she probably doesn’t realize that her book is filled with racial stereotypes and generalizations.  Worse still, she doesn’t realize the danger of labeling the white American establishment as “racist” (even though America is quite diverse in 2009), just because people worked hard to achieve the American Dream.  She could say the establishment is too competitive, or maybe even intolerant.  But using the word racist in my opinion is a bit radical and done in poor taste.         


Tatum might want to write a book on Barack Obama’s new message to America:  SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY.  This approach might be less insulting to white people and condescending to blacks.  As a result, it might actually break down barriers between the races rather than pigeon-holing people and creating more anger and resentment.”


A second reflection paper—on the second half of Tatum’s book—is due next week.  I’ll be sure to post an excerpt from that paper as well.  



Filed under Achievement Gap, Multiculturalism