little ideas.

all we’ve got to do is be brave and kind

Summer Blog Plans May 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — irene @ 2:07 pm

Summer is here, and I’m hoping to be a good little blogger. I have lots to share about! Watch out for posts on Transformative Action, Time Banking, the juvenile justice system, my College Scholar application essay, the Ithaca Leadership Initiative, social entrepreneurship, Ashoka, and much more.


Jay Smooth on How to Tell People They Sound Racist March 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — irene @ 6:57 pm

How to Avoid Dealing with Racism February 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — irene @ 4:40 pm

borrowed from and added to and edited a little bit.


Try simple courtesy and respect with a desire to understand. Try not to grasp at straws in order to retain your position of privilege. Try asking people about their experiences. Try going to a community organization and asking what you can do to help. Try reading some literature on the topics. Try to understand that things are not always fair, for you, or for anyone else. Just don’t try any of these.


The Bootstrap Believer
 “Racism is a thing of the past… this is a free country, and anyone who works hard can make it in America. Come on, Obama is president!”

The Backtracker
 “Hey, wait a second, that’s not what I meant… I mean… you took my words out of context, don’t make it try to sound like I’m racist!”

The “I’m Offended That You’re Offended”
 “You’re too sensitive… if you weren’t so aggressive, vocal, hostile, angry, or upset, people would listen to you and you wouldn’t get in trouble!”

The Utopian Eye-Gouger 
“I’m colorblind, personally… why can’t we all just ignore race, it’s not like it’s even real… it’s not like I tangibly benefit from being white every day or anything! Can’t we all just get along? I’m also deaf to religion and mute to gender.”

The Table Turner
 “You’re being just as racist against white people, you realize. You’re being racist against me right now, you reverse-racist hypocrites!”

The Good White Person (not like those obvious racists!) 
“Whoa, that guy over there is SUCH a racist, unlike me… I know exactly the right things to say and I’m never racist. By which I mean overtly offensive about it. Hold on, I think I’m going to go spit on that guy. I hate him.”

The Unblemished Family History
 “Hey, my family never owned slaves, so it’s not like I, as an individual, get any benefit from racism!”

The Bent Over Backwards (makes you look flexible, but accomplishes little else) 
“You people of color are so right. I agree with everything you say. Because you’re right, of course… not just because I’m guilty and white and wrong!”

The Angry Self-Justified Rationalizer
 “But a black person, Mexican, mean old Asian lady, or Native American once cut in front of me in line, said something stupid, mugged me, or took my hubcaps! So as far as I’m concerned, they proved all of my prejudices!”

The Loophole Escapist 
“I can’t possibly be a bigot or a racist… I’m part of the oppressed due to the fact that I’m a woman!” (or gay, poor, young, trans, etc.)

The Inappropriate Appropriator
 “Damn, bro! You know I’m down with the homies, I ain’t no wack racist cracker, shiznit.”

The “Lean On You When I’m Not Strong
” “Teach me, help me. I’m just a white person, so I need your wisdom as a person of color to show me how not to be racist. Wait, is what I said earlier racist? How about this shirt I’m wearing? Can you come with me to this party, so they know I’m not a racist?”

The Attention Seeker 
“Unlike all those other white people out there, I’m an anti-racist.” (…) “I do anti-racist work and I try to educate other people about anti-racism.” (…) “Wait, did you hear me?”

The Fake Liberal
 “I totally agree. Racism is one system of oppression among many interlocking ones, that specifically awards more privilege and power to all white people, whether they like it or not, and serves to keep the existing power structure in place. Oh… what? You want me to volunteer in a community organization, contribute money, do security for your protest march? Uh… yeah maybe next time, I’ve got to wash my hair tonight. And walk my dog, see the latest episode of Lost, manage my stock portfolio…”

The Penitent and Paralyzed (will not truly absolve you)
 “Oh my god… that is so awful. I’m so sorry. Sorry. I can’t imagine what it must be like… I’m sorry. That’s so awful. I feel so bad for you. Sorry.”

The Best Friend 
 “Hey, I’m not a racist, OK? Some of my best friends are black. See?”
 Best Friend: “Yeah, I’ve known him since we were kids, and he’s never said anything racist to me!”

…and one bonus one for all your folks of color out there.

The Ignorant Internalizer 
“What? I can’t possibly be racist. I AM a person of color. How can I be racist against myself, huh? No, I haven’t heard of internalized racism, and I still think affirmative action is reverse racism!”

The Red Herring Eater “Sure race has a lot to do with it, but I really think this is much more about cultural context/gender/class/etc. Can we talk about that?”

The Happy Multiculturalist “Racist? Come on, I went to culture day at school, watched Crash, and like world music. Plus, I eat a ton of Mexican, Chinese and Ethiopian food. How could I possibly be racist when the food is so good?”

The Hipster Racist “Steven Colbert and I aren’t perpetuating racism, we’re exposing it. I hardly think I’m exploiting social issues for profit. If people don’t understand that my racist behavior and language are ironic/comical/mocking, that’s not my fault! They don’t deserve to not be racist. Wait…”



Here’s some shitty cultural appropriasan… February 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — irene @ 5:39 pm

Thanks Disgrasian, for help with my post title.

So yesterday I was sitting with Daniel while he was playing some games on his computer, you know, the standard ones like solitaire, minesweeper, hearts, etc. When I saw that he had “MahJong Destiny” (or something with a similarly ridiculous name), I suggested that we play, thinking of games at Grandma’s and clinking tiles and the satisfaction of “peng,” “chi,” and drawing a flower from the “wall.”

I learned, soon enough, that what they were calling “MahJong” was in fact something called MahJong solitaire, an inanely simple game of matching tiles to “uncover” layers of tiles underneath. As a bonus, you could pick a tiger formation, a flower formation, or even a dragon formation to match tiles from! Wowie!


This hurt my soul a little bit. Real, classic, Chinese MahJong is a fast-paced and complex game that requires skill and strategy, but almost every “classic” MahJong game you find online is this stupid matching game. Yeah, it’s clearly “really hard.” Release the birds? Fuck that! 

How obnoxious is it that they’ve done this? The only reason I can see that they would appropriate MahJong for this purpose is that the tiles seem exotic in their colorfulness and Chinese characters. Why not just play with random pictures, or shapes? 

The 1981 creator of the game Brodie Lockard (who I can only assume is not Chinese) claims that it’s based on an ancient Chinese game called “The Turtle.” Why not call it the motherfucking turtle, then? I feel like a real idiot knowing that I’ve said I like playing MahJong when half the people I said that to probably thought I meant this stupid game. So, Dell, and the rest of the internet: play your stupid matching game if you want, but don’t call it something it’s not. That’s an expression and a perpetuation of cultural ignorance and appropriation.

Here is one version of the many real ways to play MahJong, supplemented by Wikipedia. Brodie, I hope this blows your mind.



Summer Ithaca Leadership Initiative Proposal February 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — irene @ 12:04 am


         Our mission in this program is to help new students develop multi-dimensional understandings of their new communities in Ithaca, and to help them experience firsthand and develop full and personal understandings of (1) the value of social action, (2) the definitions and mechanisms of social issues, and (3) our responsibility to build and maintain social consciousness through action and personal openness and reflection.

We believe that these three types of knowledge complement and derive strength and meaning from one another, and are inextricably connected. Through these three aspects of our program, students will be empowered to take leadership in social justice work and important conversations about diversity throughout their time at Cornell.

         Social action, as we define it, is a broader definition of community service work that includes work relating to discussion on and organization around issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, class and other social identifiers, work that aims to make the community more fair and equal, work that contributes to supporting and representing minority or oppressed groups within the community, and work that shares our privileges and resources as Cornell community members.

         Students in our program will take social action in the Ithaca and Cornell communities by participating in service projects, attending lectures and presentations and learning about activist and advocacy organizations, and visiting sites of activism or inequality. Their involvement in social action will demonstrate to them the value of understanding and connecting with the place that they will spend several years of their lives. See section on Community Involvement for more.

         Social issues, as we define them, are matters that directly or indirectly affect all members of the community, and pertain to social differences and the privileges that result from them.

         Students in our program will examine social issues such as race and ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, religion, ability, class, privilege, and social construction theory. Students will do this by reading essays, watching films, reflecting in journals, and discussing their learning with each other, gaining theoretical, factual, historical and current knowledge of these social issues. We hope to give students a strong framework for teaching, learning, and talking about issues of diversity during their time at Cornell. See Framework of Social Issues Programming for more.

         Social consciousness, as we define it, is an understanding of social issues and privilege and an openness to the perspectives of other people. Social consciousness is simultaneously an understanding of the inequalities and issues in today’s society and in our communities and a vision for a more equal and safe society or community.

         Students in our program will be inspired to create and maintain social consciousness through personal and community reflection on the work that we do together. Students will keep journals, reflect during community time, and build intimacy with one another through discussion and group activities, and thus both reflect on their experiences, and keep in mind ways in which they can work and act to make our society and community more safe and equal.

         Taking leadership in social justice, as we define it, is combining social action, knowledge of social issues, and responsibility to social consciousness to create a powerful and personally derived desire to spread and act upon our knowledge of our community’s current needs and inequalities and our vision of Cornell and Ithaca as a community that is equitable and safe for all members.

         Students in our program will be given opportunity to take leadership in social justice throughout the program (in their journals), and at the end of the program, through writing personal statements and articulating goals for personal action and/or institutional change.


Staff: 5-8 sophomore, junior, or senior facilitators, and 2-3 staff members for additional support. Selection/recruitment process TBD.

Participants: 10-15 incoming students, freshman or transfers. Selection/recruitment process TBD.

Dates: Facilitators arrive on August 10. Participants arrive on August 11. Program ends August 21.

Housing Plan and Cost: TBD. We are hoping to rent out an on-campus co-op for approximately $10/night per person. Therefore, we project that housing will cost between $1,650 (15 people for 11 nights) and $2,530 (23 people for 11 nights).

Dining Plan and Cost: TBD. We have not yet determined whether we will eat in dining halls on campus or cook in our house, but it is likely that we will decide on a combination of both.

Transportation: TBD.

Supplies and Cost: Journals for participants and facilitators, folders, pens, living necessities, etc, TBD.


Framework of Social Issues Programming:

         The program will be divided into an introduction, a final seminar or conclusion, and four units of approximately equal length: gender/sexuality, ability/religion, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. The order of these units is based on our belief that many social issues are intertwined, including religion and race, and race and socioeconomic class.

·      Introduction: This segment of the program will include icebreaking activities, privilege activities (that are not issue-specific), and readings that will help us create a common vocabulary and framework. We will discuss the issues of privilege, social constructions, and work to define words/phrases such as diversity, social justice, social action, social responsibility, etc. We will also introduce the journals.

·      Units: Each unit will have four components. (They are listed in approximate order of occurrence.) These components will also be supplemented by learning from and with the Ithaca community through service, lectures or presentations, and so on (see below).

o     Theoretical and factual learning: We will join Cornell faculty in introducing the topic(s) in a theoretical or abstract way, developing common and educated vocabulary, and presenting historical, statistical, or other facts pertaining to the topic. For example, for the topic of race, we might join a sociology professor to discuss what race is, what the major races in the US are (or what we think they are), the history of the conception of race, the racial makeup of the US, the correlation between race and incarceration, etc. We will also discuss how a topic relates to and is addressed in the Ithaca and Cornell communities, and discuss what sort of organizations or issues exist pertaining to the topic.

o     Case study learning (films, readings): This component will expand our understandings of the topic as we look at some personal or collective experiences with it. For example, for the topic of sexuality, we might read and discuss the Heterosexual Questionnaire, an excerpt from Two Teenagers in Twenty: Writings by Gay and Lesbian Youth, or watch a film such as Angels in America or Transamerica.

o     Personal learning and identity building: This component will ask participants and facilitators to take part in and use their own experiences to learn about and discuss the topic. We might hold an open discussion with a question box, or participate in exercises. For example, for the topic of gender, we might run the Internalized Gender Role exercise (see Exercises) and then continue to have discussions about other ways that gender is part of our lives.

o     Group and individual reflection: This component will help us make sense of and move away from the work that we have done on a topic. As a group, we will have debriefing exercises to discuss what we’ve learned, what we were surprised by, what hurt us, what gives us hope, etc. Individually, we will write in journals over the course of the unit. Participants and facilitators have specific prompts and will be asked to write at least 3 pages of reflections or other impressions, and will then turn the journals in to be read. (If there are portions that participants would like to keep private, they may indicate so or fold over the page.) Facilitators will take turns reading the journals (facilitators and participants’) and choosing anonymous excerpts to share with the group. Sharing will take place at the end of group reflection in a peaceful manner (darkened room/heads down/before bed), and will be used to build the sense of common experience and community between participants.

·      Conclusion: The program will culminate in participants and facilitators using their journals to write a personal statement about their experience, and a personal action plan or change plan. This action plan may have to do with attending a club at Cornell, keeping an open mind while meeting new people, taking a class on a new issue, using respectful language, etc. We will hand out “goodbye packets” on the last day with details on reunion events, and times when facilitators will check in on students throughout their freshman year and help them evaluate their progress or write new action plans (which may be personal or institutional). We will also go through a few exercises on appreciation and closing thoughts of reflections.


Potential Sites for Community Involvement

·      Tour of Cayuga Correctional facility, MacCormack and Gossett juvenile facilities

·      Visit to Cayuga American Indian community (race/ethnicity)

·      Volunteer work and information session at Loaves and Fishes Food Bank (class)

·      Panel of Green Guerillas student activists

·      Presentation on the Village at Ithaca and educational equity in Ithaca public schools

·      Hike, trailbuilding and/or information session with the Cayuga Trails Club

·      Presentation on AIDS and public health with the Southern Tier AIDS Program (gender/sexuality)

·      Volunteer work and tour of the Women’s Opportunity Center (gender/sexuality)

·      Presentation or talk by international refugees living in Ithaca (religion)

·      Presentation with Challenge (ability)

·      Presentation by American Indian Program faculty on Lake Mohonk “Friends of the Indian Conference”

·      Visit to Seneca Falls Women’s Rights National Historic Park, presentation on the first women’s rights convention, discussion on the intersections of racism and sexism (gender/sexuality/race)

·      Presentations or discussions led by Cornell student organization/advocacy leaders



         I would like to acknowledge and thank the following organizations and individuals for their contributions to this program proposal, and their support and guidance during my own journey.

         Milton Academy Diversity Office

         Milton Academy’s Common Ground

         Heather Flewelling and Christine Savini

         Harvard University First-Year Urban Program

         Tara Venkatraman

         Boston Center for Community and Justice

         Todd Fry, Karla Acevedo, Barbara Johnson, and everyone at BCCJ

         New England Chinese Youth Summer Camp

         Anne and Andy Wang

         Office of Minority Educational Affairs

         Ginger Sparks and Moji Olaniyan

         Jen Majka and Mary Ann Krisa

         Cal Walker

         Troy Richardson

         CRESP Center for Transformative Action

         Anke Wessels

         Laura Kohler

         Brown University Leadership Institute

         Robin Rose