“My other advice is to always keep bringing up AAPIs behind you. Keep the doors open for all. Never have the attitude that you got to where you are simply because of yourself. Leaders fought for and continued to fight for parity for all.”—Daphne Kwok, Chair of Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders
"Why did you come all the way from Los Angeles to Wesleyan for college? Why would you want to go so far away from home?"
This is a question I get on every single tour of Wesleyan’s campus that I give. Almost always, some parent will think it’s incredulous that I would ever want to give up that Southern California weather into this messy New England winter. Almost always, some student will ask me how I managed to bear through the cold winters. Almost always, I answer, “Seasons. I wanted to experience winter—no also fall and spring—because in LA, it’s always summer.”
Almost always, laughs travel across the crowd and the tour continues. But every single time this happens, I always wish I had the time to elaborate on not only why I chose Wesleyan, but more importantly, why I’m still here.
There is not a week that goes by that I don’t wish that I could transfer somewhere else, somewhere where not only is the weather warmer, but the people too.
But I could never leave Wesleyan.
Growing up, I never learned how to speak. Words came out of my mouth just fine, conversation was easy, but everything I said always felt foreign to me. I laughed along with these peers of mine when I was bullied by them, no matter how painful or scarring the words were.
They were just words, right? Nothing worse. Remember, I was told, so many others face situations much more difficult than you. Words were meaningless and just filled with childish ignorance, they can’t do anything to you.
Growing up, I never learned how to speak. The words that I begun to use to define myself in my own mind were the ones these bullies threw onto me every day. I laughed along with them, scoffing at my weakness, and took in all the words they used on me.
Be quiet, so many others face situations much more difficult than you.
Silence will get you through the day.
I needed to get out.
My only thoughts were to succeed in school, to get the best grades possible, to open as many doors available and pick the one that takes me furthest away from here.
And I did.
From the moment I stepped foot onto Wesleyan, I felt like I had a stake in this place around me, and I felt like I finally had the chance to not let the people around me define who I am but let me define myself.
I started to realize that when I opened my mouth to talk, people were actually listening. I realized that I actually felt like I was finally speaking for myself, and that the words coming out of my mouth were finally my own, and not anyone else’s.
Wesleyan gave me back my voice.
Wesleyan allowed me to be who I am in my entirety, and gave me the opportunity to grow in ways I had never before imagined. The people I was surrounded with consisted of some of the most supportive people I have ever encountered in my life, and they taught me more than I could’ve imagined.
The remaining fragment from my past that I have not been able to shed is how easily the words of others affect what I think of myself.
So yes, Wesleyan is a place like any other where horrible things happen. And yes, Wesleyan is a place like any other where we work together to make this school a better place.
But Wesleyan has given me back my voice, and no matter how hard the fuck you want to try, you’re not taking it away from me this time around.
And for me, that’s Wesleyan’s saving grace.
I have a decade’s worth of words at my arsenal, don’t you dare try and stop me from using it.
Intra-POC racism has been increasingly a topic of discussion—especially on mediums like Twitter—in the last few months through issues such as California’s SCA5. Furthermore, Suey Park’s #CancelColbert movement also displayed a disgusting sexist backlash against her, and who I saw in support of her strong stance reminded me that POC solidarity has always been necessary—just as much back during the Civil Rights Movement as today.
I have previously written about my discontent and confusion (of sorts) with the (inherently problematic, yes) label “student of color,” as well as who constitutes as a SOC. While looking back at what I was frustrated about really reminds me how naïve I was and how much I’ve grown, the root of the issue remains. What separates Asians from other people of color?
Acknowledging his misogynistic and homophobic tendencies, Frank Chin in “Racist Love” illustrates a point that serves as a good start for this issue:
The privileged foreigner is the assimilable alien. The assimilable alien is posed as an exemplary minoirty against the back example of the blacks. Thus the privileged foreigner is trained to respond to the black not the white majority as the single most potent threat to his status. The handicapped native is neither black nor white in a black and white world…. His pride is derived form the degree of his acceptance by the race of his choice at being consciously one thing and not the other… The races absorb and accept the stereotypes of each other invented and pushed by whites, and, in doing so, authenticate these stereotypes and serve white supremacy by breeding interracial contempt.
While this excerpt I’ve chosen here does not specifically get at Chin’s discussion of racist hate (what Latinos and blacks experience) versus racist love (what Asians experience), it does speak to something that begins explain the rift that exists in the POC community.
White supremacy’s success story is the assimilation of Asians (specifically Chinese Americans) into the fold of white racism, Chin argues, and by feeding the material necessities to successfully assimilate, the white majority has “created” an assimilated minority whose members are typically economically viable and politically silent.
There are evidently issues with this argument, and one thing a friend of mine, Lynna Zhong, iterates eloquently that sums up a lot of the issue is that “the thing that’s completely false about the model minority myth is that it rests on the assumption that Asian-Americans have indeed picked themselves up from the bootstraps of oppression.”
Now, just quickly, something that has to be said. Stereotypes, including the ones that pervade Frank Chin’s “Racist Love,” are problematic, usually wrong, and never all-inclusive. The diversity of the Asian diaspora and the realities of hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asian immigrants in the United States bring into question the nature of the model minority myth entirely.
However, the diversity of Asian America is not what I’m questioning here or exploring through these words I’ve written. I sincerely was disappointed and concerned with the backlash Chinese Americans produced surrounding SCA5, a piece of legislation that I strongly believed would allow higher education in California to begin to tackle the restraints of institutional racism head on for many black and Latino youth.
And the effects of this are beginning to ripple. Representative Ted Lieu recently lost six Democratic endorsements over the Affirmative Action debate, and as Reappropriate writes,
An Asian American politician who takes a stand against affirmative action is taking a standing against diversity; and, if he chooses to take that stance, the least he can do is offer an explanation for his position. To date, neither he nor Liu or Yee — nor Congresswoman Judy Chu, for that matter — have offered an in-depth explanation to their constituents reconciling their core Democratic values of diversity and inclusion with their stance against affirmative action.
The white dominated reality of 21st century America requires people of color, including Asian Americans, to stand up for each other. I have been heartened by the many conversations and activists across the country that I’ve met over Twitter on these divisive issues, and the strength they show to stand in solidarity with one another.
Now, this solidarity needs to expand. Asian America can no longer afford to be quiet, and as recent developments have shown, we do have the force to invoke change when we stand up. We just need to stand up for the right reasons now to be on the right side of history.
The model minority myth is 1) damaging, 2) not positive or post racial, and 3) simply untrue. Whenever I see Asian Americans embracing this myth, I worry that the white supremacy has indeed won. But they haven’t so long as we are able to recognize our oppressions, especially these microaggressions AAPI face today, and push back.
There are numerous Asian American organizations and activists doing this good work and standing up for not only themselves, but in solidarity with other people of color, and I encourage the currently dormant parts of Asian America do to the same.
A few weeks ago, in conversation with my father arguing over SCA5, I realized also that these are the conversations we need to have over issues of race as well as racism that does exist within the AAPI community. Blacks and Latinos are not the “ghosts” (鬼) the Chinese language sometimes uses to demonize other people (a la The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston), but are other minorities that are oppressed, as we are, just in different ways.
We all deserve to be fully American, and not just “Asian-American,” “African-American,” or “Hispanic/Latino American.” We have the right to be unquestioningly “American.” And we must do this together, or else progress will not come.
Refined my thoughts on this and educated myself a bit before jumping to the conclusions many others have.
What SCA5 would do, essentially, is restore Affirmative Action (AA) in the Californian public education system, including the University of California system. As we have seen in recent years, the diversity of the UC system in particular has fallen and grown disappointingly undiverse. Asian Americans make up 38% of the entire UC system, with 53% Asian Americans at UC Irvine and 49% at San Diego.
Depending on the campus, only 3% to 7% of students on UC campuses are African American, and only 17% Latino Universitywide (compared to almost 45% of the CA population that are Latino or black, not even accounting for undocumented individuals). This is ridiculous—absolutely unrepresentative to the realities of the Californian population.
It’s disappointing to compare the groups supporting and against SCA5—well done America, you’ve managed to pit people of color against each other. Most of the identity groups supporting SCA5 are black/Latino groups, while the identity groups against are mainly Chinese American groups.
Racial diversity is necessary in higher education to create a healthy educational environment for ALL students. Affirmative Action IS NOT a quota system, and it will NOT let in more “underqualified” students. That’s crap. No school will admit any student that is not qualified for that specific school.
Affirmative Action will bring opportunity to the many that are just as qualified to have a rightful place in the UC system. Under-representation is the cold truth of the UC system right now, for blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and yes, even for South Asians and Southeast Asians.
To all the AAPI against SCA5: The nature of the discourse is disappointing. SCA5 will NOT limit the success of Asian Americans in higher education, and it will NOT set a “quota” on AAPI admissions. Equal opportunity for all races in higher education is just and fair.
Before you jump to conclusions many have on SCA5, read up on what the reality is.
In writing this, my point is concise, so I’m just going to give it to you straightaway. We need to stop putting on culture shows. Now.
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend two culture shows, the first being the Lunar New Year (LNY) Celebration put on by a few Asian identity groups and houses, and the second being Jubilee, put on by Ujamaa during Black History Month. Both productions were well done (although being an organizer in the LNY Celebration does make be a bit biased), and you could tell the amount of time, planning, and practice went into each of those shows.
What’s the point of putting on a culture show? As I stood backstage at the LNY Celebration, all I kept thinking the entire time was that I spent all my time putting work into a production with the goal of putting my culture on the stage, or to “teach” my culture to the audience.
And as I looked out on the audience, I was even more disappointed. Why were we putting on this culture show (essentially a Chinese culture show) to a sea of yellow faces? Why were we putting on this teaching moment for people who are not necessarily the ones that need to be taught?
To be fair, the audience was not only Asians. There did exist a limited and almost hesitant diversity in the crowd.
From a piece they wrote on Wesleying, Christian Hosam and Maurice Hill write,
Black History Month, as it stands on campus, is a performative activity.
And while the purpose of their writing doesn’t address exactly what I’m saying here, that point they made should resonate, as the word choice in that sentence speaks volumes. And for me, you could replace “Black History Month” to apply this idea to our LNY Celebration as well.
It’s a performance activity, a showcase. It’s a display on the stage condensing our cultural experiences and cultural diversity into a series of performances that limit the imagination and threaten our identities.
But what, you say, what about culture shows being for the community that puts on the show themselves, for them to celebrate their own talent and culture?
It doesn’t take a culture show to do that. I see the hesitation in calling the Lunar New Year event a “culture show,” although it is exactly that. We call it a “celebration” instead—this is precisely why on the promotional flyers I designed for the event, I called it a “culture show and dinner.”
I don’t think it’s a celebration.
I think culture shows are an intense disservice to the communities and groups putting them on. Hours, weeks, and sometimes months of planning and coordination are put into a two hour event, and still someone covering the LNY event has the audacity to write,
The disappointment of the night, however, was the food. I’m willing to bet that the prospect of food, especially good food, was why most people came. Despite a job well done by our student chefs on the first three classic Chinese dishes, the main course of the night was Chinese take out. Not that there’s something wrong with getting a caterer, but the event had falsely advertised “home-cooked food” to attract guests. I’m sure General Tso’s chicken deserves its popularity, but for the occassion, I’m not sure that’s the best we can do.
The first three dishes the author somewhat praised already took three program houses dedicating an inordinate amount of time to cook up. It’s not possible for us students to put on such a production because, after all, we are just that—we’re students.
The anxiety and stress I experienced in anticipation for the LNY Celebration was ridiculous. A couple weeks before the event, I was even intent on getting away that weekend, to make up some excuse about needing to go see family in NYC or something and just hop on a train out of here. Students shouldn’t be experiencing such stress over these “teaching moments” to the wider community that doesn’t even show up.
The same author criticizing the food writes,
An even more important progress is that the Asian community itself is opening up, integrating and accepting American culture gradually instead of rigidly following the ways things are done back home.
I don’t really know what ze means with this. On the surface, I understand, but I don’t see how with the LNY Celebration, our community is “opening up” to American culture. And what bothers me even more is that this “celebration” was not just a product of international students breaking the “ways things are done back home,” but a collection of students that include many Asian Americans that are just as invested and apart of both Chinese/Asian cultures and American culture.
At the end of the day, I still am proud of what we were able to put on for Lunar New Year. I’m thankful for my fellow organizers who stepped up to get the ball rolling, as well as the performers that worked hard to put on an excellent performance. But I don’t think any of it is worth it.
There is no need for me to teach my culture.
There is no need for me to squeeze my culture into a two hour time frame put on display.
Just recently, ABC ordered a pilot for a new sitcom based on notable chef and restauranteur Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off The Boat. Part of me is super excited something like this is being picked up by a major network, but the other half of me is nervous and frankly, a bit scared.
By the way, as I am just starting to write this, I’m already finding myself preparing and thinking of how to defend these thoughts to dissenters. That in and of itself makes me even more nervous.
Earlier this week, I attended a film screening in Wesleyan’s Asian/Asian American Film Festival, which showed a film entitled Someone I Used to Know. They managed to invite actor and producer Brian Yang, who is most well-known for his role as Charlie Fong on Hawaii Five-0. After the film, there was a brief Q&A session with Yang, discussing the reasoning behind this independent film (which featured an Asian-American cast), amongst a few other things.
What he said that stood out to me the most, however, is the state of AAPI in the media/film and television today. He mentioned the difficulty to bring the AAPI community together to support other AAPI (which is true—and mainly due to the immensity of the AAPI diaspora and diversity within that very diaspora), as well as the sheer lack of AAPI characters on screen that play non-racialized roles.
Think about it. Most Asians/Asian-Americans you’ve seen on TV or film have played extremely racialized roles. As much as Jackie Chan has been a star figure in breaking into the US entertainment industry, for example, he’s all about martial arts in his films. While there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s all we really see when Asians are represented on screen—racialized characters that rely on stereotypes to form the basis of their being.
Lucy Liu in Elementary is one of those exceptions that exists—her role as Watson does not spend any time on her ethnic background. But we could probably count on one hand the number of characters like Liu’s Watson exists in popular culture.
Back to Fresh Off The Boat. As I said, this upcoming sitcom makes me both nervous and excited. But right off the bat, I’m already disappointed that a new TV show mainly surrounding AAPI is going to be racialized. Hell, it’s based off of a memoir of an Asian-American—and there’s nothing wrong with that, but part of me wishes that for once, I can see AAPI playing major roles on screen that doesn’t constantly rely on their “Asian-ness”.
Additionally, the few details available on this right now are slightly disturbing on another level. From Deadline:
Based on Eddie Huang’s memoir, it is set in the 1990s and revolves around a Chinese family that moves to suburban Orlando. (Huang’s real-life family is Taiwanese.) It centers on hip-hop-loving Eddie, raised by an immigrant father who is obsessed with all things American and an immigrant mother who is often bewildered by white culture. With his father owning and operating an All-American Steakhouse chain, this loving family of FOB (“fresh off the boat”) Taiwanese Americans try to live the American dream while still maintaining their cultural identity and sense of family.
"…it is set in the 1990s and revolves around a Chinese family…Huang’s real-life family is Taiwanese."
Alright, okay. I don’t know about you, but that’s a red flag for me already. Why couldn’t they just keep it based on a Taiwanese-American family? I don’t care if people don’t know what or where Taiwan is—this could’ve been such a good learning moment and could inject more discussion into the discourse around the China/Taiwan issue (which, at this point, is barely talked about in the US).
Additionally, Taiwanese/Taiwanese-American culture and Chinese/Chinese-American culture may share a huge number of similarities, but they’re still distinct and unique from each other. The history that shaped those two cultures have diverged significantly from each other in the last century, so it’ll also be interesting to see how this reconciles the two.
And don’t you dare say to me that “it’s great that there’s going to be an Asian family on TV already anyway.” No. America has done enough to try and erase the diverse nature of the AAPI diaspora. And you know what? It is insulting to someone who is culturally one ethnicity to ask or even joke if they are of another. Your ignorance or sense of humor is disparaging and unnecessary.
“To be white, or straight, or male, or middle class is to be simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. You’re everywhere you look, you’re the standard against which everyone else is measured. You’re like water, like air. People will tell you they went to see a “woman doctor” or they will say they went to see “the doctor.” People will tell you they have a “gay colleague” or they’ll tell you about a colleague. A white person will be happy to tell you about a “Black friend,” but when that same person simply mentions a “friend,” everyone will assume the person is white. Any college course that doesn’t have the word “woman” or “gay” or “minority” in its title is a course about men, heterosexuals, and white people. But we call those courses “literature,” “history” or “political science.” This invisibility is political.”—Michael S Kimmel.
I’ve just quoted some of the more striking parts of this very, very important and poignant piece:
For Asian Americans, the model minority myth has created what Imani Perry, a professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, calls a “gilded cage,” in which so-called privilege serves as a barrier to being taken seriously regarding racism. Historically, Asian-American activism has often been met with derision, she said.
Additionally, the history of African-American slavery has in many ways defined the mode in which race is discussed in America, she said. Racial issues are defined as black and white, leaving little room for discussion of other experiences of discrimination.
"Blackness is sometimes viewed as a hegemonic minority identity in America, with the implication being that if you’re not black, you can’t face racism," Sharma said. "Sometimes there’s a fear that if Latinos and Asians say they’re oppressed too, then blacks aren’t oppressed, when the reality is that there are multiple forms of oppression and class privilege does not eradicate racism."
Cooperation between minority groups is crucial in offsetting the natural disadvantage of being a minority in numbers, Fang said. Finding people not of your identity with the resources to advance your cause is more than a nice idea; it’s essential, she said.
Race in the United States is not black-and-white—all of us need to work together to not only stop discussing race in that fashion, but to come together to break down these barriers.
I was at the cashier in the Gap (yes, I still shop there) in the biggest and “most diverse” city in the United States. Walking through the streets of New York City, you see people around you of all races and ethnicities—and my yellow skin definitely does not stick out at all.
Approaching the cashier, I started off with a “Happy Thanksgiving” (this was Black Friday) and a “How are you?” just to be friendly. I sympathized with him over the ridiculous hours they would be open that day, and as I was about to pull out my wallet to pay, I heard those words I dread to hear as an American.
“No,” I respond, “I’m actually from LA.” My teeth are gritted tightly and I glace over my shoulder to my friend behind me in line with an exasperated look on my face.
“Born and raised too,” I added.
The cashier nodded, gave me my receipt, and I walked off. Steaming.
As I walked away, I thought of a million things I had wished I had said or might have said if I lost my cool. Yes, sir, my ethnic background is Chinese. But no, I am not from China. No, just because I look Chinese does not mean I am from China. No, just because I can speak Chinese does not mean I am from China. No, just because I’m a visitor here in NYC does not mean I am from China.
No, sir, I am not Chinese. I am American. I’ll show you my goddamn passport if I have to.
“In Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound”. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards, it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”—Don Draper, “The Wheel”.
"The topic reminds them of assimilation challenges they faced growing up: being treated as an immigrant, as someone not from here."
"The AAPI vote percentage for Obama in those states was greater than his margin of victory; in other swing states like Nevada, the story was similar. Without AAPI votes, the president might have lost."
It’s not just a Latino issue. Asian American and Pacific Islanders are speaking up about immigration reform—and lawmakers should be listening.
So when can AAPI issues begin to have some clout in the US?
I don’t think there are many opportunities for second chances in life—especially once you’re finished with your education and enter society and the workforce. Which is why, two weeks ago, when I realized I had the opportunity to have a second chance, I quelled the uneasy feelings of fear and nervousness and grabbed it.
People say that you are in control of your own happiness. I’ve always doubted this statement, as it resonated seemingly only as a tinge of hope for those trapped in dark places—but as just hope, and nothing more. Life sometimes gets out of hand as we drop the reins on our own futures once the idea of change and instability becomes too risky for us to even appreciate or consider.
I hate change and instability as much as the next person. Yet I refuse to not allow myself to be open to the idea of change, as drastic as it may be, if it has the potential to make things better. If you told me at the beginning of this academic year that I would be just a student attending classes and working a work-study job during the week, I wouldn’t have believed you—I’d probably have laughed at the improbability of such a point in my college career ever happening.
Yet here I am, devoid of meetings upon meetings and with an email inbox that has been frighteningly quiet in the last couple weeks, doing homework and studying at reasonable hours.
Sometimes, after you give everything you have and devote all of your time and attention whilst sacrificing time for other worthy pursuits (in my case, education), the idea of giving it all up seems improbable and absolutely alien. But as I’ve learned, sometimes you just have to.
Along the way, I’ve really learned on how cruel and heartless people can be. I’d like to think that I’m a very patient person (unless I’m behind the wheel of my car) and always try to assume the good intentions of others. Never have I ever felt that someone was out to get me or genuinely loathed my presence and existence.
Unfortunately, those people exist, and they’re worse than I expected.
But I’m absolutely thankful that I’ve been able to learn from my experiences and use the aforementioned difficulties as a wake up call to hit the reset button—I still have the majority of my college career ahead of me, and it’s definitely not too late to reestablish myself in a different way here.
Various people that I’ve discussed this with have expressed to me how this all is very courageous—and I actually don’t think this is particularly courageous at all. Sure, some courage was absolutely necessary to push towards change, but I think at the core of it, it’s not courage but an understanding of yourself and your own abilities that prompt the final decision. And that’s not all that easy either.
When I think about life, I am reminded of a poem by Luis de Góngora, the title of which is “De la brevedad engañosa de la vida”—the deceptive brevity of life. The deceitful and misleading brevity of life. My favorite part, which I have quoted in the past, goes as follows:
You’ll not be pardoned for these hours, These hours that erode away our days These days that gnaw away our years.
So if there’s any time to take action, that time is definitely now.
Before you can begin to understand my anger, you might want to check out my previous post and take a look at the article that I linked to. Or you can just find it here.
Do you want to know why this makes me angry?
This makes me angry because of the privilege that seeps throughout the entire article.
This makes me angry because of the intense biases that run throughout the entire article.
This makes me angry because the author insinuates that when white people change their appearance, it has not to do with efforts to change their race.
This makes me angry because of the oversimplification and narrowness the author has in reference to race.
This makes me angry because of all the problems I’ve listed quickly above, these are issues that pervade much more of our society today than this one author.
These are problems that people tend to brush aside and ignore. These are problems that because they affect Asians significantly more implicitly that people don’t think they’re important. These are problems because if I have one more person insinuate that racism and discrimination “doesn’t affect Asians,” I might just lose it.
I’ve written again and again and again on the issues of perception and stereotypes facing Asian/Asian-American communities. I’ve deplored other Asian/Asian-Americans who do not view ‘this’ as an issue, and similarly other people of color who do not view ‘this’ as an issue. (This being all of the above.) But these groups are definitely not my biggest problem with this article right now.
I try to stay level-headed and reason when I write, especially on such difficult topics.
But somewhere in this article, a line was crossed.
First off, just because this man, Leo, featured in the article required plastic surgery to regain his confidence and his ability to assert himself isn’t because he necessarily wants to become white. He even says, “I can’t become white.” Maybe he wants to be “whiter,” whatever the fuck that means. Maybe he wants deracialize himself, make himself more “palatable” to Western/white society, or to meet that girl. His father notes that he is trying to “forget his ethnicity,” but we all damn well know it’s not completely possible to just erase one’s ethnicity—and Leo knows it too.
But all of this talk of wanting to turn white? This author is feeding the words into Leo’s mouth and blending his story into the author’s very own biases. This author makes a brilliantly stupid jump from quoting Leo to discussing the boom of plastic surgery in Asia, and then goes on to quoting comments that refer to Asians wanting to “Westernize their appearance.”
The author doesn’t spend a single second discussing so many things that have such a significant role in this issue. The most-liked comment on this article sums it up nicely:
It’s especially sad because there’s so much about this issue you could have discussed in greater depth: the generational gap between proponents and opponents of surgical enhancement, the effect of globalization on various cultures, the changing cultural landscape of major Asian cities, how class influences people’s decisions about their bodies and appearance, how traditional Western and Eastern ideals of beauty intersect to create the kinds of body modification you see in Asian countries, etc.
I seriously have some homework to get back to doing.
Go read the article in full, then read the first comment in full. It’ll definitely get you thinking.
Leo Jiang grew up in an English industrial town, emotionally scarred by bullies who taunted him about being Chinese. A few years and tens of thousands of dollars later, he’s not really Chinese anymore.
Most important part of that comment by a Victoria Le:
But racial prejudice is more than just a few isolated incidents. It’s not just that a kid in school can call you a chink or a gook or make squinty eyes to mock you. It’s that there are almost no Asian actors or actresses in Western-made film or TV; it’s that the Asian (more likely half-Asian) performers who do appear tend to conform to Western beauty standards; it’s that stereotypes about Asian impotence and submissiveness are tied to height, penis size, and jaw strength; it’s that eye makeup is designed for Western features; it’s that you can get passed over for jobs or relationships because of your appearance; it’s that people look at the before and after pictures for these surgeries and think the “after” picture is the beautiful one.
It’s about time these conversations began to happen.
There is currently a pretty big controversy going on right now back at my high school, Arcadia High, about a plan in which school administrators are considering to push AP Junior English (Advanced Placement Language), to the senior year (currently the AP Literature course).
Freshman honors and junior AP English classes would be moved in a curriculum change under consideration by school administrators, who want to make the academic level more accessible in hopes of giving students better chances to get into college.The junior AP English class would be shifted to a similar class for senior students. In its place, high-performing students will be mixed with others in a general English class. That would give underclassmen more time to qualify for the AP course, Principal Brent Forsee said.
There is a movement going on pushing against this change, from students, parents, alumni, and others, including teachers. I have been following some of the conversation, admittedly not very closely, but I am a bit distressed by those who want to preserve the current status quo (AP 11th and 12th grads, and keep Frosh Honors).
I have been in both regular, college preparatory English classes as well as honors classes, despite not taking AP Language nor Literature either my junior or senior year of high school. And I have been extremely dissatisfied in the wide disparity between the two “levels,” so to speak.
In taking freshman English Honors as well as sophomore English Honors, I was appropriately challenged, pushed to produce my best work, and strive high for academic excellence. In my junior and senior years, despite thoroughly liking my teachers, learning a lot, I completely felt the difference in expectations, level of challenge and difficulty, amongst many other things, which I will outline soon.
This is not to say I did not have excellent teachers. I asked my junior English teacher to write one of my two letters of recommendations when I was applying to college, because I had faith in her understanding of who I was as a student and I knew I (at least to me) tried to produce my best work even though there was a stigma that college prep classes are very “easy” and “not a big deal.” My senior English teacher was probably one of the best teachers I have ever had throughout my K-12 experience, pushing me to think, to question myself, and to look at things from perspectives I would have never previously considered.
And were the two classes a breeze? To many, a college prep class for a once-Honors student should have been easy and a piece of cake. Instead, I saw myself consistently reminding myself that I could not view these classes as such, and that they were no lesser in importance to my other AP classes. For me, the simple reason why I did not take AP English either junior or senior year was because I had different priorities. I did not want to buckle under pressure and take on a workload in which I could not produce my best work. I did not have an extensive interest in English in high school (even though I cannot stop reading or writing today in college). Most importantly, I wanted to focus and turn to other classes which I actually knew I would be motivated to push myself.
But here is the kicker and what I was dissatisfied with in terms of moving from a Honors level to a College Prep level: I saw my friends, many of which were in AP English, striding far ahead of me in college readiness. So “College Prep” my ass. By the end of their junior years, many of my friends that took AP Junior English had a binder full of research on colleges and universities, anticipating application season within a few months. They had already prepared college essays, etc., which they all prepared after AP season had ended.
I came out of junior year with nothing, only knowing that I should probably start researching and applying for colleges soon.
Granted, my senior English teacher helped us extensively in college essay preparation and writing drafts. He helped us edit and revise, and I was extremely grateful and happy from what I got out of that experience when I had to press “Submit” on the Common App or the UC App.
But was it fair? I’m not so sure. This is what’s wrong with the American education system. There are so many layers of preparation from different K through 12 systems across the country, and even within one school district, there’s that gap. In college now, I’m shocked to realize many of my peers, who all had respectable grades in high school and are alongside me, rightfully and perhaps more deservingly, at a prestigious liberal arts university, cannot format their papers in MLA (not counting those that use other formatting styles). I have noticed a pretty big gap in the quality of writing between different students, amongst other differences, despite many of us being the best our high schools across the country had to offer.
Arcadia High School always irked me in how proud we were of our high performing status. Counselors, in anticipating our graduation and college application season, pretty much seemed to tailor much of their spiels towards higher performing students, or even assuming most of us were in that category. I didn’t know many of my peers that I know are brilliant and smart didn’t get near perfect grades. I didn’t know not everyone took the number of APs I did. Call me ignorant or stupid, but the environment that Arcadia has created is not just insufferable, it’s forcing students to take on too much, underperform, and fall out of the running into getting into a good college.
Looking back, I want to go to every person that told me it was stupid and a college-killer to not take AP English and give them a huge “F*** you.” Because guess what. I didn’t take AP English, I didn’t take AP Chem, Physics, or Calculus BC, I didn’t participate in every extracurricular out there (in fact, I participated in only a couple), and I fucking made it. I did what I believed in, took the classes I was interested in, pushed myself to look to the future and have a goal in mind, and tuned out all the bullshit I had been fed my entire life.
Now, I don’t necessarily support either getting rid of AP Junior English and Freshman Honors or keeping the status quo, I’m fairly indifferent. I just know that I’m glad to be out of the Arcadia bubble (it totally exists), and have been forced into the reality of inequity in this country. Arcadia is only contributing to this inequity and hurting the students that cannot perform at the high achieving levels.
In reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, I have been looking back at my own K-12 education and comparing it to that of my peers. I didn’t have the grades to get into Honors classes (math) in middle school, even though I tried time and time again. Going into high school, I made the A needed to qualify for Honors in math for my freshman year, but somehow, it never happened. I couldn’t get into English Honors at Arcadia High in my first attempt, through the test administered near the end of 8th grade. It was thanks to my 8th grade English teacher, who I am eternally thankful for believing in me, who pushed to get me into freshman English Honors.
It was never easy for me to reach the “high performing” level Arcadia pushes onto its students to reach for. Just because I couldn’t write the greatest paper did not mean I did not deserve to get into freshman English Honors. So it does not mean those students who are in college prep classes are undeserving of being pushed and getting the great education higher performing students get.
Arcadia High School, and Arcadia Unified, needs to reevaluate where they stand. Sure, getting a high scoring Academic Performance Index is fantastic, it’s great to have such a high graduation rate, it’s great to have such a high percentage of students moving onto college, but they really need to ensure that students, all students, not just AP students, are getting the help, and genuine support, that they need. It’s not uncommon for a student to get a couple of “lesser” grades at Arcadia High and throw their hands up, giving up because they don’t meet the standards. I have seen it happen, and I have seen it happen to people extremely close to me. When the climate of an academic institution is all about grades, taking APs, getting high SAT scores, there is something fundamentally wrong with the institution.
High school should not only be about preparing for college, but preparing for the real world. And while Arcadia High overprepared me for college, I got absolutely nothing about the real world. Even going to different parts of the LA County is a huge culture shock to me. It’s ridiculous.
Arcadia High School’s commitment needs to be to all of its students, and not only those who can churn out the fantastic stats for the district. I’m thankful for the fantastic education I received from Arcadia Unified, but extremely worried that AHS is not serving all of its students in full.
So the conversation should not only be about keeping AP and Honors for higher performing students, it should also be about how to ensure that college prep students are just as prepared for college, and to ensure that no student is left behind. At the same time, Arcadia needs to be reevaluating the message it sends to its students and the culture that has been cultivated on AUSD campuses. Because having dozens of salutatorians is wonderful, having so many students in APs is great, getting such a high API is fantastic, but it’s not about the numbers nor just the AP students.
The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong But You'll Never Want to Know What It Is
We’re happier being ignorant. We’re happier eluding ourselves from the truth…
Prior to reading this post, it’s helpful to read this fantastic essay by Errol Morris entitled The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is. It’s long, but sure worth the read, as well as what the Dunning-Kruger Effect is.
For years, I have had my own version of the story of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In my version, God appears before Adam and Eve, and tells them that they have disobeyed Him. He admonishes them, and they will have to leave immediately. Everything will be completely grotesque, grim, ghastly and gruesome outside of Eden. God spares them no detail. Adam and Eve, both crestfallen and fearful, prepare to leave, but God, feeling perhaps a little guilty for the severity of his decision, looks at them and says, “Yes, things will be bad out there, but I’m giving you self-deception so you’ll never notice.”
When God created man (and woman), he gave them the ability to perceive the world, but withheld from them the ability to understand it. We could come up with one cockamamie theory after another, but real understanding would always elude us. It was mean-spirited on God’s part. And to make matters even worse, God gave us the desire but not the wherewithal to make sense of experience. One might easily foresee that this would lead to unending, unmitigated frustration and suffering. But here’s where self-deception, anosognosia and the Dunning-Kruger Effect step in. We wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything, but we would never be aware of that fact.
A physiological brain damage that solicits a deficit of self-awareness, a condition in which a person who suffers certain disability seems unaware of the existence of his or her disability. The word comes from the Greek words nosos, “disease”, and gnosis, “knowledge”, with an- or a- as a negative prefix.
A process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception.
A cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.
An explanation of what these ideas come to:
What Morris essentially brilliantly unmasks and digs into is the connection between these three ideas which he links together: Self-deception, Anosognosia, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect. His essay analyzes what these three things are, how they relate to each other, and how the three are all so similar yet so vastly different at the same time. One unifying theme throughout these three ideas, despite their psychological or physiological origins, is the overreaching idea of ignorance.
There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
— United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld
That’s what resonated and intrigued me the most. There are supposedly four ways we can understand things in this world:
and unknowns unknowns.
But what about a fifth category? Jumping from the idea of Anosognosia, Morris suggests that there is that fifth state: unknowable unknowns. He writes, “An unknown unknown that must be forever unknown. An unknowable unknown. A disease that masks its own existence—one with pitiful and even tragic consequences… If you have it, then you can never know you have it.” An unknowable unknown can never be brought to light as an unknown and may never be known, yet it exists alongside the other four all the same. It haunts us, and may very well define our lives—yet we cannot do anything about it.
That, by far, is what we should fear the most. Right off the bat, all of this crap might sound like… well, crap, but think about how these apply to daily life.
The known knowns are the things we know we know. I know that I know that 1 + 1 = 2. I also know that I know that Obama is the President of the United States, or that we are currently in the year 2013.
Unknown knowns are those which we used to know but have forgotten. I used to know how to find a derivative, as well as I used to know how to fold a good paper airplane. These are things that I have forgotten, but once knew.
Known unknowns are things that I have never known but also know that I do not know. I know that I do not know the exact figure of America’s debt at the moment. I also know that I do not know who the president of say, Italy, is right now, nor do I know how to fly an airplane. Yet these are unknowns that I can find out and make known.
Unknown unknowns are those things that I do not know that I do not know and thus cannot pursue making them known. I do not know what there may be out there that I do not know I do not know. These unknowns may be brought to light to me by another person or the news, for example. What was previously an unknown unknown to me was that the British considered burning the Forbidden City instead of the Summer Palace in Beijing after the Second Opium War, yet my Chinese history professor brought this to light for me. Prior to that, I did not know that I did not know this piece of information, so I couldn’t have figured it out even if I wanted to pursue it—I wouldn’t know what I was pursuing.
Unknowable unknowns take #4, the unknown unknowns, an extra leap forward. Not only do we not know that we do not know something, but there would be not way that it can be brought to light. So there would not exist any history professor to tell me anything in this case. Not only would I not know that information, I would never care to find out (as I do not know I do not know it), but there also is no person to ever tell me this truth.
Quick suggestion. If all of that confused you (it confused me by just typing it), read it aloud or mouth it. It helps.
My new ideas:
So the first four are all states of understanding that we deal with in our ever day lives, things we come across, overcome, forget, or never bother to figure out.
So this fifth one is what has completely fascinated me, as well as bring out some fear. Think about it. There exists some unknowable unknown out there that not only will we never know, and not only can we never go out to find it, we never know that we need to go out to find it. Imagine how breathtakingly large of a category this is. This information exists—and affects our lives to a certain extent, but not a single person knows about it.
Even huge topics, such as religion, death, or consciousness don’t fall into this fifth category. Take death. If you’ve read some of my previous essays, you’ll know how enthralled I am (and fearful of) the idea of death and what it really entails. But that only falls into the category of known unknowns, and on this ranking list of “importance” that I’ve created, it’s relatively tame.
So there’s something bigger than life or death out there somehow having resonating effects on our lives. I could speculate on what those things may be, but then those would automatically revert to being an known unknown—but even if it is something that I could speculate on, it would have never been an unknowable unknown in the first place.
But here’s the gist of what I want to suggest—do we even care?
Known knowns and known unknowns directly affect my life right now. Unknown knowns affected my pasted, and unknown unknowns presumably affects my future if it ever crosses my path. Who gives a damn? Do you care that there are things out there that you don’t know that doesn’t have a perceivable impact on your life?
Aside from being forced to sit in a science class in high school, does it really matter to me in the way I live my life on what composes an atom? Or the fact that an atom can be broken down? Or the fact that this is something that I’m taking up my time and seemingly wasting yours talking about?
You don’t really want to know that there are unknown unknowns or known unknowns in life, much less than you would ever want to know that there exists unknowable unknowns. Maybe that’s just it. Maybe we’re better off being more ignorant than we could be. Technically, if we amassed all the “knowledge” there is to be had from every single human mind on this planet today as well as in the past and future, there would be an incredible surplus of thoughts and knowledge that do not pertain to our lives. We can be born, grow up, live, grow old, and die without knowing probably 99% of that information.
I don’t want to know what those unknowable unknowns are, because they can only add more trouble to life, presumably. Every time humans have uncovered more unknowns, no matter what sort, we’ve managed to make life more difficult for ourselves. Apparently I’ve heard that there were people who’ve existed in the past not needing this technology thing nor something more substantial—how about government, science, and religion?
Sarcasm aside, it’s entirely possible to erase much of the known knowns in our minds and still live a perfectly decent life; decent being we are born, we grow up, we live, we grow old, and we die. That’s what life truly is, isn’t it? Death. The purpose of life, from a pessimistic, depressing point of view.
Yet my point here is that there is not only no need for us to know these unknowable unknowns, there is no reason for us to care about them. Anything that you may say we do not know or cannot find the answer to technically would be a known unknown. We do not know the key to immortality. We know that unknown. Can we find it? Probably not. But we know that it eludes us. (With the whole idea of singularity, however, it might be closer than we think. But that’s a whole other ball game.)
So what are you meant to take away from this ridiculously long essay?
Congratulations, ignorance truly is bliss. Whether or not we’re better off being ignorant is one thing, if we’re happier being ignorant is another.
With the Dunning-Kruger Effect, one may be perfectly happy being ignorant about some truth. With Anosognosia, we’re unconsciously, yet purposefully, being ignorant. With self-deception, we somehow know the truth is in us, yet we elect to ignore it.
But why do we do that? Why are these three things… “even a thing?” Why, as Morris puts it, has God given us the opportunity to perceive, yet never truly understand?
We’re happier being ignorant. We’re happier eluding ourselves from the truth. A child is more care-free and cheerful than an adult is. We look back unto our childhoods, wishing that we could relieve that bliss and be as happy as we were when we were children. Why is that? Because as children, we were ignorant (I’m generalizing here, but I hope you follow me for the sake of making this point). As children, we don’t have to worry about the petty things such as getting a job and paying taxes, nor do we have to worry about interpersonal relationships (for the most part), or about our own health (someone else does it for us!). Above all, we were ignorant enough to not need to worry about the future.
And not worrying about the future is a huge ignorance—and bliss—we can never avoid today.
We’re always looking to our past for a happier time, a time that will only consistently avoid us in our futures. We set the bar pretty high—nothing can really top ignorance (cue Buddhism and enlightenment).
Morris says that “something’s wrong but you’ll never know what it is,” but I’m going to take that a step further and say:
Something’s wrong, but you’ll never want to know what it is.
I spend a good chunk of this post taking ideas from Morris’s essay and breaking it down so I can insert my thoughts onto the matter, so it’s not meant to be plagiarism by any means—simply framing the context for which I can write.
What To Keep In Mind While Doing Social Justice Work
There is no doubt that the work of social justice amongst its many forms and iterations is not only important, but also that it is becoming increasingly visible not just on college campuses, but across the nation and even around the world. There is also no doubt that this line of work is difficult, challenging, uncomfortable at times, as well as very demanding.
The biggest problem that I have personally come across when it comes to diversity or social justice work is many people’s innate innability to understand another’s humanity. I’ve discussed this in a previous post, which you may like to read, but I now feel like I need to delve significantly deeper into this conversation of one’s humanity and begin to analyze the various roadblocks this line of work faces today.
As I have written about it before, I will not spend too much time on the idea of “understanding other’s humanity,” or conocimiento, but it is always important to discuss and remind people that it is one of the underlying foundations required to move forward. Confrontations in the work of social justice comes when one group offendeds another group by forgetting that they, like themselves, are human and have their own backgrounds, their own life experiences, and there own story that cannot and should not ever be generalized.
The division of these groups is one of the primary problems. By creating and establishing an “us versus them” mentality, we are essentially creating opportunities and spaces where conflict can take place. Granted, this binary system is definitely something that is systematic, institutional, and historical, which is why it is increasingly important for us to be able to begin moving past binary divisions and come together, with an understanding of each other’s humanity, to advance the work of social justice.
This is the definition of racism taken directly from the corresponding Wikipedia page:
Racism is usually defined as views, practices and actions reflecting the belief that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups called races and that members of a certain race share certain attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable, inferior or superior.
It is absolutely essential to point out that racism not only affects minority groups, but that racism occurs with actions against any one group based on the color of their skin, regardless if they are black, yellow, or white. Anyone has the ability to be racist or say racist things, and if you happen to be a member of the minority, it does not give you the license to make remarks or generalizations about the majority that are offensive and unproductive, ever.
By singling out any one group, no matter the size, by their race and implicating them with certain accusations is innately racist, especially if the claims are false and without grounds. By reverting to the discussion of race when deliberating over issues that are completely unrelated to race, other than the fact that two groups so happen to be divided along racial lines, is absolutely a form of racism.
There is also a very clearly disparate difference between conversations and talks that are uncomfortable, which we should all be when discussing these issues to ensure that they are productive and helpful, and simply offensive and out of line.
There are definitely very important minorities that absolutely exist that are not easily discerned by the naked eye, thus are not apart of the dominant discussion of social justice centered around race, and are unfortunately and wrongly pushed aside. Because someone holds membership in a form of minority that is not prevelant or “popular,” it does not mean that they do not share the same “minority” experiences, namely oppression and discrimination. Just because you are unable to see their struggles, it does not mean that they are not struggling. Just because we cannot be quick to conclude that they are a minority of some form at first sight, does not mean that they do not have their share in a wealth of difficulties that they, similarily, do not deserve to need to deal with.
If the work and goal that we are spending so much time advancing is to stop discrimination and oppression, to expand inclusion and diversity, and to promote allyship, we have to not only actively be agents of change but also learn to avoid being factors in the cycles of discrimination and oppresion ourselves, on all levels. For example, if I want people to stop being quick to judge me to assume that I am smart because I am Asian, I should start by working to stop being so quick to judge others on any front as well. We need to actively work on the stereotypes that have come to define members of this collective community, beginning on the individual level. Do not judge a book by its cover (unless it’s actually a book), especially those who are seemingly members of the majority.
It is also incredibly important to emphasize and highlight that there is really no one to blame, and no one to fault. These problematic issues have been handed down to us, through history, and we need to stop seeking the need to place the blame of such large, overreaching issues on any one group of people, no matter how this group may have operated “in the past.” But guess what? People from the past are dead. They may have left a framework that we are unsatisfied with, but they have no control over what we can do with it. If we choose to overhaul it, as much of the work of social justice is attempting to do, we have that very right and ability to do so.
It is not anyone’s fault. The discussions about the need for a white person to feel “white guilt” is incredibly problematic. Not that white guilt does not exist to a degree, but why do people find a need to have people feel guilty based on the race that they were born into? Should I be guilty that the color of my skin is yellow, and that I was born into certain privleges that you do not have? Should you be guilty that you hold certain privleges that I definitely do not have?
There is no longer room in this discussion for guilt or blame if we want to progress and move forward. And as absolutely naive, to a degree, to say that we need to come together, as a community, as a society, that is the only way that I could see true progress. If you know of another way that is effective, I will not hesitate to hear you out.
I am a human being. I am on this journey with you to rediscover that humanity that has been loss in this struggle—and to discover the humanites of my peers and the colorful people that are all members of this larger society that we are deserve to have equal footing on.
So do not look down on me because I may hold certain privleges that you do not. Just as I do not look down on you because you hold certain privleges that I lack, I expect, at the very least, the same in return.
On a different note, I will no longer accept anyone telling me that I am not in a position of enough understanding and knowledge to discuss or advance issues of social justice based on the fact that I am young. I am also a human being, an active participant in this community, and have as large of a stake in this society as everyone else does.
It is absolutely crazy to me that as we are trying to break down barriers and to begin to chip away at the structures that perpetuate discrimination, someone would discriminate me based on another part of my identity—my age.
I have not finished learning and absorbing new thoughts and ideas. In fact, I never will stop—learning about social justice is an ongoing process that I do not think is able to be “finished” in anyone’s lifetime. This is why I try to actively listen and respect what people have to say—because of conocimiento, because I know that you have your humanity—and you should never stop as well.
But the only time where I will have difficultly in listening to anyone or acknowledging their thoughts, no matter if I agree with them or not, is if I find them to be offensive to the very work we are trying to advance. This returns to the fact that it is, indeed, possible to be racist towards white people, apparently contrary to the mindsets of some. I will have difficultly in hearing someone out if they are quick to assume that I do not have my own problems, my own struggles, my own difficulties, and if they are quick to assume that I have not been affected by these cycles of oppresion negatively as well.
I will have difficultly, but it is my responsibility to sit there and listen. And no matter how difficult it is, I’ll do my best, as you should.
The biggest thing that needs to be reinforced and reiterated over and over again is that not only a single group of people have experienced being “the other.” It is arguable that everyone has, at some point in time. This goes back to assumptions. Do not assume that others have not felt alienated in certain spaces. Do not assume that some do not have any difficulties in life.
The only thing we should be assuming is good intentions in these discussions.
As I said, I am always learning. Thus I will always participate and listen. I can only expect the same of you. I can only expect you to hear me out, break down the need to be defensive, and to think about what I have had to say instead of dismissing it as wrong.
This work is a two way street. If there are cars crowding the all lanes on the road and speeding in one direction only, it is nearly impossible for any car to head in the opposite direction.
So let’s all reach out and head down this street that is social justice, but ensure that it is mutual.
It is undoubtably true that America today remains a very troubled place. We may lead the world on may fronts, yet whilst we jump into meddling with the affairs of half of all the other nations on the planet, we seemingly have been consistently unable to resolve countless issues at home.
This is deplorable and frankly, disgusting.
America claims to stand on the side of the just, the right, the writers of history, the leader of the free world—yet so many within her borders are treated unjustly, wrongly, cast aside, and not free by my means, but she can’t be moved to care.
It’s also simply amazing what it takes for anyone to begin talking about any of these issues. It’s amazing what it takes for any of these thoughts to run through the minds of an average citizen of this “great” nation and, more importantly, stay there.
“Vertigo is something other than the fear of falling. It is the voice of emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”—The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera.
“Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”—President Obama
I've been mulling about writing about this for quite some time now, but it's simply odds when the words simply just don't come to mind and the feelings cloud your brain and impede you from really even thinking straight.
And the only reason why I would want to write something so publicly is for me to better sort out my own thoughts and motivations, and allow me to continue to push forward on this matter.
I can actually remember when I started eating so much. It was the second grade, and all the way up until then, I had been a pretty healthy sized kid. I chuckle every time I tell this story, because I always say it in a jokingly manner, and I guess it is indeed a bit funny.
My mother signed me up for swim lessons the summer after second grade, if my memory suits me properly, and after my first lesson, I was, of course, appropriately hungry from all the exercise. I recall being ravenously starving, as it felt, and to reward me from my first lessons, my mom took me to a Burger King near my house.
The meal consisted of one cheeseburger, one four-piece order of chicken tenders, a small fries, and a small soda. And I guess that really isn’t all to bad, except after going home I proceeded to wolf down two heaping bowls of noodles paired with soup as well as some form of dessert.
Of course, I didn’t become overweight overnight, but it was definitely a gradual process that I, nor my parents, noticed or paid much attention to. In fact, I would say that all the way up until the fifth grade or so, I never really cared about the fact that my stomach protruded out and that I was heavier than some the other kids.
Middle school was pure hell. I didn’t really know what bullying was, per se, and to this day I feel strangely uncomfortable calling it that, but I guessed that it counts, with the constant barrage of reminders that I was fat coming in different directions, my seeming inability to do a proper push-up, let alone a pull up, and a mile time so dismal that I try to forget that I ever ran that slow.
So in the seventh grade, I thought that I should probably do something about it. In the span of a year from the near end of the 7th grade to the end of the eighth, I tried to lose weight—and I was reasonably successful, cutting ten pounds from my weight, but still a good amount overweight compared to my peers and the national average of that age.
It slowly creeped into a problem that really killed my self-esteem and confidence. I wouldn’t dare wear a t-shirt out unless I absolutely had to or it would be covered in some form with another layer of clothes, I would start wearing button downs, etc., to try and cover up that hideous stomach that I lost complete motivation to cut down.
I definitely didn’t fare better in high school, but many of those memories are still well too fresh in my memory to recount. Four years, four different diets, all leaving me hungry all the time, more unsatisfied with myself, and a plummeting self-esteem level.
It would always be the same—lose ten pounds, or if I was lucky, fifteen over the course of several months, then quickly gain it all back, and then some, right after I stopped.
It gotten to a point where I saw myself putting reasoning behind a lot of what has happened in the past onto my weight, thinking that the weight I had was not only unattractive but extremely detracting, and that I really just had no hope.
And thus the heaviest I ever got was weighing in at 188 pounds, mostly fat and almost nonexistent muscles. (I was around 5’ 11” already then, and I’m definitely not that heavy anymore.) That number will always haunt me, and the fact that I would still force myself to wear pants that never really fit right anymore because I didn’t want to believe how much weight I put on reminded me that I should really just do something about it.
I can’t even begin to explain how being overweight has completely crushed—no, decimated—my self-esteem and confidence levels.
At college, especially at one where people just all seem to be so freaking fit, I realized that instead of mulling over why I started getting fat in the first place I should just really do something about it now.
And although I feel like I’ve said the same thing to myself thousands of times in the past, and acted upon it on every diet that I’ve gone on, I never managed to pull through.
I’m almost at the ten pound mark now, so passing that is the most difficult part, and will definitely go to show if I could possibly be successful this time.
Dammit, I do freaking crave some chocolate and grilled cheese so badly right now though.
A lot of my stuff at home is in boxes. Boxes filled with old homework assignments, study guides, tests, projects—paper after paper of stuff, ranging from first to twelfth grades. Prior to today, I had about eight to ten of those boxes, and now I’m left with two.
My parents tasked me with cleaning and organizing my stuff since I got home for winter break, but I’ve had a really difficult time getting around to it. I’m sure they thought it was because of laziness or just a lack of “time,” but to be honest, I was deathly afraid of going through boxes I hadn’t touched in years.
But I did, and amongst the things I found:
Projects from nearly every grade level and a variety of classes
Tickets from my first baseball game (Dodgers v. Brewers, Jun 5., 2005)
My fifth grade yearbook
My eighth grade yearbook
Picture after picture
Birthday cards, some as recent as last year and one from when I turned 11
Pieces of art that I painted/sketched/pasteled
I threw a lot of it away. Two five gallon trash bags worth of countless hours of homework, projects, studying for tests, the tests themselves, to less academic things like failed art projects I started or old coloring books.
This is definitely one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life.
It’s difficult, because I felt like I was clearing away the last eighteen years and throwing away a lot of what defined it. But I didn’t know what else to do with it all, I couldn’t possibly keep every homework assignment or test I got an A on or all the journals that I started but stopped after a couple entries.
My parents think it’s pretty ridiculous that I got a bit emotional from tossing this stuff out, saying that I missed their point to simply “organize” the stuff and not throw it all away.
Honestly, I don’t think there was any possible way I could have gone through everything, “organized” it, and kept any of it. When it comes to time, I view it as a fairly binary concept—the past, and the present/future (present and future are together because they are things still within my control and things I can act upon, whilst I cannot with the past).
So there’s no real point to me keeping it. None of it will really help me in the future, and the few things that have enough sentimental value I’ve already picked out and placed in a smaller box. But it was extremely hard for me to just feel like I was throwing years of my life into the trash, erasing a lot of what I’ve done or even who I am.
It’s about time and fitting to clean it all up, I must say, because I can only afford to look forward. Looking behind me it’s just way to hard and painful. Leaving home has definitely helped me learn how to be more comfortable with myself, feel more comfortable in my surroundings, but more importantly, leaving has stopped events and memories from the past inhibiting me from growing.
“People of color have environmental experiences that differ from those of whites because the environment, like race, is both a social and a cultural construct. Throughout history, those who society has identified as white have appropriated land and resources, controlling the movement and hindering the economic development for people of color. Whites are free to express themselves, to live where they want, and to develop the kinds of relations with the land as they see fit. People of color, however, do not enjoy all of these choices.”—Marguerite L. Spencer, University of St. Thomas Law Journal, “Environmental Racism and Black Theology: James H. Cone Instructs Us on Witness”
Mike Huckabee commented on the senseless attacks in Newtown, Connecticut, on his Fox News show, Huckabee, where he said the following:
I want to point out that we don’t have to pass a new law—there’s one that’s been around a while that works if we’d teach it and observe it: Thou shalt not kill. There about nine others, but to tell you about him would require bringing God back—and we know how unacceptable that might be.
I take issue with what he said, but first, you can view his thoughts in this clip.
To begin, I actually agree with many of the things that Huckabee said in this segment, however, only if it were directed to the question of “where was God?” and nothing else. However, he implies something much deeper than questioning those who were wondering where God was to be found in this horrific tragedy, he attacks the culture of America, rightfully at times, and attacks the very notion of this separation between church and state.
I just want to point out that “we don’t have to pass a new law” is troubling. The Ten Commandments are not state law, federal law, or law at any level of government. He needs to be more careful with his word choice. By implying that the Commandments can take the form of law in this country, why not Sharia law? (That’s purely rhetorical)
Huckabee attacks the culture of this nation as to why God, in some respects, has “left” the United States. Whilst I similarly object to “lawsuits are filed to remove a cross that’s a memorial to fallen soldiers” or when “people sue is city so we are confronted with a manger scene or a Christmas carol,” I do not appreciate, sir, this implied notion that Christianity is in fact the supreme religion and the “bedrock” of morals in this country.
Churches and Christian own businesses are told the surrender their values on the edict of government orders to provide tax funded abortion pills.
I’m sorry, excuse me? Abortion pills are not a direct result of tax dollars from churches and Christian businesses—granted, the money does come from taxes, but these are taxes that are instated by an elected government, elected by the people. I refuse to accept any argument that one can get special treatment because they do not agree with something the government is doing. Hey Bush, I never wanted to go to war in the first place, so I should not pay taxes that contribute to the war effort. That’s ridiculous.
To be clear, however, I do agree that when it comes to morals and these values that our government needs to be more careful in the direction in which they step, but when anyone, from the left or right, atheist or religious, believes that certain laws and practices should not be applied to them simply because they are against their values, really needs to look at the democratic nature of this American system and how these policies are not put into place overnight—we, the people, elect representatives that suit our views, and if the majority all align, guess what, the policy or law is passed.
From an earlier discussion by Mike Huckabee:
We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability?
I refuse to allow you to say that removing God from our public schools is the root of the problem. I do not mind you adding God back in, in fact, but at the same time, please also include figures from other religions, from Allah to the Buddha, as well as the atheist perspective—public education is not the place to install one form of religion above another, and neither is any wing of the government.
I refuse to say “Under God” during the Pledge of Allegiance. I admit it. Not because I have anything against God, not that I have anything against the religion of our Founding Fathers (even though those two words weren’t added until the 20th century), and not even because our currency even says “In God We Trust” on it. But because I do not like being forced to, even for two seconds, prescribe to a religion I do not identify with.
However, both sides of the argument sometimes have gone a bit too far. I do not see a problem with having the Ten Commandments on display at a courthouse, or even the Supreme Court, because of its judicial significance. It’s difficult to deny that. But it is because when one side begins to veer in an extreme direction, it takes nearly the same extremity to balance it.
For example, I definitely have a problem when the right and the extreme right are currently claiming that there is a War on Christmas. I’m sorry, Fox News, go outside your building on in Manhattan and see Christmas in full blast. Look at that huge tree in Rockefeller Center. There is no War on Christmas. But why are people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and why is it difficult for a teacher to teach her students about the reason why we celebrate Christmas? Because of the values that this secular nation was founded on. And is that troublesome? Not to all the people who do not believe in your God.
The fact that we celebrate Christmas to such an extent to celebrate and glorify a religious event speaks for itself. I agree, Christianity is deeply rooted into the foundation of this country, but I refuse to let it define us, past, present, or future.
You see, separation of Church and state is not only a one-way street, it’s been weaponized and aimed directly at the Church. (Source)
I can see how people may believe this to be true. But the only reason why it would ever seem like this is because the influence and huge base the Church already has in American culture.
But to the right-wing of American culture and politics, I want you to remember that there is no mention of God in the American Constitution, and the mention of the “Creator” in the Declaration does not define American government—it’s not law, it’s a document that proclaims independence. The basis of American government does not endorse any given religion, in fact, it ensures that all religions should and would have somewhat of an equal footing and that there would be a freedom of such action.
Bring religion back into schools? They never left. I’m sure the Christian Right will be surprised to learn that hey!—you’re not forbidden from praying in schools. They’re just no longer state-sponsored prayers. You can’t force anyone to pray in schools.
I actually find myself agreeing with the right in many cases, especially when it comes to meddling with the values that are core to them—but I always end up feeling disgusted and against their arguments because they love to blame the left, blame the people, blame the direction that this country is headed in, and refuse to budge or compromise on anything.
And when you root your explanations on the direction this country needs to go in a religious text, my fellow citizen, you have a problem (not directed to Huckabee but the right in general).
Just because gay marriage is not proscribed in the Bible does not mean you have the right to prevent people who are in love to get married. Marriage has its root from religion, but civil marriage is a state problem, not religious. You cannot prevent a woman from getting an abortion if she so desires because your religion does not permit them.
Simply because you do not believe in something, it does not mean you can prevent others from believing it or acting upon it.
Likewise, if the right does not favor Obamacare, they can try to get rid of it through political channels, but if they fail, there’s no “opt-out.”
The separation of church and state is not anti-religious, not anti-Christian at all. It is simply giving room for other religions to actually thrive in this country, and making sure that the government has no part in favoring one over another.
This is about you (the right) trying to influence me. And I refuse to accept. I respect your postion, I respect your values, and I share many of them. But I adamantly refuse to try and influence other’s choices in life because of what I believe in. You shout that we have freedoms in this country, and that we do—so start acting upon your words.
Thus I want to see the separation of church and state more clearly defined in American government and politics. I want to be able to live a life that I believe in, not one that someone else believes in. I want to see a country that is defined by secular decisions, rational decisions, decisions based on life experience or historical or cultural context and not religious.
I said something not too long ago not in favor of allowing religion in the academic curriculum:
Because if we include religion—I guess we should be teaching kids all forms of religion, Christianity to Islam, Buddhism to Judaism, and also Atheism as to not favor one practice over another. So God’s not the only one “not allowed.”
And that’s what this discussion for me has been about. Reminding the right that this country has more than one religion, that there is more than one set of values or belief that can potentially define the “average” American citizen, and that it is not correct or “right” simply based upon a religious text.
So let’s become a country where we can move on from this argument and begin to tackle issues that are more pressing and that matter. Stop inhibiting the freedoms of others because they do not align with yours.
This country was founded upon the principles that everyone has the “unalienable rights” to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Let’s give everyone that chance. That begins with the separation of religion and government.
This is by far one of my favorite songs of all time, besides the fact it is also part of one of my favorite movies of all time (Notting Hill). There are a few versions of this song, but this version is by far my favorite.
“Left is the direction that is between 180 degrees and 360 degrees of yourself whereas right is the opposite direction where it is between 0 and 180 degrees whilst facing any direction.”—@sydneysideroyce, solving the dilemma on how to describe/define left v. right.
It’s an interesting, quite gut wrenching feeling thinking about your own death, thinking about not only the moment in the future in which you lose complete consciousness but the moment in which you cease to exist on this planet.
It is said that one can overcome death by accomplishing something great, by becoming a figure in history or a cultural icon—by being important enough in your life that you’ll be remembered for some time after you die. I think that thought is simply a load of crap.
You die. Your heart stops beating, you stop breathing, the blood stops flowing, your brain shuts down, and you’re gone. That’s not the scary part though.
I fear the loss of consciousness I fear the sudden absence of my being, of my self, of who I am, of what I am, of everything I think I’ve worked for in this life and everything that I think is important to me or the simple fact that I could once think but no longer—that I’d lose this person that has come to be “Alton,” this person that has formed a certain form of perception towards others and to myself that suddenly ceases to exist. It isn’t the loss of the physical that’s frightening—it’s what we can’t really see that death steals from us that is by far the scariest.
It sucks, I guess, that I don’t believe in the afterlife, I don’t believe in heaven, I don’t believe in where others believe our “souls,” this consciousness and this essence of our being and who we are, go. The lack of certainty of the existence of such a place brings about a lack of comfort and security in such a place.
Take a look in the mirror. Do it.
What do you see? You see a face, supported by a neck, attached to shoulders that signal remember the start of your chest and body, you see a physical, carnal, corporal being in front of you. You see yourself.
But that isn’t who you are. Stare into your own eyes for a bit, please. Study your face. Study every wrinkle—or if you’re lucky, the lack thereof, study the way your eyes slope and the way your eyebrows curve. Study the size of your nose, just how many inches tall or wide it may be, study the width of your mouth, how thick your lips are, and just how your chin tapers down and rounds off your face.
It’s not the same face that you noticed five minutes ago, isn’t it? I find that with every careful examination of my face and my facial structure, once I step back, I have a split second where I fail to recognize who is staring back at me. No, I know it’s me I see in that mirror but goddammit, it just looks so foreign for that second.
This process is easier on other people. Our brains supposedly recognize people by certain major features and not by detail—so find someone around you and study their face for a bit. Your mother, for example. Imagine her in your mind first, if you would. You know what she looks like, don’t you? Yes. An image forms in your mind.
Now go find her. Stare at her. I’m sure she won’t mind (it might help to explain what you’re doing, however). The same thing—study the wrinkles, her facial structure, how far apart her eyes are or how tall the bridge of her nose is, all the way down to the point you notice that little freckle on her chin you never saw before.
Step back, blink a couple times, and look at her again. She’s now a completely different person, isn’t she?
She’s not the same “mom” that you first formed an image of in your mind, but then again, she is.
My point wasn’t for you to waste your time and just stare at yourself and your mother for fifteen minutes. My point was that although the physical image of a person may change, the essential picture of who they are are implanted in your memory—and they’re usually slightly different and off from what they actually look like. It’s that essential essence, let’s say, that forms a person. Not every detail of their physical being, but who they seem like to you.
And that physical being dies. It withers away, sometimes left in the ground to slowly decompose or burned into ashes (more respectable, I believe). And what is left? What is left is that every essential essence, that most basic image of that person that is trapped—there’s no where for it to go, a soul that is trapped in the physical prison that is a human being. It may seem odd for me to add a more tangible view of the soul in this “basic image” or “essential essence” picture of a person, but I believe that it just goes to show that even in our conscious lives we don’t associate people or even ourselves with the entirety of our physical being, but more so with the “soul,” with the consciousness within.
Think of a loved one now, someone who you were close with that has passed away. First off, my sincere apologies for your loss. No matter how long it’s been—whether it’s only been a month or even a decade, the pain never really goes away, does it? You simply learn how to live with it and incorporate it into your everyday life. That’s interesting, isn’t it? That even though their physical being is no longer with us, we still have an image of them in our memories associated with what they meant to us or who they were to us.
Now do the same thing you did for yourself and your mother. This time, unfortunately, you no longer have a present physical being to go to study. You have to rely on your memory. Can you remember every detail? Can you remember the placement of their eyes or the way their wrinkles or lines moved on their faces? Can you remember if they had long eyelashes or short eyelashes, or if when they smiled, if they showed one row of teeth or two?
You can’t remember, can you?
It’s exactly that which we lose when we die, however, in a slightly different context—for ourselves. Other people will remember me, I’m sure, for decades after I die if I’m lucky, but I won’t remember myself. All of what has composed of who I am just vanishes—those neuron connections in my brain stop and I lose it all. I lose that basic image that I have of myself and of who I am in an instant.
Now I just want you to think about death a bit holistically. You will die, unless there’s some magical technological breakthough in the coming century, and your conciousness will be basically deleted by your own body off of this universe. People tend to think of death in a more physical sense, with the whole “your heart stops beating, you stop breathing, the blood stops flowing, your brain shuts down” bit. But now I want you to think about it in terms of your conciousness, and the loss of that.
Will we even know we died? Will we even know which breath will be our last breath or which blink would be the last? Would we know that the moment we close our eyes, that we will no longer be a presence on this earth? Will we know? Will we even f*cking know that we don’t exist anymore? I guess this is life’s cruel revenge over whatever we do in our lives, by ripping everything we believe in out from under us.
Some have characterized life to be one great lie leading up to the great truth of death. I am in agreement with this thought. Since we all die, are any of our lives really worth it? Or even worth anything?
You see, this is what I fear. I do not fear the physical manisfestations of death, in fact, I don’t even fear the fact that I will no longer be on this planet and that I will cease to exist. But I fear not knowing that. I fear losing my perception, I fear losing this conciousness, I fear not knowing.
I fear not knowing.
I fear the blackness, or white, or blue, or colorless (so black? white?) void that comes afterwards. Actually, it’s unfair to even say that. There’s no characterization of what comes after, because it doesn’t exist, or if it does, we have no idea what it will be.
I fear who I am disseminating into nothing, undoing years and years of building and construction to only disappear.
I guess we’ll see.
Or… probably not.
Excuse my horrific grammar and poor word choice… my brain wasn’t exactly functioning well.
There are a few big dates coming up: today’s Thanksgiving, my 18th is in a week or so, and the world’s about to end at the end of this year. So I thought it would be worth summing up the many thanks that have to all that has helped shape the last eighteen years of my life, in ten points. Cue all the corny shit.
For getting me home for Thanksgiving and not having outrageously expensive airfare so I could afford to even be in my own room right now,
9. The Food Network and HGTV
For teaching me how great good food is and how fun it is to cook; for sparking my initial interest in design—good design, I mean,
8. AID Summer Program
For showing me that the world is so much bigger than what I’ve seen up until now, and how good of a life I have,
7. Langer’s Pastrami
For bringing me closer with some awesome friends and leaving me with a memory (and a craving) of something great here in LA,
For giving me a cultural identity and producing music and television that makes me feel at home wherever I am,
5. The Trustworthy
For listening to me in the last eighteen years and letting me know that I don’t move forward alone and that who I am is defined only by myself,
4. Georgetown University
For rejecting me so I could end up choosing Wesleyan—by far one of the best choices I’ve ever made in my life,
For reminding me constantly that one battle I want to fight in this life is bad design and for exposing me to graphic design,
2. Rose Hills
For keeping my grandmother grounded to this Earth and giving me a place to visit her,
For always being there to support me and to have raised me into who I’ve become—something that I wouldn’t want to change for the world.
“Finally, as we navigate the fiscal cliff, we should think carefully before subtracting any discretionary spending for public education. College enrollment may now be more tied to parental income than aptitude. If we want to get beyond a 2% economy, we’ll have to ensure that more than just the 1% can succeed.”—Rana Foroohar, “The Risks of Reviving a Revived Economy,” Time.
The usage of the term “students of color” has been, increasingly, misused, misrepresented, and misunderstood. It is incredibly frustrating when one talks about “diversity” and uses the term “students of color” to only refer to black (and sometimes, latino) students. In fact, it’s not just frustrating. It’s annoying, disappointing, but above all, alienating.
The color of my skin is yellow.
It is far from being white.
I am a student of color.
This is not just a problem that I’ve come across/noticed here at Wesleyan, but it is significantly more obvious and prominent here, especially in such a “politically correct” atmosphere. Whenever the white majority or the black minority uses the term “students of color,” or “persons of color” in the outside world, they always seem to forget and not realize that Asians are also “of color.”
Chances are, in any event you may have used this term, you probably weren’t referring to Asians either. It’s fine, I get it. It’s better to say “______ of color” instead of “black” or “latino” because it seems more politically correct, it seems a bit more broad and “inclusive,” and it provides a distinct and prominent distinction with whites.
But dammit, stop. Stop now.
I’ve spoken up in settings various times here on campus whenever I hear the term being used incorrectly—and excessively. It has gotten to a point where every time I hear it being used or said, not only do I automatically see my hands start shaking from anger, I become more and more disillusioned with the climate of this campus.
There’s many reasons, people say, that Asians usually aren’t considered “of color.” It’s because our typical income range is higher than whites in this country. It’s because we “don’t face discrimination” and that we “blend in well” with the white majority. It’s because the term “______ of color” has “evolved” and “adapted” a new meaning.
I’m calling out bullshit.
I can personally say that all those above points that I’ve heard said to me to be completely false, both in my own experience and that of my family. Just because I’m Asian doesn’t mean that I’m well-to-do. If socio-economic status is what determines if you’re “of color” or not, that people better go back to kindergarten and learn that color is a visual thing, not monetary.
But the point that by far infuriates me the most and to no end is the notion that Asians not only are not “persons of color,” but perhaps that they never really have been—and that the term was always for people of color… except Asians.
I beg people to remember that the United States has also been highly discriminatory and racist towards people of yellow skin in our history. We closed our borders to people from Asia in the early 1900s and we “shipped” people from China to build the railroads that are hailed to connect the country from sea to freaking shining sea. Why, I loudly ask, have we forgotten what the Asian “race” has been through in this country? We’re always so loudly reminded the strife and difficulties of other peoples (honestly, I believe that’s a good thing as well), but what about me? What about my ancestors? What about those who contributed so much to this “great” nation—but have been forgotten?
I highly respect everyone of any racial background—and I whole-heartedly believe that every person, regardless of the color of their skin, deserve an equal footing in this nation, and deserve the same opportunities that the majority enjoys—and for everyone who believes that that problem is a thing of a past, open your eyes. Discrimination and racism is way too rampant in this country and the underlying culture in America really needs to evolve.
But my point here is to remind everyone that I, as an Asian-American, am a person of color.
So please, I beg you to watch out for this—if you hear the term “students of color” or “persons of color” being used incorrectly, politely point it out and change it. Change it for yourselves, if your definition is erroneous. I’m not saying that what you feel/what you think a person of color is may be wrong, but if it doesn’t include Asians, then I’m sorry, it is. It’s not inclusive, and simply ill-defined.
I chose Wesleyan because of its image as the “Diversity University” and the acceptance the population here has for all facets of a community. I chose Wesleyan because I was led to believe as a pre-frosh that Wesleyan is a place where diversity would be “post-problematic.”
Disappointingly, I now feel that I was misled. The last few weeks on campus has, to an extent, completely disillusioned me to what Wesleyan strives to be and what it supposedly is as an institution. I’ve tried to put myself in a position where I could be on the forefront of solving these issues, and the following is just a collection of my thoughts.
The issue isn’t diversity, per se. The issue is the way diversity is perceived, the way diversity is achieved, and the way in which we, as a community, hold diversity to be. Diversity is not formed solely on the basis of race, gender, socio-economic status, sexuality, or cultural background. Granted, diversity today may be characterized and categorized into these groups, but those should not be the mediums in which we see diversity.
As a term in and of itself, “diversity” needs to be redefined. Personally, diversity and inclusion is not two issues—but one issue. Diversity entails the necessity and need to have inclusion embedded into the basic definition of the word. Diversity is not just what we think, what we see, or what we want, but it must be the way we live, the way we think and the way we think.
This is the definition of diversity that I believe is worth striving for: inclusion. We talk about inclusion and diversity, we form a Committee for Inclusion and Diversity, but the two terms are, in my vocabulary, fairly interchangeable and completely inseparable. To have diversity is to have inclusion—you cannot have true “diversity” without inclusion. But that is simply my definition of diversity. Another person’s definition may be different, and it should never be anyone’s task to outright define “diversity”—only its ambiguity can probably properly define all that diversity entails.
Diversity, at this point, not just on this campus but also across the country, has been forced into a specific, biased, difficult definition that leads us only farther from the “diversity” we aim to achieve. The current idea of “diversity” funnels groups of peoples further into their respective groups, instead of bringing them together with the rest of the community—no matter what this group may be.
And that’s perhaps the biggest problem that diversity faces—one-dimensionality. The biggest fear I personally have when I come across issues of diversity is the possibility of one-dimensionality, that is, where there is only one dominant voice in the majority of the discourse. No matter from what perspective, it’s always important, for me, to consider all sides of an argument, whether there may be only two or even ten.
I just want to point out that most of these views are mine, and while this is the position from which I plan on trying to improve inclusion and diversity on this campus, it is not the position of the entire Committee on Inclusion and Diversity—if there is only one view, I must say that sounds pretty un-inclusive to me.
I remember a time when I hated you with a passion. I hated the way you walked, talked, dressed, sat, or even smiled. I couldn’t stand it, I felt so uncomfortable to have been associated with you in any way or form. And yet, right now, I miss you.
I miss the certainty you used to have about your life, how sure you were about “what you are going to do when you grow up.” I miss how much control you had over your life comparatively to now, how much you could actually dictate who you were. I miss how your dreams actually seemed feasible—they’re not anymore.
It hasn’t been very long, but I still feel like it’s been ages since I’ve had to say goodbye to you, frankly although it was out of my own will and desire, I wish I hadn’t. I want to go back, and redo everything—as far back as I can. There’s so many mistakes—tiny ones and more unforgivable ones—that tear me up inside every day that I want to fix, but it really is too late or too great to change.
I wonder what you would have thought about me if you’d known me then, back when you still existed. I wonder if you’d agree or disagree with my character, personality, and quite simply, even my manner of eating whatever and not caring about my weight anymore. I really can’t say if you’d agree or not—I’ve done everything we had planned to change, I’ve done everything we said we’d make different.
But then why, why do I feel so unsatisfied with it all?
I must say, old me, for a while, the plan to reinvent us was going very well. I loved it—I stripped away bad parts of our personalities and reinforced the good. I tried to be more confident and collected, and I tried to make sure that I would be able to handle things by myself for once. But I just haven’t gotten used to it, and as time has gone on, I’m starting to forget who I am, who I once was, and who I wanted and want to be.
This isn’t to say I haven’t been genuine—that’s all I’ve ever been. I try to be as honest as I can and try to present whatever I say as best as I can, whether I’m just complimenting someone or arguing for something. But it feels different, for me, personally, and I’m not all to used to it yet.
But you know what’s the scariest to me, old me? Is that you’re still very much alive back home. I knew I’d never be able to strip you away completely—but now I feel like I’m dealing with two sides of me, two disparate halves that sometimes clash with each other—you’re more emotional and weak than I am now, and when you take over, damn, my day just goes to hell.
I guess I’m stuck at this point, and there isn’t much I can do but to continue pushing forward. And I will, like I’ve always had in the past when things constantly just went in the wrong direction. And I refuse, absolutely refuse, to not let things go the way I planned/wanted them to go this time around.
There are still times when I catch myself reverting to things that you would have done, such as be clingy, complain all the time, and abuse the patience of some friends and make them listen to all the sh*t you or I say. But every time I catch myself doing anything like that I make an extra effort in improving the way I handle things. And I sure believe I have been improving.
And I guess, I always felt like the jump to college would change things drastically, and that “this time, it’ll be different.” Well, the changes were just not was great as I had hope they’d be and the “different”-ness of the situation way to similar to what I was in before.
I am still trying to get the hang of things, especially this whole living-on-my-own (in some senses) deal. I’d never thought being away from home would be so difficult, and I’d never thought I’d nearly stoop the point of actually asking my mom to pay for ridiculously-priced airfare to just go home for a weekend.
Well, I’ve decided against that, just so I’d get the full experience on being alone for this larger amount of time. But I am already counting down the days until I fly back to LA (55 days!).
But hey old me, there’s some things that we still have in common: I still do find solace in the ability to transfer my thoughts to my keyboard, and to essentially be able to see my thoughts before me, neatly typed out, on my computer screen. In the jungle of thoughts that sums up to be my mind, it’s frankly quite refreshing to see them splashed out and forming a more coherent mess for me to try and understand.
And I guess I’m still prone to over-thinking, prone to taking the romanticized view of a situation and trying to be optimistically realistic, but one interesting that I have noticed that’s different from you and me—my inherent pessimistic views on things have changed a bit. From where you used to think that nothing could possibly end happily, I now catch myself daydreaming of (unrealistic) solutions that would really make me happy.
That’s something you never did.
But I guess you’re not really just you and I’m not really just me—you’ll always be apart of me no matter what I do with my life, and I really am thankful to how you’ve helped me become who I am—but the job isn’t over yet.
Ten Reasons I'd Vote for Obama If I Could (But I Can't)
Watching these last two presidential debates as well as the vice presidential debate has only further cemented my support for the reelection of Obama (and Biden, of course, who can possibly forget Joe). Here are some ten reasons why I would vote for him if I could (but I can’t, because I don’t turn eighteen until the end of the year):
He has actually made some great accomplishments during his first term. This is something that both conservatives and liberals alike have not given him simply enough for—Obama’s foreign policy decision have been, from my perspective, genuinely good decisions. Some examples? Bin Laden, improving relations with Russia, and pulling out of Iraq. How has he succeeded domestically? Well he has saved our economy from falling into another Great Depression (which the conservatives keep jabbing him for failing to bring the economy back to its heights—Obama is trying. He’s at least saved it from falling more than it would have), he’s gotten rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and basically single handedly reformed our healthcare system. More on that later.
Obamacare. Alright, this is a tricky topic. I’m not too thrilled with all that Obamacare is, but I’m glad that Obama’s trying. Compared to other OECD nations, our public healthcare system is one of the worst—and most people don’t have healthcare because it is too expensive. The Affordable Care Act aims to change that. Obamacare is working to extend healthcare to most of the general public, and although an individual mandate may seem like not a great idea—at least people get covered someway, somehow. It’s simple—almost all comparable first-world countries have universal healthcare. Frankly, Obamacare isn’t even close—it’s not all government issued healthcare, it just pushes people to actually buy healthcare from private insurance companies.
Obama supports the middle class. The middle class is shrinking. That is an undeniable fact at this point in time—the wealth gap is ever expanding, and while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, the people in the middle are stretched and pushed in one direction or another. Everything that Romney has said so far about helping the middle class lacks substance—anything that might actually help the middle class would mostly be indirect. Obama is making a genuine effort to support the middle class, as he has already been trying to do in this term.
He’s doing right on immigration issues. Obama is embracing the truth that America is a nation of immigrants. No undocumented immigrant in the States is here with any intention of undermining the American economy—they are all here to make a better life for themselves, and their families. Obama is able to walk the fine line between supporting these immigrants—to and extent—and also tightening border security. He’s work to make immigrating legally to the US more streamlined and straightforward, and his support of the DREAM Act that will allow undocumented youth to actually have a chance to remain American (since many of them have been here most of their lives), is not just a good political move, but ethical and moral. Romney just wants to, essentially, get rid of illegal immigrants.
Obamacare? Please. Greenbama. Obama is a supporter of the environment—Romney has jabbed at Obama many times for not supporting the pipeline coming down for Canada, but why hasn’t Obama done so? Environmental concerns. Obama supports a mandatory cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. He has increased funding for national parks and forests as well as the EPA.
Gay rights. Obama supports equal rights for all people, no matter their choice in who they love. I’m not exactly sure what there is to say here, except that Obama wins big on this issue. The government has absolutely no right restricting the liberties between a same-sex couple based on the fact that they are of the same sex. That’s not the government’s job—the government’s job is to represent the interests of all parties, including a sizable gay population in this nation, and to make sure that they have the same rights heterosexual couples do.
Abortion. Joe Biden completely stole my heart the other night, and there’s nothing I believe in more than this following quote:
"With regard to—with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a—what we call de fide. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and—I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman… I do not believe that—that we have a right to tell other people… [that women, that] they can’t control their body."
It is absolutely not in the government’s right to prevent a woman from getting an abortion. Whether or not we believe this in our own daily lives is another matter—we don’t have the right, at all, to tell someone else they can’t.
Obama plays nice with women. Simply put, Obama-Biden supports women’s rights, equality in the workplace—okay, sure, who doesn’t support that, right? But Obama is actually doing something about getting rid of this glass ceiling. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to work to get rid of wage discrimination, and has worked to make sure women small business owners have sufficient funds to have a fighting chance.
He says what he means. Okay, I was actually really nervous when Biden kept insisting during the veep debate that we “will” pull out “by” 2014, because it certainly establishes something to quote later on in time—but generally, when Obama says something, or that he’ll do something, he’ll actually do it. It may not be as easy as he had hoped or will take more time, but he is a man of his word. He has largely accomplished many of what he set out to do in 2008—it’s just that the biggest issue, the economy, is the tricky work-in-progress. He stands by his words, and doesn’t flip back and forth like Romney so prominently has.
Obama supports whole-heartedly (with money) education. Obama has already: reformed No Child Left Behind, promoted pre-school education, gave schools incentives to lessen the number of dropouts, and simplified the financial-aid request process. Romney thinks the federal government should have less involvement in education—sure, leave it to the states, and we’ll eventually see an even more uneven playing field and different standards levels. America is already behind. We need to catch up. Obama supports the maths and sciences, and he has been constantly advocating for the need for more Americans to enter higher education.
I’ve always been fairly liberal, but during this election, I actually paid close attention to what the Republicans were saying (I actually quite liked Jon Huntsman)—and I’m fairly disgusted with the GOP. That’s not to say the Democrats have won my heart over—there’s a lot of things they can do better—but at this moment in time, the Obama-Biden ticket is what this country needs.
I didn’t even spend a bullet point talking about the economy (until now). Why? Romney and his five-point plan seems like utter useless crap to me—there’s no substance. As usual. He says he’s going to do this, this, and this, and says he’s going to do that by doing this, this, and this, but really doesn’t have enough to back it all up and be truly convincing.
It’s not even a matter of fact that I lean Democratic—it’s that the state that the Republican Party is in now would only lead to more divisive politics if they were to be in power, and to put this country in an even more polarized state than ever before.
I would (it makes me really angry that I can’t vote) vote for Obama. #gobama
Living in the LA area, smog was a normal thing, so night skies would actually be dark, lit up only by the artificial lights of the city.
It feels weird to think that although I know they’re up there, I’ve never actually seen a sky full of stars before. Sure, back in LA, a few would be bright enough to penetrate the layer of smog, but here—here, the skies are clear and clean enough at night that I can see stars.
Now that I think about it I acted pretty ridiculously when I realized that—I looked up and just stared at the sky, whipped out my phone and opened Google Sky Maps, and began point out random constellations and stars. I remembered my favorite quote (my high school senior quote, in fact), “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” I’ve forgotten how true that is, figuratively and literally.
I honestly thought so much would change here—and they did, but not always for the positive. I feel like as if the honeymoon phase of coming into college has ended for me, and old feelings and thoughts from my past are creeping back to haunt me. I thought I had gotten over some residual feelings, but I guess I never actually did, and I never realized that until one interesting night at three in the morning.
I’ve tried so hard to control my emotions and let my brain control who I am, but every time my emotions get in the way I fall into a slight sad phase, which initiates my ritual of obsessively rearranging and cleaning my room. I know why I do that—because I feel like that I can actually be in control of something, complete control over how clean or neat my room is, unlike the emotions that I feel.
And it’s true that I’ve never been more “myself,” here, at Wes, I’m more me than I’ve ever actually been. I’ve said that in a previous post, but now I’ve begun to notice it. I talk a bit differently, I walk a bit differently, and I face problems in a different light. I’m just not sure if they’re all good changes.
But I’ve tried to reinvent myself, to become a different, new, better person, and at this point, I feel like I’ve failed, to an extent. I’m falling back to some old habits, and letting random feelings, especially the feeling of being forgotten, consume me just like they did before.
I think I just need some time away to clear up my thoughts. Going into New York City for Fall Break should help.
I’ve decided to revisit a topic that I tackled one year ago, grappling with the ideas of self, death, fear, and the essence of living—I wanted to see how my perspective has changed over the course of this year.
The original post is hidden somewhere in the interwebs, and yet although I want to know how my perspective has changed, I don’t plan on finding it.
The greatest hazard of all – losing one’s self – can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.
The loss of one’s self is not simply the loss of your self-identity, an identity formed as a product of socialization and your upbringing, your surroundings, and social circumstances. The loss of one’s self is so much more than that—it’s more than simply losing your direction in life, but to have lost that direction. It’s more than being confused, but to have a perpetual confusion, and it’s so much more than the sense of defeat—it’s not just when you throw your hands in the air and proclaim you’ve given up, but when you wake up and realize that there is only utter hopelessness facing you today, and in the future.
Kierkegaard has a point. No other loss in the world can occur so subtly, so gently, and so quietly that we ourselves, the ones lost, may not even notice we have lost our “self” until it is way too late. The loss of self may come early in life, when there seemingly is so much in store for us, but there is no glimmer of true hope in existence at all. Or, the loss may come when we are in the later years of life, after all has been said and done—and nothing more is said, and there lies nothing more to do.
To characterize what this loss means to me in more simple terms, losing one’s self would be when I have completely forgotten the purpose I set out for myself in this life, when the people I care for and the people I’ve worked so hard to love and protect leave, when the reality of death and degeneration that is set in store for me becomes all too close and all too real.
That moment will be the most difficult moment we face in life. I think it has been characterized in many forms, ranging from the less serious mid-life crisis (a more premature case), to the loss of our memory (a more delayed case). When, or more accurately, if we ever notice that we are slowly losing our self, we would be considered lucky—there’s probably still something we can do to re-find our self—it wouldn’t be an easy road (quite frankly, there would be no road), but altogether still possible. When we notice it way too late in our lives, or if we never lose it, life claims victory and we are its victims.
But I’m not concerned with the aftereffect or the aftermath of losing one’s self, I’m significantly more concerned with the life we have before that moment and how I can avoid losing my “self.” I don’t believe there is any one thing that we can do alone to prevent the loss of self. The only preventive vaccine, I would say, would be people. The people we love, the people we surround ourselves with, the people we draw a strong emotional connection with—they are the only ones that can keep us from falling into that deep abyss or, possibly, pull us out.
That’s the importance of family. Of friends, of relationships, friendships, courtships, any damn -ship you can think of (okay, I’m exaggerating), but it is essentially these connections that help us form and hold this sense of self that we subconsciously hold very dear to. Death, loss (not of the self), pain, troubles, difficulties, and failures are all consequences of life, the “price of admission we all must pay.” *** It’s what we have to accept and face and deal with in order to be exchanged with this gift of life—no, scratch that—life isn’t a gift. The “gift of life” is complete, utter bullshit. We pay for life. We pay with the grief and sorrow we face at some point in our lives, we pay with the obstacles we have to overcome, and ultimately, we pay life with our own life and die.
But the people we love help make this experience bearable, and possibly, worth it. It’s not that we don’t ever want to live life alone at all, we can’t. It’s not possibly to live a proper, good (up for debate on the definition of those terms) life without having people in them. Connections can be drawn from acquaintances to a deep, enamored love, but they are connections nevertheless and there will always be and always have been people subtly changing and charting the way we live our lives and influence us to follow a certain path.
I’ve said in the past that I’m not afraid of death as much as I am afraid of seeing the people around me, the people that are important to me, and the people that matter to me die (die in this case goes for leaving/stepping out of my life as well as in its literal sense). I can barely handle change—I’m still learning, but the sheer idea that someone can step out of my life forever after I’ve had such a strong connection with them, whether it be platonic or familial, astonishes me and strikes fear deep within me.
There are holes in my heart (look at me being all poetic and mushy) that I know are empty and won’t be filled for a long time. They are the result of different people stepping out of my life, and while some holes are bigger than others, they all have an effect on who I am as a person and who I will be. They’ve all played a role in my life, some fairly significant ones, And although their absence only reminds me of the brevity of life and the very fine line we all walk on and balance ourselves upon, they also remind me of the importance people can have on my life and how I really did need them to become who I have been.
Sitting here, thousands of miles away from home, I’ve never felt so much like myself than I’ve ever felt. I’ve never felt the absence of needing to prove something to someone, to be someone I’m not, or to be afraid to be who I am. I can only credit those who’ve left those holes for shaping me to be the best person I can be and to be someone I can actually be proud of. I’ve fallen into using a ridiculous amount of “I’s” in this paragraph, but I guess this re-visiting post comes at a pretty awesome time—I’ve finally found the clarity in the sense of my “self” that I’ve been searching for.
The last time I posted something, I was sitting in the comfort of my room at home, waiting for the time to come to leave for the airport to fly to Connecticut.
Now, I’m sitting here in my dorm room in the Butterfields (lovingly called the Butts), and have finally found time to sit down and think.
It’s been a heck of a week and a half since I last posted. I’d say it all moved too fast, but it was an experience that was probably once-in-a-lifetime. Departing for LAX on Monday afternoon was seriously one of the more difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I tried to stop thinking to much, but I just kept telling myself, “This is the last time you’ll be driving down Baldwin Avenue for quite some time,” or other things of a similar nature.
But of course, no trip can possibly ever go smoothly, as we hit a huge traffic jam on the 710 (a tour bus burned to the ground), and my flight to Chicago (to connect) was delayed. It really only added to my anxiousness and anticipation to arrive in Hartford.
The next few days just flew by. One second, I’m in Bed Bath and Beyond with my mom picking up some stuff I had ordered, and the next, I’m in the car on the way to Middletown. I have to say, seeing Wesleyan again is what really kicked in the sense of nervousness and when I began to feel butterflies in my stomach.
I don’t think I ever said a complete, fitting goodbye to my mom who accompanied me here, or at least, not as complete as I had wished. But I honestly think I was too afraid to do so. I could barely bear the idea of saying goodbye, which would mean reaffirming the idea that now, at least for the next four months, I’ll be here without any family.
Nevertheless, orientation was a blast. Granted, there were a few seminars that I felt dragged on a bit too long and a few things that they repeated to us too many times (yes, I know, rape is a bad thing and under 21s shouldn’t drink), but it was great meeting new people, making new friends, and enjoying this newfound sense of independence I now hold.
I must say, college classes are amazing (at least here at Wes), I love all four of my classes (well, except one of them), and the last two days have been great experiences for me in the college classroom. I already know the workload might take some getting used to, but I think a couple trips to Olin Library a week should do the trick.
College, to me, was meant to be a complete fresh start. All the things that went wrong for me in high school, I promised myself I wouldn’t make the same mistakes. Wesleyan, to me, was meant to be a clean slate where I could reinvent myself to be someone I really wanted to be.