Notes from The Sixth International Transformative Learning Conference Michigan State University Oct 6-8, 2005

Steve L. Robbin, Grand Valley State University, Professor and Diversity Consultant

His mother married an American Serviceman in Vietnam in the 1970’s and came to America. It was a bad time to come from Vietnam. He used to get beaten up at school. She never commented on this but when she would be cleaning him up the tears would be rolling down her face. She had come to America in hope for a better future for herself and her child and this was not it.
One time when he was away at university she called him saying that she had bought new furniture for her house and the store had delivered old furniture to her and refused to take it back. So he made a fake lawyer letter head and wrote a stern letter to the shop and soon after they delivered the new furniture with a dozen roses.
Soon after he married his mother called him and said that you have your wife to take care of you now. One week later he got a call from the police that she had hanged herself in her home.
When he had his first child he started to reflect on these experiences and to question some of the views he had about race and racism. Up to this point he had held conventional stereotypes of lazy Blacks, Hispanics etc.

Are we interested in diversity training or diversity education. Ask anyone with kids which they would prefer for their children: sex education or sex training?

You grow up in a middle class neighborhood with professional parents who tell you that you can do anything if…? “you work hard”. At the conceptual level we believe American society to be based on a meritocracy but at an operational level other realities affect the degree of success a person achieves: wealth, connections and access.

An African immigrant to America (a workshop participant)shared her experience of what the concept of working hard meant for her: a black person can work 10 times harder, losing her soul in the process and for what? To get to the top and be hated by whites for it.

“Truth is the condition that allows suffering to speak.” Cornell West
From the lens of “if you just work hard” truth and suffering looks like whining and complaining.

Sense of entitlement
The same workshop participant told the story of having worked for many years as a nurse and several other jobs at the same time and finally bought a house. She invited her white neighbor who was kicked out of his home to live in her house. After some time of supporting him (cooking for him and cleaning up after him), because of the demands he was making on her she asked him to leave. He refused telling her that she is only an immigrant to this country and that he is entitled to stay in her home because this is her country and she has benefited from this.

The American dream of solving the problem of poverty through material gain (working hard) has become intolerant of suffering and hardship. If you don’t overcome this suffering you should not talk about it.

Attribution Theory
1) We live in a just world and you reap what you sow
2) Fundamental attribution error: internal locus of control (they are there because they did something wrong)
3) Ultimate attribution Error: external locus of control (she got the job because of affirmative action)

People like Condoleezza Rice and Tiger Woods, Opera etc are held up as the rule and not the exceptional successes that they are.

Who here considers themselves nice?
N.I.C.E not inclined to critically examine

What is racism
Racism is a sociological idea
Any ism is a system of values, beliefs, behavior. What do you need to create a system? Power.
A Racist is: racial prejudice + power + discriminating action

Now Orleans situation:

Myopic – view things not in context of historical racism… problem to see things in perspective because people in power explain things away very well
“Racism without racists” De Silva the idea of this book is that you don’t even need racists anymore to have racism because of the systems of society.
“White washing race: the myth of a color blind society.” book to read

Shift from the manufacturing economy to knowledge economy is taking poor people out of the economy. In the past poor people could work in factories, earn better salaries and improve their material condition.

1995 the human genome project- one human race
In America one can change race depending on what state one lives in.
A mathematician spent a lot of time calculation how removed people are to each other and found that the farthest removed one person can be to another is 52nd cousin. Concept of race is very problematic
you can change your race based on what state you live i.e. one drop rule or one eight, or one sixteenth makes you black.

The first case in American history challenging the concept of all white men having rights was a Japanese man arguing that he should have the same rights as a white man because his skin is white. It was ruled that one had to be Caucasian and white to have rights. The next case was brought forward by an East Indian man who said that he was Caucasian but he lost because he wasn’t white enough.

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