- Cultural Diversity Resources - books, Eric documents, Internet sites
- Inclusive Teaching - web resources
- Stories by Faculty Members - personal experiences with cultural diversity
- Multicultural Focus - memo to faculty about multicultural climate
- Syllabus with Diverse Perspectives (PDF) - (Dr. Willerton's syllabus - see page 3)
- Office for Student Multicultural Enrichment (off-site)
Cultural Diversity Resources
- Banks, James A. An Introduction to Multicultural Education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999. Call Number: 370.19341 B218I 1999. This 150 page book contains informative chapters on transforming curriculum and goals of multicultural education. Although geared primarily toward high schools, a number of the chapters provide information that would be useful for college and university multicultural issues.
- Bowser, Benjamin P., ed. et al. Toward the Multicultural University. Westport: Greenwood Publishing. 1995. On Order. The need for a more inclusive curriculum and university is addressed in this practical application to these issues. The chapters include proposals for improving teaching, administration, and student outcomes.
- Harris, Dean A., ed. Multiculturalism from the Margins: Non-dominant Voices on Difference and Diversity. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey, 1995. Call Number: 305.8 M961h.
- "Social Movements and the Politics of Difference", " A Multicultural America: Living in a Sea of Diversity", and "Dialogue and Diversity: Communication across Groups" are some of the chapter titles in this 193 page book.
- Morey, Ann Intili and Margie K. Kitano, ed. Multicultural Course Transformation in Higher Education: a Broader Truth. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997. HSU and McM. Call Number: LB2361.5 .M85 1997. Among the topics included are course change, assessment, creating an enabling learning environment, multicultural infusion in teacher education, in nursing curricula, and implementation strategies as well as evaluating the results of multicultural education.
- Pickert, Sarah M. Preparing for a Global Community: Achieving an International Perspective in Higher Education. Washington, DC: School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University, 1992. Call Number: 370.196 P596p. This ASHE/ERIC report looks at curriculum, participants, and administration in considering how institutions can improve international education.
- Schultz, Fred, ed. Multicultural Education 96/97., Third ed. Guilford, Conn.: Brown and Benchmark, 1996. Call Number: 370.117 M961. A collection of 46 articles including teacher education programs, cultural diversity theory and practice in multicultural education and acceptance of cultural diversity. Article 14 discusses bridging multicultural theory and practice.
- Brislin, Tom. Integrating Active Learning, Critical Thinking and Multicultural Education In Teaching Media Ethics across the Curriculum. August, 1999. ED434371. Abstract: This paper presents four teaching strategies, grounded in pedagogical theory, to encourage an active, challenging, creative, and meaningful experience for journalism and mass communication students grappling with moral issues, and developing higher order thinking in ethical decision-making processes. Strategies emphasizing critical thinking and diversity awareness have shown success in lower-division media and society classes. Strategies emphasizing active and collaborative learning have been effective in an upper-division journalism ethics class as well as in professional journalism groups. (Contains 34 references.) (Author/RS)
- Humphreys, Debra. Higher Education, Race & Diversity: Views from the Field. 1998. ED423778. Abstract: The four papers in this document address issues of higher education, race, and diversity. First, "The Impact of Diversity on College Students: The Latest Research," reviews recent studies and finds that diversity initiatives, from those focusing on access, to those focusing on campus climate, to those focusing on comprehensive institutional transformation, provide demonstrable benefits to all students, whatever their backgrounds and characteristics. Second, "Diversity and the College Curriculum: How Colleges & Universities Are Preparing Students for a Changing World," presents an overview of developments in curriculum transformation and a discussion of what these changes seek to accomplish, as well as a list of resources on diversity and the college curriculum. Third, "Faculty Recruitment in Higher Education: Research Findings on Diversity and Affirmative Action," debunks myths about affirmative action and faculty hiring, provides facts on how the job market actually works for minority faculty, and concludes that affirmative action hiring policies are still necessary to ensure equal treatment for women and minority candidates. Finally, "Political Correctness: The Truth about Diversity and Tolerance in Higher Education," provides data refuting claims that conservative faculty members and students are being persecuted for their beliefs and that efforts to address diversity and intolerance result in more rather than less tension on college campuses. (Individual papers contain references and additional resources.) (DB)
- Jenkins, Carol A., and Deborah L. Bainer. Common Instructional Problems in Multicultural Classrooms. March, 1990. ED330279. Abstract: In this discussion on instructional problems in multicultural higher education classrooms, it is argued that while educators recognize that equitable treatment for all students is their responsibility, they often do not know which attitudes, behaviors, expectations and teaching strategies may be misunderstood by ethnic and/or minority students, thereby negatively affecting their teaching effectiveness in multicultural classrooms. Several factors which tend to influence the academic success of minority students, as well as faculty attitudes and behaviors which may communicate uneasiness and differential student learning are analyzed, including: motivation in the multicultural classroom; student/professor interaction; limited English proficiency; cultural variations in oral/written logic; and the understanding of diverse world views. Various strategies for checking understanding in the multicultural classroom are also suggested. It is concluded that universities with interest in and commitment to the academic success of diverse students should: (1) initiate faculty development in pedagogical skills that will provide equal access to learning in the classroom; (2) weave minority students into the essential fabric of the institution; and (3) meaningfully integrate minority scholarship into the curriculum. Included are 38 references. (LPT)
- Keeton, Morris, and Craig A. Clagett. Improving Minority Student Success: Crossing Boundaries and Making Connections between Theory, Research, and Academic Planning. July, 1998. ED422036. Abstract: In an effort to cross boundaries and make connections between theory, research, and academic planning, Prince George's Community College in Maryland (PGCC) and the University of Maryland University College's Institute for Research on Adults in Higher Education (IRAHE) developed a partnership using national and institutional research to link theory and academic planning. In doing so, both institutions developed new programs responsive to the needs of a diverse population of adult learners. This paper reports how multi-institutional, theoretical research influenced the design and development of intervention programs at a large, predominantly African-American community college. Sections of the document include theory, research and planning, hypotheses regarding increased student achievement, the IRAHE study of risk and promise, and analyses of student success at PGCC. Information is also included about the R3 Academy, a two-semester program of developmental and credit instruction. Three tables help to explain achievement variance. In addition, the Data Action Memo, defined as a new communication tool for crossing boundaries and making connections between institutional research and planning, is discussed in relation to PGCC curriculum development. Appended is the first memo sent to academic administrators and chairpersons in the fall of 1997. (Contains 23 references.) (AS)
- Kezar, Adrianna J. Higher Education Trends (1997-1999) Curriculum. ED435343. Abstract: Literature on college curriculum has been declining since the early 1990s, representing under 5 percent of the literature added to the ERIC database in 1996. One reason seems to be the emphasis on instruction; another is that information on curricular movements is often addressed in the literature on instructional change. Trends in 1996 in the literature on curriculum include themes of diversity, democracy or citizenship, environmentalism, and international studies. A major trend in the literature is the addition of interdisciplinary curricula, although it tends to be subsumed under the theme of instructional change. Diversity is described in the literature most often as an issue for practitioners; one of the most comprehensive resources documents the impact of multiculturalism on higher education during the l980s and 1990s. However, research is needed to document the impact of multicultural curricula on student outcomes. Another important theme added to the literature in 1996 is curricula focused on the development of civic responsibility; and environmental education, which virtually disappeared in the 1980s and early 1990s, is once again in the literature. The number of documents on international education is small if measured by the importance of the issue as manifested by mission statements, presidential speeches, and the press. (Contains 12 references.) (JM)
- Phuntsog, Nawang. The Magic of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: In Search of the Genie's Lamp in Multicultural Education. April, 1998. ED420632. Abstract: In recent years, there has been growing interest in helping teachers develop culturally responsive teaching strategies. This paper profiles crucial aspects of a culturally responsive pedagogy and proposes a holistic framework for integrating different levels of culture into culturally responsive teaching. A literature review examined 13 documents published between 1992 and 1997. The research suggested that culturally responsive teaching encompasses respect for diversity; creation of a safe, inclusive, respectful environment; integration of responsive teaching practices in all disciplines; and transformation of curriculum to promote social justice and equity in society. The literature review highlighted problems and issues that researchers consider crucial for developing culturally responsive teaching. A main finding was that educators' attitudes play a vital role in either empowering or disabling diverse students. The proposed framework integrates salient features of culturally responsive practices, recognizing the teacher's central, crucial role. It shows interrelationships between four levels of culture (personal, microculture, macroculture, and global culture). Its five essential features are cultural literacy, self-reflective analysis, caring and inclusive classrooms, respect for diversity, and critical pedagogy/transformative curriculum. (Contains 31 references.) (SM)
Citations and Abstracts
ERIC Database. October 31, 2000. http://www.texshare.edu/ovidweb/ovidweb
Compiled by Virginia Bailey, Reference Librarian, Abilene Christian University
- DiversityWeb - A Resource Hub for Higher Education. The mission of this site from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is to present resources for educators in higher education including information on curriculum issues as it relates to cultural diversity (Diversity Digest). Also included are resources to syllabi, projects, programs, and student and staff involvement.
- Diversity Database, University of Maryland. This comprehensive site from the University of Maryland, contains general and specific resources on multiculturalism and cultural diversity. It also offers statements and plans of other universities, including diversity initiatives.
- Diversity in the College Classroom, a publication of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Univ of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1998. Especially note chapters 4-8 on African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American, and International Students.
Inclusive Teaching Web Resources
- Inclusive Teaching - University of Washington, Center for Instructional Development and Research
- Teaching for Inclusion - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Center for Teaching and Learning
- Diversity Web - Association of American Colleges and Universities
- Classroom Management Tools - Arizona State University, Intergroup Relations Center
- The Chilly Climate - Dr. Bernice Resnick Sandler, Women's Research and Education Center
Stories by Faculty Members: Personal Experiences with Cultural Diversity
- Dr. Dan Brannan
- Nita Burton
- Dr. Jim Nichols
- Dr. Nancy Shankle
- Dr. Jonathan Wade
- Dr. Gay Barton
- Dr. Dan Brannan (2)
- Steven T. Moore
- Dr. Nancy Shankle (2)
There are many experiences I had while growing up in a multi-cultural environment in New Mexico long before multi-culturalism became chic. At eight years of age, I often went with Dad to the reservations to build dams or concrete ditches for the Jemez and Zia and Zuni Pueblos. He worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as a hydraulics engineer. He would joke with the Cociques in the Pueblo about how BIA really stood for Boss Indians Around. Everyone would laugh at the joke but then also realize, sadly, how close to true it really was.
One of the old Jemez leaders showed me how I could make horsetail reeds into a type of noise-maker. He and I lay in the freshly exposed soil of the ditch, waiting for the concrete to be poured. Our communication was limited to signs and smiles. Finally we blew on several of the reeds all together to make such a caterwauling that both the old man and the child rolled with laughter until we were both out of breath and tears filled our eyes. No one can tell me that a Native American Elder and a Caucasian child cannot connect because of their differences. Laughter is the same in any culture.
There are experiences like my adoptive aunt Doty Garcia-Hoffman and I making tortillas together and she teasing her little huero borrego (empty-headed-blond-curly-hair like-a-sheep) nephew about not being able to make them perfectly round like she could. When she went to the bathroom, I sneaked a round plate from the cupboard and cut out several perfectly round ones and said, "See, even this little gringo can do it too." We laugh about that even today. Somehow, the derogatory names are really not offensive if you have a connection to the person. You know their care and concern for you supercedes false perceptions of differences due to race or ethnicity.
Maybe I'll get over the sting of being referred to as Anglo or white someday. In the meantime, whenever I have to fill out a form asking for my race or ethnicity it angers me. If I'm feeling particularly angry with being asked such a stupid question, I check the "other" option and fill in the blank with something facetious like "Irish Druid" just to mess with the folks who still think "race matters."
I have trouble believing that "race matters" or rather that race should matter. Yes, I realize that many travesties have been committed with concepts of Jim Crow and that freed slaves did not get "forty acres and a mule" and that many unscrupulous gringos stole land by not honoring Guadalupe-Hidalgo. But that wasn't my family or me. For us, race never mattered.
I do not know why I still check "other" on such forms rather than "white." It may be because I do not see myself as "white" since my skin doesn't even come close to that color. It may be because I identify with the multi-cultural peoples of New Mexico more so than I identify with "white folks." It may be that I'm ashamed of what these "white folks" did in the past and some still do in the present and I do not identify with such people. But it may just be that I still agree with my grandmother that "we are all the same, just different shades of brown." My children hear it today. Maybe they will continue the idea. If we do not teach it to our children, no one will. I hope Irene tells her children the same things.
Springtime was Miss Ola's favorite season. The deep indigo of the Indian Paint Brush, the intense blue spray of a patch of bluebonnets sent her into an array of memories long since past. "And Oh, the niggah-toesÉ" Brakes squealed, a cloud of dust enveloped the car as we slid to a squeeching halt. Gathering my composure, I looked at the then ninety-two year old Caucasian lady who for over a year had become my long-time shopping buddy and Dairy Queen companion, and, said, "What was that, Miss Ola?" Upon seeing her blushed cheeks and confused glance, I realized that Miss Ola had just experienced a new chapter in life-long learningÉ
You see, Miss Ola was a product of 1906 America. God knows that anyone or anything with a 1906 beginning sees some aspects of the world with a haze, like an infant, viewing life like a poor reflection in a mirror. Miss Ola, being ninety two, lived in black and white shadows, each shadow narrowly typified as poor or rich, thief or saint, servant or we-who-are-to-be servedÉ
But life has a way of blinding us sometimes, either to our good or to our detriment&emdash;depending on who's doing the blinding. In 1988, God blinded Miss Ola to help her see. That's how we became friends.
Miss Ola loved ladies apparel at J. C. Penney; we navigated clothes-stuffed aisles and negotiated sales like pros. Her second love was Dairy Queen. Tuesday's grocery shopping spree always ended with hot fudge sundaes or the weekly special. Chaperone, companion, helperÉI often struggled to define the relationship.
One day, Miss Ola wanted to be baptized. Quotes of favorite bible verses and references to "my son the minister" characterized Miss Ola as at least a "professing" Christian. However, her casual use of superlatives shockingly appropriate for the situation sometimes opened doors of doubt. Miss Ola wanted to be baptized. A small crowd waited silently in the pews. The periodic rustle of hymnbook pages disturbed the hallowed atmosphere. Song after song after song of praise helped to pass the time. Miss Ola wanted to be baptized, refusing to move until her "friend" could share in yet another "treat".
Neither that day nor any days hence have I struggled to define the relationship Miss Ola and I have. Feebleness and slight senility ended our outings. Distance added space to conversations that were once face to face. Yet I believe God finished His work&emdash;in Miss Ola and in me. God took two people of different color, from different times, nailed diversity to the cross, and created a blinding, indescribable light. He took a prism, fashioned to form an elderly yet graceful Caucasian lady, shined this light through her, and issues of color became a rainbow. There are truly some things that only God can do. And He does them in His own way, which is unfathomable, in His own time&emdash;which is timeless.
My experiences with Jewish folks have been few. These experiences have tended to be with political/cultural Jews rather than religious Jews. Seldom have I had many religious contacts with a Jew, and I had had virtually none until this incident. It brought me to consider for the first time my role as a person of God in a long line of believers, most of them much different than I am, but believers nevertheless.
I had just graduated from Abilene CHRISTIAN College in the mid-1960s, and my new wife and I had moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for me to begin graduate school at the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor in those days was a "hot-bed" of student radicalism. The Vietnam War was just beginning to accelerate. Racial unrest was high. Race riots were occurring in the hot summers in Detroit, 30 miles away. The 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago was approaching. It was an exciting, but daunting, place for the two of us.
Early in the second semester I attended a meeting of the 25-30 graduate students who all had laboratory teaching responsibilities. The goal of this initial meeting of the semester was to go over the ground rules for the semester and arrange for subsequent meeting times to prepare together the laboratory activities of the coming week.
It is always difficult, if not impossible, to try to arrange a common meeting time for 25-30 people. This was clearly going to be a problem with this group. The faculty member/leader of the group ran the meeting. This was the same faculty member whose first words to the 200 freshmen in his first class meeting of the semester were: "Hello. My name is Lawrence Johnson, B.S., M.S., Ph.D. Everyone knows what B.S. is. M.S 'means more of the same', and Ph.D. means "piled higher and deeper.'"
Dr. Johnson was running the meeting. We were meeting in a regular lab room---long laminated tables in four rows with multiple chairs. Dr. Johnson was at the front. As he facilitated, it became apparent that there were certain meeting times clearly ruled out by the collective graduate students. No one wanted to meet on the weekends, and Friday night was ruled out for similar reasons. There was no serious consideration of sometime during the day because of the varied class schedules of the students. The clear choice was to be in the evening on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
Monday was considered first but several had a common graduate student class conflict that night. Thursday night was similarly unavailable, though to fewer people. Tuesday night was the third choice, and only one person, a young female Jewish graduate student I knew only faintly, could not come on that night because of some appointment she had. I could see early on where this discussion was heading. "How about Wednesday night, then?" asked Dr. Johnson.
I need to say that I am not one now (nor was I then) who feels that one is absolutely obligated to attend church on every Wednesday night. I can make good arguments for attending, but I have missed my share. During that semester, however, I had agreed to teach a class on Wednesday nights at church and, in fact, the class had already been meeting. A mini-crisis was approaching.
When the Wednesday night option was voiced, no one raised a hand to object. I waited. Still no hand. I raised mine. "What is your conflict that night, Nichols?" he said.
Sprint long distance service has a television advertisement that shows a pin dropping to illustrate the clarity of the transmissions. The transmission is quiet with no interference. That was how much sound there was following Dr. Johnson's question to me -- none. I replied, "I teach a Bible class that night." The same level of silence continued for about two seconds until laughter erupted. How ludicrous a thought in 1967 Ann Arbor, Michigan -- a Bible class. The laughter finally died. Then, with the perfect timing of a comedian, one of the graduate students said profanely, "Bible class ----- Jesus Christ!" And the laughter arose again.
I was not sure how this would end, but then the Jewish girl raised her hand. She had actually raised her hand to get the attention of the faculty member, Dr. Johnson, but she turned and looked at me. As the room quieted, she spoke to all, but continued looking at me. "I know that I said I have an appointment on Tuesday night, but I really don't have to attend that. I am the only Tuesday conflict -- let's meet on Tuesday." The meeting moved on to another topic since that one was solved. She had saved me. She didn't know me -- or did she?
Since then I have paid particular attention to the scriptures in which people are described as looking at one another or gazing intently. Our eyes had met for only a few seconds and yet we (perhaps) shared centuries. I do not remember her name. I hardly remember what she looked like except for her dark hair and dark eyes. But I felt a tie with her.
We never had a subsequent conversation about that incident. The impact on me was strong, however. I had felt a spiritual connection with someone much different than I am, but, perhaps, fundamentally the same. She was part of the people God had promised to have as His own forever. In retrospect, I wish that I could share my view of God and His Son with her, but I also understand that, in ways, she is an "original." I have been grafted onto her. She and her people have known God longer than I and my people have known God.
I read Amy Tan's book, The Joy Luck Club, a year before my first trip to San Francisco. In it she tells the story of four Chinese families that immigrated to San Francisco. The story is multi-generational, chronicling the lives of the characters who lived in China and then their first experiences in the United States as well as the next generation, the characters who were born in the United States and had to negotiate their lives as Chinese Americans.
Amy Tan's writing spoke to me across the culture because her stories focused on the lives of women. But her stories really came alive to me when I made my first trip to San Francisco and visited Chinatown. Walking toward Chinatown, I saw the arch and crossed beneath it. I saw the street signs change from English to Chinese. I heard the Chinese language spoken by busy men and women moving about the streets. I saw the shops piled high fresh produce-apples, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers. I saw the seafood shops with live crabs scrambling around in a bucket and fresh fish stacked on ice. I saw the butcher shop with ducks hanging by their necks in the window. I saw import shops with exotic goods-furniture, linen, jewelry, lamps, vases.
We found a little restaurant which had been recommended to us. If I had not been warned, I probably would not have stopped. It was small-barely held 20 people-and featured three men cooking the day's fare in the front window. A line of people-of Caucasian and Chinese-American-snaked half-way down the block. One couple who exited the restaurant encouraged us. "It is worth the wait," they said. "It's the best you'll ever eat." Once it was our turn to enter the restaurant, we were shown to the counter and perched ourselves on stools for the meal. We attempted to order off the menu, but the menu was of little use. Our waiter corrected us, "no, no, you eat this." That's when I learned that the day's menu consisted of whatever was fresh in the produce and seafood shops that morning. I don't know the name of the food we were served, but it was without doubt the best Chinese food I have ever had.
These sights, sounds, and smells were all new to me that day, but they were also surprisingly familiar. I had experienced these streets through Amy Tan's book and thus had the familiar recollection of new experiences. This, I believe, is the power of literature-to transcend one's own time, place, and culture, to experience the lives of others. This is also the reason we must continue our efforts to integrate multicultural experiences in our curriculum.
In the spring of 1988, I confided to my minister that I had lost my faith, and his response was surprising. He said, "No, I think you are a woman of great faith."
I had been in Abilene for one year, coming to the mall as the new assistant store manager with JC Penney's. This promotion marked 15 years with the company; and although it seemed like I was successful, I knew deep down inside that I was lost, spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionallyÉ But with that promotion, God also directed me to the Minda Street Church of Christ, a predominantly black congregation.
At first, like many white folks, I was drawn to the superficial differences, the different rhythm to the hymns, the responsive audience that connects to the speaker, the rustling of the pages because everyone has their Bible, but mostly they recite from memory. As I continued to become a part of this church family, I finally recognized the real difference -- a basic underlying reliance on God.
In late January 1989, I prayed specifically for an opportunity to show my faith. Two days later, JC Penney's asked me to move from Abilene, and I said "no." I had made a commitment to work with this congregation, to live with these people, to die with these people. I wanted to step out on faith and I was willing to start over, hoping that I could get a master's degree and teach at Abilene Christian University. And I had come to realize that:
There was a time in my life
I was living in sin without Christ.
And it made me wonder what I had done wrong
That made my race so hard to run.
Without you, Lord
Without you, Lord
I can't make it without you, Lord.
And I'm here.
"Horatio is the bomb. He's the kind of friend a man needs." Alfonse stood up, and pointed at the rest of the class. "Hamlet, man, he's the man." The class proceeded to attack Alphonse about his interpretation, but I paused, awestruck -- overwhelmed not with my teaching ability but with Alfonse's energy and passion.
On the first day of class, Alfonse walked in -- a tall, muscular, young black man with handsome features. Wearing the oversized pants that are currently the rage along with a tight tan t-shirt, a crisply starched canary yellow button-down, a large gold chain with a huge golden crucifix and looped earrings in both ears. He sauntered to the back of the classroom, slid into his chair, and stared at me for the rest of the hour.
I handed out the course documents and discussed my goals and requirements for this class. During this time, Alfonse said nothing. He sat there staring at me with what I thought I recognized as a very lightly veiled contempt. I went around the room getting acquainted with the students -- asking them about their experiences with reading literature and writing. "Alfonse," I said, when my inquisitions had reached the back row. "What kind of experiences have you had with writing and reading literature."
"I don't" he said as he leaned back and looked at me as if he were challenging me to continue my inquiry. I couldn't summon the courage, so I went on to the next student.
The next class period we were having a discussion about how to write an analysis of a movie. I asked the class to describe their favorite characters from movies as we tried to analyze what was compelling about them. Alfonse raised his hand. I was excited. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard to get him to participate.
"You know you look like Bill Gates?" The class burst into laughter. Later, I decided I should have said, "Why? Because I'm a skinny white guy with round glasses and brown hair?" And then I imagined lecturing about stereotyping. Of course, I didn't say anything particular. In my typical flustered teacher style I stammered around until I found the topic again and then continued. This was a teachable moment. I'm sure of it, but I wasn't able to capture the pedagogical possibilities -- not this time.
About three weeks, one late paper, and one "F" later Alfonse came to me in my office. Poking his head in the door he said, "Yo, prof. You got a minute?"
"It's this way," he sank into my guest chair, "I don't do too good at this reading and writing stuff. I passed this class at my last school, but for some reason y'all wouldn't take my credit. So, I gotta take this class, but I don't want to fail it."
I explained that I was sympathetic to the needs of students whose interests were not exactly the same as mine, but I also encouraged him to try to find the things about these works that worked with him. If he could do that, I argued, he could learn to let literature work in him and in turn he could learn to become a better writer and reader. I don't think he bought it, but he was polite.
As the semester went on, I worried about Alfonse. He was always distant in class discussions -- until Shakespeare. And frankly, of all the readings that we did, I imagined that his heart would be turned on by something or someone more contemporary. But the Bard apparently did his work, and that evening he defended Hamlet and Horatio against a class of critics. The inertia of the class was leaning against Hamlet. A couple of the outspoken students decided that Hamlet was a manipulative whiner and they had taken most of the rest of the class with them in their interpretive thrust. Alfonse might have withstood this attack upon Hamlet except that one student also chose to make disparaging remarks about Horatio. It was at this moment that he stood up and confronted the class.
"Horatio's the bomb. He's the kind of friend a man needs. Hamlet is the man. They stand up against the machine that's trying to take them down. There ain't anything more beautiful than that."
I'm not certain that Alfonse won the day rhetorically. His argument for Hamlet's character had several logical holes. For example, he didn't really deal with Hamlet's complicity in the turn of events, or with Hamlet's treatment of Ophelia, or with the murder of the good old man, Polonius. He had, however, shown me that he cared -- that he could care -- and that his contribution to the classroom could be something other than as an obstacle or an abstraction.
On the last day of classes, Alfonso came up and gave me an awkward hug. "This was a whole lot better than I thought it would be," he said.
"Good," I said. I was thinking, "Yeah, it was."
The school "bell" is ringing. It's an old plow share hanging from a jacaranda tree in front of the primary school. With a pair of metal spikes, a small boy is beating out his elaborate, improvised rhythms on the suspended disc. Another boy dances around him, waiting impatiently for his turn.
I've been in Rhodesia a year now, and I'm beginning to learn the rhythms, rhythms of the bell, rhythms of a life so different from what I've always known. I've been in school all my life, or so it seems, and the rhythms I know best are measured out by calendars, clocks, assignment deadlines. Back home, I didn't always pay attention to the natural rhythms of the seasons. But here, the seasons catch my attention because they are so different. Through the late winter and spring, as the dry season deepens, grass that grew man-high through last summer's rains becomes brittle tinder. By August and September, which is the beginning of spring here, we never go to town without seeing grass fires somewhere along the road. The air is clotted with dust and smoke haze. For almost six months the mountains to the east are invisible. Then in November the rains begin. Standing on the hill on the eastern side of the mission I look out toward the Malawi border and see, miles away, the Vumba Mountains bloom into view as if newly created, rising out of the intervening plain.
And the silence--silence as complete as the darkness when the generators fall asleep at 10:00 each night. Walking along a path near our house one evening before the rains begin, I notice a tiny sound. At first I can't find the source, until I bend down close to the ground. It's the ants--those famous African ants that build their great mounds. The tiny sound is the ants crunching dry leaves at my feet. Squatting beside the path, I hold my breath and listen. I have never heard ants before. It is this deep quiet that makes the rhythms of the school bell and the girls' singing games so exquisite, hovering in the air that rises up our hill from the school yard.
Wanting to get to know some of the African families better, shortly after we arrived on the mission my husband and I began practicing hospitality American style. I would walk round to the Tandis' house, for example, and ask Mai Tandi: "Can you and Baba come to supper next Thursday evening." I initially did not understand why both the asking and the supper seemed so awkward, or why no one ever returned the invitation--no one except my friend Mai Mpondi. She and her husband not only came to supper, but were gracious enough to enjoy themselves and even invited us to their house on a particular day. But it is Mai Mpondi who has helped me understand that this is simply not the way the Mashona people share meals. Their way is much more spontaneous. If you are at her house near supper time, the mai will invite you to stop and eat with the family, to share whatever they are having. I once received such an invitation, in fact, and declined it, assuming that Mai Penakua was just being polite and that my staying would be an imposition, thus rejecting, as I later realized, an offer of hospitality from one of these deeply hospitable people. I'm so American I had assumed that hospitality, like everything else, must be planned, scheduled, written into a calendar. It has taken a year, but I'm beginning to learn the rhythms of this new world.
These memories come from thirty years ago. I live in a different world now, more like the one I grew up in, except more frantic. As I sit here in my office this afternoon, books, files, and papers loom on the table over in the corner. Each stack needs to be gone through, some of it Xeroxed, some thrown away, some returned to the colleague from whom I borrowed--a year ago--and the rest filed . . . whenever I set up that part of my filing system. But it's the desk that really knots the muscles in my shoulders. The in/out box has some dated items that demand my immediate attention, but here is a set of essays I really must grade by Monday, and I have not finished making out these study questions for my sophomores. The computer pongs to announce yet another very important meeting bearing on some topic at the heart of who we are as a Christian university. The bright yellow, two-day-old, post-it note in the middle of my desk reminds me of a phone call I must make, but picking up the phone I discover a voice mail message.
I sit back in the chair and rub my tingling right forefinger, a numbness left over from a pinched nerve high in my back some dozen years ago. Whenever the tension in my shoulders builds, that numbness creeps farther up my finger. Busy, pinched, numb, I rarely think of that other life on the opposite side of the world . . . except sometimes, just for a moment or two, I go deaf to the conversation in the hall, the clack of a keyboard, the pong of incoming e-mail, and in that quiet I hear echoes of a more human rhythm, a rhythm beaten out on a broken steel plowshare hanging from a jacaranda tree in front of a school built of hand-made, earth-toned bricks.
I was a Junior in Mr. Moreles' Horticulture class at Belén High School thinking how beautiful Irene Molina was and how her smile lit up the room. Her jet black eyes and hair contrasted with her pale olive skin. She was what the locals called a true castellano. We talked a lot in class and laughed a lot. Surely she would say yes to my request to take her out this Friday.
It was a brisk spring day with the wind howling outside. Blowing sand characterizes springtime in New Mexico. The only reminder that winter was over was the greening of the Cottonwoods along the bosque. It was Wednesday. On Monday she said, "I'll have to ask my father first." She was different today, though. Our usual way of joking and talking was more formal for some reason.
Finally, I asked her again, "So can you go to the movies this Friday?"
The answer stunned me, "I'm sorry, but my father won't let me date Anglo boys."
My mind raced. Surely what she meant was that she couldn't date a non-Catholic since religion was the major thing that distinguished folks in our community. Most people in our rural community were Catholic and they did not encourage dating outside "the church."
"Is it because I'm not Catholic?" I asked.
"No, he won't let me date Anglo boys; he says he wants to keep La Raza pure and prevent mixed marriages, whatever that means."
The term was just becoming frequent since the Tierra Amarilla incident in 1966 by Reies Lopez Tijerina and his Alianza Federal de Mercedes (Federal Alliance of Grants) (http://www.desert.net/ww/06-13-97/alibi_feat1.html) . But neither of us understood the meaning very well. One didn't question the "wisdom" of parents back then.
Intermarriage of races or ethnicities was being referred to as "mixed marriages." It didn't help that Malcolm X had questioned integration and intermarriages too when he said, "It's just like when you've got some coffee that's too black, which means it's too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won't even know you ever had coffee."
The concept was confusing to me growing up in multicultural New Mexico where three legal languages existed: Spanish, English and any Tewa or Denai dialect. It was even more confusing to me since the Brannan's and the Sellar's (my father and mother's sides) had been "intermarrying" with the Gutierrez's, and Calles' for 50+ years. No one thought of each other as Hispanic or Anglo in my extended family. I was even given a Spanish nickname, Pepe, because my mother wanted to name me after my father. But since he did not like juniors, she settled for "little Joe" in Spanish.
At my grandparents' house later that Wednesday night before going to prayer meeting, I was still turning these thoughts over and over. My grandfather, Sito (short for Papasito) sat in his chair watching the news after a day of railroading on the Santa Fe. My grandmother, Murna, was cooking frijoles and chile. After that windy day, the spring rains finally started to settle the dust. The fresh earth smell of the wet desert-alkali soil mixed with the sweet fragrance of Russian Olive blossoms and the thick smell of comino and garlic coming from Murna's cooking. My earlier embarrassment of rejection was soothed with these familiar smells of the Rio Grande bosque.
"Murna, what do they mean by 'mixed marriages'?" I asked.
"It's a new term," my mother interjected when Murna looked surprised. "It refers to marriages like your Uncle Glen and Aunt Nena."
"What makes them, 'mixed'?"
"Oh, it's because Aunt Nena had a Spanish surname before she married your Uncle Glen," mother responded.
"I don't understand," I said. "Why does it matter?"
Murna, finally gaining her composure, in a very curt but gentle voice closed the discussion, "You're right, Pepe, it doesn't. As long as she's a Christian, you can marry a girl who's purple with green polka dots and who's last name is so different you can't pronounce it." I was too confused to tell them about Irene and ask why her father felt differently than my grandmother.
While sitting on the Ethnic and Cultural Enrichment Committee a few weeks ago, I was introduced and referred to as an Anglo along with two other newly appointed representatives referred to as Hispanic and African-American. Ever since that spring day in 1970, I've despised being referred to by that word.
Coming of age in the 1960's in rural Los Chavez and Belén, New Mexico no one ever referred to someone using a term reflecting their ethnicity or race . . . unless you were very angry with them. Even then, it was considered bad form to do so and you were never really trusted after that. People were just people &endash; different shades of brown skin but still just people. One's religion was more important than one's race or ethnicity.
Up until Tijerina resurrected the social and economic travesty created by people who twisted the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo everyone in New Mexico just got along. No one believed that violating a treaty signed in 1848 had any impact on the relations between people in the 1960's . . . at least not in Los Chavez and Belén where I grew up. Of course, it was unscrupulous white judges in Tierra Amarilla who violated Guadelupe-Hidalgo in the late 1800's by negating Spanish land grants and transferring land to what later became the U.S. Forest Service. However, no one really thought of it as having any big impact on the relations between the people today. At least not in our community. In fact, the father of my cousin's wife, Elias Calles, still had the original land grant from King Phillip and had given his daughter 20 acres of land he inherited from four to five generations back. There were pockets throughout New Mexico where Guadelupe-Hidalgo honored; tensions were low and cultures blended.
But then Tijerina, a migrant farm worker from Texas who had known years of prejudice in that state, reopened 100 year old wounds in northern New Mexico where poverty was rampant. Tijerina had spent years refining his fundamentalist preacher's skill at capturing a peoples' soul. He reminded the poor northern New Mexicans that their land had been stripped from them. They once were able to graze their animals on these lands. Lands granted to them by the King of Spain long before the Pilgrims ever even knew what Plymouth Rock was. These ancestral lands had actually been stripped from them by dishonest gringos in power and now belonged to the U.S. Forest Service.
He told them about la justicia and how they had their birth-right stolen; after all he was one of them, one of the people &endash; one of La Raza even though he was a Tejano, not a Nuevo Mexicano. Later on, Judge Castillo saw Tijerina's duplicity for what it was but Tijerina still was not considered guilty of two deaths since he could not be directly linked to them.
On the other hand, people generally got along well in our central New Mexico community. Most of the under-handedness that characterized Anglo dealings in northern New Mexico and throughout Texas hadn't occurred here. Our neighbors to the west were Juan P. Sanchez; to the north, R. D. Braught and to the south of us, the van der Geests. Of course, we thought that Señor Sanchez was a little quaint the way he ran his cattle and sheep and donkeys together -- until we learned that the donkeys acted as guards to keep the dogs away from the cattle and sheep. And the strange way he'd honk his horn when coming up to the house and not get out until we came to the door was comical. But then we realized that it was a holdover western practice from the days when the vaqueros would hail the ranch house on horseback before getting down from the horse.
I thought Mr. Brought and the van der Geests were a bit strange, too. They were all dairy farmers with either a northern European approach to life or so close to Holland that they still wore wooden shoes. Still, everyone got along and tolerance and appreciation of diversity was the norm in our community.
"Pepe, everybody thinks everybody is strange before they get to know them. It all depends on what color of glasses you're looking through," Murna would say.
Such attitudes weren't just "politically correct" as they are now; it was just considered polite and the Christian thing to do. People were just people with different shades of brown skin or accents or dress or food preferences. But they were all creations of God . . . and if they went to church with you then there were more similarities between you and your brethren than differences based on one's race or ethnicity.
I read an article in Academe (Sept/Oct 2000) entitled "Why Race Matters" by Jeffrey F. Milem where he states that to reduce conflict between races and cultures we need to communicate "how we are similar and how we differ." I had to laugh at this "revelation." Because of my childhood in multi-cultural New Mexico, I knew about this forty years ago. Unfortunately, our views polarized briefly as a result of Tijerina's courthouse raid . . . and the racist attitudes of some fathers in Belén in 1970.
Admittedly, in the 1960's, the rest of the country was changing for the better, finally adopting what we in central New Mexico had practiced since becoming a state in 1912 -- tolerance and acceptance. De jure segregation had been abolished by federal mandate in 1954. But de facto segregation was still rampant. Governor Wallace even tried to block integration at the University of Alabama in 1963. But Dr. King had given his "I have a dream" speech on August 28,1963 setting the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which finally gave the federal government the teeth to stop segregated programs.
My mother and I were in Baton Rouge together in the summer of 1964 while she took a sociology course at Southern University. She was one of the first Caucasian women to be accepted at this historically black university. Southern wanted to beat Louisiana State University to the punch at being integrated since LSU was finally going to admit a black athlete in the fall. Our reception by folks at Southern was cordial; the reception by folks at the church in Baton Rouge was cold. Somehow, our 'brethren' there did not feel that Galations 3:28 (There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus) applied to people attending Southern.
At eleven years of age, the piquancy of shrimp creole and crawfish etoufle and hush puppies was more significant to me than being the only Caucasian child who fished for catfish with a cane pole in the pond on Southern's campus. I was far more aware of my violin teacher's bushy moustache and thick black rim glasses which hid his eyes than the fact that his skin was dark mahogany.
"Just think, Pepe," my mother encouraged, "you get to take violin with someone who has a doctorate in music!"
My talents lay more in wanting to be outside, however. The campus was filled with sweet smell of magnolias and the thick air that rang with cicadas and the Spanish moss that made old oaks look spooky. These celebrations of life beckoned me down many paths on the campus of Southern. I did notice that people stared at me but I thought it was because I was the only kid there, not because I was a much lighter tan.
It wasn't until our trip to New Orleans with Jewel, though, that it finally hit me &endash; "white people" here didn't like "colored people." They were particularly angry with them in Louisiana and throughout the South because they could no longer enforce the fallacy of de facto "separate but equal" concepts.
The most significant thing about Jewel, for me, was that the watch on a chain around her neck looked like a ladybug. When you squeezed the antennae, the wings popped back to reveal a watch in the body. I pestered poor Jewel asking her the time so much that my mother finally had to intervene. I was fascinated with that watch. Jewel was patient and indulgent.
New Orleans was so hot and humid, and I was so hungry. As we passed the Walgreen's, the cool air ushered out grilled hamburger smell with every rotation of the glass doors. I begged to go in. Jewel politely said we needed to go back to our host's house. Our host was the editor of the local black newspaper in New Orleans -- a fore-runner publication to what is now Ebony. The bus ride would take another hour and I was, once again, demanding.
Always the paragon of patience, Jewel humored the child and said, "Go on up to the counter and place the order while I visit the rest room."
It was then that I noticed Jewel went into a restroom labeled "Colored." A porcelain fountain was also labeled "Colored" right next to the metal electric water cooler labeled "Whites."
"Hey Mom, I want a drink from the porcelain fountain! Wow, how can it be free if it has special colored water? Is it like Kool-Aid, Mom?"
"Shh, that's not what it means."
"What does it mean, then?"
"I'll explain later, just lower your voice."
The hamburgers came. My mother, relieved that I'd do something with my mouth other than talk, looked for Jewel. A crack in the bathroom door quickly opened and Jewel seemed to float straight to the stool between my mother and I where a third hamburger had been placed. The counter buzz quickly turned to silence and the waitress looked horrified. I looked around to see what was going on but not noticing anything, I continued to eat. Finally it dawned on me that the glares were directed at us. It was uncomfortable. When I asked for another Coke, and the waitress slapped the bill down in front of my mother, I realized we must have done something that made everyone angry.
Once on the bus, Mom and Jewel were laughing nervously but exultantly.
"What's so funny?" I asked.
Jewel turned to me and said, "Someday, sweetie, you'll understand how significant this day was. In the meantime, please keep being an innocent little boy who doesn't know what 'Colored' means."
By the time I graduated from High School in 1971, I was no longer so innocent. I knew about discrimination and oppression of African-Americans and Hispanics in the United States. My childhood bubble about my Grandmother's teaching that we are "all the same, just different shades of brown skin" had been burst. I'd even experienced discrimination, myself. I knew about it but I didn't really understand it. I still do not.
I return to my hometown of Los Chavez often. I have a family farm there. Being an only child, I return to see that Mom at 71 is well being all alone in the big old house that Dad built. I stay mainly in the summer when my kids and wife can go. And, of course, at Christmas when the Piñons and cedar burn fragrantly in the fireplace and posole is traditionally offered along with anice-flavored bizcochitos for desert.
Spring isn't very pleasant in New Mexico. The wind howls and blows sand. But the water is let down the acequias from the Rio Grande on March 1 and la tierra needs irrigation badly. Late in the evening after the winds die down and the earth is fragrant from being irrigated with the rich chocolate milkshake-brown water of the Rio Grande, I go to Pete's for chile verde con papas and a chile relleno. Irene is married to the son of Pete who started this restaurant in Belén back in the late 1940's. Irene helps with the family business by serving customers. Our family has been eating there for as long as I can remember.
As Irene brings the food, I'm sure she doesn't remember that day back in Mr. Moreles' class thirty years ago. We engage in small talk about how much our kids have grown, when the next high school reunion will be, how our old classmates are becoming such politicos in the local scene.
Despite the turmoil in New Mexico back in the 1960's and the strained relations between races and ethnic groups seen throughout the United States, there are still enclaves of civility and multi-cultural values that exist within small New Mexico communities with roots that go back over hundreds of years. Some of us still realize that we are all the same in Jesus Christ.
Whenever Black History Month is upon us, I always think of my childhood during recess and the countless times that I would spend on a swing. Even to this day, I can still hear the recess bell echoing throughout our school playground. We would always roam around like untamed creatures from the city zoo whenever we heard our bell of freedom. The oak trees were always warmly embraced with little hands and feet. Some boys glided aimlessly from long branches and some girls with nervous laughter gracefully plundered fields of tall green grass and white sticky flowers. Instead of joining the boys by the trees, I would simply hang around the slide and swing set, which always attracted crowds and crowds of students.
While sitting there upon a swing, I would also see Mark. He would always bully his way through the crowds waiting to use the slide and swing set. He never used the slide or swing. He would just hang there from the bars in between. His black face was sprinkled with strands of uncut hair, and just above his crooked chin he had a mole which stood alone. His wavy hair looked as if he never bothered to comb it. It was just there without a purpose and without a cause. But there was something about those eyes, those lonely frozen eyes.
One afternoon during recess while hanging there from the bars, a crowd of kids surrounded him. Kids would take their anger and would yell words at him. Words like "nigger" and "grease monkey" were always hurled his way. I grew accustomed to hearing these words also, and I knew that my family and I were treated this way because of our peculiar shade to those who did not understand. I remember the day when my brother came home without a kind face. He stood there like a stilled mannequin. He couldn't talk. He couldn't say a word. He couldn't utter a sound. When he took off his tattered shirt, fragments of glass assaulted the floors that my mother spent hours to make clean, to make faultless, to make pure. I remember his tears falling like hail and his raindrops of blood. I knew it had something to do with his color. But all I could do was silently stand there. My brother's face resembled the face of Mark as the kids laughed and giggled at him. He hung there with a stony face, trying to hide behind the bars. I grew tired of fighting the race battles at school and in my neighborhood, so this time I just sat there without uttering a word. The teachers were just like the kids. You could tell they were disgusted with him by the way they treated him in class. They pretended like he didn't exist.
I will always remember that morning. My parents sat me down and began to explain what happened to Mark. They told me that I didn't have to worry about Mark's battles on the playground. Nobody had to worry about him again. They told me that his parents found Mark hanging from the bars between the slide and swing. The bars were similar to the bars from on our school playground. The police were confused. Shaking their heads in disbelief. Sounds of sirens echoed throughout the air. Neighbors, teachers, and kids from all around stood watching. Silently. This morning, Mark's black, lonely eyes stood silent.
Whenever I drive by a school playground, I often think of Mark. I will never forget his eyes. I hope none of us will forget his silent eyes because all of us -- regardless of color, gender, background, social-economic class -- have suffered through the hideous storm of prejudice. We cannot afford to silently stand or sit when we witness prejudice and discrimination. Black History Month is not only an opportunity for African-Americans to reflect upon their challenges and achievements, but it is a quintessential opportunity for all of us to recognize what we must do to unite as one true family. When we do this, we will truly soar toward the heavens.
Moore is an Assistant Professor of English at Abilene Christian University and he is working on his Ph D in African American literature at the University of Nebraska.
It was a hot afternoon in June. I was 12 years old and eager to win the pink Bible that went to the girl who brought the most visitors to VBS. It was the last night of VBS, and I was sure I had enough visitors to win. I lived on an air force base in a southern town. Lots of kids lived on the base. I had brought kids to church all week, but the race was close with another girl. That morning, I renewed my efforts and again canvassed the neighborhood. Now, it was time to leave for church. We had lined up on the sidewalk, dressed in Sunday clothes with late afternoon sun beating down on us. Mom and Dad came out, and greeted all the kids. We had some new kids&emdash;little black children&emdash;who joined our group. I knew with the new kids I had enough visitors to beat out my closest competition.
Mom made a quick excuse, went in the house for a few minutes, and then rejoined us waiting by the cars. Mom said, "Kids, I'm sorry, but I have a headache and we can't go to church tonight. You'll have to go home."
"NO!" I shouted. "Mom, I'm going to win the Bible, I just know it."
"Sorry, honey, but we just can't go tonight."
The next day, Mom took me to church. She said the preacher wanted to talk to me. He ushered me into his office, a room I'd never seen before. The room had a desk, lots of books on the walls, and pictures of pretty scenery on the walls. He came out from behind his desk with a pink Bible in his hands.
"I'm sorry you didn't get to come to church last night, but you deserved to win the Bible. I wanted to make sure you got one, too."
Children are good observers, but poor interpreters. What I remember from this scene is that I couldn't bring black children to church. I remember the preacher met me in his office in secret to give me the Bible.
What I learned years later is the price the preacher paid when he met me in his office. I learned that the call my mother made to the church office led to a late night elders' meeting with the preacher. The preacher resigned because the majority of the elders voted not to allow me to bring my African-American friends to church. Within a few weeks, the church split and started a new congregation which would welcome all colors to their services.
I learned then that there will always be people who want to wait to change the world and people who are willing to take a stand when it is time to change the world.