Monday, August 22, 2011

Interpretation Files: Language Cards

These cards can be an important tool for those who do not speak English in the US. As you can see, one side explains, in English, that the card-carrier does not speak English well and that they require an interpreter. The other side says the same, but in the language of the carrier.

It is especially important that the card states which language the carrier speaks. Portuguese-speaking immigrants are often given Spanish-speaking interpreters because English-speakers sometimes cannot tell the difference between the two languages.

These cards were originally developed by Reach Nola to address the needs of immigrants in New Orleans which has large communities of Spanish-speakers from Latin America, Portuguese-speakers from Brazil and Vietnamese.

For more information about these cards, go to

Related Posts:

Interpretation Files

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Nivea: Of Course this is Racism

This unfortunate advertisement is making its way around the internet, so I thought I would give my own commentary. In my opinion, more interesting than the ad itself, is the way so many blog commentors want to defend the image and text as not racist.

Here are some of the frequent comments I have read elsewhere, and here is why they are wrong:


1. ... NIVEA DIDN`T MEAN FOR IT TO BE RACIST. Intention does not matter. It is too easy to dismiss racist people and their actions as merely ignorant. The truth is, Nivea probably had no intention of offending anyone, especially not the target of the ad: Black Men. The fact that they failed so completely to achieve their goal of making their product appealing to this demographic shows that they lack diversity in their marketing department. Having Rihanna as the face of Nivea does not make up for not having black people involved in marketing campaigns that target black people. The fact that Nivea didn´t know the ad would be interpreted as racist does not erase the fact that the ad has already been published and the hurt already felt.


Sin City is not an excuse to look like Hell.

There are several reasons why this argument doesn´t work in proving the ad isn´t racist. Exchanging black men with white men is a not a valid racism test. Racism must be considered in its historical context, not in a color-blind vacuum. Historically, black people in America have dealt with racial discrimination based on their appearance and, especially, their hair. Telling a black man that his afro is uncivilized is not the same as telling a white man with long hair and a straggly beard that he looks like hell. White men in America have never had to prove they were men, in spite of their whiteness.

But also, look at the above ad with the white model. There is no talk of the civilizing quality of Nivea for Men. Intention or not, Nivea can´t hide behind the white ads as proof that they didn´t mean to be racist; the black model gets civilized while the white model gets to go to Las Vegas. An afro is uncivilized while the long hair and beard just look like Hell.

3. ...SHORTER HAIR IS MORE CIVILIZED. Who gets to decide what is a civilized hair style? Nivea? And why would they decide that the afro is not civilized? I knew this ad was racist when I first saw it because I am aware that black professionals are often told their appearance and hair styles are not professional enough. To some, the afro or natural hair styles are considered a political decision to not conform to white standards of beauty. It actually makes a lot of sense for an international corporation to attack the afro - it is a symbol of resistance to standardized beauty.

Just try telling QuestLove that he doesn´t look civilized, professional, proud and fine wearing his hair natural.

4. ...IT`S A POOR CHOICE OF WORDS, BUT IT ISN`T RACISM. What is the line between merely offensive and offensive in a racist manner? In using the word re-civilized next to a black model and attacking a hair style specific to black people, Nivea made it racial. Again, historical context is really important to understanding why this is racist. In a country where black people have had to fight to be seen as equal in the eyes of the law and society, suggesting in anyway that they are uncivilized or need re-civilizing can make one feel like we´ve stepped backwards about 40 years.

5. ...WE SHOULD ALL BE OFFENDED EQUALLY. Some are saying that the entire campaign is offensive as it implies men must conform to a beauty standard set by Nivea, As white men should be offended because their choices in hair style are also limited by the campaign, it cannot be racist. It is offensive to everyone. But while the white ad may be offensive to white men with beards and long hair, white men still have racial privilege. So, sorry if I don´t shed a tear. Just because white people were offended too, doesn´t mean it isn´t racist towards black people.

6. ...I´M NOT OFFENDED, AND I`M BLACK! It´s great if some black men don´t feel hurt on a personal level about the ad. But they should be able to recognize racism when they see it, and recognize that it does hurt other black people. To move beyond racism, we need to know what it looks like. It doesn´t always look like a member of the KKK. The outcry the ad has caused will teach Nivea a lot about marketing to black consumers. Like, maybe they need to hire some black people on their marketing team to make sure this never happens again.

Here is Nivea´s official apology:

“We are deeply sorry for a recent ‘Re-civilized’ Nivea For Men ad. This ad was inappropriate and offensive. Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values at Beiersdorf and we do not tolerate insensitivity. It was never our intention to offend anyone and for this we are deeply sorry. This ad will never be used again. Beiersdorf, as a company, represents diversity, tolerance and equal opportunity. Direct and indirect discrimination must be ruled out in all decisions and in all areas of the company.”

Here is the clip from Living Single that I immediately thought of when I saw the ad. It is from the episode in 1994 when Kyle has to consider cutting his hair in order to take a promotion at work. If only someone at Nivea had watched Living Single when they were a teenager.

Related Posts:

The System Will Be Racist on My Behalf

Global Health e-Learning

Check out this site: Global Health eLearning Center

The Global Health eLearning Center was created by USAID to help public health professionals continue their education and update themselves on specific global health topics such as:

child survival
maternal health
health systems
gender and health

The online courses are completely free. Each takes between one to three hours to complete. You can specialize in certificate areas like infectious disease or maternal health. You can stop in the middle of a course and easily come back to it later. I have already completed one malaria course and found the difficulty level to be in the middle - it´s more than just the basics, but really just a platform to having a deeper understanding of the issue. I will take the malaria in pregnancy course next, which will offer more details on complications of malaria in this one context. I am delighted that the program is available, easy to use and completely free. I don´t know why I hadn´t heard of this before, which is why I am telling everyone I know in the public health field that they should at least take a look at the course offerings.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Winged Scourge

I just found a malaria PSA made by Disney in 1943. It's a fascinating look onto a time when malaria was still endemic in the United States. The first four minutes give a very simple, yet scientific explanation of how the anopheles mosquito spreads the malaria parasite. The anopheles is named a criminal, a monster and public enemy #1.

The PSA, in true Disney fashion, has a dramatic narrator and music that makes you think the mosquito will become a wicked stepmother queen at any moment. At 4:09 the Seven Dwarves are employed in some pretty crazy vector control. Of course we all know DDT was used to combat mosquitoes in the 1940's, but who knew people were encouraged to coat water surfaces with oil? (That doesn't really sound like such a good idea to me!) Other techniques, such as cleaning up trash that can collect water, are still relevant today.

Especially of interest is the implication that malaria can cause poverty. We see the ruin of a lovely farm after the farmer is bitten by an infected mosquito. The farm falls into disrepair and poverty because the farmer is too sick to work. Malaria and poverty have a symbiotic relationship. In areas where malaria is still prevalent, the power of the work force is burdened with constant illness. And it is the poor who are the most likely to live near swamplands or to be unable to afford mosquito nets or treatment when sick.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Empty Handed

The short film "Empty Handed," produced by Population Action International, addresses problems of access to contraception in Uganda. The film highlights the fact that women know about contraception, and want it, but due to weak distribution systems and poor government support, it is often unavailable at health posts when they make the effort to seek it out.

A few weeks ago, there was an article in the New York Times about maternal mortality in Uganda. The two issues go hand in hand. Contraception prevents not only unwanted pregnancy, but also pregnancy-related deaths.

While both stories focus on Uganda, the problems they describe exist all over the world. Especially poignant is a comment by a warehouse manager that somehow Coca-Cola is able to restock distant villages with its product in a matter of days, while the government health system delays distribution of medications for months. It´s not that it can´t be done, it´s that multiple pieces of the distribution system are broken.

The film and article both address the fact that donor money could be part of the problem. The warehouse manager informs us that 95% of the medications are paid for by donors and only 5% by the government. The NYT article reports that the Ugandan military recently purchased fighter jets. The more donor money received, the less responsibility the government takes for its own health care system. Donors may pay for medications, but are often not allowed to pay government workers´salaries or assume control over distribution systems. Donor agencies cannot and should not take the place of government run ministries of health. But if the government moves funds from the health budget to the military, assuming that outside help will cover the health care of its citizens, then maybe the donation is hurting more than it is helping.

In my experience, I have seen beautiful, new health clinics with no staff, I have seen boxes and boxes of medication with no transportation to the clinics, and I have met skilled health staff who do not have all the tools they need to use their skills to save lives. Women know how to prevent having more children than they want, but when they go to the clinics, they come away empty handed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Maternity Leave is a Racket?

I have no love for Fox News, but this scene was an amazing display of feminism, even if it did appear on a typically anti-feminist station.

Host Megyn Kelly invited Michael Gallagher, a radio personality, to explain why he criticized her taking three months of maternity leave by calling it a «racket».

Here is the conversation:

She played a recording of Gallagher saying on air: Megyn's still on maternity leave, isn't she? Boy, what a racket that is.

MK: What a moronic thing to say.
MG: Well, I mean, let's— Are you going to disagree that's there a diff—
MK: Oh, you're standing by? Are you doubling down? No, no, no, no, no, are you not taking those remarks back? Is maternity leave, according to you, a racket?
MG: Well, do men get maternity leaves?
MK: Guess what honey? Yes, they do. It's called Family Medical Leave Act. If men would like to take three months off to take care of their newborn baby, they can.
MG: OK. Let me give you an explanation. I was drinking that day.

Kelly ends the clip by listing some of the risks associated with not taking time to rest and bond with your baby after delivery. She even criticizes the US for being the developed country with the least developed maternity leave policies. I think Gallagher represents a certain sector of Americans who really believe women are being lazy or unprofessional by taking paid leave time after giving birth. They probably also think giving space for women to breastfeed at work is a racket. Or that increasing maternity leave to six months, so women can more easily breastfeed for the recommended amount of time, would be insane.

And I love how she shut down his ridiculous logic that men don´t get to take leave time. Yes, they do, and I support that, but even if they didn´t get to - men also don´t gestate and don´t give birth which includes bleeding, stretching and sometimes even a surgery to recover from. He basically just being a dick, (sorry Mom) and she called him on it. Good for her. And good for Fox for giving her a platform to address the issue.

Some less triumphant moments on Fox:

The Office of Majority Health (Glenn Beck on the Office of Minority Health)
Why Does this Man Still Have a Job? (Bill O´Reilly on Birth Control)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Wish This Was...

This is another New Orleans campaign by Candy Chang. She produced these stickers onto which you could write what you wished an abandoned building might be. Many people wrote similar wishes, that the building might be a place to purchase food. This captures a real issue in New Orleans: the lack of grocery stores, especially in low income neighborhoods, and especially in those neighborhoods still recovering from Katrina.

There are three major supermarkets on Magazine St.: Whole Foods, Breaux Mart, Walmart and two on Tchoupitoulis: Winn Dixie and Rouse´s. But if you go to, say, the Marigny, Bywater or Ninth Ward you won´t find any large supermarkets, only small corner stores which have large selections of liquor, beer, candy and chips and may or may not have overpriced bread, short dated milk and wilted produce.

One answer to neighborhood food insecurity is the farmer´s market. New Orleans has Sankofa, Freret St., Crescent City farmers markets in a variety of neighborhoods. The purpose is to increase access to fresh, local produce. Some farmer´s markets even take food stamps. There seem to be efforts to turn the French Market back into a produce market - but the last time I was there, it was still mostly Mardi Gras junk.

Another answer is better zoning. Instead of allowing supermarkets to crowd around Magazine St., the city should force supermarket chains to serve the other neighborhoods as well. Access to quality food is an issue in every American city. It is well documented that poorer neighborhoods do not have the same fresh foods available to them as more affluent areas. The sticker project reflects the desire the neighborhood has for better access to food and a desire to transform blocks of blight into a strong community.

I´ve really enjoyed reading through Chang´s other projects, check them out here.

Related Posts:

Before I Die I Want to....
The Office of Majority Health (In which Glenn Beck has a fit about Doritos)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Before I Die I Want to...

Installation artist and urban planner Candy Chang implemented this project on the corner of Marigny and Burgundy Sts. in New Orleans. She covered an abandoned building with blackboards with the incomplete sentence «Before I die I want to...» and left out chalk so passersby could fill in the blanks. She writes on the website that the intention was to «transform a neglected space into a constructive one where we can learn the hopes and aspirations of the people around us».

The one in the fifth picture down that says «...get my wife back» got to me.

What would you fill in?

... live in New Orleans again.

... have some kids.

...go to all seven continents. Well, maybe not Antarctica.

...publish a novel.

The project in Khazakstan