2 years in the Peace Corps taught her the importance of hands-on volunteer work.

Kara Horowitz had always wanted to travel the world and do her part to make a difference. So she applied to be a Peace Corps health volunteer.

She ended up serving in The Gambia, a small country in West Africa. “I didn’t even know the name,” Kara says. “I had never heard of it.”

Image via Peace Corps, used with permission.


When she arrived at her site, Kara was full of ideas and eager to get to work. But she soon realized that the way she could help most — at least at first — was by listening, not doing.

She had a lot to learn about The Gambia and what issues were important to the people there.

“You can try to start working on [projects] right away, but nothing is going to happen because you are placed in a community that has lived there their whole lives, so it’s really about getting to know them at first,” she explains.

During her service, Kara paired with a local nurse, Lamin Jammeh, who worked in the village and surrounding areas. Her job that first year was straightforward: Get to know the locals and help Lamin do his work promoting health education, increasing child nutrition, and running monthly clinics.

Image by Beth Eanelli via Kara Horowitz, used with permission.

“The most difficult thing is adjusting to the pacing of life, adjusting your expectations to what you could get accomplished. You actually accomplish a lot more, but not in the way you thought you would,” Kara says. “So it’s difficult at the beginning to be like, why are people not at the meeting, why are they not talking to me about anything, why don’t things move as fast?”

It was through this slow process of getting to know the community that the ideas for Kara's first few projects actually emerged.

Image by Kara Horowitz/Peace Corps, used with permission.

She started by forming a health group of 30 villagers to use Peace Corps’ materials and train others on healthy living.

It was successful, but teaching in the village’s compounds was difficult without something to keep people engaged. So Kara started creating a book full of illustrations that could be used in their health trainings.

Image by Kara Horowitz/Peace Corps, used with permission.

She originally had the idea for the book during her first few weeks of Peace Corps training, but at the time, she thought of it more as a helpful manual for new volunteers. It took working within the community every day for her to see that a health book would be useful to both volunteers and locals.

An illustrated health book could be a simple learning tool for members of the community — especially those who couldn't read — and they could also use it to teach others.

This was no small task. Peace Corps volunteers train on many different health topics, and the book needed to include all of it. Kara turned to her fellow volunteers to help gather material and draw images.

Kara and Lamin were able to fund the creation of the book through a Peace Corps grant they had been writing, but the project was long and slow. It took about four months to gather all the materials and images Kara needed to put the 60-page book together and then print 100 copies at the local printer. It was finally completed about five months before the end of her two-year service.

Image by Kara Horowitz/Peace Corps, used with permission.

The book was a success and helped with a number of health education efforts.

It was a useful teaching tool and covered all 30 health topics that Peace Corps volunteers teach in The Gambia, from sanitation and hygiene training to maternal health and water safety. Each topic included eight to 10 important facts or messages, the relevant vocabulary in the local languages, and an illustration.

All of the Peace Corps volunteers working on a variety of projects in the area got a copy, as did everyone in Kara's village health group. Lamin also took a number of copies to the surrounding villages and communities.

“[The villagers] don’t have a lot of books, so just having that visual aid ... just having that small picture engaged them,” Kara explains. “People were more interested because they could look at a picture.”

Image by Kara Horowitz/Peace Corps, used with permission.

Hands-on volunteer work like Peace Corps service is an incredibly powerful way to make a difference. It allows volunteers to work out solutions from the ground up, just like Kara did. Volunteers live and work directly with their community, learning what’s needed so they can help develop the most useful projects. If you're interested, learn more about applying to the Peace Corps.

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Whenever someone's words or behavior are called out as racist, a few predictable responses always follow. One is to see the word "racist" as a vicious personal attack. Two is to vehemently deny that whatever was said or done was racist. And three is to pull out the dictionary definition of racism to prove that the words or behavior weren't racist.

Honestly, as soon as refers to the dictionary when discussing racism, it's clear that person has never delved deeply into trying to understand racism. It's a big old red flag, every time.

I'm not an expert on race relations, but I've spent many years learning from people who are. And I've learned that the reality of racism is nuanced and complex, and resorting to a short dictionary definition completely ignores that fact. The dictionary can't include all of the ways racism manifests in individuals and society, and the limitations of dictionary definitions make it a poor tool for discussing the topic.

Since "racism" is such a loaded term for many people, let's look at such limitations through a different complex word. Let's take "anxiety." According to Merriam-Webster, "anxiety" is defined as "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill."

Now imagine thinking that you understand everything that encompasses anxiety from reading that dictionary definition. Imagine thinking you could recognize the signs of anxiety in someone based on that definition alone. Ridiculous, right? The dictionary doesn't explain that some people's anxiety manifests as anger, even though it does. It doesn't say that anxiety sometimes manifests as withdrawal or aloofness. It doesn't say that you often won't see obvious signs of fear or nervousness in someone experiencing anxiety.

The dictionary doesn't offer anything close to the reality of what anxiety is or looks like. It would be silly to say that someone isn't experiencing anxiety because they're not clearly showing signs of nervousness like the dictionary definition implies. Just as the dictionary definition of anxiety is not comprehensive, neither is the dictionary definition of racism. Yet people keep using it to "prove" that something or someone isn't racist.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume just pulled that trick on Twitter to try to back up his claim that Donald Trump's "go back to" statements to four Congresswomen of color weren't technically racist.


The first Merriam-Webster entry for "racism" reads "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Merriam-Webster

First of all, I'm not sure how this definition actually makes Trump's statements not racist. A belief is not always conscious, so even assuming that his racism is unconscious, a white man telling four women of color to "go back to" their countries of origin—despite three of them being born in the U.S. and the fourth being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.—is pretty objectively racist. No one knows exactly what is going on in the President's head, but such statements only being made to women of color would certainly be consistent with the behavior of someone with a belief in white people's inherent superiority.

But that simple definition isn't truly definitive, either. Shortly after Hume's tweet, Merriam-Webster pointed out a usage note for the word "racism," which clarifies that dictionaries do not provide the be-all-end-all definition of words.

Anti-racism advocates have tried time and time again to explain that racism is not as straightforward as someone saying, "I think I'm superior to people who don't share my skin color." Racism is almost never that blatant, and yet oodles of Americans refuse to call anything less than that kind of bold statement "racism." We have a long history showing exactly how white supremacy—the origin of racism in the U.S.—exerts itself in both strong and subtle ways, and thousands of hours and pages of education from experts describing how racism works on an individual and societal level. But people still insist on the simplistic narrative of "Racism=hating people of a different race."

I've seen many people, including Brit Hume, argue that the word racism has lost all meaning. Frankly, that's a copout. Racism—as both a conscious or unconscious belief of racial superiority and as a system of racial prejudice blended with power dynamics—has a broader meaning than one person hating another person for the color of their skin. But that doesn't make it meaningless.

I've also seen people complain that "everything is racist these days," but no, it's really not. We simply understand more about racism now, thanks to the field of race studies and to people of color offering their time and energy to explain it, so it's easier to identify in its various forms. In my experience, when someone's understanding of racism reaches a certain stage, they start recognizing it in places where ignorance or unconscious bias may have caused them to miss it in the past. That's not imagining racism where it doesn't exist or "calling everything racist these days"; that's simply seeing reality more clearly.

When you really dive deep into the historical, psychological, and sociological reality of racism in America, it becomes painfully obvious that racism is far more prevalent and enmeshed in our society than most people think. Until defensive, mostly-white folks stop automatically denying racism every time the word is used and stop throwing around dictionaries to avoid having to do that deep dive work, we're not going to make real headway on this issue.

Let's stop pretending that the definition and supposed overuse of the word "racism" is the problem, when the problem is racism, period.

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If you're a woman and you want to be a CEO, you should probably think about changing your name to "Jeffrey" or "Michael." Or possibly even "Michael Jeffreys" or "Jeffrey Michaels."

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The "New CEO Report" for 2018, which looks at new CEOS for the 250 largest S&P 500 companies, found that 23 people were appointed to the position of CEO. Only one of those 23 people was a woman. Michelle Gass, the new CEO of Kohl's, was the lone female on the list.

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The music mogul first announced his plan to build low-income housing on Twitter late last year.

"We're starting a Yeezy architecture arm called Yeezy home. We're looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better," West tweeted.

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He didn't mean it literally - thank God. You can't be too sure! After all, he seemed to think that Frederick Douglass was still alive in February. More recently, he described a world in which the 1770s included airports. His laissez-faire approach to chronology is confusing, to say the least.

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