“The Race Card”

“Everything is not about race.”
 
It’s true. Most things humans experience in their lifetime are not directly tied to race. Things like finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning, paying bills, educating your children, and feeding said children have little to do with race on the ground when they are happening.

Race, however, impedes many of these basic experiences for the majority of people on the planet. That’s right, a majority. The race card is used in America when a person (usually a black person) is accused of making an issue about race when it is not. The thought behind this is if we don’t talk about it, it’s not there.

The thing is, the people who use the term “race card” in earnest are often the people for whom race has never been an issue. When your race is the dominant one, when your face looks like the faces of most people on TV, in movies, in politics, in law enforcement, in business — you take for granted the way your society views and treats you, and you begin to assume that everyone lives that experience.

When people utilize “the race card,” it’s probably because they have experienced the ways in which not looking like the predominant race can negatively affect a person. They are thinking back to the times they were pulled over but were not given a reason why, or the times they were followed around in a store, or when they were told they are “pretty for a ____ (non-white) person.” The race card is a collection of LIVED experiences that amounts to general distrust. It is the direct result of a life lived without the collective benefit of the doubt from a society.

When politicians cry race card, much like when they cry “class warfare,” they are appealing to the most basic animal instinct in humans — fear. They are relying on people to have a gut reaction and to think they are somehow threatened by the topic at hand, which if given credence could become a larger conversation, which could lead to discontent.

But discontent is what shapes societies. America would not be here without discontent, and frankly it would not be here as we know it without racism.

The race card may be used by the boy who cries wolf, but the reason the tale holds water is because the fear of wolves is legitimate (and ultimately the thing that does the boy in). In America race is the wolf lurking behind (but not necessarily always preying on) anyone who is not white. It is the benefit of the doubt people of color are not afforded. It is a card that is disproportionately represented in a deck that is stacked against people of color.

*Side note: When I went to find an image for this post on Google I could not find one that worked because all of the images were offensive, and a disproportionate number involved Barack Obama’s face. If you read this and think I too am being overly sensitive, feel free to do a Google image search for “race card” and see what comes up.

This Bad Week In News: Are People Created Equal?

Too many bad things happened this week. Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, Israel began a ground mission in Gaza, and children at the southern border of the United States continue to live warehouse-style while politics stifle any resolution. Meanwhile the conversations in the news (from my western POV) reek of the distinct language of dehumanization. It is hard for people to relate to other people — empathy may be one of the most civilized traits a human can develop. That said, it seems that we as a human race would accomplish much more if we ingested the things we see happening as happening to fellow humans, rather than things happening to “others.”

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was a tragedy in every single way, but the political implications intensified when it was discovered that Europeans were onboard. The reasoning for this is political; the situation is bad for Putin and his relationship with the rest of Europe. But what if the plane had been carrying only Malaysian people? Would the whole tragedy remain more detached from the west because we see the passengers as somehow less important?

People hate when discussions turn to race or ethnicity, especially in situations of tragedy, and especially when the racial implications are nowhere near explicit. No one said the world only cares about white people. But there is a well-documented disproportionate outcry when a white child goes missing vs when a non-white child does. 53,000 white children would never be shunned in the way many Americans are treating the “illegals” (their language, not mine) at the border, most of whom are victims of an out-of-control drug war fueled by the (mostly white) demand for drugs in the U.S.

On a related note, are the actual deaths of over 300 Palestinians and counting (over 70 of whom were children) that much less valuable than the possibility of Israeli casualties? I understand that Israel has a right to defend itself, but I would argue that its (U.S. sponsored) iron dome is doing just that. Of course it is not a sustainable answer in perpetuity, but then again neither is the slaughter of hundreds of people of a particular ethnic group. That is sometimes referred to as genocide.

You can choose to ignore race in these conversations, but I won’t because I am acquainted with reality.

Whether a person is in “your” country legally or not, whether a person is living in occupied territory or settled land, whether a person is from Asia or from Europe — people are people with no exceptions. As we move into a time where we will be forced to work together as a united human race in a way we never have before thanks to climate change (and who knows, maybe an alien invasion) we need to repeat that to ourselves over and over again. Without reminding ourselves that all humans are created equal we will continue to dehumanize people we see as others, and when we do that we inadvertently make ourselves less.

Life Lessons From New York City

I live in New York City. The reasons I came here are hard for me to identify. For now let’s just say I’m a curious moth inevitably drawn to the flame. Except that analogy doesn’t really work, because unlike the flame that draws the moth, New York is a flame containing high concentrations of learned wisdom that can only be found in a city its size. There are many things that people who don’t live in a mega-city do not have to deal with. Some are only relevant to New York. Many of these things I hate, but all of these things continue to teach me something.

The Commute — Every day I am confronted with thousands of members of humanity. Some people, like me, are just trying to get to work. Other people are tourists seeing the city for the first time. They stop to take pictures, read directions, and stand in awe, as those of us who live here navigate around them to get to our jobs. If you don’t live in a tourist-heavy pedestrian city this may not seem like much to you, so let me ask you to imagine your Monday morning with an injection of a few thousand people, maybe an armpit in your face (in a crowded subway), and probably a few crying kids. The NYC commute has taught me patience I didn’t know I needed, but it has also given me an appreciation for looking out for myself. When I’m going to work I don’t have time for tourists to figure out that they need to move quickly when the subway doors open — everyone needs a little nudge once in a while, in NYC and in life.

Money — There is no saving money here without a deliberate attempt to do so, unless you are making much more money than I am. There are delivery ads everywhere that tell people to “eat like a New Yorker,” and it’s true, New Yorkers eat out A LOT because we also tend to work a lot. Down time is not a thing for many people (even us borderline introverts), so when you want to add to your savings account making sure to get groceries instead of delivery is actively a chore (not to mention carrying groceries up the 5 flights of stairs to your apartment). Living in a sketchy neighborhood rather than a mediocre one becomes a wise financial decision, and walking up those 5 flights of stairs every day stands in place of an $80/month gym membership. Living in New York requires constant financial trade-offs, but then again, so does life.

Friends and Relationships — This town can be a very lonely place, it can also be very superficial. As with saving money, if you want friendships and romantic relationships of substance in NYC, you have to be deliberate. As I said above, people are busy all the time. It is likely a part of why people live here, they like that there is always something to do. This also means planning and KEEPING commitments with friends is something you don’t just do casually, you learn to do it intentionally (if it is important to you). The interesting thing is that this is true for relationships no matter where you live, but NYC forces you to realize who your friends are, and who the potential love interests are who are willing to make you a priority. Making people a priority should always be a goal.

Health — In NYC it is very clear very fast if you are out of shape. Walking stairs and avenues in the summer acts as a free health assessment. Humans are crafted to handle long distances on foot, yet many of us rarely do so thanks to cars and various other modes of transportation. In New York this is not the case. You will walk, and when you do you’ll find out how fit you are. On top of that, figuring out (budget conscious) ways to eat well are essential because in the NYC summer heat all that sugar and bread you’ve been eating starts to feel like a weight holding you down in tandem with the humidity. Being healthy makes you fit, and being fit makes for a better life, no matter where you are.

Problem Solving– This is a big one because all of the points above feed into it. There are always, always roadblocks when you live in this city. Trying to find an apartment? Be prepared to put down two different deposits only to be told both times the apartment isn’t actually available. On a budget? Just wait until you leave your phone in a cab and you are forced to buy a new one. Trying to cleanse your karma? Just wait until some random man on the street puts his hand in your hair because he “wants to see what it feels like.” Living in New York has definitely given me a roll-with-the-punches approach to life — it’s pretty much a necessary trait for living here. One day I may move back to Texas, or somewhere else that does not require so much mental acrobatics, but inevitably whatever is thrown my way will pale in comparison to the hurdles NYC has placed in my path, and for that I am grateful.

Living in New York is hard, especially if you are young, paying your own rent, paying for your own groceries, and attempting to have a social life while working “New York hours” (which usually means over 40 hours per week with no overtime because you’re salaried). Frank Sinatra was right, if you can make it here you’ll make it anywhere. If you figure out how to be happy, healthy, sane, and financially secure while living in New York City, you will almost certainly succeed in those areas elsewhere.

Manhattanhenge 2011

The Selfishness of “Caring”

altruismIm2I’ve always cared about what is going on in this country, almost impulsively. Yes, it is my home, yes I am an American, but I tend to care about many issues and people that, if I’m honest, don’t directly affect me. I am also a very logical person. I tend to deconstruct things down to their basic substances — which means when it comes to humans I believe everything  boils down to biology.

The reason I want to make America “better” is not because I expect or even believe humans are fully capable of caring about people they will never meet. That is naive. I’m sorry. But there is no way you are going to get most people, or even a large portion of people, to actively care about people they don’t knowThat is against biology. That is why people who are against socialism and communism are against it — giving other people your resources is not self-preservation. WE ARE ANIMALS. We are supposed to preserve ourselves and our offspring.

Currently humans exist within the context of civilized society. Because of that, caring about other people is self-preservation. The reason I am freaked out that we are creating generations of Pakistani’s who hate us because of our questionable drone program is because they are in uncomfortably close proximity to other people who hate us. The reason I’m uncomfortable that Americans are so desensitized by shootings that we don’t see the patterns of domestic terror is because the last thing we need are threats from outside and inside of our borders. This is why people living on the coasts should not be ambivalent about the politics of the rest (majority) of the country. All of our actions are intertwined. Everyone will be affected when the consequences come around.

Whether from outside or from within, it would not be hard for someone to concoct a virus to knock out a significant portion of our population (I live in New York so I definitely worry about this). It is completely feasible that a powerful entity (or individual) will succeed in knocking out one of the few power grids America relies on. Think about that. Think about what would happen if we had no power and no way to fix the problem because our energy infrastructure is so outdated.
I care about you caring about these things because the consequences WILL AFFECT ME. I don’t want to be alive when things come back around. I don’t want to be here when we reap what we’ve sewn — when the chickens come home to roost.
What If We Really Loved All Humanity?
Denial is beautiful when it works. It is advantageous in the short term because it allows us to pursue pleasure without considering consequence. But if that is the stance we continue to take we have to acknowledge that biologically we are behind the curve. We have to acknowledge that we are saying that we are OK with the statistical likelihood that our kids may encounter a superbug that will kill them or their immediate family members, or that they might face a catastrophic nuclear or power event that will ruin their lives.
Personally, I’m not cool with that. I don’t have kids and I’m not close to having them, but I still care about what happens to them because of biology. I am inherently interested in the perpetuation of our species. If you are not, you are at a biological disadvantage.

Get Home, Get Wine, Eat Food, Summertime

You know that feeling you have when you get home after a long day and the last thing you want to do is anything besides sit down?

What do you usually eat in that time? I bet it’s not a fresh, nutritious meal made from scratch (unless you are one of the people several steps ahead of me, kudos). For the rest of you, follow these steps.

1. Get home and take off your shoes. Put music on the speakers that makes you feel good.

2. Pour yourself ONE glass of wine (sip over the next 2 hours).

3. Cut up some vegetables and put them on a pan. Drizzle some olive oil on them. Add a little salt. It is literally the EASIEST thing to do, and it also happens to taste amazing — fresh, whole, juicy, satisfying.

Example veggies: *CORN (place as many as you want, husk and all, on the middle rack of your oven and bake for 30 minutes) * green and red peppers * onions * kale * asparagus * tomatoes (all so good!). This is not a complete list. If there’s something in the list you don’t like, pick another vegetable, there are so many out there. Also, this is great for a variety of uses. Roast a big batch of kale for a few days worth of chips. Roast up a good amount of peppers and onions and save to throw in a skillet with some pasta and marinara for an excellent dish tomorrow, or throw them in a sandwich for lunch the next day.

4. In the 30 minutes while your veggies are roasting in the oven on or around 350 degrees, turn your music up and just STAND either in the kitchen or in your living room. Stand there, listening to the music. Try to make yourself do this for the duration of the 30 minutes. See if you stay still (PRO TIP: you won’t).

5. In the event you do end up just standing and get bored, go into your kitchen and clean some dishes, do a batch of laundry, or sweep/mop the floor. The point is, it’s 30 minutes you are MOVING, and not sitting. If you begin to incorporate movement into space where you usually sit at the same time you begin eating meals made from fresh veggies, you will begin to notice a difference in how you feel, and probably how you look. It’s just the way the body works. It’s awesome.

Eating well, moving, and cooking don’t have to be chores. They can compliment each other so you’ll have more time to go back to watching TV or whatever you would rather be doing (although once you start moving to the music you may find you prefer that to watching TV).

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