B’Elanna

Years ago, I wrote about half-blood characters being role models. I missed one. B-Elanna Torres was half Klingon and half human. I was reminded about the omission by watching Voyager again. In the episode, an alien divided her into two individuals. As stereotypes of her races, she epitomized the war I sometimes feel about myself being pulled in different directions.

I used to think it was from being biracial. I now think everyone has this war.

Teachable Moment

Like the Boondock’s N-word moment, but you know, hopefully productive. The teachable moment is an expression of how what someone said can be a mine field they are unaware of.

I should have gotten my PhD, because “Doctor Freelove” has a nice ring to it. But more than that, I love explaining things.

New server at a restaurant told me how I looked like a scary person to meet in a parking lot. He was being playful referring to a story I had told him about a person contacting me on Facebook in a weird way wanting to either meet or mail me something. On its face, it was still microaggression territory.

I didn’t want to lay into him and solidify his potentially racist views. I didn’t want to make someone who feels like an ally feel alienated.

So instead, I told him some stories about my experiences. He was engaged. Others who witnessed were drawn into the conversation. Based on his comments, I think he got my points about how this stuff is something we have to carefully navigate. And it is draining to have to do so. The question is, will it help him be even just a tad more cognizant?

Hopefully.

Brainstorming Ebola under America First

Saw a story that got me wondering what the reaction would be under the current president if the test had come back positive.

An unidentified patient who was kept in isolation at a Philadelphia hospital while being tested for Ebola has been confirmed as not infected with the deadly virus.

  1. Thoughts and prayers? That seems to be the go-to for so many things like massacres at home and abroad.
  2. Deny travelers to Ebola prone countries the ability to fly to the US until they have self-quarantines elsewhere for the contagious period, thereby spreading it around the world?

The Obama administration’s Ebola response was to send 3,000 health officials to the region who:

  1. Constructed treatment units in the region.
  2. Provided protective equipment and medical supplies.
  3. Operated almost 200 burial teams.
  4. Conducted aggressive contact tracing to locate other potentially infected cases.
  5. Trained health care workers and conducted community outreach.
  6. Identified travelers who may have Ebola before they left the region.

I suspect health officials would lobby for the same response with the rationale, the faster we end the outbreak there, the fewer infected individuals overall and less like they end up in the US: America First! But, this is the region the current president referred to as “shithole countries.” My guess is this is just the excuse needed to bar travel to or from there.

“Look Like Them”

Read an article about pay disparities by gender in the system by which I am employed which mentioned research that students get along best with faculty members who look like them. It made me laugh out loud.

I cannot recall a teacher who looked like me: male, tall, and half-white / half-black. Or at least of brown skin.

The only male teacher that comes close to matching this might be my 8th-grade math & science teacher who lectured by popping his wrist with a rubber band. He is also African-American, tall, and broad shoulders. Cannot say we got along that well so much as we students cowered in fear of him.

Certainly, that year, I got along much better with my literature teacher, but she is short, Caucasian, and female. My recollection of my 2nd-grade teacher was she was African-American but of lighter skin color.

 

On Monuments

We built monuments to display our pride of winning or mourn our loss. They represent what we considered the great things about our society in the past as lessons for the present and future. In that light, defacing a historical marker such as both of Emmett Till’s shows the opposition that honoring the person is a good thing.

Frankly, I think we as a country have done a terrible job recognizing important people and events. Confederate monuments are overly honored due to the rush to throw them up during Segregation and opposing the Civil Rights Movement.

We should do a better job today creating monuments to abolitionists, slave rebellions, and victims of Jim Crow lynchings. People should be able to recognize Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and Emmett Till even better than they recognize the faces of traitorous generals and presidents like Lee and Davis.

50th Anniversary of Loving v Virginia

Supreme Court decisions often have clear have day-to-day impact in one’s life. This one, though, has all the impact in the world to me. It allowed my very black father and very white mother to marry. Without, I could have still existed, but it would have been much more challenging for them to date and marry.

Legality does not mean everyone views it as acceptable. Things must have gotten somewhat better though as I have yet to get a death threat like my parents did. After writing that, though, I hope any of the women I dated would have said something if they received one. Today it seems to be limited to frowns and stares. And, the isolated judges who refuse to comply.

About 15% of marriages today in the US are interracial. It makes me happy that people are proving the value of this landmark court decision.

Review: Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a couple hundred pounds of chains bearing down on the reader. A father who writes about the race in America in the time just before #BlackLivesMatter attempts to put into words what it means. This stands out as a better expression of the weight of it all than anything else I have seen.

View all my reviews

Peril of Good Intentions

Defeated in college

I ran across a friend’s Facebook post about parenting and related a description of a college psychology professor’s eugenics lecture. The reply was that eliminating the genes of less intelligent people seems like it could help improve society. This seeming promise is why it has been tried many times. Before the Holocaust shifted to genocide, it dabbled in eugenics and mimicked United States eugenics programs.

But, let’s assume that a eugenics program stayed away from genocide. I still have issues with this…

Why a specific person is intelligent or not tends to be not so clear cut as good or bad genes. Psychologists tend to be pretty sure that most of intelligence comes from genes. I personally think genes provide recipes for brain cells and a layout of those cells. The brain cells still have to be grown and connections established in the brain. Exposure to various experiences in the raising of the child help achieve the potential provided by the brains. If a person both has good genes and was raised in such a way to maximize their potential, then I think a person ought to become the person we want them to be. Are we at a point where almost all children can are provided the experiences to reach this potential? Not even close. I think people who think we reasonably are at this point feel that eugenics or genetic modification are the ways to push beyond our plateau. I would prefer we fix the environment before we start punishing people for lack of socioeconomic resources or programs to help.

Biases cloud our conclusions in situations where we are not usually aware. It was thought the reason orchestras were almost all male because they were better performers. They shifted to a better mix of genders after the practice of blind auditions became common. Why? Because there are biases which affect opinions assessments beneath our ability to tell. We see similar issues when it comes to intelligence assessment and especially jobs in skilled fields. IQ tests have fought hard to get better at not being WEIRD. Anonymous names on papers change the grades students get and which conference submissions are accepted. Some of meritocracies could be doing much better.

When people think they are objective and unbiased then they don’t monitor and scrutinize their own behavior. They just assume that they are right and that their assessments are accurate. Yet, studies repeatedly show that stereotypes of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.) are filters through which we evaluate others, often in ways that advantage dominant groups and disadvantage lower-status groups.

The eugenics movements were confident the physically & mentally unfit, materially poor, and atheists needed to controlled. People of color just happened to commonly be identified as meeting their criteria. I will be skeptical of any similar movement to be truly objective because even though they truly intend to be, the prior ones thought they were too. Hindsight shows they were not.

Of course, the abomination that I am was the reasoning for why my parents were not allowed to marry in my home state. It was deemed bad for the Caucasian race to allow mixing with inferior races. That probably fuels my own bias against this kind of thing.