Category Archives: Sociologizing

How to Raise Feminist Kids

A New York Times published a piece called, “How to Raise a Feminist SonHow to Raise a Feminist Son” written by Claire Cain Miller popped up on my Facebook feed a couple of days. And of course, since the arrival of my son (my partner and I chose to keep the sex of our baby secret until he revealed himself), I’ve been thinking more and more how I can raise a man that respects women (both trans and cis) and people of all sexualities. I have been thinking of how this world is riddled with toxic masculinity ala Trumpian buffoonery and all kinds masculinity that doesn’t honor women.

But I also think about how I want to raise my daughter with feminist ideals. How do I raise her to protect her body? To understand consent? Not to be ashamed when someone calls her “sassy” or “bossy” which is often a gendered comment that never gets tagged on to her male cousins (also, how do I not feel ashamed when someone calls her that and inherently assumes that I allow for that “attitude)?

Anyway, I’m gonna get to my point but I’m gonna do it by talking about a pink pony.

So, a friend of ours had his daughter’s birthday party at a Build-A-Bear workshop. I was hoping that my daughter, Aya, would pick a regular schmegular bear so she could dress it up as a bear doctor or a bear astronaut–two of the things she’s super into. Instead, my lil homegirl chooses a pink unicorn pony with long tresses of purple and teal hair and eyes too big for its head but made for cuteness and a baby pink pinker than its body unicorn horn.

I look at it and I’m like, what? There’s so. much. pink.

But she loved it. Like at first sight. She hugged it and named it Porcupine.

I took her back to the choosing aisle and showed her the regular bear and what we could do with it but she was like, “I want Porcupine.” For real? Yes, yes she only wanted Porcupine, the Pink Pony/Unicorn. A little part of my feminist heart was crushed and the crumbs of it got blown away by Porcupine’s hair whip.

So, it was.

Here’s the lesson I learned from it: I gotta learn how to let Aya and Cy make their own decisions. I think this idea of self-determination is pretty freakin’ key, y’all.

When whole countries don’t have the ability to determine their nation’s political, economic and social agenda, they are often corrupted into the biggest and loudest voices–ahem, US imperialism. For example, the cancellation of the fifth round of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippine is reflective of current President Détente’s inability to determine a Philippine political agenda that fits into the type of country many Filipinos want it to be–a country based on just peace.

If I can learn a lesson from geopolitics, I think I can apply that to raising my children. After all, as a friend Johanna Almiron-Johnson once said, the work of raising these children is the work of nation-building.

What if raising feminist children is not just about teaching them to treat the sexes equally?

What if its about allowing them self-determination?

Beyond Final Papers, Beyond the Classroom

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In the past few years, I’ve invested in assigning creative final projects for my upper division classes. Across the three institutions I’ve taught at as a tenure-track professor, the risk is high (because students loathe group work so they’re always giving me side-eye for assigning a group project as a requirement and sometimes it ends up the evals) and the outcomes of the projects vary wildly. The range of quality in the projects can be attributed to the fact that I don’t teach an art or film editing course—I teach sociology. But also because students have varying abilities in creating finished and polished projects whether they be visual graphic posters, videos, art, etc. The final product is not my main concern though—really, its the process students undertake to create their final project that is important to me.

This Fall semester, I had the privilege and pleasure of starting a TT position at my alma mater (San Francisco State, go Gators!) where I knew I could really push students to do something other than a final paper, and where I knew that my department would recognize an “alternative” final assignment as a pedagogical strength (I mention this for those of us on the tenure-track who might want to try this method but ya’ll got to take into account the context of your institution). I taught a Families and Society (SOC 464) class and the students were amazing from jump. They were all open to challenging their own ideas and embodied identities. They were down to be co-teachers/co-learners in the classroom with me, taking on discussion activities through reading groups. I mean. They were great. So I thought that these final projects might be good.

But y’all. They were AWESOME.

I structured it like this. After the mid-term, I had them focus their energies on the final creative project which set up the final project grade with a process-oriented assessment instead of assessing the projects as a final product. I had four assignments due before the in-class screening during the final exam period:

  1. Progress report with research topic, research questions, methods, concepts
  2. Storyboard that outlined a vision of what the 5-6 minute video would look like
  3. In-class Pitch of their idea and what they had collected already
  4. Reflection essay on the course concepts, experiential learning and reflexivity on their roles in the group

I provided at least 2 class sessions where they would only work on the project assignments in terms of brainstorming and collective concept development. For their assignments, I gave detailed feedback to the groups via iLearn (SFSU’s instructional tech management system). I also checked in with groups via email periodically, perhaps in the future, I’ll set up some office hour appointments too.

Here are some course structural things that I want to remember for future courses:

  1. Scaffold the assignments: Every assignment (short papers, free writing activities, group formations) should lead up to preparing them for this final assignment. I know. DUH. But I didn’t set up the class like that this time so I had to play catch up mid-semester; creating assignments along the way. Start at the beginning of the semester!
  2. A Paradox: We already engage the construction of the “normative” in the class, why not have them identify a paradoxical normative narrative in the class as it progresses and have them juxtapose that with their own experiences or better yet, other people’s experiences? That could be the “data” in their final projects.
  3. In-class Tutorials: I should bring an instructional designer in one or two times in the semester to show them iMovie or another PC-based software.

On to the good stuff—the perfect storm: students, the past election season and the medium of creativity produced amazing results. I think partly this was because the students at SFSU are really plugged into political discourse but I also I think they create amazing things when they come together.

With the consent of my students and the consent of the people that they included in their projects, I want to share some of the creative final projects with all of you.

In this short video entitled, “Never Meant to Survive”, students explored the “possibility of queer kinship as the site of political resistance” as Christopher Dokko, one of my students writes. Their group interviewed Queer Folks of Color (QFOC) about chosen families and Queer kin in a time of Trump. They begin with an Audre Lorde poem and splice in interviews with QFOC’s over the realities of living under a Trumpian administration. Important to note that this group decided to switch the direction of their whole project when they met up the morning after the election of Donald Trump as president. The students in this group described their change as a way to heal and wrap their heads around what our lives were going to be like.

This video entitled, “So Who is this ‘Muslim’ the Media Keeps Talking About?” was born out of a critique of my syllabus. I did not have a reading on the families of South Asian or Middle Eastern families or families that practice Islam. Although, we discussed Asian American families and media frames depicting the “model minority, the students in this group wanted to fill in that gap with their work. Students in this group sought to debunk the media narratives circulating about Muslims and Muslim families.

I especially liked this video project entitled, “Creating New Endings,” because the students in the group were what I like to call the “ratchets” of Earth with a play on Frantz Fanon Wretched of the Earth. These students were always quick to reference their epistemologies as women of color, working young women and Bay Area representatives in class and it showed through the song choices and creative turns in this video.

I share these 3 projects not because they were my favorites over other projects but the students accomplished what I had set out the final project PROCESS to be.

  • They translated the academic debates, scholarship and concepts from class in their own words to their people, peers, communities, friends, families to collect data.
  • They internalized the importance of challenging normative ideological codes that circulates about families in the US.
  • They flipped the script and used their own experiences and emotions as the guiding analytical lens to create this projects that will go beyond me reading it in my office and assigning a grade to them at the end of the semester.

For these reasons, I feel really proud to be a part of their learning process.

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On Post-Colonial Rage and Not Being Mad at Big Brother aka US Imperialism

 

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First of all, let me be CRYSTAL CLEAR, President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” is unconscionable. Thousands of people and innocent bystanders have been slain in the name of “cleaning up” the Philippines. Without due process, the Philippine National Police have become the prosecutor, judge, jury and executor of Filipinos who may or may not be involved with drugs. Its deplorable and I hope mounting national mass movement building and international attention and criticism can pierce the presidential halls of the Philippines to cease extrajudicial killings.

Okay? Okay.

The headlines regarding the Philippines this morning is deeply connected to the aforementioned extrajudicial killings. But it seems to me, it is also about a resounding slap on the postcolonial wrist of Duterte. So what am I talking about? Duterte went on (yet another) controversial tirade a couple of days before maybe meeting with President Barack Obama. When prompted by a journalist about talking with Obama about the extradjudicial killings happening in the Philippines right now related to the war on drugs, Duterte got fired up and using his best Pinoy patriarchal voice (yes, I’m being sarcastic), said, “I am not beholden to Obama, my master is the Filipino people.”

Ohhhhhhhh. Burnnnnnn.

When I was watching the press conference, I was like, “Daaaaaamn. He really went there.”

Why?

Because a little known historical fact is that past Philippine presidents were not only chummy with US presidents—but actually, many (and by many I mean, ALL) have been puppets to US political will, economic intervention and military occupation. See below chummy, puppet examples below of recent chummy, puppet presidents getting chummy with past US imperialist presidents:

 

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Obama is in Laos right now at the ASEAN meeting (which btw is such a problematic group prioritizing neoliberal reforms that seek to cut the potential of SE Asian countries to develop with self-determination) and he basically heard about Duterte’s comments and canceled their pending meeting. Which in fairness (that’s a Filipino phrase for, “Duterte was asking for it”), Duterte was out of pocket swearing like a Pinoy patriarch whipping out his ego for the world to see—so ain’t nobody talkin to you with that potty mouth, even if you are head of the state. (Update: Duterte is regretful. Good job GPH media relations.)

But that’s not what I wanted to get at here in my morning pages. I think there is a certain shock and disbelief running through the American media (I listened to NPR this morning, read the NY Times, even took a peek at CNN) that a president, much less the Philippine president, would say such distancing comments about the US.

Underlying this shock is a sort of assumption that the Philippines, Filipinos and especially the head of state should remember the history of benevolent coloniality and current-day “help” US imperialism provides in the Philippines by way of military, aid, Justin Bieber tours, etc. What I read in today’s headlines was an aversion to a post-colonial state disavowing US intervention. How dare Filipinos be mad at the US? How dare Duterte say that his only master is the Filipino people? How dare he show anger at his American Big Brother whose only showed kindness, fairness and benevolence?

Yo, people are straight mad that anyone who has been shown US kindness (read: military aid, money, disaster aid, money) have feelings that are not of subservient gratitude—much less rage.

Don’t get it twisted, my people. I think Duterte should be held accountable for a police force and armed forces that has gone rogue. (Haters, see the opening paragraph before you come for me in the comments.) Not only the extrajudicial killings from the “war on drugs” but also the slain community leaders of the Lumad tribe in Mindanao. Duterte must stop killing his so called “masters”.

However, the shock wave that Duterte’s comments have made in the international media demonstrates that no matter how long its been since colonies have been signed into sovereignty on paper. They are still considered colonial projects, that should be grateful, passive, non-confrontational and dutiful. The Philippines as a former US colony should never be angry about US intervention, they should only have the utmost respect for a past-colonizer/neo-imperialist occupier.

Duterte’s comments regarding his accountability to the Filipino people is refreshing. Ain’t no president before him had the gall to put the Filipino people first. Now, the challenge is to see if he really is for the Filipino people.

Enough with them fightin words, Duterte has to ensure that outside of press conferences and big international meetings—he revokes the fetters of US imperial powers on the Philippines. He must terminate unequal agreements between the US and the Philippines such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperating Agreement (EDCA).

What do you write after a 2-year blog silence?

I haven’t published anything on this blog for a while now. And mostly, it’s kinda like when you had beef with your friend in high school and then you just don’t talk for a long time and then it becomes real awkward to even think about talking and then the distance just grows so you give up on talking. Yes, I likened my relationship to this blog as I would a real person. That’s where I’m at y’all.

So I thought, I’d post an update on my life or what not: baby, tenure-track mothering, sociologizing, organizing but instead I decided I’m gonna write something about teaching to begin with. As summer is gearing up, I’ll try to write more on the other things.

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Background: I am teaching a class of sometimes 90 students at a CSU and many of these students are first generation students, working class, immigrant, working full-time and full-time students. Many are having a hard time keeping up with their classes. Baaasically, many of them don’t get to the reading.

In the past couple of semesters, I have been learning about “active learning strategies” (which I got wind of from Dr. Valerie Futch Ehrlich and was always talking to Dr. Alice Gates about how to do it) and I’ve tried to incorporate it in my classes. For 3 reasons: (1) I want students to engage with the text, (2) research has established that lecture style isn’t really working for students, and (3) politically, I want students to know that they are knowledge-producers in our classroom. It ain’t all about me.

Before I had such impacted classrooms, I relied on a problem-posing pedagogy (a la Freire) with some remix of a Socratic method. But that seems so long ago when I had the privilege of teaching smaller classrooms. Back in grad school, we weren’t really trained in developing our teaching skills and I’ve always felt like I’ve been trying to get a hold of what my pedagogy is as I grow as an educator and scholar. So my objective for this post is to help folks who is googling “active learning strategies” in “large college classroom”, as I was furiously searching on teaching prep days.

Here’s a list of ways that I think students really responded to active learning methods in my class:

(Disclaimer: I’m not formally trained in this method, so these might not even be active learning strategies, they’re just my active learning strategies)

1. Keyword Scavenger Hunt: In the beginning of class, choose 3-4 key words in the reading. Have the class bring text(s) to class and in small groups have them find the key words and discuss what it means in the context of the material.

2. Question Map: To begin the class, write or post a set of questions or just one and ask students to answer that question using phrases and pages from the text(s). You could even do a more directed activity by giving them page numbers.

3. Time After Time: If you’re teaching a text where a chronology or a timeline is key, print out slips of paper with the different moments. Ask the whole class, or in small groups, to organize the slips of paper in the right order. Then ask students to post up their chronology order in the front of the room for discussion.

Okay, so those are a few that worked really well. When I teach my 75 minute class, I like to break up the time into 2 or 3 segments to keep students’ attention. So what’s really key to these activities is that I use them for the time where I’m going over the content that they’ve just worked with.

So for example:

1. For Keyword Scavenger Hunt: the keywords they work with in the beginning, end up on the slides of my PPT. I ask for their definitions and sharpen it by asking other students to share and then proposing my analysis.

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2. I often ask students for the phrases they found to answer the question presented in the beginning. I usually pair their answers with phrases that I find important. And sometimes, when the goddesses hear my prayers, the phrases on my PPT and their phrases match!

3. Dedicated to Cyndi Lauper, this activity works because often students “go slow” (since they aint’ done none of the reading, ‘cept them ones who’s your ride or dies) and you follow behind. As you go through each group, you’ll find that some of them got it wrong so you’ll use that as a teaching moment and ask the next group who has gotten it correct to explain why.

What I’m tryna say is that the active learning strategies help students touch, read, discuss some part of the text. And I feel like that’s half the battle!

What active learning strategies do you do in class?

Filipinos in Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica last week, me and my crew took an excursion to the Manuel Antonio national park to take in the beautiful, lush greenery that is Costa Rica and follow a trail to a popular local beach. When we were walking towards the entrance of the park, we wandered into a souvenir shop. As we thumbed through Costa Rican tank tops, beach towels and locally made crafts, one of the shop workers, Kuya Rudy, walked towards me and asked, “Pilipino?” And at that moment, we began a fantastic conversation with these Filipino migrants who live and work in a small town in Costa Rica called Manuel Antonio. They invited us back to lunch after our short hike and stint at the beach and here’s what I learned about them.

 

Ate Gina is the woman to the left of Kuya Rey. She is his wife but she clearly ran the whole show. The storefront, the kitchen and the finances were all under the reign of this Pinay. She told me her story of migrating to Costa Rica and that her business sense migrated with her too. She hopes that in two years, if they work hard enough, they’d like to buy this building to expand their store, restaurant and bed and breakfast. She gave us all discounts and told us there was no other kind of beauty in the world than Filipina beauty.

Gina and Rey

This is Kuya Reynaldo, the cook, the anchor in this family’s chain migration. He came to Costa Rica as a key cutter and then graduated to be a cook at a bed and breakfast. When his employer abandoned him at his workplace, he decided to pick up the work and run the place himself. He brought his wife and family members. Now, he owns this small souvenir shop and restaurant in Manuel Antonio. He cooked and served us Pork Adobo with plantains.

 

Rey

Ate Edna was one of the first to greet us. She gave us a warm smile and invited us to have lunch in their karinderia as she promised us pansit and adobo. She is also the cook of the restaurant and does the books. When I thanked her for our delicious food, she told me how nice it is to speak Tagalog again.

 

Edna

This is Kuya Rudy, a salesman of salesmen, charming and funny, fluent in Spanish, Bisaya, Tagalog and English. He could probably sell ketchup to a man dressed in white. Here he’s pictured with his merchandise mostly manufactured in Costa Rica and some in the Philippines. His humor was typically Filipino, silly and punchy. He made sure he converted all our colones to dollars and all the shoe sizes from 39’s to size 7’s (or something). He told me to come back with my asawa and kids in the future.

Kuya Rudy

 

#migrante #diaspora #globalFilipino #centralFilipinoAmerica #costarica

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The Presentation of Dave in Everyday Life

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Two nights ago, R and I, along with some friends in Portland, went to go see Dave Chappelle on his new comedy tour. It was my first time seeing a comedy show live. I’d followed Dave’s career from The Chappelle Show and was always inspired by the way he kept it real about race and racism. This show, probably reflective Dave’s whole tour and definitely reflective of Portland’s demographic, was sold out with lots of seats taken up by white folks. At some moments, I felt awkward about white folks laughing at Dave’s racialized experiences (especially went he went IN on Hartford, Connecticut). Then, I felt relieved that Dave was talking about whiteness to white people. I started to relax with the thought that perhaps, Dave way of talking about race, could be subversive. What does it mean for white folks to consume Black culture and Black lives? What does it mean for me, as a Filipino American woman, to be in the same audience? What does it mean to Dave?

He’d probably retort, “I just want a pool, man.”

I’m cool with that.

Pedagogy corner:

As I wrap up my lessons on symbolic interaction and Goffman’s dramaturgical model with my 101 students, I appreciated seeing/laughing with Dave at the front stage/back stage dynamics for all the world to see. For my lesson on social interaction I use The Chappelle Show skit on Vernon Franklin to talk about front and back stage, but also to make clear that those dynamics are mitigated by race, class, gender, sexuality and citizenship.

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C. Wright Mills and The Wu Tang Clan

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 The Wu Tang Clan

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C. Wright Mills

In the first week of my Intro to SOC class, I assigned students an essay called, “Society’s Impact On You” to help them apply what C. Wright Mills calls, “The Sociological Imagination.” Before I set them off to write this biographical exercise in the sociological imagination (teacher note: this was also an excellent way to get to know where my students were coming from, and helpful to remember their names), I demonstrated an exercise of sociological imagination using one of my favorite jamz, C.R.E.A.M. by Wu Tang Clan (rap note: a now infamous rap crew I used to be a part of used another Wu song to help me develop my own sociological imagination. Shoutout to Shorty Rocwell, Sola and Rocky Rivera!)

Many of my students did not know who The Wu Tang Clan was, but they also didn’t know who C. Wright Mills was either. I felt like introducing them together could only add to their magic.

Here’s how it went down:

  1. I projected the table below of the first lines of Raekwon, The Chef’s verse in C.R.E.A.M.
  2. I played the (brilliant sampling and hard knock) snippet of the song as students read along with the words.
  3. I asked the class what types of social, historical, economic forces shaped Raekwon’s biography.
  4. Echoing their ideas, I identified the social institutions and structural forces that shaped Raekwon’s story.

C. Wright Mills and The Wu Tang Clan

The Sociological Imagination

and

C.R.E.A.M.

Cash Rules Everything Around Me

By: The Wu Tang Clan

Verse 1

 

Biography: Raekwon, The Chef

 

 

Societal Factors

 

I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side

Staying alive was no jive

 

Had secondhands, Mom’s bounced on old man

So then we moved to Shaolin land

 

A young youth, rocking the gold tooth, ‘Lo goose

Only way I begin to G off was drug loot

 

And let’s start it like this son, rollin with this one and that one

Pullin out Gats for fun

But it was just a dream for the teen, who was a fiend

Started smoking woolies at 16

 

 

 

Living in an urban city, neighborhood

 

 

 

Family troubles, poverty, single mother

 

 

Work in the informal economy

 

 

 

 

Extra curricular activity, masculinity, youth culture

 

 

 

 

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Talking to my Immigrant Parents about Trayvon Martin

On Saturday, in the midst of celebrating my cousin’s freshly pressed MBA, I received a text message from a comrade informing me that George Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering 15-year old Trayvon Martin. My heart felt heavy and light–heavy in despair for Trayvon’s lost life, his parents, his family and his friends; and light as my family of immigrants who strove to thrive in a new country celebrated my cousin’s accomplishments. The contradictions of America were all too certain in that moment.

Trayvon Martin

On the car ride home, my husband and I were talking about the sadness we felt about the injustice done to the Martin family, the injustice done to all of us who know that Zimmerman is guilty; and perhaps the injustice done to us who thought justice could be feasible in the American judicial system. We felt betrayed. We felt played. Like we played ourselves. We know that Lady Justice is not blind nor colorblind. She is and has been built on racist ideologies and white supremacy. Native people and people of color in this country have never been “created equal.” But in some fog of hope, we though that Trayvon and his family could at least get some semblance of peace through this legal battle. We were wrong.

My father asked me, “What are you guys talking about?” I was careful to address my immigrant father from the Philippines (who is sometimes progressive, other times conservative–somewhat typical of Filipino immigrant fathers). I told him that we found out that Zimmerman was found not guilty. Surprisingly, he knew details about Trayvon’s case and life and death. I asked him what he thought about the acquittal. He replied, “Zimmerman killed that boy because his black. Just like why Oscar Grant was killed. No good.” My mother, a hard-working and often, apolitical person, chimed in, “Its too bad that the court doesn’t see how racism killed the boy.” These two, the ones I love the most, are also people who have internalized racist ideologies, repeated racist rhetoric about other communities of color and swallowed a whole pill about the American racial order even before they left the Philippines. These two, the ones I love the most, are certainly part of the contradiction of race relations in the US. They understood the wrong that happened to Trayvon Martin while also inculcated in the “distancing” that has happened between other racial and ethnic groups and Black Americans in the US.

In this moment, our whole car sent out a vibration of mourning and strength to the Martin family, what in Tagalog we call, “nakikiramay.” Honoring someone who has passed, even if that person was a stranger, even if that person was miles away.

But more importantly, my immigrant parents articulated more clearly than I could, the staunchly racist ideology of America. They found Zimmerman guilty. They found America’s racism, its white supremacy guilty. As immigrants in the US, they often cannot articulate how racism affects them. Both of my immigrant parents only see “hard work” in their success in the US. They don’t identify race or racism as a salient part of their daily life. This is something I’ve always been irritated about when talking to them about race in the US. I thought they had no “race analysis”. But here, they so accurately depicted what went wrong. They identified contemporary individual and institutional racism as the culprit and they despised it. “There will be a rally, Val,” said Papa (a generally anti-rally kind of dude), “they should rally.”

As I’ve continued talk to my immigrant parents about Trayvon Martin, I talk about how the legal system in the US has always upheld and maintain white supremacy–a set of ideologies that needs to “occasionally” kill Black men in order to keep the rest of us safe. It requires Black women to lose their sons, brothers and friends. It normalizes the murder and disappearance of Black people.

I talk to them about how Trayvon’s case also matters because the racism that allowed Zimmerman to murder Trayvon with impunity is also linked to the shrinking set of rights of native people, people of color, queer folks, women, poor folks and immigrants have in this country (i.e. Voting Rights Act, Affirmative Action, abortion rights, immigration reform).

But I also talk to them about how Trayvon’s life is not in vain as so many people are taking to the streets, starting conversations with their immigrant families about race relations in the US, getting out and doing something to honor Trayvon’s life, indicting Zimmerman the people’s way.

And although, some immigrant parents, like mine, aren’t always race-conscious, they still understand that there’s something wrong with this verdict. We all experience race and racism in different ways, but as my parents taught me, it is still real. Real enough for two immigrant parents to know what happened to Trayvon’s family is “no good”.

As I try to understand what really happened, here are some articles that have helped:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/175260/white-supremacy-acquits-george-zimmerman

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/07/questlove-trayvon-martin-and-i-aint-shit.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sonny-singh/zimmerman-verdict-racism_b_3600964.html

http://feministing.com/2013/07/16/white-womanhood-protectionism-and-complicity-in-injustice-for-trayvon/

http://occupydemocrats.com/watch-martin-bashir-sum-up-the-trayvon-martin-travesty-in-under-4-minutes/

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/07/obama-gives-unexpected-speech-race-trayvon-martin-could-have-been-me-35-years-ago/67391/

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To Be A Woman in the Philippines

This picture is from a mobilization for International Women’s Day in the Philippines. The yellow sign says, “Fight (President) Aquino’s Oil Cartel Conspiracy!” and another sign says, “Decrease the Prices of Oil!”  The women are hurling paint balls at the US embassy in this picture as a militant protest to the collusion of the US government, its corporations with the Philippine government. This action commemorates international actions for women’s rights but it also reflects the widespread problem of the rising costs of basic goods. This is an example of womanhood in the Philippines.

A recent article in Foreign Policy, entitle “Five Surprisingly Good Places to Be A Woman” lauds the Philippines as its first site to be surprised about when thinking about the good life for women. I read this article and was irritated by its confluence of the closing of the “gender gap” and a good life for women.

Here are three things that I’d urge you to think about a bit more:

1. Foreign Policy lists “educational attainment” and “health and survival” as top ranking statistics for women in the Philippines. But without a discussion on the hotly debated and often rejected Reproductive Health Bill (See Gabriela Women’s Party’s speech)? This bill that prioritizes education about women’s health and survival keeps getting knocked down.

The second paragraph in the Philippine feature states the obvious caveats that religious (and I’d argue, capitalist) patriarchy also puts the Philippines as the only country in the world who hasn’t legalized divorce or abortion or contraceptives. Yay, what a great place to be as a woman.

2. Being a woman in the Philippines can only be good if her father, son, daughter, bakla neighbor, etc. has a good life. The women in that above picture aren’t fighting for oil decrease for women. They are fighting for oil prices to decrease for everyone. The idea that women will have it good because they can read as fast as men is misleading. Yes, education is important. But so is food. If no one has access to basic goods or jobs, how can life be good for women if its not good for men?

How good is it to be a woman in a country where life isn’t good for any person?

I don’t think the only accurate measure of a having a good life for a woman is their ability to work in the same place as men. I think its better to measure women’s well-being in context of their people’s well-being.

3. The only thing I do agree with Foreign Policy about is that women in the Philippines have a good sense of their democratic and revolutionary potential. The picture above which includes one of my personal sheroes, Nanay Neri (in the purple shirt hurling a paint ball) who is a mass leader of women’s organizations from the urban poor sector, shows that women feel the need to act, militantly and without reserve, against the neoliberal retreats of the state. They don’t only feel the need to act. But they act. All the time. Every day. In new ways. That’s good. Really good.

Happy Women’s History Month!

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Who Cares for Caregivers?

One Sunday afternoon when I was 15 years old, I went to visit my father who was working as a caregiver. He was a live-in caregiver with 5 elderly patients, one of them non-ambulatory. He worked 6 days a week, and because he lived in the facility, I can only imagine, he worked 24 hours a day.

He’d been in the US for over a year and this is the only work he could find, and he was happy to take it. He knew that the paycheck would help my mother put food on the table and help with our household expenses. I was just happy he was in the US with us finally, after 6 years of separation. My weekly trip to his work site was a source of joy for me.

On those Sundays, I’d take him to the bank to deposit his check, get deodorant, etc. And this Sunday, my heart sank a little as my father wobbled his way out of the care home doors. He said his back hurt because he lifted a patient the wrong way. “Its okay, Val. Kaya ko to,” he said. When we got to the bank, he opened up his paycheck envelope, and his eyes got a little watery. He asked me to deposit the check for him because his back was hurting. And as I fought to keep my tears back, I said, “Sure, Papa.”

When I got to the teller, I could tell my father wasn’t tearing up about his back. His paycheck for 2 weeks of work was only $500. That day, I wished all my wishes away.

I wished that my father’s back would heal.

I wished that he could get a fair wage.

I wished that he could have better work conditions.

I wished that people, especially his employer, could see his work as dignified and valuable.

If you know a caregiver, your parent was a caregiver, if you grew up in a care home, you’ll want to do this.

Caregivers and domestic workers are one of few American workforces who do not receive standardized labor rights.

The US Department of Labor is taking comments about proposed regulations to standardize their rights.

Follow the steps below and tell the DOL that you support home care workers.

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Comments on Department of Labor ‘s Proposed Regulations for MW and OT for Home Care Workers

All comments need to be submitted on-line by February 27, 2012.

HOW DO I SUBMIT IT?

1. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/ .

2. On the “SEARCH” LINE, please type or paste: Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Service

3. You will be taken to a site that has different Titles of Documents. Look for the Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Service. Click on Submit a Comment (which is on the RIGHT HAND side) and

4. Enter your contact information and Type in a comment of up to 2,000 characters OR attach a word or PDF file. You only have 20 minutes, so if you plan to have it typed up beforehand so you can paste it in.

5. Your document should refer to Dept of Labor and RIN 1235-AA05,

NOTE: All comments will be posted unedited, so don’t disclose any information that you don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly. Include as much relevant personal information as you are comfortable sharing. The more specific you are about why you care about this issue and what the new rule would mean to you, the better.

WHAT KIND OF COMMENT SHOULD I SUBMIT?

FROM CAREGIVERS: We want to tell the Department of Labor (DOL) to know about caregivers’ experiences of underpay and overwork. Ask caregivers to describe, as specifically as possible, what it feels like to be underpaid and overworked (i.e. they can talk about how difficult it is to live and support their families in SF because their pay is so low; they can talk about how overwork affects their health, they can talk about what they actually do at work that shows that they are more than just “companions” etc). LIMIT THE COMMENT TO 2000 WORDS, OTHERWISE YOU WILL HAVE TO ATTACH YOUR COMMENTS SEPARATELY.

Here are sample questions to ask workers:

SINO KA?

Are you a caregiver, child of caregiver, or an employer? For how many years? Is being a caregiver your only job? Do you have family you are supporting? Are you a part of a caregivers organization?

ANO ANG TRABAHO MO?

What state do you work in? How many hours do you work? How much are you paid? Do you have to get up when you sleep? What do you do for the people you care for (Shower? Dress? Cook?…)

ASK FOR DOL’S SUPPORT.

Bakit sinasuportahan mo ang mga karapatan para Overtime pay & Minimum Wage for Home Care workers? (Halimbawa – it will recognize our important work, it will help us stay at our jobs longer, do our jobs better, care for our families.)

Here is a sample template for answers/comments to post:

· As a caregiver, I strongly support the DOL’s proposed regulations (RIN 1235-AA05) that ensure all home care aides receive minimum wage and overtime protections.

· I have worked in the caregiver field for ___ years.

· Every day, I help my clients with [list what you do for your clients – include any things that you do like turning the patient, changing wound dressing, giving medications, dressing, bathing, feeding , grooming, toileting, laundry, housekeepring, etc].

· I often work ___ hours each work and do not get paid any overtime. Even though I am supposed to get minimum wage in California, I have often work at wages below minimum wage

· [If not getting minimum wage and./or overtime ]- I think it’s unfair that I don’t have the same rights as other workers.

· My work helps my clients stay healthy and independent. I take great pride in my work, which takes skill and compassion. I care deeply about my clients, but I also need to earn a fair wage to support my own family.

REMEMER: only include details the worker is comfortable having posted on a public website)

FROM YOU: As advocates, we want the DOL to know that we support revisions of the regulations.

Here is a sample of what you can submit for yourself:

· I am a concerned individual and I support the proposed regulations (RIN 1235-AA05) to ensure minimum wage and overtime protection for homecare workers whose work is so important. It will help to stabilize this critical workforce that is experiencing high turnover because of low pay and long hours. It will help ensure dignified care for the elderly and people with disabilities so they can stay in their homes and out of institutions.

· I also support requiring employers of live-in domestic workers to make and keep records of domestic workers’ hours worked because live-in workers need this basic protection around their work hours. In addition, employers should ALSO be required to keep other records — like the rate of pay, total wages, or deductions for meals and housing. Deductions from pay are common, and without this additional information, the possible wage and hour violations are impossible to spot. It will not be burdensome for employers to keep such records—because they have home computers, smartphones, and workers can keep such information, which employers can use to keep their records.

· Personally, this issue matters to me because [HERE YOU CAN PERSONALIZE IT]

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