Thursday, January 24, 2013

Maybe It's Beautiful

One of my all-time biggest pet peeves is when people say things to the effect of "Well, we have a black president," with the implication that because Barack Obama, a half white man as much a half black man, is president, clearly racism isn't a problem in America.

I'm taking a class this semester called Race and Incarceration in the U.S. Whether you believe it is a systematic and intentional phenomenon or not, you have to be able to look at the numbers and see that blacks are incarcerated in this country are disproportionately affected by the penal system. Another student in my class said yesterday, seeming exasperated with some of our more close-minded cohorts in the way I frequently find myself to be, "Just imagine if in Germany Jews were six times as incarcerated." Take a second to really think about that. The world would be in utter uproar if something like that were occurring, so why is blackness a ticket to being ignored in this country, and, quite frankly, around the world? It cannot be that black people are simply more prone to commit crime (and yes, I agree that poverty breeds crime, but check yourself for a second, climb off your I-know-everything horse, look up some statistics, and realize that there are far more whites in poverty in this country than blacks, even though a larger percentage of the black population lives at a lower socio-economic level). I hope you can tell that this is an issue that absolutely infuriates me.

But then another student said something really remarkable.

"The people that cant see that more black people are being arrested and that that must mean something: that's beautiful, because that means they don't have frame of reference."

And you know what? Maybe. Maybe it is kind of beautiful (in a twisted and really counterproductive way) that some people don't see American racism as a problem that exists because they simply never see it happening. I think it might be beautiful to have my children grow up in a world where they can't comprehend what racism is because they never see it affect anyone.

But, one the other hand, I'm not quite sure if I'm ready for us to forget, even if we do manage to keep fixing the problem. 

Happiness: A Statistician's Dilemma

How do you measure happy? Subjectively, I measure "happy" everyday. I see friends looking stressed and my personal happy-meter bings, "Uh, oh, you are not rating well today." Well, I get asked if I'm happy a lot more than I used to and I pretty much always say yes. The levels of happy that I am when posed that question are presumably different, and, objectively, I am probably always a little unhappy, too, but I know intrinsically that "Yes," is the right answer. And not right in a you-will-feel-better-if-I-tell-you-I'm-fine kind of way, but right in a this-feels-right kind of way. More importantly I don't think one can (or should) rate their happiness against others, ie "I am happier than you are." In my current relationship I have a no one-upping rule (although to be honest I'm not sure he really knows it except to the extent that I shut him down immediately if he ever says anything that qualifies). This means no "No, I love you more,"s and no "You're the best." I don't want to measure that emotion against someone else's (besides, you should already know you're the best). Why measure something unquantifiable? I'm happy. Can that be enough? Can we stop trying to be happier

What Mexico Stole from Me

So my closest female friend at school is off on the adventure of a lifetime (which isn't really true, since I know she'll have many more) studying abroad in Mexico this semester. This isn't that tragic on the surface, except she has been one of my closest friends for eight years and in a very real sense I have never had to do anything without her. She is always there to quote Koala Lou at me gossip be a sounding board for dilemmas. Whether this semester is just hard or whether it is specifically harder because of ehr absence is a mystery to me, but without my closest confidant I have to admit I'm floundering a little. To his credit, my boyfriend (rightfully) assumed he'd have to pick up some of the slack and has been remarkable. She is in Mexico having a very real sink or swim moment which will prove to her and everyone around her that she can make it in the real world, and, in a much more quiet way, I have to figure out how to swim, too. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Something Stuck

My friends would probably say I have a hard time getting along with people I disagree with. I would probably try to discredit this accusation as false. What I have a hard time getting along with, is people that never listen when disagreeing and people that seem to be incapable of changing their minds even when presented with clear evidence. My best friend as school is a Republican. This is notable because frequently this has been a deal-breaker for me in relationships. There was a time when many of my friends joked that the only men I could be friends with were gay Democrats, so this straight conservative was quite a find, but that's another story. Anyway, my views, while continuing to liberalize socially have become drastically more conservative (let me just stop here and clarify that I mean a lot more conservative for me) fiscally. I presume this is due to the close contact I have with many of my friends' views (I also managed to make friends with a bunch of Libertarians, go figure). At any rate, I get along with my best friends because I alway know he hears me, not agrees necessarily (although increasingly frequently as we both move to the center), but hears and, most importantly, considers. I try to always do the same for him. I'm pretty sure we both know this is happening all the time, but we are also both a little too proud to readily concede to the other in the moment and, at least for my part, that system works. Well a week ago I turned 19 and got one of the best birthday presents in the world: a blogpost, similar to this one, in which I was cited as a driving force in the changing of one of his opinions on an issue very near to my heart.

I get the impression that a lot of people, particularly young people, have grandiose notions of the ways in which they will affect the world, but it isn't the big ways, its the tiny ones that all, hopefully, add up to meaning something. This particular man intends to go into law, a place where he might get a chance to keep a woman safe, or at least find some justice for her, and I always get to know that I was an itty bitty part of that. Perhaps not grandiose, but pretty damn grand.