Have you ever...

Then you've had a WISE experience.

Tell us about it.

Summer as a Counselor

Last summer, I worked as a counselor at a day camp. It was so great working with kids and all the other counselors and CITs were really nice. One thing I love about the kids was how innocent they were. They never worried about being different from one another, in fact they were proud of their differences and loved to share them, with the exception of being afraid to catch "cooties" from the opposite sex.

I remember once, a young boy named Stephen (who had a random fascination with Germany, maybe his family was German) asked me about an Anti-Nazi pin on my purse (which granted, I shouldn't have brought with me.) The symbol looked familiar to him, he knew it had something to do with Germany, and he wanted to know more. Although his curiosity was natural and perhaps reassuring, it pained me to even think of explaining the Holocaust to a six year old. I envisioned him, sitting in class, five or six years from then, learning about the millions who suffered and died all because of unjustified hatred. I put on a thin smile and said, "You'll learn about it when you're older." He seemed so eager for that day to come but, I knew he would soon appreciate the days when he knew no hatred.

I eventually ended up dating a counselor from the camp. He was black, and I am white so that made us an "inter-racial" couple. Of course, I acknowledged his race but, it really made no difference to me. I could see people watching us at restaurants or the movies. They were thinking "How interesting, interracial," or "How despicable, inter-racial." I would have rather had them think "Huh, a couple" but, I knew that this probably was different from what they were used to thinking. In a way, I liked being seen with him, as if to say get used to it but, I tried not to let other people have an effect on OUR relationship. We broke up but, we're still friends and we even talk on the phone sometimes. When I look back on it, I don't see that experience as proof that I'm not racist but, I do see what I would have missed out on if I was racist.

So from my W.I.S.E. experiences, I've learned that stereotyping, discrimination, prejudice, and hatred is everywhere and it is important to be open-minded and as sad as it may be, to confront these issues or we'll have less hope overcoming them.

Anonymous student of the Buffalo Chapter of WISE

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My take on The Week Of Acceptance

One W.I.S.E. experience that I'll never forget was when we did the frog activity during the Week of Acceptance to show the injustices of racial discrimination. You might be wondering how we linked frogs to discrimination, but we did! Purchasing hundreds of plastic frogs of varying colors, we organized an activity that sought to highlight the injustices of treating people differently based on color. We started out by distributing candy to our audience based on the color of their frog. Some people got a handful of skittles, some a whole pack. You could not help but pity the people who got yellow frogs; they got nothing!

This activity was very effective because it put racial discrimination into a context that students could clearly understand. The person who received a yellow frog would seem to be just as deserving as the person with a blue frog, yet, one got candy and the other did not.

At W.I.S.E, our goal is to educate people on the prevalence of stereotyping in our society and the negative consequences that they have. We all have stereotypes, but it is only through accepting and analyzing them that we can work towards improving them. Once we understand stereotypes, we can seek to eradicate them by using our knowledge of how stereotypes develop to our advantage and learning about people who we maybe different from. Then people are no longer white, black, or hispanic -- they are your teacher, your classmate, or most importantly, your friend.

Anonymous student of the Buffalo Chapter of WISE

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N----- Jeans

This is a story of ignorance.

About two years back my very own Boy Scout Troop, Troop 69, was preparing to go on a skiing trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They are some crappy ski slopes but the closest for us southerners to go to especially in Birmingham. Anyways, as I approached the church my senior patrol leader (if there was a president for Boy Scouts the senior patrol leader would be it, they organize all the meetings and should be exemplary scouts) he decided to inform me that I was wearing N----- Jeans.

My immediate reaction was "what the ---- did this little white boy say to me"? And the sad thing is he laughed after he said it as if it were a joke. He is a year younger than me and like 50 pounds lighter than me and has a napoleonic complex if you know what that means.

My supposed friend of my age proceeded to add that he could only say that. And I was like, "what what what".

The entire trip I thought to myself HOW could this kid find it permissible to say that much less to ME. I mean I would've thought that would think oh that kid yea he's biracial or his daddy's black so I better not say anything to him.

He stereotyped me ladies and gentlemen. Because my jeans were large blue and somewhat sagging he said I was wearing the jeans of a n-----.

I then told my scoutmaster who is the adult in charge and he said that I don't think that Drew meant anything by it. Another ignorant poor racist fool. I then got upset and explained the severity of his words and how it is unacceptable for an eagle scout to be saying those things. GO WISE!

Theodore R. Foster III of the Alabama Chapter of WISE

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A Wise African

When I came to America as a freshman college student from Africa, I was amazed at some of the questions my fellow students would ask. I went to college in Cincinnati, Ohio and that is certainly not the backwoods, but I got some really off the wall, backwoods questions. One question I vividly remember being asked by one of my college mates, was centered on when did I start wearing clothes. He sincerely thought that wearing clothes was not an African phenomena, he probably figured we went naked, and swung from trees like Tarzan. At first, I was taken slightly aback by the question, but quickly got in stride with my response. I told him that actually I landed at JFK airport in New York City, stark, starring naked. As I got off of the plane, people looked at me in astonishment and some kind person offered me some clothes to put on. That was my explanation for how I first learned to wear clothes. He looked befudulled after hearing my story, and to this day, I can still picture him scratching his head not knowing whether he had been had! Anyway, I used to own  tailored bell bottom pants, "James Brown" style pants, Beatles suits, all made by my personal tailor in my African town. I owned all of James Browns' hit records, Al Greene, Otis Redding, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, and some American country music too! I first drove my mother's Truimph TR 6, and my Dad's German made Opel Kapitan when I was 9 years old, all this in my African town. I was self taught, driving I mean. I am a second generation Western trained person, my father having studied in England before returning to my native African country to work in government administration. So, don't presume that all Africans go naked, do not listen to the same music, are swinging on trees, don't speak English, (my country was a former British colony, so English is learned from kindergarten). In other words, be wise like in WISE. The world is really getting smaller, ethnocentrism is something we should get rid of, opening up our notions to the possibility that all human beings are created with certain inalienable rights,  qualities and are inherently similar is a cool, wise, notion. Right on, Right on, as they used to say when I first came to these shores.

I still go home to Africa about once a year, and in my African town, they are still keeping in step with what's happening over here, they are rapping, def poet jamming, surfing the net and being cool about all that. Peace Out!

From Michael Ezie (in memoriam)

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A WISE Experience

I recently had a rather shocking conversation with a young girl (7 years old) who I have been babysitting for several years. We were sitting on the couch together, watching television. Suddenly, something compelled her to ask me a question that shocks me even now to think about it. She said to me, "Don't you think it's weird when white people hang out with black people?" My immediate reaction was to scold her, but then I took into consideration that racism had probably never been explained to her, so I took the liberty. Explaining to a seven-year-old an adult concept (for racism is spread to children by adults) was very difficult. After a while I could see that it still wasn't getting through to her, the stereotypes that she had absorbed from the media were already ingrained in her mind. Trying to erase such teachings took a lot of time.

Having this W.I.S.E. experience, I realize more than ever, that the future of this country really does lie in the hands of the youth. This generation really needs to change. We need to change the channel, we need to change the lyrics, and we need to change what we believe. We need to change for the sake of acceptance.

Anonymous student of the Buffalo Chapter of WISE

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E-mail: chswise@yahoo.com Last Modified: 2005/01/12 Dedicated to the memory of Michael C. Ezie