The Tale Of Two Robes | Julie Hogan | TEDxUniversityofNevada


Translator: Tanya Cushman
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Look at me. Study me. When you see me on this stage,
who do you think I am? Why do you think that? And what does this say about you? I’m guessing that several ideas
may have entered your consciousness when you gazed upon me. Let me play with a few
of the concepts I have heard while I’ve talked to people
while wearing this robe: Muslim, woman, uneducated, oppressed, submissive, scary, threatening, terrorist, ISIS, non-English speaker, foreigner, sexual. Savor these for a moment
while I tell you a story. A tale, really, a tale of two robes. This tale will illustrate
the concept of cultural humility. It was about three years ago today that my friend and I got dressed up
in our burkas and veils and headed to a popular restaurant
at a a local shopping mall. When we got out of the car
and into the place, the crowd parted, like Moses parted the Red Sea. I found myself in one of the most socially awkward
and stressful situations of my personal life. While we were waiting for the table, we were seated. At that point, the server approached us, was visibly upset and began to cry. I wondered: how could I comfort her, and why was she moved to tears? I told her she would be okay. I mean, what could I say, there’s not a bomb strapped to me? We ordered. During our lunch, three pairs of white middle-class women refused the only open table next to us. Interesting, I thought.
They won’t even sit by us. After lunch, we decided
to take a stroll around the mall. During this excursion, a two-to-three-year-old child saw us, screamed, “Ninja!” (Laughter) and ran back to his mother’s loving arms. A group of five people,
who were talking amongst themselves, stopped, turned towards us, balled up their fists and stared us down. I was scared. But the most distressing thing of all was when two men gave us
the most lurid sexual gaze I had ever seen in my life. I was shocked. I asked my friend,
“What the hell was that?” She said, “Ah,
they were just fantasizing.” I’m not kidding. Fantasizing? The history of this robe
goes back millenia and is worn as an act
of pious modesty toward God. In many countries around the world, wearing the burka and veils
is socially normative. And the women I have met
who wear these veils are confident, intelligent,
goal-oriented, educated, powerful, engaging and funny. This robe was a gift and one of the most
significant gifts of my lifetime. It was given to me by my friend and mentor out of love, and I wear it with
the respect it deserves. But I must say, wearing this robe socially in America
is extremely difficult. The fabric is lightweight,
but the burden is heavy. I bet I know what you’re thinking now: my hair looks like shit. (Laughter) Look at me again. Now when you see me on this stage, who do you think I am? I’m guessing that several ideas
may have occurred to you when I took off my previous robe
and presented myself in this one. Let me take a guess: White, blond, woman, doctor, professor, educated, employed, determined and American. This robe is my academic regalia. That’s right – I’m a professor of sociology, and I work for the College of Business
at the University of Nevada, Reno. I graduated with my doctoral degree
from the University of Las Vegas about 20 years ago. This robe is heavyweight, and it’s one I worked my butt off to earn. It took me many years
of hard work and determination to earn the privilege
that comes with this robe. When I wear this robe to commencement
and other academic activities, I am welcomed, thanked and greeted. I’m thanked for educating graduates. The gazes I receive
are accompanied with smiles, and hands are outstretched
in a gesture of kindness, not balled up prepared
to deliver a death blow. Wearing this robe in American society
is much, much easier than wearing the previous robe
of burkas and veils. The history of this robe spans back
to the 12th and 13th centuries and is evolved from a dress worn
by religious clerics. It is thought that
the fabric is heavyweight to keep the clergy warm
in cold, dark buildings. Men historically wore these robes and still do. But more and more women
are earning doctoral degrees, so wear these robes as well. The robe is somewhat heavy
and strangles my neck a bit, but it’s much easier to wear
and there is no burden. The people I meet who wear this robe are also confident, intelligent,
goal-oriented, educated, powerful, engaging and funny. So my tale of two robes is really a story more about you
than it is about me. Let me explain. Cultural humility requires
all of us to become a student. Cultural humility is a process that is similar to the process
that children incorporate when they learn something new in life. It is open, inquisitive and sincere, to learning new knowledge
that we didn’t have before. It assumes little. Cultural competence, on the other hand,
is the current prevailing paradigm. When we engage one another
through cultural competence, we attend a workshop on culture so general it’s almost stereotypical, and at the end, we are given
a certificate of completion and are deemed culturally competent. I have taught hundreds
of these workshops across our nation. They include student learning objectives, agendas, case studies,
lectures and assessments. This is a very white,
traditional, American way of teaching people about culture. Cultural humility, on the other hand, is a richer, more meaningful,
complex way to learn about culture. It requires us to hold a humble posture, to engage and mentor, to have courageous conversations and to ask questions just like a child. In my case, cultural humility
meant borrowing the robes of another, a deeply stigmatized
and misunderstood other in my very own culture, the good old US of A. And I must say,
I love this country so much, but I really dislike
the way we treat Muslim women. (Applause) Viewing my own culture
beneath the robes of Islam has been a profound, powerful
and deeply insightful process that has not only taught me
about Muslim women but it has taught me
about Americans in social space. So who you see on this stage now, without either of my robes, is really who I am. I’m just a white, blond, American woman with ancestors from Ireland,
the Czech Republic and Germany. I am the mother of two beautiful girls, aged 17 and 13. I am an author, grant writer, professor, sociologist, Catholic, scuba diver, scrapbooker, friend, sister and daughter and doing it all as a single woman. (Applause) In my tale of two robes, I hope you have discovered that my robes may or may not
tell you who I really am. More importantly,
they may tell you who you are and determine how you behave toward me. (Applause)

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