As a biomedical engineering student with interests in medicine, Farah Khan spent five weeks in India studying the country's healthcare system differences between rural and urban settings with International Studies Abroad (ISA). Aspiring for a career in the biomedical industry, Farah traveled to India with hopes of developing her inter-cultural awareness to better understand the different needs and problems that a lesser developed country with a more collectivist culture would incur. The program Farah participated in was ISA's Healthcare in India program in which she divided her time between the densely populated city of Mumbai and the rural areas and villages surrounding Lonavala. In the hospitals, she was given the opportunity to shadow physicians from a wide range of disciplines: orthopedics, pediatrics, laproscopy, general, gynecology and obstetrics, and more. She was also very fortunate to witness over 25 different surgeries conducted by many renowned surgeons from all over Mumbai. From these experiences, Farah discovered she was able to hone in on her desire to manufacture orthopedic surgical equipment in the future. She juxtaposed the quality of care in private hospitals versus government facilities and even spent some time traveling in a mobile health van that took her to six remote villages outside Lonavala.The physicians she interacted with taught her about more than just the healthcare practices in India; they exposed her to how corruption works, how the government operates and all the different customs and celebrations that they participated in. In her spare time, she ventured into autorickshaws and explored the many facets of Mumbai ranging from the slums of Dharavi to the Gateway of India in Chuchgate. One weekend, she took a trip to Rajasthan to visit the beautiful pink city of Jaipur. On Indian Independence Day, she was a guest of honor at a children's school and received a coconut from the organization that founded the school. From her Indian experience, Farah learned to manage in smaller spaces, to eat with her hands, reduce waste and the true meaning of hospitality.
CEE Title: #StopTheShade: Exploring the Color Bias
#StopTheShade was a community engagement experience hosted by the University of Pittsburgh (Oakland) team of the Vira I. Heinz Program 2016. For some countries, such as India, China or Ghana, skin color is often the most discriminating factor between one individual and the next; our skin color is a visual, indisputable fact that we cannot hide, yet it is the focus of an implicit bias that our society uses to allocate preferential treatment and privilege to individuals of lighter skin tone. After observing colorism in a wide variety of settings, our team made it our goal to bring the topic to the spotlight on our campus. The format of this event was primarily presentations made by the members of our team that were supplemented by snippets of famous documentaries such as Dark Girls or 101 East: A Whiter Shade of Pale. After each presentation, the audience was prompted to respond to thought-provoking questions in a round table discussion.
After defining Colorism, we showed a brief introductory BuzzFeed video titled, “What People Won’t Tell You About Colorism” that featured various voices expressing their experiences with this discrimination. This segment was ended with a discussion that focused on clarification of the topic, personal experience and initial thoughts. Next, we looked at the historical ties of colorism. Rather, we sought to look for where our bias is derived from by providing history of colonialism in Latin America. This history lesson was followed by an examination of colorism on a global scale—specifically, we looked at the phenomenon in India and Ghana to learn about the skin bleaching industry’s impact on children and relationships as well as the counter-movement which encourages people to love their skin. Ultimately, we could say, “Colorism is Prevalent.” We supplemented this conclusion with examples of the discrimination from global and local social media (i.e. skin care ads in Thailand, popular snapchat filters lightening skin and movies implicitly darkening its villains). Finally, after discussions on race, gender differences and implications of colorism, we prompted the audience to report back to us their thoughts for how we could #StopTheShade in a powerful large group discussion highlighting all that we learned at the event to understand what it would mean to move forward. Our vision was to help the audience realize that, oftentimes, we have been conditioned by our world to initially discriminate based on skin color, but we can certainly control our secondary thoughts and actions through promoting education and raising awareness.
At #StopTheShade, we sought to make our vision a reality by creating an inclusive and sensitive environment by establishing a safe space with an interactive activity which polled the audience to gauge what would be necessary to make everyone feel comfortable expressing their thoughts without discrimination. Furthermore, we also implemented an anonymous messaging system for feedback throughout the event to create an inclusive environment for those who are uncomfortable with speaking out about such an intimate topic in front of a large audience.