Where are you from? A Diversity Discussion & Activities

I have to admit I have been disgusted reading much of my Facebook feed lately. I have friends on both sides of the political view and to be quite honest I can't stand posts from either side. I identify myself as a liberal but I also can see some of the conservative side--after all I'm married to a conservative. Awhile ago the discussion turned to President Trump's comment about the four female senators going back to where they came from. As a woman most of the president's comments bother me. As a Christian woman, they really bother me. But truth be told, the man bothered me long before he became our president. That said he is our president so I pray for him and our country and wish him well. But when he says things that insult other leaders of our country I do think he needs to be called out. But this is getting away from where I want this post to go. After that comment a friend from middle and high school posted on her Facebook page her own feelings about being asked "Where are you from?" She is a woman of color. She expressed how hurtful that question can be. After brewing over it all and seeing more than I wanted about politics on both sides in my newsfeed I started thinking about the question.

The truth is I hate that question. I hate when Hazel is assigned an ethnicity project. And yes, I am a white woman. However I always describe myself as an American mutt. My ancestors have been in this country since colonial times. Yes, we can trace some to the Mayflower. But those ancestors as time passed intermixed with other ancestors from other countries. In fact there is some knowledge of possible Native American mixed in, but I haven't found the proof of that besides what our great grandmother told us. To me I am from America. This is where I was born. This is where my parents and my grandparents and for that matter my great grandparents were born. I personally have always found it a bit strange how people of other ethnicities have their country flags on their cars or in their homes. I always think if you love that country so much why are you here. I of course don't voice this opinion besides maybe to my Italian husband who does have the flag of Italy on his car. I get that they are proud of their heritage, but the flag stands for a country and if you have that country's flag what about the country you live in and for many were born in? These thoughts all lead me to the next question(s).

While cleaning out my desk recently I found an old paper from a class I took on diversity and teaching. The assignment was to write a "I Am" paper. The assignment as I remember it was to write a paper about yourself using the words "I am from" to start the sentences. I remember struggling with this assignment but reaching back to my own childhood memories for it I wrote it. Then we shared them in the class. Now our class was not very diverse or so it seemed. We had a group of white women with instructors who gave us our only diversity (white Jewish male, black female and Native American female). Yet each of our "I am" stories were so different and made us realize just how diverse we were. 

As I read this I see my childhood and I wonder what would I share now. My life has changed in the 20+ years since I wrote this, yet where I am from has not or has it. With each life change does where we are from change or grow. There are new places and new stories that have been added. There are years of teaching (at four schools) and marriage and a daughter. There are the new traditions and a new life. Where I am from is the same yet it has also grown as my life has. I challenge you to write an "I am" poem and then try it with your own kids (assuming they are old enough). See what traditions really matter to them.

Here is another activity to try with kids. I learned this one at a student diversity training program to which I took my students. This is one that can be done at different times in your life and have change as well. Each person gets four pipe cleaners and creates a chain with them. Each one is shaped into something to represent a part of the person or his/her life. It is an activity that focuses you on what really matters to you. I did this one the other day (with the only pipe cleaners I could scrounge up).
Again I challenge you to make one. The challenge given to us at the class was to keep it somewhere you could see it every day and think about are you hiding one part of you or are you being able to be true to yourself. 

So in conclusion of my ramblings today, please let us be respectful to one another. Our nation is very torn right now. The other week our pastor preached from Hosea and as the scripture was read I saw so much of what was happening in that time as what is happening now. I urge you to go read it. We need to find a way to bring love and peace back as well as take care of each other and all of God's creation. I am hoping by sharing these activities we can at least help our children realize there is more to each person than a stereotype or rumor. Please help spread love and help us all heal.

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