Former Peace Corps volunteer addresses ongoing racial problems

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Perfecta Oxholm. Photo courtesy of Susan Ray

On Monday, Feb. 13, guest speaker Perfecta Oxholm gave a presentation to DCCC students which focused on unconscious racism and racially-conscious parenting. Currently a doctoral student at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley, Oxholm received her Masters in public policy from UPenn in 2012 and served the Peace Corps in Nigeria. Born to a Mexican father and a Polish-American mother, she explained how being a “mixed race” child raised in a predominantly white town in Wisconsin challenged her to think about issues of race at an early age.

Oxholm’s lecture tackled controversial issues such as the difference between the terms “equality” and “opportunity,” derogative stereotypes attached to various ethnicities, and the importance of raising our children to be aware of racial inequality and to populate their media with characters of various racial backgrounds. She explained how she’s raising her two young sons to be comfortable talking about differences in skin tone and provides them action figures of various skin tones. Recommending that parents intentionally read their kids children’s books in which protagonists are not Caucasian, such as Ezra Jack Keats Snowy Day, Oxholm explained the problematic nature of children’s media being saturated with mostly white characters. Her talk inspired lively, respectful debate among the roughly 50 students and faculty in attendance, and half a dozen people remained an extra hour to continue talking to Oxholm about these important issues.

To learn more about Perfecta Oxholm’s research, check out her blog racewhileparenting.blogspot.com.