On Black Lives, Privilege, and Systemic Racism

First of all, lets just get this out of the way, I am white. Actually, to be even more specific, I am a white, non-disabled, straight, upper-middle class female. So, on practically all accounts, I fit perfectly into the cookie-cutter categories that society has deemed “normal.”

Let me clarify one thing — I am not ashamed of being “normal.” I like who I am, but it would be ridiculous for me to try to deny the privilege that my “normal”  status grants me in society.

I don’t want to feel guilty for being white, just like I don’t want anyone else to feel guilty for being black, red, yellow, green, purple, etc. However, what I do feel guilty about is spending over half of my life silently perpetuating the systemic racism that pervades our society by accepting my privilege without any consideration for those who couldn’t share in it.

That’s something else we should probably touch on: privilege.
And, more specifically, white privilege.

**No, white privilege is not a myth or a scheme or a guilt trip; It is an actual real-life thing, and it is EVERYWHERE.

White privilege is being able to go to the store and buy “skin-color” Band Aids that actually match your skin tone. White privilege is being able to turn on the TV and see a wide array of people who look like you.
White privilege is getting pulled over by a police officer and not having to worry about being attacked.
White privilege is going to an interview and knowing that your name won’t be the deciding factor of whether or not you get the job.

White privilege is my being able to write this article and know that even though some people will disagree, they won’t base their opinion of everything I say on the color of my skin.

I could seriously keep writing about white privilege for the next week, but for the sake of my sanity (and yours) I’ll move on.

***(If you want a full description of what white privilege is, check out White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.)***

This brings me to Black Lives Matter.

Let me go ahead and answer the question that many of you are probably thinking right now: yes, all lives matter. no black lives do not matter more than any other lives.

However, in our society, black lives are undervalued and black people are under represented. The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t about proving that black lives are worth more than any other lives; Black Lives Matter is about saying that black lives matter as much as all other lives.

Yeah, that probably sounds obvious to you. After all, you’re not a member of the KKK, right? You have a black friend, right? you’re not a racist, right? Martin Luther King Jr. is on of your role models, right?

Good, all of this is a great start to ending racial inequality, but it is just the beginning. Just because you aren’t actively racist, doesn’t mean that you aren’t still a part of the problem.

The only way to truly end racial inequality is to be actively anti-racist.

However, it’s really difficult to fight racism when you don’t realize what forms it takes in our modern society. So, lets take a quick sec to talk about systemic racism.

No, racism is no longer about having to sit at the back of the bus like Rosa Parks. No, it isn’t enforced by Jim Crow laws. It is deeply and systematically imbedded in our society in ways that often go unnoticed by those of us who have the privilege of remain unaffected by it.

Systemic Racism is the fact that the black unemployment rate is almost always twice the white unemployment rate. And, before you explain this away by assuming that people of color are just less motivated or less qualified for employment, this same ratio goes for black people with college degrees vs. white people with college degrees.

Systemic Racism is the fact that black people are charged an average $700 dollars more that white people when buying cars, and the fact that when they drive their cars they are twice as likely to get pulled over as white people.

Systemic Racism is the fact that black people are four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, despite the fact that marijuana is used equally by blacks and whites.

Google the phrase “systemic racism” and you can see for yourself just how prominent this issue is in our society.

It isn’t enough to be “colorblind.” For one, if you claim that you are truly blind to the color of peoples’ skin you either have an actual medical condition or you are lying.

It’s natural to judge people based on their appearances, and in moderation it can even be a good thing. Seriously, it is basic self-preservation to be aware of your surroundings.

Of course there are some crappy black people; there are crappy white people too. There are crappy cops and crappy lawyers and crappy construction workers. What we need to recognize is that people aren’t crappy because their skin is a certain color, or because they have a certain job. People are just crappy because we are people and the world isn’t a perfect place.

Systemic racism will stop when (and only when) white people start taking responsibility for our privilege. When we all stop assuming that the amount of melanin in someone’s skin somehow dictates their behavior. When we stop trying to explain away the injustice in our society and actually start trying to correct it.

Systemic racism will stop when we stop picking sides between All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter, start recognizing that they are the same exact thing, and unite as human beings to combat inequality.

On Trump, Skittles, and Refugees

“If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you three would kill you, would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”

This is the tweet that Donald Trump Jr. sent out on Monday, and there are more than a few things wrong with it. After I saw the tweet I was shocked by the demeaning ( and not to mention inaccurate) message that the image conveyed, but, then again, I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

After all, what can we really expect from the same campaign that has likened Mexican immigrants to rapists, made fun of a disabled reporter, proclaimed that veterans who are captured during war are not true war heroes, and faulted a female news anchor for having a period.

The list of the Trump Campaign’s trespasses could go on for days but back to the issue at hand.

First and foremost, Donald Trump Jr.’s tweet it is severely dehumanizing. I mean seriously, is it really that hard to muster up the common decency required to refer to people as people instead of food?? I don’t care how good skittles are, if somebody ever negatively referred to me as a poisonous candy (or a peanut — shoutout to Mike Huckabee) I would be pissed.

And, can we just think about how bug that bowl of skittles would have to be for this analogy to be even remotely accurate? All it takes is some basic math to understand how ridiculous this tweet really is.

*Side note: I haven’t used skittles to do math since I was in the second grade learning how to add and subtract, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

According to the Migrant Policy Institute, the US has admitted a total of 784,000 refugees (or skittles, if you asked Donald Trump Jr.) since 9/11. Of these 784,000 only 3 — I repeat: THREE — have been arrested for suspected terrorist activity. So, lets do some simple addition:

784,000 / 3 = 261,333

Most importantly, I wouldn’t advise anyone to eat 261,333 skittles ever, much less in one sitting. But for the sake of Trump’s analogy, lets say that this was a good idea. The bowl that Trump pictures in his tweet is relatively small; I’ll be generous and assume that it would holds 200 skittles. How many bowls  of skittles would you need to eat to be at risk? 1,306.

I can only speak for myself, but I certainly don’t have that many bowls  (or skittles) in my possession.

On top of all of this, the image featured in Trump’s tweet is actually copyrighted…from a refugee. I mean honestly, if you are going to be an insensitive jerk to all refugees the least you could do is make sure that you have authorization to use the photograph in your advertisement.

In my opinion the best response to Trump’s tweet came from a Wrigley Co. (the creator of skittles) representative himself, when he astutely pointed out that “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people.” going on to explain that Wrigley did not feel that it was “an appropriate analogy.”  I don’t know how to dumb it down any more than that.

I guess that it is too much to ask for that a presidential campaign would be informed (and respectful) enough to know that comparing people who have literally been forced from their homes and separated from their loved ones to poisonous skittles isn’t okay.






On “Hamilton”

With 11 Tony awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and a sold-out theater until 2017, it is undeniable that Hamilton has taken the nation by storm.  If you haven’t heard much about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, you’re probably wondering “what’s so great about Hamilton?”

Well, let me tell you…

Hamilton follows the life of an Orphan Immigrant – Alexander Hamilton – as he moves to New York City, joins the Revolution, and becomes the first Treasurer of the United States of America.

Still sounds like a bland history lesson?  

What if I told you that the entire story is expressed through modern hip-hop and rap, that “cabinet meetings” are transformed into “rap battles,” and that Miranda merges 18th century history with 21st century issues like racial discrimination and immigration?

From the very beginning, Miranda knew that if he wanted to make Hamilton a hit, he would need to make it relatable to ALL Americans. So, he decided that he didn’t want to cast the founding fathers traditionally (as the white men with gray wigs that we see every time we open our wallets); instead he chose to cast them as people of color, in order to better represent “America Now.”

In 2016, the minority-majority is a very real concept in America. In fact, according to NPR, minorities will make up the majority of U.S children by 2020. However, almost all of these minority groups remain under-represented in the media. Needless to say, it was a refreshing change of speed to see Hamilton’s racially diverse cast in a time when whitewashing is such a prominent issue in Hollywood and on Broadway.

People all across America have praised Hamilton for its colorblind casting, and for its emphasis on the idea that history belongs to everyone – regardless of skin color or origin. In fact, very little serious criticism of Hamilton exists. As a whole, Americans agree that all people deserve representation in society, and no one should be excluded from the history books…at least in theory. In reality, however, our actions do not support this idea.

Perhaps the best example of this hypocrisy is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. How can we so adamantly support a musical that highlights racial diversity, while simultaneously supporting a presidential candidate who has proven himself to be a racist, xenophobic bigot?  Donald Trump has conflated the word ‘terrorist’ with the entire Islamic religion, and has made claims suggesting that Muslims should not be permitted to live in the United States. Donald Trump has called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and promotes building a wall to keep immigrants out, rather than embrace the positive contributions that they have on our economy.

 And yet, many Americans still passionately support him.

How can we watch a musical like Hamilton, so obviously focused on the positive impacts immigrants have on society, and continue supporting a candidate like Donald Trump who stands for the exact opposite ideals? How can we support a musical that spotlights people of color, while continuing to remain silent about police brutality against black people? 

The answer: we can’t.

If we want positive change in America, we must stop talking about the problems in our society, and start taking action against injustice. We must stop talking about building walls, and begin building bridges. Only then will our ideas become our reality; only then will we see racial and ethnic equality in America.

On Brexit

The past two weeks have been filled with talk of Great Britain’s exit from the European Union and the drastic effects it could have on the UK, EU, and the entire world. Initially, only a small faction of people believed that Brexit would actually happen. However, in the wake of the UK’s separation from the EU, many people worry about how Britain’s decision will affect the British (and global) economy, stability of the EU, and the state of the British political system.

In order to fully understand Brexit, it is important to consider the reasoning behind such actions. Initially, I assumed that the reason for Britain’s separation from the EU to be purely economic.; however, I have since come to the realization that Britain’s objections to the EU stem primarily from xenophobia. As a member of the EU, Britain has been required to maintain open borders and has thus received a significant number of immigrants (many of which being refugees) from the Middle East. Despite the overwhelming proof that these immigrants and refugees have worked to STIMULATE the UK’s economy, many Brit’s argue that they are doing more harm than good.

The value of the pound began a steady decline after David Cameron began the four-month battle to determine the UK’s future with the EU. And, on June 24th, the day of the Brexit referendum, the pound’s value dropped to a seven-year low. Unfortunately, this is not the only potential consequence of the referendum. Without the EU, Britain could face significant trade barriers and increased taxes with many European nations. These set-backs could possibly  result in the relocation of various international corporations located in the UK and subsequent job loss. Many people wonder if Great Britain will be able sustain itself independently of such a powerful alliance with such a small economy and limited resources.

The EU will also face economic difficulties, seeing as Great Britain was the EU’s second largest contributor (after Germany). In fact, Great Britain has consistently contributed billions more than it received from the EU. Many people also suspect that Brexit will have a domino effect within the EU and will prompt other member nations to consider independence from the EU. While it is unlikely that this will happen immediately, depending on the precedent set by the EU and UK, more European nations may follow in Britain’s footsteps – further weakening the EU.

Despite the marginal majority of the Leave Vote in the Brexit referendum, many citizens would have preferred to remain in the EU. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, Prime Minister David Cameron declared his resignation, leaving the British government in a state of rocky transition. Although Prime Minister Cameron has agreed to remain prime minister until another is appointed in October, he has made statements that he will only “steady the ship,” not advance it. Furthermore, after the Brexit vote, Scotland’s government has taken action to hold another referendum independence from the UK, claiming that they still wish to maintain membership in the EU.

In the wake of Brexit, it is important to reflect on the effects that fear can have on a nation. It was fear of the perceived threat of foreign immigrants that motivated Britain to separate from the EU. It is fear that has lead to the overwhelming support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump despite (and, in some cases, due to) his xenophobic policies. If we are to make true progress, we must set aside fear of those who are not like us and embrace our differences.

On Oklahoma’s Financial Situation

I received an email from President David L Boren yesterday regarding OU’s financial situation and the effect that the severe lack of state funding will have on students this upcoming year. According to president Boren, since 2008 “the state share of the OU budget has dropped from 46% to 12%.” This lack of funding has resulted in a 7% increase in tuition during the 2016-17 school year that will burden both parents and students. Furthermore, these budget cuts have resulted in the loss of jobs for over 300 university employees.

Higher educations institutions are not the only ones facing these substantial budget cuts; Oklahoma’s public education system is also facing a severe lack of state funding. In the last five years, legislators have cut per-pupil education aid by 20%. Furthermore, many legislators have begun to advocate replacing public schools with private charter schools completely. At first glance, these charter schools seem like a positive alternative. However, what charter school advocates don’t tell you is that these schools are authorized to potentially discriminate against students based on their gender, ethnicity, religion, and even finiancial situation.

Meanwhile, our legislators just recently approved a massive tax incentive for oil companies that will cost the state over 300 million. In order to contend with the budget crisis that this would undoubtedly create, legislators decided to severely reduce a tax credit devised to help Oklahoma’s working poor; this cut will negatively affect over 130,000 households in Oklahoma. In short, big businesses thrive while working families struggle to make ends meet.

It is time that we take a good look at the state of Oklahoma’s financial situation and who it is currently benefitting, because it is certainly not the lower class and it certainly isn’t the education system. It is time that we hold our legislators accountable for their actions, and stop turning a blind eye as they defund programs that benefit OK citizens in order to support big oil companies and their own agendas.

Read more here!

To whatever end,

On Orlando

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest condolences to all who were affected by the tragic massacre in Orlando, FL.

We live in a world in which we constantly divide ourselves based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion etc. however, today we stand united against Omar Mateen, ISIS, and any other individual or organization that would promote such violent acts of terrorism.

Now I would like to address a few of the popular comments I have seen floating around for the past two days:

First, I would just like to remind everyone that ISIS is not a true representation of Islam, nor is it a representation of all Muslim people. Do not let this tragedy further divide us based on our different religions. Instead, let’s focus our energy on helping those involved and developing a plan to eliminate events like this from happening in the future.

Second, I think that it is important to dispels the idea that this shooting was “the most deadly in U.S. history.” It wasn’t, and to claim that it was is to ignore the deaths of thousands (primarily Native Americans and Blacks) in our history. However, I have attached a link to NPR’s explanation behind the claim that it was “the most deadly” in order to clarify the reasoning behind such statements.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this is not a time for victim shaming. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the LGBTQ lifestyle, each and every person affected was a human being – a person with friends and a family – and no one deserves to be so violently attacked.

“Hate: it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.”
~Maya Angelou

My School Rules

There is a new initiative in Oklahoma called “My School Rules” meant to highlight the positive qualities of the public education system that have recently been omitted from the narratives of what public schools are like, in order to raise support for political schemes to replace the current education system with exclusive, private, charter schools. For this reason, I feel that it is my responsibility to share my experience in the Moore public school system.

For the sake of time (and sanity) I begin my story in Junior High and only briefly describe a few notable teachers, despite the many others who positively impacted my life as well; if I were to mention them all, this could easily be a twenty page thesis. So, without further ado, let’s begin ––

Junior High kids are a lot of things; however, in my experience, likeable isn’t always one of them. Looking back on my thirteen-year-old self, I remember a few key things: I was obsessed with the Twilight Saga, I desperately wanted to be “popular,” and I had decided that I was far too cool for school.

Another thing that I distinctly remember about Junior High is not having a cell phone. This might sound insignificant but trust me, when you are trying to survive in a school with hundreds of petty pre-teens, an I-phone can serve as one of your greatest weapons.  Even in 2010, when I was in the 7th grade, I felt like I was the only kid in the world who was deprived of what I then considered a basic right.

My philosophy changed completely when my Geography teacher, Mr. Langan, explained to my class how privileged we were to have access to clean water and electricity, let alone cell phones. Mr. Langan asked us a series of seemingly ridiculous questions, and all I could think was “obviously, I have a refrigerator,” And “everyone has a car, how else would we all get around?” At the end of class, he claimed that, based on our answers, each and every one of us was in the “top 1%” of people in the world. Needless to say, I was shocked; how on earth could I be more privileged that 99% of people on Earth if I didn’t even have a cell phone?

Throughout the school year, we talked a lot about the world – a place that, I soon realized, I knew almost nothing about. Up until that point, I had lived my life in a bubble; all that I really cared about was what table I sat at during lunch, and when I was going to get my next pair of Miss Me jeans. However, when I started thinking about the girls my age living in under-developed countries who weren’t allowed to attend school, who had to walk miles to retrieve clean water for their families, all of my previous concerns seemed rather silly in comparison. Mr. Langan taught me to care, not just about myself and the people around me, but about the world.

Flash forward to the 8th grade, and I had another phenomenal teacher; Ms. Clay, who taught US History. While I still struggled with the never-ending need to be one of the “cool kids,” I had rid myself of the notion that paying attention in class was nerdy. In fact, I was quite possibly the most outrageous over-achiever in my grade. This was, in large part, because Ms. Clay’s class was like nothing that I had ever experienced in school before – it was actually fun. Instead of writing notes and reading textbooks, we played History-Jeopardy, drew political cartoons, and held in-class debates.

The most notable aspect of Ms. Clay’s class was, undoubtedly, our chapter on the American Civil War. During the chapter, my class was split into two teams: the Union and the Confederacy (go figure, right?), and we then proceeded to reenact the civil war over the final month of class. During the chapter, each assignment and extra credit opportunity was a way for us to earn points and thus “win the war.” I remember going home and making Hardtack (a disgusting cracker that was a staple for soldiers during the war) to bring to class for extra credit, spending hours reciting Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (which still runs through my mind every now and then), and writing page after page of notes for our in-class debates, all so that my team would win.

It could be argued that I was simply a teacher’s pet who had nothing better to do than devote herself to US History, and, to some extent, that would be correct. Not every student in the class took it as seriously as me. However, by the end of the year, there was not a single student who neglected to turn in assignments. Why? Because we each had a responsibility to each other – a responsibility to pull our own weight and not let our team down. Ms. Clay made learning worthwhile, she made it matter, she made it fun.

As a sophomore in high school, I encountered another extraordinary teacher – Ms. Parks – who taught World History. Ms. Parks’ class was nothing like Ms. Clay’s had been. It was difficult; the readings were challenging, the workload was heavy, and by the end of the year I was convinced that my hand would fall off if I wrote another vocab definition. I worked harder in that class than I did in any other class throughout the duration of my public education, and I simultaneously loved and hated it.

I soon realized that overcoming challenges while learning was one of the most empowering feelings that I had ever experienced. Because, even though I often times wanted to scream that I did not care a single bit about the Byzantines or the Ottomans, the feeling of making a good grade on an exam after spending hours studying was totally unmatched – it made all of the hard work worth it. Ms. Parks didn’t dumb anything down; no student got a free pass, we all had to work hard to succeed. And, as difficult and stressful as the class was, it taught me a valuable lesson: that I was capable; that, if I was willing to put in the work, I could achieve whatever I set my mind to.

During my senior year, I decided to take Human Geography (mainly because I had heard that it was relatively easy, and I was hoping to have the sought after “senior blow-off year”). In retrospect, I should have known better than to trust the rumors, because the class was anything but easy. However, while it was not the blow-off class that I had initially hoped for, it was by far the most interesting class I took during my public education. As a senior, I had grown very interested in the world around me, but I still had relatively no idea how it worked.

I was well aware of the problems with our society, but I had no idea how to fix them. I still struggle with this and, unless I miraculously transform into some all-knowing being, I assume that I will struggle with it for the rest of my life. However, Ms. Lewis (my Human Geography teacher) taught me that we had a much better chance of changing the world for the better if everyone’s perspective was valued equally – if everyone’s voice was allowed to be heard.

I learned a lot of things during my public education: the Pythagorean Theorem, the function of the mitochondria, and (most importantly) every word to “The Fifty Nifty United States” song, to name a few. But, my public education was much more than that.

I learned that the world was much bigger that Moore, Oklahoma, and that there were people struggling all around the world that are too often overlooked. I learned how to work in a team of diverse people, some of whom I had almost nothing in common with. I learned that school could be fun, that learning could be rewarding. I learned that I was strong, and intelligent, and capable of success. And I learned that if we want to change the world, we have to do it together.

Public education has come under a lot of scrutiny lately and many people have denounced it entirely, claiming that the public school system just “doesn’t work anymore.” However, public school worked for me, and it works for millions of American students every year despite significant differences in students’ gender, race, socioeconomic status, and language. Public education also allows students with mental and physical disabilities the opportunity to succeed.

The charter schools that many people point to as a better alternative to public schools, on the other hand, are not required to accept all students. In fact, they can choose students based on ability, wealth, gender, and even race. If all children are not allowed equal education, how can we ever hope for all people to have true equality?

Nelson Mandela once said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Every child is an unlit match – infinite potential – and many could change the world for the better if given the chance. Public education empowers every student to succeed, while private charter schools bar certain children from ever having the opportunity to begin. I choose Public Education; I choose equality for all children. What do you choose?

International Events: “Soccer, Sex and Scandal in Brazil”

“Soccer, Sex and Scandal in Brazil” was a lecture given by anthropologist and author  Don Kulick on Tuesday, November 17. It detailed the scandal of the famous soccer star Ronaldo and his adventurous night  with three “travesties”, which Kulick described as men who decide that they want to dress like  women and get plastic surgery to look like women, however they have no desire to remove their  penis, nor do they identify as females, such as transgenders in the United States.

The scandal around Ronaldo developed not because he hired prostitutes, but because the  prostitutes, including Andrea Albertino, were travesties. Andrea leaked the situation to the press, causing the scandal. I thought it was interesting how Kulick described the concept of  sexuality in Brazil, especially for men, how a general line of thought is that as long as man is  acting as the “penetrator”, and doesn’t get penetrated, he is still “straight”, even if he is having  sex with a man. However, there is also a question brought up, that if a man wanted a woman, and  not a man dressed as a woman, then why hire a travestie? This is why Ronaldo fell under so  much scrutiny, as the Brazilian public questioned his sexuality, and in turn his manhood.

The idea of “I’m not gay unless I am penetrated” seems strange to me, as an American,  where the societal view on sexuality is that performing intercourse with one of the same sex  constitutes the sexuality of the act. In Brazil, however, there are very blurred lines between all of  this. Travesties are known as beautiful, and some of them have become famous and are very well  known  in Brazil. Ronaldo claimed that he didn’t know the prostitutes were travesties, however  Kulick explained that not only do travesties advertise in districts, they are also very recognizable  by Brazilian natives by the way they dress and act. This whole lecture has made me think of the  different ways that sexuality is viewed around the world. It seems odd to me that it was not the  act of hiring prostitutes which gave Ronaldo a bad rep, but rather the fact that he might be gay  when so many men look up to him.

In the future I hope to attend more lectures such as this one. I like hearing experts in their field give lessons over issues around the world, as it is both hard to come by someone so specialized, and I find that these lectures often highlight things that I didn’t realize were issues.

Andrea Albertino
Andrea Albertino, source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-562742/Brazilian-World-Cup-star-Ronaldo-takes-prostitutes-hotel-room–discover-MEN.html