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The American Dream Game Workshop In our American Dream Game Workshop, we talk a lot about pronouns. That’s because we have one character in the game who is a trans woman and another who has non-binary gender expression. And when scenarios come up in the game that affect either or both of these characters, we get into some pretty tough conversations. Usually these stem from players’ curiosity and confusion, but sometimes it’s downright resistance.

I can’t keep all these pronouns straight!

How am I supposed to know what to call anyone anymore?!

They’ is plural. I just can’t use it for one person.

The American Dream Game game piece These are comments coming from cisgender people (meaning, people whose gender identity corresponds to what they were assigned at birth) who arrive at our sessions fired up and ready to learn about race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, and disability. Yet this topic is such a challenge for so many of them, we sometimes think they would spend the entire two-hour session arguing about it if we let them.

The impact of this pushback is harmful, which is why we work to help people evolve their thinking past these kinds of reactions. But I don’t believe the intent is hateful — at least in the case of the participants in our workshops. My sense, instead, is that this struggle is mostly about the unease and discomfort that comes from the feeling that everyone and everything around you is changing, and how could you possibly be expected to keep up. This underlying frustration and self-doubt can look on the outside like exasperation and total shut-down.

Most of us experience these feelings in some aspect of our lives where we’re less knowledgeable or lack confidence. For me, it’s Common Core math. Grade school math is always changing and when my daughters ask me for help with their homework, I usually don’t even know where to begin. What’s worse, I have struggled with math for as long as I can remember and I definitely haven’t gotten over my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Blakely, making me miss playing foursquare with my friends during recess to correct my marked-up worksheets.

So when I’m staring down my kids’ math problems, a lot of emotions start to bubble up inside of me that are about a lot more than math. I feel annoyed at the actual words being used (what the heck is a number line?!); impatience that my kids can’t just memorize their multiplication tables like I did (or tried to do); the shame of my 8-year-old self when I could never finish my math homework; and embarrassed that my grown self can’t figure any of this out now.

What does all of this look like at our kitchen table on a weekday evening? Exasperation and total shut-down.

Not knowing what to do and say when the stakes are high does not feel good. And instead of admitting we’re struggling with new concepts and asking for help, we tend to push back or lash out.

I’ve been working on getting better at the math thing and, in the process, learning that this “new math” might not be so bad after all. It’s more flexible. It encourages kids to think about how to solve problems in all sorts of ways versus the math by rote of my childhood.

This is why I know that folks struggling with pronouns can get better, too. The words we use change all the time. Think about “friend” (it wasn’t always a verb!) and “literally.” We may hate these new uses for a while, but we adapt. And we’re fine.

My math meltdowns have no effect on the direction of math curriculum design and, even worse, they mess with my daughters’ motivation, confidence, and skill-building.

Pronoun meltdowns won’t get us anywhere either. As a society, we’re making some progress in talking about and pushing for more acceptance around gender identity. Getting mad about that won’t stop the movement. But it will bring harm and hurt to others.

So, let’s get to the root of these meltdowns so that we can do better. Let’s not allow our attachment to “is it a boy or a girl?” get in the way of learning how to be more flexible and accepting of our fellow human beings. It’s about a lot more than language, after all.

There are so many great resources about this topic. Start by learning more about International Pronouns Day (plus a really helpful FAQ).

You Can’t Get Rid of Racism by Just Being Nice

Defining Racism

One of the most frustrating things about talking about racism is the fact that we all seem to have different definitions of it.

In our online course – I’m Not Racist… Am I? Digital, we take a deeper dive into our film, I’m Not Racist… Am I?, and examine the definition of racism. Definitions vary across the board but most experts in this field agree that racism requires a combination of power AND prejudice. It’s the difference between calling someone a racial slur and enacting legislation that unjustly punishes that person.

Throughout the film, our subjects grapple with this definition and the nuances it presents in their daily lives. Abby – one of the film’s central characters – provides a perspective on race shaped by her experience as a biracial woman. As she takes on this journey, Abby confronts her parents, who avoided conversations about race, and realizes that racism is about more than just our personal beliefs. It is about a system that functions despite our personal beliefs and is, in some ways, out of our control.

Watch the video clip above for one of Abby’s insights as she explored the definition of racism. And then share it with others in your life who you think might benefit from thinking about racism as more than just individual beliefs.

Learn more about our online course here.

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Catch up with Point Made Learning on the visibility of dark-skinned actors in Hollywood, the NCAA’s refusal to pay student athletes, gun reform as a race issue, and two of our favorite novels of the month. 

Black Teens Have Been Fighting for Gun Reform for Years

The past weeks have been wrought with political conversations around gun control after the mass shooting of 17 people in Parkland, Florida. In just two weeks, several companies have detached ties from the National Rifle Association (NRA), lawmakers have either amended the minimum age requirement for purchasing a firearm, and Americans have indulged in conversation about mental health and why it is not the principle cause of mass shootings. Students have proven, as they historically have, that young people shift political tides in the United States. From the Civil Rights Movement to Occupy Wall Street, young people consistently stand on the front lines of protest. But what do the people who incite change look like? This article looks at the way we interpret protests based on the people who lead and organize them. It asks, “why #NeverAgain and not #BlackLivesMatter?”

The NCAA Says Student-Athletes Shouldn’t Be Paid Because the 13th Amendment Allows Unpaid Labor

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is one of the most successful sports organizations in the country, generating billions of dollars from nationally televised sports competitions, primarily basketball and football. But despite its massive financial success the NCAA refuses to pay student athletes. It’s no secret that a majority of the athletes who play at the advanced, collegiate level are men of color and that a majority of students who play sports at Division 1 colleges receive scholarships in “exchange” for their participation. And while scholarships cover tuition, room, board, and other basic expenses, it does not compensate for the professional level of play and responsibility athletes are required to meet. But the NCAA does not see the merit in appropriately compensating “their” athletes.

“It is, in essence, admitting that student-athletes are working as slave laborers and, as such, do not deserve fair compensation.” – Shaun King

Amandla Sternberg Passed on Black Panther to Make Way for Darker-Skinned Actors

Colorism is one of white colonialism’s most insidious and effective tools of marginalization. It pervades our colloquial understanding of racism and thusly acts as a silent agent of oppression. But it exists all around us, particularly in pop culture. People of color have always raised concerns about representation on screen but those concerns are more than skin deep. Colorism values lighter skin over darker skin as it indicates proximity to whiteness, so when a light-skinned, biracial person is contending for a role that is uniquely African and dark-skinned, one must ask the question, is my skin not good enough? Amandla Sternberg takes on this conversation with a great deal of grace.

[tweetshare tweet=”Colorism values lighter skin over darker skin as it indicates proximity to whiteness…” username=”PM_Learn”]

When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

From Darius Moore: I didn’t plan to choose this book when I went to the Amazon Bookstore. Initially, I wanted to purchase some work by Roxanne Gay and finally read Beloved by our beloved, Toni Morrison. This book caught me on my way to the register. It seemed like an obvious choice as a member of the Point Made Learning team but also because the #BlackLivesMatter movement shifted my perspective of what justice Book cover of When They Call You a Terrorist: a Black Lives Matter Memoirlooked like and what pursuing justice looked like. Khan-Cullors’s memoir does more than explain the origins of #BlackLivesMatter. It confronts the reasons we even have to tell the world that Black Lives Matter. When They Call You a Terrorist… is a story of triumph. It is a story about love and what it can do to heal communities — a testimony. I implore everyone to read it, regardless of your political affiliations.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

From Nelly Gargano: In her debut novel, Angie Thomas tells an all too familiar story of police brutality and American identity through her protagonist’s authentically complicated experience. This novel will challenge Book cover of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomasreaders to consider their own responsibility in establishing an equitable and just America. And Amandla Sternberg, mentioned above, will star in the film version of the novel.

Here are some interesting things we read this week about race and equity in the United States.

“‘Resist White Supremacy’: A sign. A farm. And the fury that followed.”

Cox Farms has a history of practicing free speech through their business, a practice that has elicited controversy for the owners’ family. Their recent poster, as detailed in the article’s title, stirred their Northern Virginia town into a frenzy. Aaron Free speech at Cox FarmsCox-Leow, daughter of the farm’s owner, expressed that, “when it comes to speaking out against systems of oppression and injustice, wwe see it as our moral responsibility to se our position of privilege and power… to engage visibly and actively in the fight for justice.”

“Secrets, statistics and implicit bias.”

Microaggressive behaviors reflect the ways we, as a society, have been conditioned to respond to specific demographics. For example, clutching one’s purse when a person of color enters an empty elevator is a response to our conditioned understanding of men of color as inherently criminal. Implicit bias tests seek to exploit those conditioned responses and use them to uncover our own biases, regardless of gender, race, and other intersections of our identity.

“Jones and Williams Discuss Racism During Focus Week Chapel”

From Barb Lee: “Go, Baptists!  If I had not heard this “sermon” myself, I would not have believed that this happened in a Baptist Church in Oklahoma. Bam! Caught in my own biases again. This video is incredible for those of us who grew up in white Southern Baptist churches. This makes me hopeful.”

“ South Carolina Lawmakers Want to Ban Baggy Pants Because What Other Political Issue Could Possibly Be More Pressing?”

Link: https://www.theroot.com/s-c-lawmakers-want-to-ban-baggy-pants-because-what-oth-1823225714

The title speaks for itself. In an effort to further police people of color, politicians in South Carolina plan to criminalize sagging pants, overlooking the racially loaded implications of instituting such a law. It is a boldface attempt to criminalize citizens based explicitly on their race, though politicians from the area would like to convince us that the law will affect people across races. 

“A Pound of Flesh: The Criminalization of Private Debt”

From the ACLU: “Arrests stemming from private debt are devastating communities across the country, and amount to a silent financial crisis that, due to longstanding racial and economic inequalities, is disproportionately affecting people of color and low-income communities.” Attached is the full report conducted by the ACLU. Read this article for a synopsis of the report.