What Can You Do To Fight Intolerance?
July 25, 2013
Racism, xenophobia and intolerance are prevalent problems, and prejudice and discrimination are reflected throughout United States history. To encourage conversation and solution-building, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center presents What Can You Do to Fight Intolerance?
Dr. William Howe is the program manager for culturally responsive education, multicultural education, bullying and harassment, gender equity and civil rights at the Connecticut Department of Education. He is the founder of the New England Conference on Multicultural Education (NECME) and Past President of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME).
Dr. Howe began by commenting on the fear, anger, and frustrations he notices as a result of intolerance, yet a desire to talk about the issues and find solutions. He shared the story of James Baldwin and his call to people of all races to help in “ending the racial nightmare,” explaining that we are living the racial nightmare: and even though we have been talking about it for decades the situations are not changing. His goal, and the goal of the program, was to arrive at constructive answers.
Dr. Howe shared his background, starting with his parents who were born in China. His father was kidnapped at age 7, tied and kept in a closet, and had to relearn how to walk when released at age 9. His parents died while he was kidnapped, and his grandfather – fearing the kidnappers would come back – sent him to the United States. His mother was given away as a servant at age 16, and when she ran away back home she was not wanted. His parents met through an arranged marriage and William was born in Quebec. He has two children, a son who is a publisher and daughter who is a social worker, both who work in Chicago, and a wife who is a social worker and therapist.
He explained that we have to start talking about ourselves as cultural beings and be proud of who we are – “no child, no person, should be ashamed of who they are.” Dr. Howe then led participants in several one-on-one discussions with people they did not know. Each discussion related to culture, and several members commented on their pride in:
- The influence of African culture music and education on American culture
- The influence of Italian culture on American food and family
- The influence of Irish poetry, culture and literature
In the following discussion, they discussed things they wished people would stop saying about their culture, including:
- Associating Jamaicans/Jamaica with weed
- The stereotype that all Asians are brilliant
- The association of Colombians with drug cartels
- That African American women speak Ebonics
- That American women are promiscuous
- That people of culture are on welfare and receiving benefits
- The “We’re #1” American attitude
- That the Native Americans are “Indians” and were discovered by Columbus
Dr. Howe explained that when someone says what they wish people would stop saying about their culture, we should not be responding with “What’s wrong with that?” Instead we need to listen. He shared a quote from Margaret Wheatley's “ From Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future":
This is how great changes begin, when people begin talking to each other about their experiences, hopes, and fears.
The group discussion then covered how to ask questions and be an active listener. Dr. Howe commented that Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply (Stephen Covey), and shared several statistics, including:
- 80% of awake time is spent communicating
- We spend 45% of awake time listening.
- 75% of the words are ignored, misunderstood or forgotten
- Most Adults Listen Actively for 17 Seconds
The remainder of the workshop included training on the multiple types of questions, listening skills, cultural competence, and the idea of race. The workshop ended with an overwhelmingly positive atmosphere and a desire to do more to better our world and break down barriers of intolerance.
Enjoy these photos and video from the workshop and view more at www.facebook.com/HarrietBeecherStowe.
Explore the links featured on our Takeaway Sheet for more information and ways you can take action!
The Stowe Center thanks Dr. Howe for leading this workshop and for his efforts to embrace and share the importance of multicultural diversity. We look forward to working with Dr. Howe in the future!