Same Blog -New Location

4 Feb

We have moved!

Please visit us at our new location:

http://www.annemarieshrouder.com/blog/

See you there!

annemarie

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Canadian Dolls…?

15 Dec

Reminder: This blog is moving – sign up here to stay in the loop!

It’s fitting, on the heels of last week’s blog, that I have been introduced to The Maplelea girls – a group of Canadian dolls.

maplelea-dolls

Sometimes conversations about race are difficult. Yes, we are making progress, but there are still issues to raise and improvements to make – and unless we talk about these, they won’t happen. Remember that we walk through the world noticing (and being impacted by) different things, because of who we are.

Maplelea Girls is an example of a company trying to do the right thing, and making some good choices, but still having room for improvement. And I’m going to assume that much of that is likely due to unconscious bias. But that’s why we hire diverse staff and create inclusive environments so they can share their perspectives and help organizations see more.

The Maplelea Girls are a core group of dolls (7) that have names and histories, and each come from a certain region of Canada. Kudos to the company for making one of those core group Inuit (and doing due diligence in making sure she is an accurate reflection of a 10 year old girl growing up in Nunavut), and one brown-skinned. That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not far enough. All of the girls have long straight hair (so, long hair = feminine), and 5 of the 7 are white. No First Nations, Black, or Asian representation. Hello, Canada!?

That’s the core group. The in group. So there’s a message right there.

The other dolls are the Maplelea Friends. There are 23 of them. And they don’t have names – just numbers. Once you buy one, you get to name them and write their history, which is nice. But here is the beginning of the unconscious messaging about worth and value.

The Maplelea Friends also bring some diversity to the mix in terms of skin tone and hair texture, as well as eye shape. Which is great. But remember, they are the Friends, not the Girls.

Here are the stats on the Friends;

  • They have different skin tones: light (15), medium-light (4), medium (2), medium-dark (1) and dark(1). I’m very impressed by this range actually.
  • There are different eye shapes (2 “almond-shaped” eyes).
  • Different types of hair: straight (the default) is not defined. 11 of the 17 have straight hair. And then there are curls and textured for the medium-dark and dark skin dolls.
  • Different hair lengths: 6 have shoulder length or short hair, the rest – 17 – have long hair (and all the long haired dolls have straight hair).

I have to say add, that with the exception of the (I’m assuming) Asian representations and the brown and Black representations, all of the light and medium-light skinned dolls have the same face.

Sigh.

I want to believe that the people behind these dolls had the best intentions in mind. I like the fact that they are trying to have some diversity – 5 different skin tones, 4 different hair textures, speak to that intention. It’s nice to have at least some variety for girls to be able to see themselves. But if you look a little closer, you will see the problem within that variety, because if you’re White, you have lots of options to choose from. And if you’re brown, Black, or Asian, the number drops from 15 to 2 for each. And if you’re Indigenous (while it’s great that there is an option) there is only 1.

So while it’s great to have the diversity and variety, I fear that the message still speaks to inequity in terms of who has value racially. And if we go a little further, what feminine looks like (long hair wins).

So Maplelea is onto something. It’s hard to find dolls that are not White. And it’s hard to find non-white dolls with hair that is racially correct. Hooray.

My point? I’m hoping that this is the beginning of their line of dolls, and not the final count. Because there is so much more to being a girl than long hair, and so much more diversity within races and cultures that can be represented in order for little girls to see themselves in the dolls they love – or see each other in the dolls they can choose.

And don’t get me started on why there aren’t any Maplelea Boys!!

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com

Just a reminder that this blog has moved to it’s permanent home on my website, where you can sign up. At the end of this month, I’ll stop duplicating.

 

See More is moving!

8 Dec

Thank you for being a follower on my blog!

As of today, See More has a new home on my new website (www.annemarieshrouder.com/blog/).

If you enjoy the posts, and would like to stay connected, please visit the new blog site at: http://www.annemarieshrouder.com/blog/

When you get there, you’ll see a sign up button.
You’ll be signing up  for the Inclusion Insight – a short email that arrives in your inbox on Monday with some food for thought, and links to the blog post.

Sadly there is no subscriber button just for the blog, so this is the only way you can get my future blogposts in your inbox. But I’ll be including links to any additional blog posts from the previous week, so you won’t miss out, and you’ll only get one email – on Mondays!

Looking forward to continuing to help you see more.

Annemarie
Speaker, Facilitator and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com

Who is Canadian?

4 Dec

Yesterday I arrived back in Toronto from a trip to the USA. As I made my way through the terminal at Pearson International Airport, I was greeted by this image:

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As you can see, it’s a large series of photographs that hangs high above the escalators as you go down to customs. It’s meant, I suppose, to share some of the quintessential Canadian things with arriving visitors, and citizens – both potential and current.

You’ll notice there is kayaking, the rodeo, Terry Fox, a farmer, an astronaut, an Olympic athlete, skiing, an RCMP officer (female, nice touch), an old black and white photo of men going to war, the parliament building, Niagara Falls, Quebec Carnival, and a lighthouse.

Someone chose these to represent the country: a mixture of places and people. It’s interesting to note what was chosen: some famous things (Niagara Falls), some quintessential Canadian things (wheat?). And it seems that the images go from West to East across the country. I wonder what the debate was like during the selection process, and what other images didn’t make the cut – and why.

But what strikes me every time I see it, is the lack of visible cultural diversity represented in a land that prides itself on the multicultural mosaic we have created.

Some of the images are hard to make out, but only two of the people represented that are clearly visible are not white: what I’m assuming are an Inuit elder and a Chinese child (who’s face we only see to just under her nose. I’m assuming she is a girl because of the hairstyle).

Imagine that I’m coming to Canada for the first time, and this is what I see as the representation of the country I am visiting or may be calling home. It’s in stark contrast to the line up I will encounter in customs in just under a minute.

Welcome to Canada.

Our home, and Native land – although the only Indigenous person on the image is Inuit. And there are no brown or Black people represented in the image at all. With images like this, is it any wonder that people still ask their non-White fellow Canadians “where are you from?” – and keep digging until they get an answer that explains the amount of melanin in our skin, if in fact we (or our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents) were born here?

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder                                                                                            Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com

Thoughts on the Safety Pin

27 Nov

Since Brexit an interesting phenomenon has appeared – the use of the once innocuous safety pin as a symbol of safe space. It has popped up in the USA post-election as well.

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It’s heartening to see people recognizing that spaces are not safe for everyone. Check.     It’s also great to see that people are recognizing that those who don’t feel safe need allies. An ally is someone who stands up for and speaks up for those who are being victimized, oppressed, marginalized, harassed, harmed, etc because of who they are. Check.

Those are the good things about the safety pin phenomenon, and if it’s helping to make people more aware of, sensitive to, and likely to intervene re: racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. when they see/hear it, then that is a step in the right direction. IF however, they are a cute symbol to pin on and show that one is supportive and an ally – and it’s not backed by awareness and followed by action, then they are dangerous and misleading and actually making spaces LESS safe.

Often we think of isms, oppression or marginalization as individual and personal, requiring an individual response. But there are other more insidious ways that undermine people’s safety- and these are systemic. Speaking up and standing up against those are also necessary – and more challenging because it’s hard to see these inequities if they are not impacting you. And so often they are not seen, and not spoken up or stood up against.

Which is where the safety pin causes some consternation and anger.

Unsafe spaces did not begin with Brexit or the US election. They have existed for too many years. Some see the safety pin and wonder where it (and more importantly, the sentiment) has been all this time – this symbol and expression of solidarity, safety and the promise of allyship. It’s a good question.

Wearing a safety pin also suggests that someone can know what a safe space feels like for someone else, which is questionable. But if we ask questions, and learn about each other, we can perhaps help to make spaces safer.

In the end, I’m torn about the safety pin.

I understand the anger about it. That it seems like the fashionable “in” thing to do, that it’s easy and safe for the person wearing it, that it is a pin rather than action.                    And I hope that maybe it’s also the beginning of people seeing more, of considering how different life can be experienced, of speaking up and stepping up against the isms, the phobias – against hatred. Some people may be late to the game, but if they are ready to play, then there will be more allies on the team. And isn’t that a good thing?

The safety pin could be an amazing symbol of action, mobilization, solidarity, courage, and hope. But to accomplish this is requires awareness of self and others, understanding the bigger picture, recognizing your privilege and using it to create change (among other things). It could signal a much needed change in how we see each other, what we notice and what we fight for and against – to make the world a much safer place for everyone.

But if you aren’t educating yourself about the issues, if you don’t know what it means to be an ally, if you’re not willing to step up and stand up, then it’s just a cool thing to do that will pass when you get bored or you think enough time has passed – in which case, please don’t wear one.

Either way, I encourage you to be open to hearing people’s reactions to them, and being willing to have a conversation about it – in order to see more and learn more about the people around you.

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com

Colour Blindness – a New Racism

20 Nov

This past week I have had the opportunity to reflect (again) on the way we have been taught to not see skin colour – specifically, the way we have been taught to not see non-white skin colour. Somewhere along the line someone decided that this would be a good idea, and would show acceptance. It does not.

Not seeing someone’s colour means you are ignoring an important part of who they are. And, more insidious, it means you also are not really seeing the negative impact of not being White in a world that values Whiteness.

This tendency to really see people goes beyond race to all marginalized groups, but I’m choosing to focus on race because I’m brown, and because people actually say things to me and other racialized people like “I don’t see your colour” or “your colour doesn’t matter to me” or “I don’t even notice you are Black/Brown” – like it’s a good thing.

I’ve been pondering this for quite some time, and I recognize that it’s difficult to see and understand the importance of something we have no concept of personally.

If you are White, you live in a world where YOUR skin colour doesn’t matter. You don’t have to think about it, question if it’s the reason you are experiencing barriers, and more devastating, feel and see the impact of the devaluing of who you are – simply because of the colour of your skin.

So it stands to reason that you will not understand the importance of recognising skin colour in this world. Preferring, instead, to believe that saying it doesn’t matter makes our experience like yours. It does not.

I understand where the impulse comes from – my mother is White and I have heard this phrase from her a few times in my life. I know she loves me, and I know she is trying to say, in a way, that although the world may see me differently and treat me negatively because of my brown skin, she doesn’t stop there and sees me. That’s beautiful. But incomplete. Because my skin colour is an integral part of who I am. And if you’re not seeing it, you’re not seeing all of me.

As parents, colour blindness is even more devastating because we have an added responsibility to help our children navigate the world. And when our children are not White, we have to teach them to navigate a world where racism is alive and well. If you have a brown or Black child and you are not doing this, you are doing them a disservice. You are missing the opportunity to instill a vital skill for them to thrive – and in some cases, to survive.

In the context of child welfare, foster parents and adoptive parents who are White take on Black and brown kids and believe – really believe – that love is enough. Yes, love is SO important. But it is not enough in the world and context we live in today that sees, values, and treats people differently based on the amount of melanin in their skin.

Love is a really great start, but we have to really recognize experiences and lived realities – ours and other people’s – in order to be able to support each other and create change. To do that, we have to really see and acknowledge people for who they are: all of them, because it all matters.

To learn more about this in a parenting context, please listen to my interview with Judy Stigger of Adoption Learning Partners on Transracial adoption (when you get to the page, scroll down to Nov. 20, 2015).

In the context of other relationships, it’s colour blindness is dismissive and we miss so much about each other, as well as opportunities to connect, and to be allies.

And I want to add that what I’m saying here is not to be confused with a belief in how things should be. Skin colour shouldn’t be a predictor or disparity. But saying you don’t see colour in a world that so clearly does, doesn’t change this. Seeing colour and being an ally in outlook, word, and deed is what will help to make the world an equitable place for people of all skin colours. Educate yourself about racism and anti-Black racism. Be an ally. Speak up and stand up. Make a difference because you see colour and the devastating impact of being racialized in a world that values Whiteness.

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com

Want a challenge? Sign up for my weekly Inclusion Insight – same topic, but with a challenge to help you see more.

 

 

Some thoughts on the US Election

13 Nov

The US election is devastating for so many reasons – not just the results, but the whole campaign.

Beyond the US president elect, it has shown us the underbelly of what seems like half of American voters: Racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, white supremacy… But Trump didn’t cause this; he merely said out loud what many were thinking and feeling, and gave them permission to say it out loud as well. These sentiments are not new – to the US or any other country. I’m not a history scholar but I know that US history is rife with entrenched and systemic racism and sexism, and many of the other isms have a trajectory that is similar, if not as long. Other countries are not innocent to these same intolerances.

Yes, there have been advancements – some big, some not so big – in human rights, equity, civil rights. But what is clear from this election (and which should be a wake up call globally) is that these advances have not reached everyone’s hearts. We have managed, in some way, and in some places – not all and not always well – to make at least expressing the isms and phobias unacceptable. Anti discrimination laws, human rights codes and acts, hate crime laws, and movements like the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter help to raise awareness and consciousness and create a standard of how we should be together – or what we should strive for. This election race and outcome has undermined these efforts and advances by normalizing and sanctioning overt hatred and violence – specifically Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, and people who identify as LGBT.

The horror of this election campaign and victory is that in addition to systemic racism and oppression – which is demoralizing and exhausting to live with as marginalized people, with far-reaching negative economic, social, health (and other) outcomes – there is now an even stronger threat to actual physical safety and the devastating personal experiences of racism, xenophobia (etc) and oppression.

While at least part of the US population reels from the results and the reality that the Trump victory suggest for their country for the next 4 years, there is another danger beyond the US borders: smugness.

Many of us in Canada are sighing with relief and saying how happy we are that we don’t live there as we point south towards the Canada-US border. I’m sure these sentiments are echoed in other countries as well. But consider this: it wasn’t long ago that we had a prime minister who successfully whipped up a national fear of Muslims, contributing to the rise of Islamophobia in this country. And we have legitimized racial profiling in many police departments through a practice called carding. The KKK exists in this country too. And although we have good LGB human rights, trans rights across the country are not consistent. Indigenous populations living on reserves are dealing with conditions that rival those of some developing countries. And women still don’t have adequate representation in positions of power. Although our current prime minister made sure the house of commons was 50% women “because it was 2015”; it wasn’t “2015” for Black people, or Indigenous people.

 Hatred and bigotry are not reserved for our US brothers and sisters. They may be showing theirs in fuller force and for all to see these days, but if we point our fingers at them, and think we are better, we miss the opportunity for self-reflection and our own healing – and to make the communities, cities and the countries we live in better for everyone.

See more.

Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder                                                                                          Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  www.annemarieshrouder.com

Want a challenge? Sign up for my weekly Inclusion Insight – same topic, but with a challenge to help you see more.

 

 

 

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