Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Nice Vs. Mean

Last year a wrote a letter and then asked a friend to review it.  I had written what I called the mean draft first and wanted someone to confirm that the second letter was direct without retaining the remnants of the initial draft.  We've all had them moment when ghosts of an earlier draft lingered.  My friend said the letter was fine and asked to see the mean version.  She then said my mean version wasn't very mean.  
Perhaps too many years in corporate America have softened or muted me, or perhaps the mean things I sometimes am still thinking in my head as I type, get channeled into appropriate corporate speak.  I once saw a tweet that "per my last email" was basically corporate speak for "as I already told you, bitch".  I have been known to use per my last email.  
As long time readers will know, as a lifelong DCer, I get very antsy when people from other places tell us how to run our city, so often attempt to model the behavior I wish to see in others and butt out of other places choices if they are not actively harmful.  The recent behavior of students in town crossed a number of point such that I did send a letter to the Covington Catholic High School over the weekend.  In it I felt every sentence stood in for six or seven things I wanted to say, but expected to not resonate well.  
I did tell them that I am a lifelong DC resident, and a person who is of Hawaiian descent.  So I take mistreatment of fellow native Americans in my hometown very personally.  I recognize that DC exists as a place that man visit for protests, and no I certainly do not have any expectation that I will agree with the nature of every protest.  I do expect protesters to behave well.  So, yeah, when the March for Life backed away from their initial condemnation of the behavior last night, I also told them I was very concerned that this meant their concern for the safety of DC residents was minimal.  
And look, I know that the Black Hebrew Isrealites say mean things too. And I am not saying I think that's okay either.  I am saying that if I was accompanying teens, anywhere, honestly, part of what I would tell them is what I knew about what behavior they might expect from others and how I expect them to behave.  Given the one teen said he knew the Indigenous People's Rally was going on, it seems they had been given that info.  The fact that they are now claiming their use of racist sports chants was something to distract from the folks they felt were bothering them means that they were not prepared to behave appropriately. The fact that the internet took about a hot second to find other racist behavior they engage in at their basketball games indicates to me that this is a pattern.  
Given the backtracking the school has done lately, I fully expect my email and my plea that they keep their students home and out of my city until they can better educate them on how to behave to be ignored.  But I have asked. 
And I have now seen - again - the lengths that people will go to forgive teenagers, but only some teenagers.  Because this idea that trickle down bullying and racism is okay, is not something I am willing to agree with.  I understand fully that teenagers are often wonderful, and by definition have limited experience.  But it looks like these teens are receiving a lot of grooming to excuse their racism and their bullying.  I hope they have folks who are willing to tell them they are wrong.  But it doesn't look like it right now. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Sex Osmosis is Not Real

I can no longer remember what season it was, but there was a contestant on "Top Chef" who was white.  He was white when it came to talking about hunting, hiking, and barbecuing.  But he had apparently traveled to parts of Asia, dated an Asian dude or two, and he had worked in an Asian restaurant.  He spoke of these things as having equal importance in his expertise and understanding of Asian cuisine.  Such that when an Asian American guest chef showed up and rated him badly, he commented on that chef not being able to truly understand his expertise. 
I thought of him again when I listened to the "This American Life" episode 663 - How I Read It.  One segment focuses on a student who is Chinese American looking at his Harvard admissions file and discovering his interviewer had asked around about his mom and noted that he did not have a "tiger mom".  When he talked to the interviewer, the interviewer chuckled and said, well, remember, I'm married to one. 
And then an Congressman from Hawaii said he was an Asian trapped in a white body. On discovering that did not go over well, he explained that his wife, says it. (His wife is Japanese American.)
So, it's become clear to me, that some people believe that sex osmosis is real.  Certainly the point of long term relationships is to get to know people intimately, to understand them better than perhaps even their friends and family do.  Certainly if you are white and/or otherwise privileged, this depth of knowledge might give you a peek into marginalizations that you had not previously been aw are of on a consistent level.  And I would imagine you would get to know their food in a different way too.  The things people cook at home in their own kitchen are different than restaurant food.  
I remember one of the "30 Days" documentaries, when the guy went back home to his family after being immersed in a different experience and showed his family the pictures, there were things that still seemed weird to them, because of course they hadn't had the immersive experience.  So I also get that this experience, means you are often surrounded by people who have not yet had this experience, who have no idea what the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is and don't think it matters that much even if they know there's a huge difference between Oklahoma and Kentucky.  
But, sex osmosis isn't real.  Your experience of being near, and possibly in, someone else, is still not the same as being them.  If you have discovered shared things, like your family likes taking their shoes off too, or likes to save and reuse plastic bags, that is wonderful.  But being Asian-adjacent does not make you Asian.  It just doesn't.  You cannot Rachel Dolezal your way into an identity that's not yours.  And more importantly, you don't need to.  In the case of the Congressman, he was at an event for Asian and Pacific Islander voters.  They invited him because they thought he had something useful to say, he didn't need to try to increase his credentials by claiming an identity that isn't his. You are allowed to have an incredible appreciation for culture or cultures that are not yours.  
I am not Latinx by any measure.  I can still like nachos.  
And more importantly, as much as people keep claiming no one wants to listen to white men (despite all evidence to the contrary), we do not need white men claiming fake marginalizations.  What we do need are white men who have taken the time to learn and appreciate experiences outside themselves while still lifting up and making space for the voices who can provide more depth to the discussion.  You can cook food of another culture, you can notate cultural norms that occur in your circle, you can be proud of representing a diverse district, you can do all of that and still be white.  In fact you should. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Kristen Simmons spoke about the experience of being mixed race, and disconnected from parts of your heritage, and how others then think that means you are basically not that thing. The piece is brilliant, but the reason for it fits into a larger thing I have seen where people decide that pushing back on people not being "enough" something makes them look super woke.  I know identity policing has long existed, but le sigh. 
2. This piece looks at the physics of knitting and stretch and it's wider applications. 
3. This piece about a couple who became scientists for very personal reasons is a deep dive into the way that science and funding work, and who that serves. 

Monday, January 14, 2019


I love snow.  It helps a lot that I live somewhere where snow removal is handled by others. (I'm referencing the building here, not the city.)  But I love watching it fall, feeling like I'm inside a snowglobe.  I love the softening effect it has, that everything feels quieter.  (Until people break out the snowblowers.) I love the way everything looks, dusted with snow.  I love watching the odd shapes it creates. 
I went out yesterday even though it had been snowing for about twenty four hours at that point.  But the buses were running and the store where my book club is was open so I went.  
Amusingly (now, because we all made it home safe) they stopped the buses about two minutes after I arrived and suggested folks take metro, which, yeah, would that I could.  But of course, I was lucky, I was figuring out how to get home at sevenish, not later when many of those stores and restaurants that stayed open in the weather released their employees.  Things had definitely gotten a little more treacherous, and all the signs were there for this morning being a big icy mess, so glad that most people seemed to have gotten a snow day today. And thinking extra warm thoughts for the folks who's businesses are counting on entertaining and feeding those with snow days today.  And of course first responders, hospitals, care homes, and many other places stay open rain or shine.  
So I love snow, but in many ways I am able to from a position of privilege.  And I try to remember that too. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. This piece looked at the symbiotic relationship music has with teen fans in particular, and how that creates a place that predators like R. Kelly wish to be. 
2. The Golden Globes, and the HFPA who host them are problematic, both in who they are and who they award. (I haven't forgotten Brendan Fraser's accusations.)  But, Sandra Oh hosting was a special moment.  And for one writer, a very special chance to write Asian specific jokes. (At some point that link started autoplaying something, so ad block, or have the finger ready.)  
3. This writer/teacher shared how he discusses privilege with his students