January 6th, 2016 | Categories: Uncategorized

By: Dionne Evans

In this day and age, just a little over 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement, it’s not uncommon for people to think racism doesn’t exist anymore or to hear someone say “Slavery was abolished long ago, what more can you want?” Though progress has been made in race relations since the Civil Rights Movement, racial profiling exists. It is still typical for police to stop black men and women on the streets just because of the color of their skin. The recent police shootings involving unarmed black men have caused outrage, protests, and arguments on how prevalent racism is in our American society. According to a New York Times article by Dalia Simmons, “Americans are increasingly likely to say that the police are more apt to use deadly force against a black person, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds.” That same poll also found that sixty-one percent of Americans now say race relations in this country are generally bad and 44 percent of Americans say deadly force is more likely to be used against a black person. Simmons writes, “Blacks also remain far more likely than whites to say they feel mostly anxious about the police in their community. Forty-two percent say so, while 51 percent feel mostly safe. Among whites, 8 in 10 feel mostly safe.” Even with this information, there are still many people who say racism is not a problem. Ironically enough, it’s usually those spouting racists views who say this. The police shootings and the Charleston church shooting spark outrage but not much debate on race relations. If anything, they’re dividing people even more.

Though African-Americans are voicing their unease and safety concerns, they are not being heard. Sometimes, they are even ridiculed by their peers. “Just follow an officer’s orders and you’ll be fine,” say some. However, based on experiences to those close to me, I know this advice doesn’t work for everyone. As a person of mixed race (half black, part white and then a little of almost everything else), I’ve had unique experiences. I know what it feels like to be prejudiced against because of my skin. Others, like my brothers, have had it much worse though.

My older brother standing at 6-foot-3-inches tall who sometimes touts a beard has endured things a lot tougher than I. I remember an incident that occurred when he was picking me up from high school. He was in one of about five or so cars waiting at the curb where most pick-ups and drop-offs occur. His friend, a dark-skinned African-American, was in the passenger’s seat and rap music was blaring from the speakers. I got in the car, and we were stopped by a police officer almost immediately after turning into the lane to exit. We were all confused. The officer came up to the window and told us my brother had been at the curb too long and asked him what he was doing there. “I’m just picking up my little sister,” he said. My brother’s friend started muttering under his breath and my brother shushed him. The officer then made my brother get out of the car. While there, he checked my brother’s license and let my brother back inside the car. After finding nothing, the officer came back up to us and said “I’ll let you off with a warning, but next time don’t wait at the curb so long.” He said this as if he were doing us a favor for not ticketing us for not breaking the law. I think my brother was a little shaken after that.

That wasn’t the worst encounter with an officer he would experience in his life. One night, maybe a year or so after the previous incident, on his way home from being out with friends he was stopped. This time the officer said it was for a broken taillight. According to my brother, the officer then started peeking into the car. “Have you been drinking tonight?” he asked. My brother told him he hadn’t, but the officer told him to step out of the car anyway to do a breathalyzer test. Of course, my brother wasn’t lying and there was no alcohol in his system. The officer wasn’t satisfied and then decided to search the car for any drugs or alcohol, with no such luck.

Though my brother had apparently been stopped for just a broken taillight and despite my brother complying with all of the officer’s requests, the office seemed determined. The officer then decided to run my brother’s license into the system. My brother’s license was suspended due to unpaid tickets. Now that was my brother’s fault. He was sent to jail for 3 days. My family was upset and confused. It was stupid that my brother was driving with a suspended license. He hadn’t told my parents about the suspension which is why he was still allowed to drive the car. But we were more hurt that the police officer claimed to be stopping him for a broken taillight yet went through all of the steps to find something else. I don’t know much about the court-hearings afterwards, I was still just in high school, but I do know that my brother got out of any further jail time or punishment, aside from community service, and the officer’s misconduct was at least looked into. Both incidents happened over 5 years ago and both officers involved were white. Racism involving police officers is not a new thing, but thanks to new technology, when it happens, it can be shared and, maybe, even deterred.

The incidents involving police abusing their power cause a lot of arguments. Sadly, it does not open up a dialogue about racism. Rather, it is often instead a catalyst for more racist remarks and actions. It’s important to keep in mind that racism isn’t just black and white, but these seem to be the races that are currently in the biggest divide. When discussing racism, it’s important to remember also that not all white people are racists and not all black people are thugs, but incidents like the Bland case gives ammunition to both sides.

Deniers express opinions like “They were criminals anyway, they deserved it,” or “Why do we hear so much on white-on-black crime and not on black-on-white crime, which is much higher.” Racism isn’t going to go away if we don’t acknowledge it or open up a discussion about it.

Even I sometimes scroll past the heartbreakingly discriminatory remarks on different news articles or Facebook posts. However, I feel a lot better when I explain to someone why their comments are incorrect or hurtful. I recently read an article on huffingtonpost.com about how the Charleston shooting was another missed opportunity to talk about race relations in our country. I think Diana Montero said it best. “Not treating the infection only makes the infection spread.”

December 1st, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

Why I Am Lonely

You may know me as a gregarious person. If you don’t know me, then take my word for it.

You may know me as a person who has lots of friends and makes new friends easily. If we have never met, trust me I have and I do.

You may know me as someone who is happily married for over 20 years and a mother of two young children who constantly bring joy to my life. Believe me, even if you don’t know me first hand.

Yet…

I am lonely.

I am lonely because I avoid the color black on my kids clothes. I wouldn’t let my own aunt wear it to my wedding. I try to avoid black coats especially in winter. It’s not because I think black is a bad omen. That would be easy to explain. It’s because of the various symbolisms of the color black, not the paranoia, that makes me want bright colors in my life.

I am lonely because I don’t like hearing about kids and de-th in the same sentence. I can’t even write it. I don’t like hypothetical examples. I don’t like shows that involve this. I don’t like hearing examples in casual conversation. It’s not because I think this will be a jinx. That would be simple to explain. It’s because those two words just shouldn’t be in the same sentence. Why would anyone want them to be? Why would anyone volunteer to put them in the same sentence?

I am lonely because I don’t usually go for the easy attention getter, greeting, small talk, or conversation topic. In college it took me three conversations before I asked someone, who soon became one of my closest friends at the time, where she came from even though she had a heavy accent. Before (and no doubt since) it was generally the question most people asked within the first five minutes of meeting her. I avoided these easy go-to conversation topics well before I got my Ph.D. in communication, became the Stereotype Guru, and wrote a book on stereotypes. It’s because though I am just like everyone else and cognitively am wired to see difference I, nonetheless, somehow trained myself to set that aside as much as possible and see similarity instead.

I am lonely because after every conversation, I review that conversation in my head. I think about potential offenses, how I could have said something differently, what I might have changed if I could do it over, what I should say next time if I get the chance. It seems time consuming, but I do this sometimes in seconds. Sometimes I do this over months of agonizing reflection. It’s because I have read lots of research in communication (both my own and what others have written) and I know the ramifications of words and take these very seriously.

So I am lonely.

Because no one knows this about me, though some suspect. I am preoccupied with communication. Constantly thinking, wondering, questioning. It’s exhausting.

But you wouldn’t know it from looking at me, talking with me, listening to me that there is a whole part of me that no one knows.

So I am lonely.

It’s nothing I would change. It’s nothing I could change. And despite what you think it’s not because I think these ways and I do these things that makes me lonely.

It’s that you do not think and do these things that makes me lonely.

If we lived in a world where we were aware of what we say and do, what the ramifications are of these things, and were cautious of them– sincerely and authentically cautious– then I wouldn’t be lonely. If we did this all the time, not just in the office, not just with people who might be offended, not just with people we care about, and not just when we think we need to be PC, then I wouldn’t be lonely.

In a world in which we all did this, I would be able to explain why, for example, we should avoid x, y, or z stereotype without facing an inquisition, without having to justify why equality and equity are rational, without having to worry if I am upsetting someone by saying something that to me is as obvious as the color of the sky.

But we don’t live in that world.

So I remain lonely.

September 10th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

I’m revisiting an old favorite feature of The Communicated Stereotype known as Thing Thursday. Today’s Thing Thursday is something that really gets me twitching. Check it out here.

Girl Genius

I have a knock knock joke for Lands’ end:

Knock Knock
Who’s there?
Girl Genius.
Girl Genius who?
Doesn’t make sense to me either. I just call a girl genius, a genius.

September 1st, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

I finally had a chance to read an article a colleague sent me from the Harvard Business Review called Reinventing Performance Management by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. I’m not a fan of the viewpoint the article takes, despite the optimism of the authors. Despite Deloitte’s record on diversity, here’s why:

1) With regard to who conducts evaluations and when, Deloitte seems to be putting the responsibility on the employee to get the evaluation done because, they authors argue, employees innately want to improve themselves. They say leaders should be constantly evaluating their employees so they don’t need to have regularly yearly or semi yearly scheduled evaluations. Ultimately, a process like this is self-serving for Deloitte. It saves the leaders time to not have to conduct the evaluations. Plus, it puts in place a system that rewards high achievers or those who already know the system while leaving those employees who might be insecure or shy about initiating an employee evaluation for themselves potentially in the dark about their performance. This reinforces that those already in the know will continue to get access to Deloitte’s leadership. It also creates a system in which those who aren’t, won’t be likely to.

2) With regard to what questions get asked on the performance evaluations, Deloitte is saying they want their leaders to own their judgments of employees so the evaluations are not about what the employee is doing but about what the manager is doing. This new version of their evaluation confounds two different aspects of the assessment process: criteria and judgment. Instead of articulating criteria on which judgments should be based and then, as a separate step, making judgments about employees, Deloitte’s leadership team would need only make the judgments. These are the four questions Deloitte has reduced their performance evaluations to using a typical [strongly agree to strongly disagree] scale:

-Given what I know of this peron’s performance. and if it were my money, I would award this person the highest possible compensation increase and bonus.

-Given what I know of this person’s performance, I would always want him or her on my team.

-This person is at risk for low performance.

-This person is ready for promotion today.

Confounding ‘criteria’ and ‘judgment’ pulls the wool over the employee’s eyes by disregarding that the leaders are making the judgments anyway regardless of what the evaluation form looks like. In a traditional evaluation system, the criteria for those judgments is separate from the judgment and the criteria are clearly articulated. The Deloitte system would remove this transparency so that judgments are being made but the employee is not privy to the criteria on which those judgments are based. This makes it harder for some employees to improve their work, especially those who are less self-aware. In other words, the employee familiar with how to walk the walk and talk the talk of the corporate environment will be rewarded and those who don’t will be left behind. all the while, by phrasing this as a new employee management system, the company gains the loophole of never having to justify their decision making related to raises, promotions, etc.

3) Ultimately, this Deloitte performance evaluation is bad for diversity and for employees. Yes, it would save time for the leaders. Yes, this type or constant evaluation the leaders are supposed to be doing on a regular basis with employees anyway. However, for a company that wants to see sincere improvement in their employees and is dedicated to diversity, it will not allow for that. It would not allow for employees with diverse backgrounds- other than a traditional corporate training model- to thrive in that environment. Plus, employees who lack self-awareness on some issues, and are great in other areas, will not keep their jobs very long because they could be continued to be denied opportunities for raises, promotions, and so forth and never really understand or be told why in a concrete and unavoidably clear way. Additionally employees who are happy at a company but lack certain criteria to go higher within the company can also feel dissatisfied without even knowing for themselves why and, thus, attribute it to being a poor fit and move on to work at a different company they think is a better fit. The Deloitte performance management process guarantees they will get employees who look like them, talk like them, and are the kinds of people they want to hang out with. For a company who has potential employees clamoring to be let in, it’s a self-serving biased model because it is essentially an inbreeding model that allows them to weed through the masses while doing less work to get the employees they want most anyway.

But for companies who are not as competitive or who actually sincerely value diversity and the many benefits diversity offers businesses, the model doesn’t work.

1) Employees who do not come to a company perfect, and most don’t, need training and supervision. Part of training requires a regular, consistent, collaborative, and transparent evaluation process.
2) Companies who value diversity want the right person for the job even if they are not someone we want to hang out with, even if they don’t dress exactly like us, even if they talk the same way we do.

Most companies nurture employees. An environment in which criteria for judgments are explicit will facilitate this nurturing environment in a way that will ensure anyone qualified could thrive in it.

July 6th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

Anastacia Kurylo (Ph.D., Rutgers University) is the proud founder of TheCommunicatedStereotype.com.

Her primary research area explores communicated stereotypes and their consequences for interpersonal, intercultural, and workplace outcomes. Her current scholarship focuses on how stereotypes are maintained over time through communication. As a treatise on her scholarly view of stereotypes and a foundation for the perspectives expressed in her blog, she has recently published:

    The Communicated Stereotype: From Celebrity Vilification to Everyday Talk.

    The Communicated Stereotype: From Celebrity Vilification to Everyday Talk argues that a consequential interactional dilemma is enacted when people communicate stereotypes in everyday talk. The interactional dilemma is a result of the tension between a political correctness movement that prescribes against the communication of stereotypes and the benefits gained from communicating these in conversation. Despite the punishment and shame that befalls celebrities who communicate stereotypes, people continue to communicate stereotypes in everyday conversation often evoking little if any outrage. The process whereby the vilification of celebrities diverts attention from the everyday communication of stereotypes and emboldens people to communicate stereotypes without self-criticism. The way this interactional dilemma is handled in conversation helps to explain why stereotypes are maintained over time within a culture despite deterrents intended to dissuade people from using them. An appreciation of stereotypes as poor communication choices provides the potential for the reduction of stereotype use.

As a consultant and teacher, Dr. Kurylo has trained academics, practitioners, and students on a variety of topics including:

  • Intercultural Communication
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Conflict Management
  • Gender Inclusivity
  • Teamwork and Small Group Communication Skills
  • Leadership Communication
  • Workplace Stereotyping
  • Public Speaking
  • Anti-Bullying

To read Dr. Kurylo’s work please visit Academica.Edu or ResearchNet. Dr. Kurylo publishes in a variety of formats including:

  • books
  • teaching activities
  • book chapters
  • encyclopedia/ dictionary entries
  • book reviews
  • scholarly articles
  • popular press articles
  • blogs

Dr. Kurylo is a full-time professor at St. Joseph’s College. In her fifteen years of teaching she has taught at various colleges including:

  • Borough of Manhattan Community College
  • Marymount Manhattan College
  • New York University
  • Pace University
  • Rutgers University
  • St. John’s University

Dr. Kurylo has presented at numerous conferences discussing issues related to her four areas of scholarship: stereotypes and culture, pedagogy and mentoring, new media, and public relations. She studies these topics using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies such as:

  • content analysis
  • discourse analysis
  • thematic analysis
  • experimental methods
  • survey methods

Dr. Kurylo serves as a reviewer for several journals and holds membership and positions in various communication associations and boards.

In addition to her academic work, Dr. Kurylo enjoys creating mosaics, eating in cafes, and blogging.

Dr. Kurylo is available for speaking engagements and interviews. Please contact her at: TheCommunicatedStereotype@gmail.com

View Anastacia Kurylo's LinkedIn profileView Anastacia Kurylo’s profile

June 22nd, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

The tragic shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston are horrific. Truly, there are no words and no excuses that can bring sense to this senseless hate crime. Instead of providing insights when there are none I can offer, I have left it to a friend of the family and author to speak what so many of us are thinking but don’t have the words to say or may  not feel comfortable saying. Recently, he posted this on his Facebook page.

Lilly-white power rags like the Wall Street Journal can run their vampire mouths dry over how “institutional racism doesn’t exist.” But if an individual harbors racist beliefs or sentiments, the institution they represent IS racist, and will conduct itself in a racist manner. There are degrees of this, of course, from misguided race-based fear to ignorant prejudice to full-fledged white supremacy.

But as Jon Stewart pointed out so powerfully last night, African Americans in South Carolina STILL walk to work under the Confederate flag. They STILL drive cars on roads named for rebel generals. If these are totems the state’s majority white population believes in enough to let stand, those sentiments — be it a “appreciation of heritage” (bullshit) or something far more blunt and sinister — WILL affect how an adherent conducts themselves within the context of their institution.

This was an act of racially motivated terrorism. Period. That we’re so quick to chalk it up to the unhinged bloodthirst of some mentally ill, Apartheid-fetishizing lone wolf doesn’t make it only so. If anything, it proves how quick we all still are to avoid the dirty, ever-divisive truth: In a country where the individual is believed to be the holiest institution, institutional racism is not only alive; it’s thriving.

To view what Jon Stewart said about the Charlston shooting visit The Guardian.

June 17th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

Thanks to the International Association of Business Communicators for inviting me to join their panel on Diversity and Communication to take place on Thursday, June 18, 2015 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT) at the American National Standards Institute, 25 West 43rd Street, 4th Floor. Unfortunately, registration is now closed and no walk ins are allowed but I thought  readers of The Communicated Stereotype would find the topic and the presenters interesting. The IABC promoted the event as follows:

Diversity & Inclusion initiatives are a staple of the modern workplace, but how exactly do we leverage them to boost organizational engagement and send the right message externally?

Join us on June 18th for an interactive panel discussion on the opportunities that Diversity & Inclusion programs can provide communicators like you. Industry leaders will share their experiences and offer practical advice on how you can support these important efforts, while integrating them into your daily work. Together we will help answer some common questions:

What drives the most successful diversity programs?
How does the employee base view diversity efforts and the communications around them?
What are the new expectations for corporate communications to support programs externally?
How can communicators leverage a more inclusive organizational culture for success in other programs?

Speakers to include:
Mac Worsham – Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Brand, Communications and Marketing Leader at Ernst & Young

Currently responsible for advancing EY’s global brand, reputation, and communications related to diversity and inclusiveness, Mac has held corporate communications and public affairs leadership roles across a number of multidisciplinary private, public, and non-profit sector organizations, including Deloitte, Brivo Systems, Cassidy & Associates, and the United States Senate. He has expertise in developing integrated communications strategies, high-performing teams, infrastructures, and platforms to advance businesses’ strategic objectives across vast global networks.

Sheryl Battles – Vice President, Communications and Diversity Strategy for Pitney Bowes Inc. 

In her role at Pitney Bowes, Sheryl communicates the company’s strategy to investors and other stakeholders, develops thought leadership positions on key business issues and trends impacting global commerce, and leads the company’s global diversity and inclusion strategy. Among a wide range of volunteer activities, Sheryl is Co-Chair of the Arthur W. Page Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and she has also appeared in a variety of publications, including PR Week’s Career Guide 2012, the Harvard Business Review, Time and Ebony.

Dana Green – Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

Dana is the Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Toyota Motor North America, Inc. in New York City, responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s diversity and inclusion objectives, the management of the external Diversity Advisory Board, the development of a Global Women’s Initiative and data management. Dana works with multiple Toyota companies leading the engagement of management in the prioritization of D&I strategic objectives.

Anastacia Kurylo, Ph.D. – President, Fortified Communication Consulting

Anastacia is a corporate communication consultant with expertise in conflict negotiation, change management, diversity and inclusion, teamwork and leadership, and emotional intelligence. As a subject matter expert, she has taught, coached, and presented at a variety of organizations and colleges including Marymount Manhattan College, Molloy College, New York University, Pace University, Rutgers University, and St. John’s University as well as various state and local conferences, the National and International Communication Associations, and the Tri-State Diversity Council.

 

January 30th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

Ok, so if you think gender nonconformity is a perversion of nature; if you think it is against your God; if you think blue and pink are lovely colors and what’s the big deal anyway; I am not talking to YOU right now. This blog is NOT for you. You can go ahead and STOP reading this. There is lots of reading material in the world that I am sure you would rather be reading right now. It won’t affect your life in anyway to NOT read this blog. I won’t be offended. I won’t hold it against you. I hope you’ll come back when I post on something you care about. Eventually, I promise I will. I try to be inclusive. No hard feelings. Really. Have a great day!

For those of you who value or are advocates for gender nonconformity, please read this very carefully.

STOP HURTING THE CAUSE.

I mean it. Stop doing more harm than good. I can give this advice because I used to be one of you. I used to be pro-gender nonconformity and used to all the time say how things should be gender neutral.

I WAS WRONG.

I can admit that now.

I was using the wrong language all along. You can say “It’s just semantics” but you’d be wrong. At least in this case. I know I was.

So please read this very carefully.

STOP SAYING THE PHRASE “GENDER NEUTRAL.”

Please, please, stop!

“Why should I stop?” you ask.

Because “gender neutral” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Sure the denotation of the phrase means what you think it means:

1. noting or relating to a word or phrase that does not refer to one gender only
2. using words wherever appropriate that are free of reference to gender
3. relating to, intended for, or common to both genders
4. noting or relating to a person of neutral gender, neither male nor female

But that’s not how you are using it. That’s not what you mean when you say it. You may, for example, ask exasperatedly, “Why can’t people be more gender neutral with how they raise their children?” You may say with frustration “I have a right to raise my child in a gender neutral way.” But it’s not “gender neutrality” you want. Really, it’s not.

TRUST ME.

Gender neutrality means that you will not clothe your child in pink or blue. It means you will not allow your child to watch My Little Pony or GI Joe. Gender neutrality means you don’t believe dresses are for boys OR for girls. Forget about ballerinas, princesses, and fairies. Don’t even think about cars, construction, or robots.

If you want true gender neutral then these things, all of them, should not enter your home. They should not be worn on your child. And your child should never play, watch, or discuss any of these types of objects or ideas. And if they drew them, OMG, it would be a big no no.

My Little PonyGi Joe

Eradicating these things from your home, from your conversations, from, at the extreme, the world would be your intention if you wanted gender neutrality.

I don’t think that is really what you want.

The problem with gender neutrality the way you have been using it is that you presume you can take the gender out of the objects and ideas that exist in the world as if we can remove the gender ideology from ballerinas, princesses, fairies, cars, construction, and robots. We can’t. At least not in the immediate future anyway. Heck, we can’t remove gendered associations even in a single conversation.

Some terms are just gendered terms. Google images of princesses and cars and the contrast is obvious. There is an association you can see and feel in the contrast between these sets of images. These ARE gendered terms.

That association can’t be instantaneously undone.

You might think we can just talk or yell at a person to stop them from thinking of it this way. Actually, it is quite the opposite. “Research has shown that attempts to suppress a thought can cause an increase in the frequency of the thought” according to Abramowitz, Tolin, & Street (2001). Think about it. If you are on a diet, don’t you end up obsessing about all of the things you can’t eat? So we can’t just tell people to stop thinking of these associations. It won’t work.

We also do not yet have the technology to erase gendered associations from people’s memories using a neuralyzer and replace them with other ideas. We do not live in the alternative universe of Men in Black.

“So, what should I do?” you ask.

Make a different semantic choice. In other words, use other words. Specifically, what I think you really want to say is “Why can’t people be more gender INCLUSIVE with how they raise their children?” “I have a right to raise my child in a gender INCLUSIVE way.”

Trust me. It’s “GENDER INCLUSIVITY” you want. Really, it is.

What you want. . . and what I want. . . is for our children to be able to wear whatever they want, play with whatever they want, think whatever they want REGARDLESS Of its gender association.

The denotation of the phrase “gender neutral” isn’t the problem. It’s the connotation of the phrase “gender neutral” which leads people to think that the way to end discrimination is to neutralize our gendered world “to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than the other.”

Unfortunately, gender neutrality doesn’t and cannot exist. More importantly it SHOULDN’T exist. Gender Neutrality really means the eradication of gendered everything.

Can you imagine a world without blue and pink? A world in which everything is green and yellow is no better than a world in which everything is blue and pink.

Besides, eradicating gendered everything does not solve the gendered mindset that exists in the world. Instead, gender inclusivity is the way to go.

The inappropriately named Facebook page, Gender Neutral Parenting, is a case in point. Forget about the unfortunate choice of title, the page with its nearly 5,000 likes talks about gender inclusion! It supports a child’s decision to wear girls clothes and boys clothes regardless of gender! The site advocates that dolls and trucks are for everyone! And its discussion centers around educating others about how gender inclusion is positive and valuable!

Discussing “gender neutrality” like it’s a possibility, like it’s a panacea, like it’s what will end discrimination of and violence against gender-nonconformists or lower their suicide rates does more harm than good.

It doesn’t

It can’t.

Gender inclusivity does and can. We can embrace gender variance and gender fluidity, through gender inclusion. We can do that instantaneously. We can do that RIGHT NOW.

January 14th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

For today’s guest blog, we are lucky to have a post by Jessica Beth Mayer, President of JB Access who is a trainer and consultant specializing in disability awareness issues. Jessica has led disability awareness training sessions and provided panel discussions for such prestigious organizations as the Museum of Modern Art, Chase Manhattan Bank and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She serves on the Advisory Board for Accessibility Issues at the Museum of Modern Art and is an advisor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has guest lectured for 10 years for Cornell ILR. Jessica’s topic for today’s guest blog is the Super Crip stereotype of people with disabilities.

In world of disability there are only three types of people. There are objects of pity, objects of inspiration and objects of super human ability. All of these characterizations are one dimensional and flat.

A super person with a disability aka Super Crip is someone who is perceived as being an over achiever, doesn’t make mistakes, who seems to be happy all the time and who is looked to be overcoming her disability. Plus, she never gets frustrated by anything, including her disability.

I have Cerebral Palsy (CP) and a super crip on the outside. I am in my own business, a college graduate and I do a lot of public speaking. I seem to not get frustrated by my disability at all. On the inside I think I have a pretty normal reaction to things that I find annoying.

When I was applying for college in the 1980’s one school made me talk to a psychologist before I was accepted. He asked me “Are you an angry person?” My response was no. I really didn’t understand the question at the time. So I get it now. He meant am I an angry disabled person? I still think the answer in no. However, because my CP affects my small motor coordination skills, I do get frustrated by certain things like typing, reading and writing. Sometimes, like most people, I procrastinate especially when a task is more difficult. This is one of the major reasons why it took me a little longer to write this blog. Historically, I haven’t loved the physical part of writing and the speech recognition software has trouble with my imperfect speech but lately I have found I am enjoying the creative and intellectual aspects.

Most of us have many issues going from family to work to finances. This is life with or without disabilities. The disability part just makes it more (let’s say) interesting. There are no red capes and no magic, just learning how deal with stuff. The sooner we all stop believing in the idea that people with disabilities are somehow emotionally stronger than everybody else, we can better learn from each other. What people with disabilities are usually better at is being able to figure out new ways of doing tasks because we’ve had to be more adaptable.

The pressure of perfection is too much to handle. Every time I’d go to conduct a workshop, I used to feel an enormous amount of stress to be perfect because I thought I was speaking for every person with a disability and if a client didn’t think I was great then the company would never hire people with disabilities. I no longer feel that way. Once I stopped trying to be perfect I am better because my humanity shows through. The little mistakes I make are funny. It shows that I am able to laugh at myself and then participants learn more.

For more information on JB access and Jessica Beth Mayer, visit the JB Access site at www.jbaccess.com

November 25th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

The compliment. The two officers spent considerable time today at my apartment trying to help me to resolve an issue. They listened to me carefully and tried to understand what I was trying to explain to them. They informed me of my rights regarding a larceny/ stolen property report and indicated that it was up to the landlord to file the report since that was the landlord’s property that was stolen. They explained that the item that was stolen was probably stolen because it was an old unusable fire alarm that could be mistaken as a real one and therefore be a safety hazard though the object had been there, as I informed them, for 42 years. They were patient and traveled with me to several apartments so that I can explain our unusual situation in the building that some of the apartments did not include the foyer space as part of their rental while some do. The ones that include it are clearly indicated as such in two ways 1) with the apartment number indicated in front of their door which is not the case in apartments 4,5,8,9. 2) with the foyer area being identical in the apartments that do not include the foyer in their rent which is not the case on floors 4,5,8,9. The division between the two types of apartments in the building is obvious and the second officer at one point confirmed that no one is disputing any longer that considering what they’ve seen and heard from the maintenance manager that the space is part of our rental. The lead officer explained very patiently initially that he could not file a report because the foyer space- in his view- could possibly not be part of the rental and therefore it would not be breaking an entry if the landlord’s employees or representatives entered it. I took the time- as did the nice police officers- to visit other floors in the building to show the difference in the spaces where the floors were and weren’t part of the rentals. I did this in order to demonstrate that the foyer area was part of my rental space so that he could file the report since clearly someone had entered the foyer space without my consent. During this part of the visit the police officers were kind in demeanor and generous with their time.

The complaint. The lead police officer refused to allow me to file a report of illegal entry. Understandably he wanted to speak to the owner to find out whether the owner knew who had entered the apartment. I did not have the number on my cell phone and was able to get him that number from the maintenance manager and encouraged him to call. During the call the landlord said two things which very clearly changed the demeanor of the lead police officer towards me. The lead officer reported the two things that the landlord said casually in the conversation in a matter of fact way demonstrating that he had taken what the owner said at face value. 1) the landlord implied on the phone that the foyer space by our 8th floor elevator was not part of our rental by saying the tenant “can use the space if she wants to, I don’t care, I want her to be happy she’s a tenant.” While this sounded nice this was used by the police officer to justify that the owner had made clear that it was his space not part of my rental. In speaking this way to the police officer the landlord lied. It has been my rental space for over 40 years and no one from the owner’s offices have ever disputed my claims or any other claims to that space from the other rent stabilized tenants in the building. By the landlord wording it in an implicit way he was able to persuade the lead police officer without having to actually make a legal claim. Therefore the lead police officer substituted his judgment – that the landlord’s implication was a legal statement- for the law in order to prevent me from filing an illegal entry report. The landlord never explicitly stated whether the space was part of my rental or not despite the police officer explicitly asking whether the space was included in the rent. The lead police officer assumed based on the implicit response of the landlord that this was the case when legally it is not the case. But the second thing that was said by the landlord made the situation much worse. 2) According to the lead police officer I was labeled by the landlord as “always complaining”. Based on these two statements by the landlord, it is no wonder then that after the police officer got off the phone with the landlord he immediately started to treat me differently. After the call the lead police officer was combative, patronizing, made jokes at my expense, and was sarcastic.

For example, he sarcastically said “well let’s arrest the maintenance manager since he entered your apartment illegally when you first met him” based on a comment I had made that it was a repeated issue that the landlord’s representatives had entered my apartment illegally and one of them was the maintenance manager over a year ago. The lead officer also accused me of trying to misuse the police to bully the landlord based on the fact that I had used the word “rent stabilized” once in the entire hour long conversation to denote the difference between the apartments in which the rental included the foyer and which did not. He created and communicated to me an entire narrative out of thin air of my tenant relationship with the landlord in which I was a disgruntled tenant who was mad because the landlord was trying to evict me. He claimed I was trying to bully the landlord by using the police department unethically to make false claims against the landlord. This has not been the case at all and actually other than the random illegal entries to the apartment over the last few years- which I have previously handled internally out of respect for the landlord and his employees because I could at least track down who had been the person who entered and why- I have had little concerns with the landlord.

I was so insulted by his demeanor change and assumption that the landlord was speaking truthfully but making accusations against me that that I even contacted the maintenance manager to whom all complaints are sent and put him on speaker phone (letting him know I was doing so). I asked whether he would consider me a complainer. He said no. I asked whether I was one of the nicer tenants in the building. He said yes. I asked whether I contacted him a lot. He said no. I asked whether I sometimes go out of my way to help him by, for example, contacting him when we had a flood in the basement a few weeks ago that I noticed and sent him pictures. He said yes and that was very kind of me to do. I didn’t even have the landlords number on my cell phone which is further evidence that I do not call and complain regularly. Nonetheless, the lead police officer had taken the landlord’s word for me being a complainer and a liar about my legal use of the space and had clearly changed his demeanor with me to see me as a ne’er-do-well rather than a citizen worthy of knowing my rights. I felt extremely uncomfortable that I had to be defensive and it goes without saying I at times raised my voice mostly when the lead police officer became more patronizing telling me how “I am a nice lady” and so forth. The lead officer’s opinion on capitalism, rent stabilization, and political affiliation aside, I had someone enter my apartment illegally and I was being treated like I was the one who had done something wrong because a landlord hurled false accusations about me and the lead officer clearly had strong opinions and stereotypes about what he seems to think are trouble making rent stabilized tenants.

I am a chair of the board of trustees for a school for special needs students; I am the copresident of the local PTA; I am a PhD with two published books and two more book contracts in process; I am a mother of two young children ages 5 and 7; I am happily married for over 15 years. I am a law abiding citizen whose family has lived in the same place for 42 years and there are no court cases or police reports with my name on them in the local community or anywhere. I am friendly with the workers in the building and I am the tenant the super reaches out to if he needs to let someone in the building and can’t get there in time. I am the farthest thing from a trouble making rent stabilized tenant there could be and I am astonished to be treated in a demeaning way by someone who prior to the call with the landlord had taken me seriously and treated me with respect.

At some point he told me “ I didn’t interrupt you so don’t interrupt me by talking.” The astonishing part was that I hadn’t interrupted him prior to him having said that. I had my mouth closed for the entire preceding time before and after he started talking. I literally had to ask permission to speak again after a five minute tirade about why the landlord had rights regarding the stolen property and that the landlord was doing what was in the best interest of the tenants in the building and that regardless of whether it was an illegal entry it was the right thing to do for the item to be removed so I should be grateful that it was taken. When I was finally permitted to speak- literally I asked and was granted permission to speak- I asked simply what are my rights as a citizen if someone illegally enters my apartment but doesn’t take anything that is mine. He did not answer this question. Instead, he once again referred to the landlord’s implication as legal fact that the space was not part of my rental- though the landlord at no point actually made this claim because legally he cannot.

In sum. The landlord did not choose to pursue a stolen property report being filed. The police officer refused to allow me to file a report for illegal entry. After calling the maintenance manager and the owner, we have still not found out exactly who or why someone entered my apartment without any prior approval or any documentation that they had done so. No one at the owner’s office knows what happened. My rights as a citizen have been taken away because of the stereotypes used against me as a rent stabilized tenant and because of the harassment I received from the landlord by his implying his rights to space for which he does not have and for labeling me a complainer that triggered the stereotype in the mind of the otherwise previously very kind lead police officer. I would encourage the otherwise very kind lead officer to refrain from allowing his stereotypes and prejudices against rent stabilized tenant to affect the way he behaves with them. I am sure both officers are lovely people and that the lead officer had no idea his demeanor changed. However, on my end it was very clear and very insulting especially considering I still have no idea who entered my apartment and neither does the landlord.