What being a (privileged) minority abroad has taught me about race

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Could I be any more of a mzungu?

“Mzungu! Mzungu! How are you?” The Kenyan kids holler. Or they just stare.

Other kids yell, “Chinese!” Yes, that’s right, they mistake blond-haired, blue-eyed me as a Chinese person. This has also happened to me in Central America several times, which speaks to China’s expanding reach and influence.

This week a new friend told me that I was the first white person he’d ever had a conversation with.

I’ve spent 60 of the last 90 days traveling in Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia and years of my traveling life as a minority. Not only am I majorly a minority in many of the places I travel, I’m a novelty. Sometimes I…

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The Makers of Muncie’s MadJax

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I work in a factory in Muncie, Indiana. Not many people can say that these days.

In fact, many believe that Muncie’s best days–our factory days–are behind us. Our schools are going through budget and transportation issues and a third of our citizens live in poverty.  There’s a lack of hope that we can’t be more than our struggles. That we can’t thrive without factories.

I don’t work on a factory line, but I do make things. I create stories.

For the last ten years I’ve traveled around the world to meet the people who produce many of the things in our lives that we take for granted. I’ve worked alongside coffee farmers…

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A bird crapped on me from 33,000 feet, this is what it says about my life

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It felt like someone had chucked a marble, hitting me in the shoulder. It stung. But it also stunk because it wasn’t a marble; it was bird shit.

Now I’m no expert in physics, but given the velocity of the bird poop, the bird must’ve been somewhere in the stratosphere, which starts at 33,000′.

I was hobbling down Main Street from my breakfast date at the Downtown Farm Stand with Annie after our morning CrossFit work out. Since I’ve been traveling for my latest book, it has essentially been a month since I did a workout of much significance, hence the hobbling. It doesn’t hurt to sit or lie in one place and not move. But if Rick Grimes saw me walking down the…

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Participating in Chicago’s Fashion Revolution

Chicago FT fashion rev

I’m participating at several events as part of Chicago’s Fashion Revolution week. Fashion Revolution was inspired by the Rana Plaza factory disaster, which I wrote about yesterday.

 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26

Noon CST

I’ll be on NPR affiliate WBEZ’s program WorldView with Jerome McDonnell. Wait, WBEZ? Isn’t that the station that produces This American Life? If I see Ira Glass, he’s totally getting a high-five.

6-9 PM

Explore alternatives! Fashion Show and Panel with Keynote Speaker Kelsey Timmerman at Columbia College. Chicago Fair Trade and Columbia are hosting an ethical fashion show, interactive displays, and a panel. I’ll give a quick keynote before the panel begins.  Located at 618 S. Michigan . The fashion show…

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Bring me & other Indiana authors to your K-12 school courtesy of The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation

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“What’s your favorite color?”

“Do you drive an El Camino?”

Students say the darnedest things. These were just a few of the questions I was asked when I visited the Friends School in Richmond, Indiana, two week ago. I talked for about 20 minutes, answered questions for about 20 minutes and then visited an English class,

(For the record, I don’t drive an El Camino. But why don’t they bring it back? It has all the strengths of a truck and a car. It’s like the Blade of automobiles.)

Last week I had the opportunity to speak in an auditorium in Greenville, Ohio, where I went as a student to watch others share stories from its stage. Whether presenting to grade schoolers,…

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Is the Pope wrong about beggars?

Pope Francis

This week Pope Francis offered what to do when we pass beggars on the street: We should give to them without a thought. We should look them in the eye and maybe shake their hand. To give without engaging is robbing them of their human dignity.

The Catholic News Service reported on the Pope’s comments:

People who don’t give money to the homeless because they think it will be spent on alcohol and not food should ask themselves what guilty pleasures they are secretly spending money on, Pope Francis said.

“There are many excuses” to justify why one doesn’t lend a hand when asked by a person begging on the street, he said in an interview published the day before the beginning of Lent.

But giving something to someone in need “is always right,” and it should be done with respect and compassion because “tossing money and not looking in (their) eyes is not a Christian” way of behaving, he said.

Is he right?

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Thanks for the inspiration, Donald Trump. Let’s get to work!

There are a lot of reasons I didn’t want Donald J. Trump to be our next president, but there is one reason (and probably only one) that I’m glad he won.

The night of the election, I went to a watch party hosted at The Downtown Farm Stand. (Can you get more liberal than drinking organic beer and eating organic free-range, potato chips with your GMO-free friends? Probably not.) Like everyone else we expected to watch the election of the first female president. I can’t say I was a vigorous supporter of Hillary Clinton (there’s something rather unappealing about political dynasties), but earlier that day when I cast a vote for her I did get the “feels.” I have a daughter and if her fascination…

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Farmer/cartoonist fired for holding mirror to Big Ag

 

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Rick Friday is a farmer and a cartoonist. Farming is his muse or at least it was his muse until he he poked Big Ag in the eye with a recent cartoon.

The cartoon as described in the NY Times story on his firing:

The cartoon shows two farmers, in overalls and skewed baseball caps, chatting at a fence.

“I wish there was more profit in farming,” one farmer says.

“There is,” the other replies. “In year 2015 the C.E.O.s of Monsanto, DuPont, Pioneer and John Deere combined made more money than 2,129 Iowa farmers.”

After 21 years drawing more than 1,000…

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If you read one book on autism, read this one

Griff Dunking

(Autism hasn’t impacted Griffin’s hang time!)

When our son Griffin was diagnosed with autism three years ago, our world got pretty small. We felt alone, as if we were the only family to have a child on the spectrum. We read stuff. Stuff on the Internet! Scary stuff and inspiring stuff, but mostly scary stuff.

Slowly we started to plan a path forward to get Griffin the best help we could. We started to connect with other people who had been where we were. I helped run, and Annie participated in, the Facing Autism Project in Muncie (read Annie’s story, read all the stories and download the bookRead More >

 
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Struggles into strengths

Facing Project Board

(The Facing Project board)

Find purpose. Find community.

I get a lot of emails from students and recent grads who are struggling to find their way or going through a rough patch. The quarter-life crisis is real! I can relate to the struggle. I only began to discover my purpose when I was 25 and tracked down the guy who made my favorite shirt, Amilcar, in Honduras. (We’re still friends.)

I received such an email last month, and I thought I’d share my response with you. Maybe it will help you, or you could share it with someone who you think it will help. 

I first shared this in my newsletter. Go ahead and subscribe already.

Here’s what I…

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