Why am I biased to overweight people?

Image result for bias during childhood

For a long time ago, I feel I’m biased towards overweight people but don’t know exactly why is this happening to me.  I took the implicit bias test and the result shows that I have a strong preference to thin over overweight people. This made me think and dig deep in my life since I was born. I concluded that happened as my mom used to say every time she sees an overweight person: oh god help them to be thin (loudly)! That happened so many times in front of me while I was a child and never I questioned this with my mom. That is an obvious reason for my bias towards overweight people.

My story led me to have a strong belief that bias and racism we see on a daily basis all over the world were fed mostly to people while they are either in their childhood or adolescence. These two stages of life have a powerful impact on our thoughts and behavior in our future. It changes greatly our hidden brain ( unconscious brain) and makes negative stereotypes about a group of people without our consent nor knowledge! As we grow, our stereotypes grow with us and get bigger! Instead of eliminating them, we tend to justify them and defend them!

How many times our brains were fed a biased and stereotyping information? Have we ever taken a moment every time we make a decision/reaction/feeling to think about it? Why don’t we consider a single thought instead of behaving as AL algorithm? Is it difficult to do so or its out of our comfort zone?

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The Office in Today’s Climate

During one of our first classes of the semester I shared a clip from the NBC show The Office. The clip can be found below if you would like to watch the scene again.

I discussed in class how I could never imagine watching a scene like this on TV today. Ten years ago this kind of behavior was laughed at but if something like this were to occur today I think there would be uproar from the viewers. The concepts mentioned in just this one clip about race and identity convey a message to the viewer that they are things that should be joked about and not concepts that should be recognized and appreciated. This is just one scene from a show that aired for 188 episodes.

Our class had a great discussion on how today’s climate is much different that the climate of ten years ago when The Office was at its peak. Recently, Steve Carell, who plays Michael Scott on the show, shared similar thoughts. He was asked about a possible revival of the show since the show’s finale was over five years ago. Carell stated that “it might be impossible to do that show today and have people accept it the way it was accepted 10 years ago”.  He mentioned how the show, and his character specifically, talk about topics in a humorous manner but that style of comedy would not result in the same laughter today. Carell mentions how “the climate’s different” and how today’s “high awareness for offensive things” does not allow for the show’s style of comedy to be effective, especially when taken literally. Carell continued to talk about the show and actively spoke against any sort of The Office revival.

Carell’s comments are not necessarily a shock to me as I think anyone who watches the above clip will have the same mentality. I did however, appreciate how he spoke out about the topics of the show and how the climate has changed today. It showed me that there was an understanding from him about the show and how his character went about discussing certain topics. I think that it was important for him to step away from his role for a moment in order to critically review the content that was previously described in the show. It would have been easy for him to just go ahead and say yes to a revival. I am sure it would have helped his bank account as well due to the popularity of The Office.

As I was rethinking about our class conversation and now reflecting on the comments made by Carell I am now wondering how people feel when they watch the show today. If an individual understands that the topics discussed on the show can be offensive to others is it okay to still laugh? Does there need to be an educational conversation had after an episode is watched to make sure other individuals in the room watching understand that certain language used in the show is language that cannot be used today? Or is The Office a good vessel to allow individuals to talk about issues that are still seen in today’s society and climate? I would love to hear the opinions from other individuals in the class as I am still trying to formulate my full thought on the subject.

The full article of Carell’s comments can be found here.

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My experience with Inclusion and Diversity in India

I grew up in a privileged military background, as my dad was an officer in the Indian Army. We lived in enclosed cantonments (the British equivalent to a Fort) all over India, separate from the civilian life and social dynamics in the nearby towns and cities. We had our own hospitals, schools, shopping centers, entertainment areas, athletic facilities, and did not usually need to go out in the city. The army culture is truly diverse and tries to be inclusive. Officers and troops join from all over the country and your rank, and not your cultural or religious background, decide your position in the organization. All religious beliefs and faiths are equally respected and it is common to find Sarv Dharm Sthals (worship areas for all faiths) on the same site. Being a religious leader or priest is also a specialist trade in the army, which means based on who is available, you can find a Sikh priest leading a Hindu worship ceremony during Janmashtami or Diwali, a Christian priest leading a Muslim worship ceremony during Eid and so on. Sounds great, right? Even the military is not free from the discrimination at play inspired by the colonial past. There is segregation in facilities and services offered to officers and their families vs troops and their families. For example, I remember getting to go to the front of the line at the hospital as I was the son of an officer, while enlisted men and their families were waiting to be seen. Another prevalent example of discrimination is the Sahayak (orderly) system.

Parts of India were under British rule by way of the East India Company since the 1600s, and most of modern India was under the direct rule of the British Monarchy after 1858, all the way up until independence in 1947. The system was a British minority ruling over an overwhelming Indian majority. The 1901 Census reported about 170,000 British nationals living in India, ruling over a population of 294 million. [1] Such an extreme concentration of power in all career government positions left a vacuum when the British left by 1950. This vacuum was filled by a small minority of educated Indians, who resisted changing the colonial system already in place. This translated into the continuing of the Sahayak system in the Indian Army. British officers used to recruit Indian enlisted men to help upkeep their uniform, polish their shoes, cook food, clean and maintain their bungalows and walk their dogs. This system continues to this day, where at any given time, up to 25,000 soldiers may be employed as orderlies for officers at all ranks. Even retired generals had access to serving enlisted men, which was scrapped earlier this year. [2] More educated and experienced soldiers are joining the army in increasing numbers and pushing for this system to change. There is staunch resistance to any effort to change the system as the generals in power have the most to lose from no longer having access to recruit orderlies. Soldiers who have spoken out exposing this unfair system have been court-martialed and jailed. [3] Although I understand the value of holding on to tradition, this unfair system which opens the door to mistreatment of soldiers needs to end. Just my $0.02.

References:

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My natural hair ‘is not professional’

As I grow older and gain experience in the industry, I have come to understand that there is a proper workplace etiquette in relation to appearance. It is well known that  a polished presentation is actually vital to success in most instances. I’ve also come to the understanding that appearance also incorporates grooming; facial hair, head hair, nails etc. Proper grooming is important to gain not just positive impression but also respect in the workplace. First impressions matter! The way you look and carry yourself create impact on people you get along with in the work setting. While grooming requirements will vary between men and women, it is important that both look clean and presentable while they are at work. I wanted to discuss  African American women and men (most likely will focus on women since they usually have the longer hair that is more noticeable) and their natural textured hair in the workplace.

Discrimination based on hair texture in the workplace is a form of injustice that results in human beings being treated differently based on the stigma attached to hair in society. Historically, Black African slaves were referred to as the “wooly-haired race.”  “Wooly haired race” is also a metaphor for African physical traits which serve as a prima facie evidence of racial difference as a mental lack and as a social justification for slavery and racial discrimination. On the other end, straight hair was linked to the white American who enjoyed a higher prestige and more widely accepted in both professional settings and everyday settings.

An article from National Public Radio (NPR) (https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/02/06/512943035/new-evidence-shows-theres-still-bias-against-black-natural-hair)  mentioned that in 2016, Perception Institute set out to explore whether Americans generally show bias- implicit or explicit- toward natural hair worn by Black women, and whether black women share this bias. The potential for ‘hair bias’ to limit both perceptions of self and opportunities in the workplace has a distinct impact on black women. The general finding is that on average, white women show explicit bias toward black women’s texture hair. They rate it as less beautiful, less sexy/attractive, and less professional than smooth hair. Another finding was that one in five black women feel social pressure to straighten their hair for work- twice as many as white women

I have found that Minority women often feel they must compensate for their natural hair in attempting to present a ‘professional image’ that will render them credible to their employer.

How is it that a white female is able to rush out of the shower or bed , hair soaking wet – is able to come into the office without (most likely) being asked “rough morning?”.  Why aren’t I, another human who was probably rushing, as with most mornings, can’t just come out of the shower or bed and go to the office without being judged or sent home because of bad grooming? My hair grows out of my hair this way- I shouldn’t have to change it because of what was deemed beautiful or well-groomed 50+ years ago.

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Diversity of Viewpoints 1

This is the first of a series of posts I plan to publish on diversity of viewpoints. 

Last February, I listened to a program on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio’s Ideas entitled “The Politics of the Professoriat: Political diversity on campus“. (I highly recommend the episode.) The main guest for the episode was Jonathan Haidt of Heterodox Academy, and his argument was, universities have become left-leaning and that there is a left-leaning bias of research in the social sciences and it does a disservice to students. I have not done empirical research to confirm his statement but my opinion is that he may not be wrong. I also believe that dominance of one viewpoint in university campuses, regardless of the viewpoint, detracts universities from fulfilling their mission of educating their students well and expanding the thinking horizons of future generations.

I have always believed in debates as an opportunity to exhaust possible controversies or differing viewpoints concerning an issue and always loved them. Recently, for my class in Transportation Policy, I was assigned to argue for urban sprawl and against compact development. My default position and that of many urban planning students and urban planners is that sprawl is bad and compact development good. Academic literature is full of articles, books, commentaries, and so on in support of compact development. To my dismay, there were only a few studies in support of the opposite viewpoint, which is less popular  in urban planning circles.

While reading the small amount of literature I found in support of sprawl, I was surprised how I found some of the arguments convincing. In class, I shared my thoughts with one of my classmates who was also assigned to present arguments in favor of urban sprawl. He was able to relate. The debate in class was heated; I could not believe the passion with which I argued in favor of sprawl development! My passion was triggered by my disappointment about the academic conformity in my discipline.

Dominant viewpoints need to be contested in urban planning or any other field. If and only if they prevail continuous challenge from opposite viewpoints does their dominance become earned. In the processes, they might need to be modified, rethought, and at times abandoned, too. Professors need to provide their students with opportunities to present arguments in favor of less popular viewpoints to enrich the discussion and demonstrate the need to explore them with equal rigor. Here is a simple analogy to explain. If a journalist presents only one side of a story, we deem their act as biased. Why cannot we apply the same principle in the academic world? In order to contest viewpoints and present students with various sides of “stories”, university and colleges need to be welcoming of faculty and students with diverse viewpoints.

Thoughts? Ideas how that can happen?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Emotional Double Standards

The recent scandal surrounding newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has shined a light on a glaring double standard in our society. Time and time again, it has been made clear that in our society, men are afforded the privilege of displaying emotions on their sleeves without fear of being judged unfit for their work; women, however, and especially women of color, are not afforded that luxury.

Take a look at this headline: Emotions Dominate Ford And Kavanaugh Testimony. To anyone watching the confirmation hearings, it would have been clear that the emotions were pretty much only coming from one side. Judge Kavanaugh was screaming, crying, yelling, and stomping his feet like an insolent toddler, while Dr. Ford was calm and composed while reciting her testimony.

Image result for kavanaugh graham yelling

Even then, critics slammed Dr. Ford for not displaying enough emotion at the hearings. “Wouldn’t she have been more upset if she was really recalling the story of a violent sexual assault?” … Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right?

This double standard is even more obvious for women of color. Articles have compared the public reaction to Kavanaugh’s emotions to those of Serena Williams during the championship U.S. Open match. People slammed Williams, who was reacting to the correct assumption that the referee was making unfair calls against her, while praising Kavanaugh for the same type of emotional response. There were even racist caricature cartoons made about Williams.

Image result for serena williams cartoon

Black women especially feel the need to self-police their emotional reactions so as to avoid being stereotypes as the “angry black woman.”

This all relates back to the asinine assertion that women are too emotional for high-stakes careers. During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton was “unstable, insane and lacking the equilibrium required to be an effective president.” Comedians have joked that a female president might unintentionally start a nuclear war due to PMS hormones, ignoring the fact that Trump has arguably come pretty close through some off-hand Twitter comments.

It is clear that women in this country, and especially women of color, are held to a higher standard of decorum than men are. This is not only unfair and not based in reality, but also dangerous to the future generations of girls growing up in our society with the notion that they have to bottle up their emotions while their male counterparts are allowed to let them run free.

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How should we tackle the dark past of U.S. Higher Education?

What is the best way to handle some of the dark aspects of the history of a university? Think forcibly removing indigenous peoples, slavery, Civil War, Jim Crow, Civil Rights movement and how higher education might have exploited and excluded populations while it was established and grew in the U.S.

What do we do about athletic mascots derived from indigenous culture? One way universities deal with the issue is to rename or remove all symbols, monuments, logos etc. which might be disrespectful to certain communities. A quick search led me to this Wikipedia article which lists all the colleges which removed all logos and mascots referencing indigenous peoples. Officially retiring logos or mascots does not mean the university community will embrace the change, especially if those traditions have been followed for decades. A solution to this problem is to develop new traditions. For example, there has been a recent push at the University of Illinois to develop new traditions centered around the sporting culture, but also recognize the divisive past and honor people who might have been affected by it. [1]

What about the universities relationship to slavery, its aftermath and the effects of divisive policies, apparent to this day? With a rise in white supremacist propaganda on college campuses across the country, [2] universities can no longer ignore the past. Virginia Tech has also witnessed white supremacist propaganda in the last few years and has a dark past. Smithfield Plantation; enough said.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reviews how universities, especially some of the oldest Ivy League institutions, ignored the history for a long time. A reckoning with the past came 15 years ago after Brown University established a committee to research the university’s history and how that related to slavery. In 2013, Ebony and Ivy by Craig Wilder exposed the role of slavery in establishing American higher education. Since then, universities across the U.S. have attempted to reconcile with the past in multiple ways. Some of these include renaming buildings, establishing monuments memorializing the history, and involving the members from communities most impacted by the exclusionary history to participate in making amends.

While I understand the rationale behind renaming buildings and tearing down monuments with ties to the racist past to appease the community, I also believe the history should be recorded in an appropriate manner for the community to see. No, a plaque at the corner of a street, or an obscure website buried within menus do not suffice. University communities should know about the past, no matter how painful the reconciliation might be. That’s the only way to ensure history is not forgotten and repeated.

This notion of preserving history no matter how painful is what I grappled with while visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. in 2016. I kept asking myself what we were memorializing by designing the museum to look like a concentration camp, which certainly brings back terrible memories for the survivors. The museum succeeded in its mission of making sure the Holocaust is never forgotten, at least in my mind, by displaying the details of all the terrible atrocities committed during the Nazi regime during WW2.

The Lemon Project at William & Mary is an excellent example of a way university can tackle the past while reaching out and making amends with the community. “The project is named for Lemon, a man who was once enslaved by William & Mary.” In addition to funding research and scholarship which investigates the history of William & Mary, the project also organizes a symposium each year to commemorate and celebrate the work being done to reconcile with the past.

References:

  1. http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2018-09-13/uis-chief-illiniwek-report-develop-new-traditions-honor-divisive-past.html
  2. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-colleges-white-supremacist-propaganda-20180628-story.html
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What Would YOU do?

When we watched a video together in the class for a man who has been insulted and asked to leave the store due to his color/race. That was a social experiment to see how people react and whether they would intervene in the situation and speak up and or they would remain silent.  Different people had different reactions but in the total, their reaction was hoped to be better. At the end of the video, the dean asked us a difficult question, “what would you do?”. Be careful here, the dean meant what would you REALLY do, not what you hope to do! This week I came across a video, showing a women spoke up when a racist woman interrupted two Mexican ladies, asking them to stop speaking in Spanish! the whole story is here.

Yes, it’s impressive to watch this hero woman speaking up with a confident tone to stop acting racistly, but what it concerns more is that the racist women’s thought! when she was asked why did you ask them to stop speaking in Spanish? she replied: it’s disrespect for the country to speak another language! Besides how her response was so ridiculous and totally wrong but she has a strong belief she’s right even after the police came and handcuffed her. My thought is that she might have behaved differently if her belief was corrected and explained to her how these things have nothing to do with disrespecting the country.

So, my question here is do we need to be reactive or proactive? meaning do we need to wait till the racist moment happens and then we react? Are the racist people behave in this direction because they’re just racist and hate others for no reason OR they have wrong thoughts/ideas so they might be a better person by educating them and correcting their thoughts? But who is responsible for educating them? media, universities, schools, their families and friends, law enforcemnts?

 

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The Biggest Racist Jail is in China with 1 MILLION Muslim!

Image result for uighur muslims million
Yes, they are one Million Uighur Muslims from East Turkistan detained in the so-called “re-education campaign” for no reason but they’re Muslim and thus they might threaten the country’s security! The Chinese government is aiming by this “campaign” to re-ideologize them and change their thoughts! The Chinese government said the belief of Uighur people is a mental disease and has to be cured!
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https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-45147972
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Who is Uighur?

The Current Situation of the Uyghurs Explained in 4 minutes#Uyghur #EastTurkistan #Turkic #Freedom #OccupiedByChina #Truth #Asia #History

Posted by East Turkistan National Awakening Movement on Thursday, September 6, 2018

To know more what it’s inside the “campaign”, watch this video  for a man who luckily escaped China and told his story and what happened to him in this terrifying campaign.
Unfortunately, many countries in the world kept silent so that they don’t lose their business deals with China. Even individuals, Chinese people including who are outside the country can’t say a word for the fear to be tracked and get caught when back to China. Personally, a friend of mine who is Chinese told me he will never go back to China as he has spoken and resisted the aggression and injustice on the Muslim Uighur.
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This shame step that is China taking is not the first and has been followed by many parabolic actions targeting its minority, Muslims. For example, in 2017, the Chinese government forced Muslims to eat in Ramadan (the holy month for the Muslims in which they abstain from eating during the day) [Watch here].
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What could we do to help them?
1. Sign the following two petitions (takes less than 2 minutes)
2. Join the Xinjiang Initiative:
3. Help us raise awareness in social media or social events.
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My Alma Mater likes to hold onto dated traditions

I was still living in Clemson when the ‘Sikes Sit In’ occurred at Clemson University. Sikes is an administrative building at Clemson University that held a nine-day sit-in protest in April 2016. Students were protesting current racist iconography that was occurring around campus, past occurrences, and long-time racism on campus. Five students ended up being arrested for being in the building after-hours so they moved the sit-in in front of the building.

To take it back, Clemson students created a campaign called See the Stripes, that advocates for racial equality on campus.

The original five students, now named as the ‘Clemson Five’ had plenty of allies joining them as the days past. Other universities gave Clemson the nods of solidarity such as Duke University. The sit-in would’ve lasted longer but the protesters were getting sick and tired of the lack of action from administrators. The President of Clemson, Jim Clements, sent an e-mail to the student body hours later listing all the promises on progress from the protesters demands including a timeline for those actions:

  • Finding an improved short- and long-term space for the campus’s Gantt Multicultural Center.
  • Doubling the number of underrepresented minority faculty members by 2025.
  • Progress on “telling the complete story of our historical buildings,” like that of Tillman Hall, whose segregationist namesake students have been trying to remove from the building’s name for years. The president’s email stopped short of promising actual name changes, which may be banned by South Carolina law.
  • Having all employees undergo diversity training.
  • Consider adding the phrase “diversity and inclusive excellence” to the university’s core values and restructuring the required orientation class for new students “to improve students’ understanding of their responsibility as members of a diverse community.”
  • Committing to an as-yet-undetermined increase in the population of underrepresented students on campus.

Following the sit-in, and even participating when I could, I read this e-mail. I found myself making a lot of interesting faces. Mostly because of one factor. One of the major student demands was to change the names of Tillman Hall and Calhoun Honors College. For some history, Benjamin Tillman, South Carolina governor and longtime U.S. senator,  was known to be a white supremacist. Tillman was known to have the most lynchings in South Carolina ever in his four years in office, he even bragged about it. Tillman was given the name “Pitchfork Ben.” John C. Calhoun, a U.S. Senator, lead a forceful advocacy for slavery.  I really don’t have to go on further for one to realize how these individuals shouldn’t be honored at a higher learning institute. Many students argued that the only reason the president sent this email was because  of a PR nightmare. We are grateful for the steps but it took so much in order to get next to nothing. Although, it’s not like we aren’t used to the constant battle for respect.

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