Wednesday, September 17, 2008



Imagine that from the day you are born, your parents, friends and loved ones tell you that you are a vegetable. You come from a long line of proud vegetables. They even name you Vegetina to reflect your wonderful vegetable heritage. They buy you vegetable toys and books about different kinds of vegetables. There are beautiful portraits of your vegetable family members and famous vegetables all over your house.

At school age, you arrive for the first day of class and your teacher, who is a fruit, tells everyone that vegetables are bad. She just states it as a fact, nothing personal against you. You learn to read and discover that some influential people have even written books that explain how and why vegetables are bad. Newspapers and magazines write whole articles describing how bad vegetables are. You are bombarded by messages of the bad nature of vegetables on TV and on the radio. For the rest of your adolescent life, you hear about vegetables being bad.

What do you do? Do you eventually start to believe the message about bad vegetables, despite the wonderful things about vegetables that your elders have told you? Vegetables are bad – everyone says so! I am a vegetable. Therefore, I am bad. What impact does that attitude have on the decisions you make about your own life and the way you act, live, dress, carry yourself? What impact does that attitude have on the way you speak about and to yourself and other vegetables like you?

Do you alter your physical appearance to look more like fruit and distance yourself from your vegetable heritage in an effort to be more readily accepted by fruits? If you do that, who do others value you? Do they realize that you are simply a vegetable in fruit clothing? What does this do to your own self-worth?

Or, do you ignore the negative message and devote yourself to projecting the positive vegetable image that your elders have instilled in you?

Now imagine that 5 years later, the government makes the following executive decree: For many years, vegetables have been viewed as bad. We have recently decided that although vegetables are bad, we all need a certain amount of vegetable to function as a country.

Now what? Does society immediately begin to embrace vegetables? Do people now allow a minimum amount of vegetable employees to work in their companies? Do vegetables deserve an apology for the previous years of prejudice? Now that vegetables are slightly acceptable, does anyone consider them not bad?

I used this example in a cultural climate seminar I gave today. We were discussing why certain groups of students never believe they can achieve anything and have to spend so much energy and time overcoming internalized stereotypes that they barely have time left to study and succeed. Whether the issue is race, socio-economics, foreign accents, gender, ability, or whatever - it doesn't matter. I think the vegetable reference was vague enough for you to put whatever private prejudices you hold in the blank and see it from a new perspective. I received a lot of compliments afterwards from people who said they finally "got it"! Whew. One group down, the rest of the world to go.


Nilsa S. said...

I like your style. No mountain is too high for you to climb. And based on the message you just presented, I think people will listen along your journey!

DaVida Chanel said...

YAY KARLA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are going to be on the forefront of transforming the country's view on a quality education for ALL!!! One step/person at a time Sister Smith-Fuller!!!

Amy said...

What a beautiful way to get across a very real dilemma!

MarriedToIt said...

Ok,I was lost for a sec. but I caught on good example.


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