Engaging is the beginning...Diversity is not a dirty word.  Nor is multiculturalism.  It is simple.  The world has changed before our eyes and we need to change, too.

I am Dr. Al Felice.  I am a Doctor of Psychology with a specialization in ethnic and social minority cultures.

Multiculturism is an invitation to embrace diversity.  Diversity of thought, shape, color, culture, attributes, character, race, gender, and abilities.  At best, multiculturism is a dream for the beloved community- an inclusive community where everyone can have a meaningful role.  It may be a Utopian dream, but if we do not dream it, and practice it in small steps, we will fail as a species.

This blog is my exploration of that dream and its mandate.  I invite you to challenge me, offer ideas, express your frustration and share your delights. 

In my homeland of Trinidad, West Indies, we have a saying:  All of we is one.  Despite the pain we cause each other, I hold this to be true.


Because you don’t want something to be as it is ~ does not make it not be as it is. Telling your son that he is equal to everybody else does not make him dismiss reality. He is very aware that he is spoken to/at differently. That their smiles hold a wariness, or a “Poor kid – you know it’s got to be hard for him living there…” You son is fully aware that he is perceived as “less than, wounded, need to keep an eye on, a B is probably the best he can do…” And stop quibbling on language. Don’t get angry about it. Anger does not change reality. But please, do not deny reality. Pretentious blindness does nothing to change reality…and it surely does not help him navigate those waters. If you want your son to look beyond race ~ then say that. Tell him: “Don’t let it be a block,” “Don’t let it define you,” “Climb over it,” “Show yourself what you’re made of”… Use all those wonderfully supportive phrases – and back them up! But never ever tell him that race does not matter. Because he knows differently. Because he is going to look at you as the biggest liar in the whole world. Because he trusted you to protect and guide him. Be kindly – but truthful. “RACE DOES NOT MATTER” is a lie. Don’t ever lie to your son – definitely not about that!!

Social Desirability: This phenomenon is most closely aligned with the concept of being “politically correct” versus being simply “appropriate.” It also has to do with what people say in public versus what people say in private spaces – unless their public space is private. But, even then, social desirability holds. It may be shifted and narrowed, but there is still a gap between what is considered okay to say in public and what is said in private. Social desirability flavors our language and our rhetoric – where language is our public voice, and rhetoric is our private voice. When rhetoric becomes one’s public voice, and when one is powerful enough to become the Pied Piper, we have a mob effect. It is good, because it lays naked what was heretofore clothed. It is good to know what the soul says. It is scary, because we do not know if there is any countervailing force…sufficient to beat back the mob. Never ridicule a mob. It simply grows stronger. Ridicule is a swift wind that serves only to fan the flames and reassert the mob’s posture of “us versus them.” Crush it. Interestingly though, many in the mob are not mobsters. They are simply hurt and hurting. However, it serves you nothing to try to speak to their higher angels. You have to crush the mob. It jolts them back into consciousness – and they take their forks and hoes, knives and swords, and go back home. You have to crush the mob. Do not isolate its head. Anger and betrayal, it simply grows another stronger one. Draw it into the open, and crush the mob. When calm is restored, address their hurt and hurting. Because is you don’t, you have left enough embers to reignite that fire. There is a reason they were so easy to pick up arms and join the mob. Find out what that is and deal with it.

Open Letter to M.P.

M.P. recently wrote me a sweetly ill-informed response to a guest article I penned for the Progressive Magazine.  (see February issue).  I thought I’d share my response in an open letter. We all might learn something.

Dear Mark:  Let me first thank you.  For without engagement, even if powerfully and aggressively half-educated, we will not move forward. You do advance a strong point…not around the issue of illegitimacy, as that in and of itself is non-causative. There has been no identified causal relationship between a child born out of wedlock, parents who choose not to marry, divorced parents, adoptive children, or children born to same-sex parents and what you so aptly term “the fate.” I recognize your word-choice “illegitimacy” and “impregnating” as a fevered attempt at inciting divisiveness. Again, I smile in acknowledgement.  Your use of those terms is “nice” but your argument lacks legitimacy. (I am using your own words – pretty cool eh!) What you allude to, and I agree with, is a too-early sexual maturing of many of our young men. This tends to be needs and environmentally-based.  Any environment lacking in adult, male influence and supervision will demonstrate this.  (please see,http://thesestonewalls.com/gordon-macrae/in-the-absence-of-fathers-a-story-of-elephants-and-men/)  Why this environment consistently lacks male adult presence, is socially and historically based. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.  One of your greatest challenges though Mark, is the stalled perception of singularity.  I would strongly encourage you to expand your readiness to learn on this issue, because we do need you as a partner in this change.

Thank you so much for sharing.

At a news conference at the State Capitol Wednesday evening, Brewer said the bill “could result in unintended and negative consequences. … I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve,” Brewer said. (MSN)

Move over, let me get on my soap-box for two minutes:  For eons, I have been saying that every move is first and foremost a business decision.  Then we deal with morals and integrity and all those fancy scrabble words.   The very first question is: “How is it in my best business interest to make or not make this change?”  Whether it be choosing to go to war, continuing or ending slavery, civil rights, shifting the voting laws, challenging health care, our beloved prison system, current education challenges…  Pick anything.  If you do not think that religion is about money, sit quietly in the pew for a while.  

I do not care how wrong you think any issue is.  You may hold the moral high-ground. I am simply telling you that standing and yelling in a crowded room will do nothing for your movement until you find that spigot!  You must demonstrate…you must convince me that it is either in my best financial interest to make this change, or the cost to not making it will be substantial.  Either this change will make me money, or not making it will cost me huge money.  Then they find morality!   

If you think that Jan Brewer had some moral epiphany, I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you!  This is less about Arizona and their current issue and much much more about every social issue you confront.


What is an Exemplary Teacher?

I was recently reading an article titled “What Happens to Bad Teachers?”  The article suggested that “getting rid of problem educators is a lot easier in theory than in practice.”  This got me to thinking, (a) Who hired them in the first place, and (b) What constitutes an exemplary teacher?  My wife has been in the teaching business for the past sixteen (16) years, the last four as a middle-school principal.  Identified as a Title 1 school with over 50% poverty (53.4), she has guided that school to the School of Promise award for three of the four years, and Exemplary School status for 2009.  That level of achievement, over the past four years, with only four years at the helm, in any school – far more a Title 1 school, suggested to me that she may know a bit about teachers and teaching.  So rather than talk about “bad” teachers whom, it is suggested in the article, are hard to dismiss, I elected to focus on the attributes of an exemplary teacher.  My simple question to her was; “What is an exemplary teacher?”

Her response:  “Willing to remove any barrier in the way of that child’s learning – willing to teach that child coping skills to deal with barriers affecting learning.  A teacher who would give up lunch, come in early, or make a home visit at the drop of a hat.”

That got me thinking.  I have no answers to my questions.  I just have a whole lot of questions for you.

  1. How is an exemplary teacher developed?
  2. How is an exemplary teacher nurtured?
  3. How early should “child barrier removal” be initiated?
  4. What are these potential barriers?
  5. Are teachers trained in barrier recognition?
  6. Are teachers trained in barrier removal?
  7. What if a child does not have control over barriers?
  8. Are environmental barriers different from biological or neurological barriers?
  9. Do they require different learning and training?
  10. What is the nurture/nature relationship with barriers and barrier development?
  11. Are barriers more evidenced in certain populations that in others?
  12. Are barriers different relative to social land/or ethnic differences of the populations being served?
  13. If “yes” do we have specialized teacher training in barrier recognition and removal?
  14. Is there remuneration for training specialization?
  15. What schools/colleges/universities are particularly good at training for barrier recognition and removal?

It seems to me that it would do us well to go backward and recognize universities that consistently produce exemplary teachers, and highlight those that do not.

Bad teachers come from somewhere.  Exemplary teachers come from somewhere.  Identify the farm.  Identify the farmer.   Don’t wait until you buy crappy fruit and then blame the fruit.  That just means that you suck at selecting good fruit.

I’ve been sitting her thinking of something very profound to say.  It is Black History Month after all.  I was looking for things to push up to the sun and celebrate.  I was looking for these great achievements.  And I got more and more sad and stuck. So I thought I’d share my ten top wishes with you

  1. I wish that we as Black adults would apologize to our children for somehow leaving them the impression that we had arrived.
  2. I wish that we as Black people would take responsibility for teaching our children their history, and not leaving it White educators.  Schools have their place.  Do your job. That is why our kids think that the “N” word is cool!
  3. I wish we could truly understand how coupling education with property taxes cripples our children.
  4. I really wish that rappers, entertainers, and athletes with money begin investing in our children’s education.  Open schools!
  5. I wish they’d find me something other than a White savior…one who looks more like me.
  6. I wish we could find more rounded stories of our history to recreate in the form of a movie.  Give me some balance.  There must be other stories you could find.
  7. I wish I could hug the creators of the two biracial advertisements. One is with the cereal. The other is with the swift-duster.
  8. I wish our school choirs and choruses would inject one or two African American songs in their repertoire.  Not the same tired Negro Spirituals.  It just might encourage my kids to join and parents to attend.
  9. I wish we would stop parading ourselves with food and song & dance every February, for some idiots to pat us on the back.  Stop shining shoes!
  10. Did I mention that I wish my Savior looked a bit more like me.  Little dark tan and rounded nose would help.

But I’m not going to hold my breath.  I have not seen evidence of us jogging just yet. We’re still in the walking chair.

Rude and Unprofessional Worker.