14 December 2015

LA Times and a new micro-aggressive racism

It takes a lot to make me use the time I'd like to spend writing about things that matter to me, and,  as an American media outlet, other than sports news, I don't use you for much. But today, you have done something that gets under my skin in ways you probably didn't imagine. Your micro-aggressive racism is infuriating...

Los Angeles Times: Why in Gods name would you decide to have a discussion about SI's Sportsperson of the Year that compared Serena Williams with American Pharoah, the horse that won the Triple Crown? If it was a joke, it was in particularly poor taste. If it's not a joke, it's far far worse...

...let's assume it's a joke first. Wow, is that joke in poor taste. As you know, SI used to just be the Sportsman of the Year, and for years never even considered women for the award. Times change, history marches on, and there becomes a call to change the title of the award so that women can be eligible and thus recipients of the award. This happens, and women are eligible for the award. Removing gender from the equation, nobody had a better season, in any sport they did, than Serena Williams. When the world is disappointed you lose in the semifinals of the fourth Grand Slam after winning the other 3 (years where Tiger Woods did similar things in golf there was never a discussion- Sportsman of the Year). No other athlete was as dominant in any sport. Period. A joke, or satire, or irony- they all need some mode of a signifier to let the listener/reader know it's a joke- otherwise you can say something really offensive if it's read the wrong way. it's the reason a lot of you all put "lol" after something. rarely are you actually laughing out loud, but you need the reader to know there was humorous intent. Nothing in the question seemed to indicate it was a joke, ie, there were no clear signifiers. If it was a joke, I'll just roll with "it's in real bad taste" and move on...my fear is this isn't a joke...

...if you think American Pharoah should have won Sportsperson of the year...you probably have a little racist in you, and you've clearly chosen on what side of the anti-blackness conversation. My first point would simply be this...let's envision a scenario where Ronda Rousey breaks Holly Holm's wing in the fight, and finishes undefeated. She probably beats out Serena. Anyone think there's a conversation about whether or not Ronda Rousey should be the Sportsperson of the Year over a horse? Are you kidding me? The very question is insulting. Let's start with the simple one. American Pharoah is a person, but is instead, a horse. This may seem to be semantic in this discussion, but it's actually quite important. It seems that this, by definition, should remove all non humans from the equation. And opening the door when Serena wins but not if other people win doesn't just call into question their judgement, but it also changes Serena's value in that interpretation- it's saying that this horse has more of a reason to be the sportsperson of the year than this person. if American Pharoah ran against me for Sportsperson of the Year, I should win, with only my dominant performance playing at Harvard this summer, as I do meet the most crucial aspect of Sportsperson- I'm a person. It means you can bring Serena down by comparing her to a horse (oh, did i not talk about how messed up that is??), which simultaneously strips Serena of her personhood and artificially giving personhood to American Pharoah, which when looked at in that light, is pretty messed up. And, all of this negates the season Serena had: no human on the planet had a better season than Serena did, when you weigh the pressure and the competition and success all into account. Her paper quals should have resolved this. But they didn't...

So I ask that the Los Angeles Times retract the comparison between Serena Williams and a Horse for a SportPERSON of the year. Please stop with the micro-aggressive racism


12 December 2015

The Trump Debate misses the boat...

Well, I did it. I decided I'd write about Donald Trump (kind of).  From the multiple memes that make him out to be Hitler (and didn't anyone ever tell people the Hitler comparisons are always frowned upon, you can be an unapologetic racist and overall douche-bag and still fall short of Hitler on the shitty person scale) to the comments he's made about Mexicans and Muslims, there's a wealth of ammunition to work on if i chose to. But this would feel like pushing a blind kid down a flight of stairs would feel: hilarious and easy yet leaving a depressingly incomplete feeling. I always feel like if I'm going to go at someone, I should do by best impression of Big Game Hunter and make sure I go after the right group. And Trump's not my concern.

It's Americans. 

Look, nobody wants to admit it, but the way Democracy functions is this- ideas that are not accepted by the people fall by the wayside. Sometimes it takes the government some time to catch up to the people, but when the government does something the people don't like, they stand up and object: Rahm Emanuel in Chicago is in the process of finding this out. And, usually, the way things work politically in a Democracy will be: an issue comes up to the people, the people bring the issue to the government and thru the governmental process brings some form of resolution to the initial problem claim. This means that people speak and politicians respond to those words. What this means is, in spite of Donald Trump saying things you find ridiculously offensive, there are many people who are not only not offended, but their opinions align with those of Trump or are more conservative. And what I'm saying is it's not Trump leading the Lemmings to the edge. It's the Lemmings all coming together and ranting about how Lemmingville isn't Great like it used to be, and so someone sees this and tells the Lemmings of Lemmingville exactly what they want to hear, that he can make Lemmingville Great Again. He is a response to them, not the other way around. This is more onerous than one might imagine...

The Public Religion Research Institute reports from a survey indicating that 56% of those polled indicated they felt that Islam was "not compatible with American values." This should be a point of great concern, as the religion of Islam is no less "compatible" with American values as Christianity, but the concern should be the large number. Liberals will tell you, if asked, that the number above is driven by the conservative wing of American politics. This is something you could say in a world where they didn't have a mandate- where more than 50% of the voters vocalize an opinion- you don't get to 50% with just conservatives, and they got to 56% because 43% of democrats also believe that Islam is incompatible with American values. When I see 56% of the public thinks something is true, I assume its more than that, as we sometimes will tell someone what we think they want to hear, as opposed to the truth, especially if the truth makes us look worse than we would otherwise.

We want to distance ourselves from the implications of our words and thoughts as a country, and that's not really possible, because definitionally, Democracy will function as a filter for concepts: ideas the people find repugnant and/or abhorrent don't (generally) become cornerstones of of our political conversation. The Will of The People will filter out these kinds of claims. But by the same accord, if there's a voice of the people that's not being represented, someone will fill that void, so that section of the population gets represented. 

This is the base of my fear. 

This means the reason Ted Cruz can speak about dropping nuclear weapons on "The Middle East" to make the "sand glow" with radioactivity, the reason The Donald can speak about an outright ban on Muslims entering the United States and to make Bill Gates shut down the internet to stop ISIS from using it as a tool, and the logic that lets Antonin Scalia speak about Blacks needing to go to "less advanced, slower track" schools are all tied to one thing. There is a large enough portion of the population that believes these things to be true that candidates, politicians, Supreme Court Justices, teachers, lawyers, janitors, physicians, and warehouse workers all believe they can say these things without reservation. That's how these things can become part of the National Dialogue. "Nuking the Middle East" denies that there are people who are in the ME that didn't do anything, and that really unless our nuclear weaponry is better than I think, that probably does some pretty major damage to Israel. The idea of the need to ban Muslims makes the fear of BROWN PEOPLE way worse, because most people aren't willing to note possible distinctions (so Hindu, Sikh and Muslim will look the same to someone not looking for distinctions- and happens to be about 40% of the world population). So the attacks happen, and people choose the "wrong" targets (i put "wrong" in quotes to indicate anyone is the "wrong" target but they have selected the incorrect person for their own purposes and/or goals). 

It also seems problematic in a world where we have troops in areas where Americans and Muslims are fighting hand in hand. In the instance where that Muslim happens to be an American as well, that tension must be borderline unbearable- knowing your country doesn't really have your back despite you giving up your back for its protection. In the instance where the Muslim isn't American, it could undermine a trust that is imperative for the safety of our troops abroad. It's also the language that fuels the insurgency against America- the only thing we could do that would be more inflammatory against the insurgency but simultaneously increasing recruitment would be to actually put in ground troops, which is part of the discussion from the Hawkish wing of the government. 

So we can pretend that Donald Trump is Hitler, that Ted Cruz is The Devil with an Ivy League education, or that Scalia is a pasta eating motherphucker that's still mad that the black boy he had a crush on took his girlfriend, but none of these things change the fact that the reason each feels the freedom to say it is because, when it's said and done, they know there's more support for their ideas than anyone wants to admit. Which is why they aren't the problem.

The American population is.  

11 December 2015

Rest in Power, my friend....

Rest in Power, Tuna.

This is a story I've wanted to tell him on a variety of occasions, and sometimes debate being debate means we greet each other positively in passing, offer cordial salutations and go on our merry way. It's one of the things about The Game that kills me- there are so many quality people in debate, but The Game asks so much of its participants that sometimes we don't treat ourselves (wellness) or each other (douchiness) the way we should. I want to place the blame for my silence squarely on my shoulders. I feel similar, right now, to the way I felt when Vince Binder was killed- I still remember him sitting at a table at the El Cortez, me walking off and saying, "I'll see you later," with full intention of seeing them again, and when I didn't get a chance to, I felt the blame fall on me. 

For that, Tuna, I'm sorry. You should have gotten to smell the flowers I have for you, which means I should have given them to you earlier. 

University of Central Oklahoma, November 1995. I'm debating for Missouri Southern, for Marlow and Ken D. I've just transferred to UCO to debate, as the bug was back, and following a fortune cookie that told my prospective partner "You need to make concrete decisions in your life. Don't Debate."- which in retrospect could have just as easily ended my debate career, but I digress. I'm debating in the midwest in CEDA in the mid 90's, which, in comparison to other regions in the country, was more difficult, faster (which sucked for me because, despite speaking quickly in normal conversation, not a skill of mine in debates) and more "technically proficient" than other regions in general, but much much stronger than that of the West Coast. I have also been forced to switch from a speech i'd been doing my entire life to a speech I'd literally NEVER done upon my arrival. This means I had the normal growing pains one has when they're learning something new (read: i dropped stuff in almost every debate). So I'm doing a new speech in a harder region that requires more proficiency and they can capitalize on mistakes better. Not sure how much you know, but that's a recipe to lose a lot of debates...so...we're in a debate at UCO against the University of Vermont (a guy named Jethro and his sister (i think) Annalei)- they're a pretty good team, ended up being in the semis at CEDA Nats that year. We're affirming, they run a World Government CP and in the 2AC, i make a monumental error (an omission of an argument that all the other arguments I made in the debate become irrelevant if I don't make- i guess my partner could have helped, but we were both pretty baked in these debates so there's that) and it costs us the debate, and in the process we take a pretty hellacious beating. My partner is a nice guy, so he just leaves and sits alone and sulks as opposed to yelling at me for messing up again, and I'm sitting alone in this room after my coach just mocks me incessantly about the mistake I made, and tells me he's gonna remind me of it forever (and if he reads this, i fully expect a call about forgetting to make the perm). So I'm not feeling my best. Actually, it's at this time that I'm considering an Exit Strategy- not from this room or this tournament, but from Debate in general, which means I could leave Joplin and take my Black Ass back to California...and an old man with a long beard walks in...i've never met the man. He asks me how i'm doing. I tell him alright, and that's where the conversation changes...
...He tells me he's Alfred "Tuna" Snider, the coach at Vermont (then it occurs to me this is the man that Bear Bryant told me about). I tell him who I am, and he asks what's going on again. I'm not really open in general, and especially with people I've never met, so most days (i mean really probably every day before and 99% since) I would tell him nothing, grab my stuff and bounce. But for some reason, I told him what was going on- how I was doing a new speech at a new school in a new region and things sucked, how debate wasn't really fun anymore, and how i could just go back to California, forget debate existed and get my degree like normal people. Losing sucks and if all we were going to do was lose debates, then I should just go back to Cali...then Tuna gave me the conversation that most of us have gotten: the value of the game. 

He asked me if I liked debate, to which I said yes. He asked if debate had value other than wins and losses, and he asked me for a couple of examples. I obliged. He then asked me why it mattered if i won if i knew it had value absent the wins and i still liked debate...he reminded me that wins come but that debate is fun because it's hard, and that sometimes just because you lose doesn't mean you're losing...and then he told me to have a good day, to remember this was a 3-1 debate and that love for what you do matters more than how you're doing...and like that, he was gone, walking off with a guy that ended up being Gordie Miller. 

I'm sure he doesn't even remember this conversation, as I imagine it was one of one of the thousands of conversations he's had with people. I'm sure that wasn't the first time he ever told someone the love of debate matters, and I'm sure it wasn't the last. And I'm sure I'm not the only one he's talked off the debate ledge. But I just wanted to say thank you, as i can't imagine what my life would be like if i walked away from debate in 1995, but one thing for sure: I'd not be married to my wife...who I met in debate in 2001...but I also wouldn't have gotten to "pay it forward" and remind kids, almost constantly, what you reminded me: that debate is more than wins and losses, that it's about Love. We spend a lot of time in heart-felt competition, and that Love has to be the key.

I wish I'd have told him this when I saw him last, in New Orleans. We should have had a beer and listened to some jazz on Frenchman. I should have told him this story then.  But isn't that how it always is? It shouldn't be, and it doesn't have to be. 

All we have to do is speak up. 

10 December 2015

Abigail Fisher and the Power of White Women's Tears Against Affirmative Action

The strength of White Woman's Tears are Supernatural. They're about to burn away over 50 years of federal policy.

I kind of wanted to stay away from this topic- it's one I have a fair amount of passion about (not usually a reason to avoid discussion) and one i have a wealth of knowledge about. That being said, that combination usually makes me avoid conversations like the plague, as I know someone is going to say something simultaneously uninformed and inflammatory: these conversations are things I generally choose not to engage in. But every once in awhile, someone gets under my skin in such a way as to make me hit the blog and get my rant on. Gonna try something different for me: I'm going to write a letter to Ms. Fisher.

Ms. Fisher (mind if I call you Abigail):

Please control your toxic tears, they're dissolving federal policy.

You didn't get into the University of Texas, your dream school. It's devastating to have goals and to fall short of achieving those goals. I'm sure (almost) everyone has been there at one point in time in their lives. I know I have, on a multitude of occasions. It's one of the ways we grow as people: we're handed adversity and we need to figure out ways to best move on from those things. It's something my parents taught me, as I'm sure your parents probably taught you. And I know you did "move on" as you ended matriculating at Louisiana State University. And now, you seek to bring down Affirmative Action, blaming it as the reason you were not admitted...well let's look at that...

2008, when you applied to UT, was  a particularly brutal year. Texas has a program that guarantees admission to Texas residents who graduate in the top 10% of their graduating class, and in 2008, the year in question, this group claimed 92% of the spots for admission to UT. This does indicate that if your grades were in the top 10% of your graduating class, this would have been a guaranteed admission to your Dream School. If you don't make it in the top ten percent, the admissions process is quite brutal, a place where it can't be expected that your 3.59/1180 would hold as much water as you imagined. They evaluate a variety of things, of which one is race, to create a Personal Achievement Index that they then weigh with your Academic Index which is the measuring stick to admit you. 47 people were admitted with lower PAI/AI scores than you, and that sucks. But 42 of them were white as well, which seems to call into question the base of the suit. At this point, it looks like you're trying to gut the cause of Affirmative Action in the United States because, and i need to see if i got this right: 

five students of color, who had lower scores on this system, got lower scores than you. i hope you don't mind if i say this, as a guy who is petty and hate-filled: this was some petty, hate-filled shit. there are a couple of reasons....

first, this seems to focus on the five minorities rather than the 42 white people who also got lower scores than you did and were admitted. do you know about the history of the whites who were admitted ahead of you, as there were like 8x more of them than minorities. what did they have that you didn't have? it wasn't their skin color. did they score higher on the index? did they come from single family homes? was their socioeconomic status one which allowed them access to points you weren't able to access? my guess is you don't know because you never asked. it's not referenced in your suit at all. and the five black and latino kids who did "take your spot"- would it interest you to know that 168 black and brown students with HIGHER PAI/AI scores than you were NOT admitted to the University of Texas, and that any of those kids taking any of those five spots (or the 42 with white kids in them) would ALSO have meant you wouldn't have been admitted, and you'd have less grounding than you do now. 

second, UT offered you the same option they offer all their in-state kids, the ability to transfer to Texas after a year at another Texas state school and complete the year with a 3.2 GPA. This seems like a solid middle ground- involves staying in state, you can save money that way, and when it's all said and done, you get to move on to Austin, which is clearly where you wanted to be the whole time, and where you re-located after matriculating at LSU. and you chose not to do this as well. 

what you did is attack affirmative action, which i find hilarious in its short sightedness. man, i really hope you didn't get a degree in History, as it speaks volumes of the worth of said degree. it's short sighted because women are the largest beneficiaries of Civil Rights legislation and affirmative action policies. There are literally six million women in occupational classifications they would not be in today if it were not for affirmative action, with implications in the homes of (mostly) white families. And these statistics aren't from some biased source, they're from the Department of Labor. The implications of this has been that white women are more aligned economically with white men than Black and Latino women. Studies also show that women are more successful companies that do business with the federal government, and are subject to affirmative action laws, female employment raising 15.2% with federal contractors but only 2.2% elsewhere. Hell, the only reason we even GOT a Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed was the inclusion of white women in the fold. 

i'd make a variety of arguments about the importance of AA to me, but i'm sure these would only fall on your deaf ears. 

so in closing, I'm sorry you didn't get into the school of your choice. I'm sure you cried over it. But your toxic tears shouldn't dissolve policy that, in all actuality, you should want to protect more than I do, as it's way more likely to benefit you than it will me. 


09 December 2015

A majority of minorities in America changes nothing...here's why....

There's been a big discussion about how America is changing into a country of more non-whites than whites, a majority minority, as some have coined it. And white people are losing their minds, worried about the Day of Redemption: that day when minorities pay back in kind all the abuse hoisted upon them by white people.

Relax. Redemption Day is coming, but this isn't it.

America has a long way to go with regard to inclusion. And we need to figure it out, because by 2042, the United States have more non-whites than white people, and by the year 2050, non-white voters will outnumber white voters. That's closer than you think (for example, it's less time from now than the advent of the personal computer) and we're ill prepared for these imminent days. What should we look for in the days where non white voting power trumps white voting power? My claim, we have nothing to worry about- there won't be a time in this country where non-white voting power trumps (no pun intended) white voting power. It won't happen. Sorry to dis-allusion you...

...but that makes no sense, you say. in a world where non-whites outnumber whites, theres no way this wouldn't tilt the playing field in the direction of non-whites. that's incorrect, on a variety of levels, some of which i will attempt to explain...let's start at the beginning:

1) history disproves- a) minority people voting doesn't necessarily mean minority representation-there are cities all over America as we speak in which the voting population is predominately people of color and it has not lead to the changes this hypothesis would lead you to believe. there are a myriad of examples to prove this, but the easiest example is that of Ferguson, Missouri- a city with a minority population of almost 75% has an almost white police force and city council
b) states will act to limit minority votes- this goes back as far as poll taxes and tests to voter identification laws and felon disenfranchisement to more onerous issues like the ones at play in Alabama as we speak. 31 states have voter identification laws, and most states block attempts made to make voting easier (last minute voting, automatic registration, better absentee balloting, etc),  mechanisms that have empirically increased voter turnout in non- white voting districts. these are but two of the many historically disproven claims that could be made here...but i think whiteness is stronger than this, and has the ability to succeed regardless of their abilities to replicate history. it's dependent on this simple claim:

2) whiteness isn't static and rigid, it's elastic and fluid. if you can't manipulate the vote in your favor, then change the rules. Change the rules of what Whiteness is, who can represent Whiteness and how they go about doing that is key. Whiteness has always been flexible about letting non whites in the door to hang out in the lobby, this allows it to make determinations on who to inevitably admit and who to deny. At one point, white was Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. No Catholics. No Jewish people. When John F. Kennedy ran for President of the US in 1960, the idea of putting a Catholic in office was definitively frowned upon. Catholics are, without question, considered beneficiaries of whiteness. The attempts to access Asians and South Asians (and the lighter the skin the more successful you can be at this- ask light skinned blacks vs. dark skinned blacks for a reference point) into the narrative of whiteness (what do you think The Model Minority myth is derived from, the ground horn of a winged unicorn?) and the stories of success interwoven into the American Success narrative will allow access to whiteness. And for those of you who think Asians and South Asians are too tied to their heritage to forgo their history for access to whiteness need only to look to the explosion of inter-racial marriage between A/SA people and whites, something pretty rare only really a generation ago, as well as A/SA people in areas without a significant support system tend to see stronger modes of assimilation. And I used A/SA an an example, but the same can be said for sets of Latinos, as well as blacks.  once again- skin color matters- easier to have whiteness access when you're lighter- my education and background give me a comfortable whiteness vocabulary, but my being accepted into whiteness might take a subversive act against my people on my part to prove my worth. it's more just to indicate that whereas some people think of whiteness as an advancing army: wave after wave of overwhelming force, i envision it more structured anarchy: there are clearly a set of rules the people in charge know and enforce at their discretion, but those rules are flexible to the benefit of the rule maker.

So sleep well. Your power is still safe.