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March 24, 2015

Of books, covers and other errors in judgement…

One of my favorite phrases is “I love it when I’m wrong.” I don’t actually love being a dolt, jerk, or simply being ignorant mind you. But I do love the learning opportunities being incorrect present, and last weekend’s NCAA tournament provided just such a chance.

For years, I’ve watched cheerleaders cry after their teams lost tournament games and, for what now seems strange reasoning, thought they were all broken up about their team losing. Part of that was probably my ego or something; since I’ve always been the one on the court it’s easy to look at things from that perspective. The media certainly portrays it as such… the broken hearted cheerleader, the devastated fan, etc.

But thanks to @roxiechalifoxie (Roxanne Chalifoux – ps super twitter handle!), I’ve been forced to re-focus my lens. I’m sure most (many?) of you know who she is by now, the Villanova piccoloist who “played on” through tears after the surprising defeat of her school in the second round of the NCAA tournament (they were a #1 Seed and lost to a #8).

Where my eyes opened up (pun not intended) though was when I heard an interview with her after the fact. During that discussion, she revealed she was crying because, as a senior, she was going to take off her uniform for the last time after that game.

Boom! Goes the dynamite!

Again, I have no idea why it took me this long to realize/process/accept/whatever this… but there it was. Darrun Hilliard (a senior guard on the Villanova team) was crestfallen at the end of the game, and it was discussed how tough it was for him that his career was coming to an end. Roxanne Chalifoux was having the same experience.

Years of practice, sacrifice, and dedication to her craft – a foundational part of her existence – was coming to an end. She was not an extra in the Hilliard/Villanova story, she was a headliner in her own (and the Villanova pep band’s) story. The same can be said for those countless cheerleaders. These events (which also happen to feature a basketball game) are the culmination of their college career and the long effort filled journey that brought them there.

I’ve never felt sorry for the Hilliards of the world. I have certainly felt compassion for what they were experiencing, but my overall feeling was more a celebratory one for what they had accomplished. “He has nothing to be ashamed of,” “when he looks back on his career, he will have much to be proud of,” “this game does not define him,” and other quotes like this come quickly to mind. When I saw Miss Chalifoux crying what came out of my mouth was (and I quote) “awwww.”

That was wrong, I was wrong, I get that now. Roxie Chalifoxie deserves more than “awww” for all of her effort. Those tears will not define her, she has nothing to be ashamed of (to her credit, she appears to have the “not ashamed” thing figured out), and she has much to be proud of. She is an accomplished piccoloist (who as of this publishing has played with The Roots on Jimmie Fallon) who appears to have a very bright future in front of her. One she built herself, the culmination of which we were lucky enough to experience with her.

I do love to be wrong, and in this case I really did learn (or at least recognize) and for that I’m grateful to the Villanova pep band and Roxanne Chalifoux… best finish of the 2015 NCAA tournament so far.

March 18, 2015

An Open Letter to the Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , , , , — sbj @ 10:07 pm

Note: I’ll start by saying that the open letter to which I’m writing is here, and is well worth your time to read. It talks about the importance of addressing and attacking the systemic roots of racism rather than identifying and personifying the issue via individual instances (that summary is what I got from it, apologies to Race Forward if I misinterpreted or misunderstood the intent).

race

Dear Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday (AKA Race Forward, AKA Rinku Sen),

I appreciate the focus you have placed on the institutionalized aspect of race and the importance of understanding these underlying tenets of our cultural fabric. I could not agree more (and, in fact, have written numerous times about this very need) regarding the urgency of pulling back the curtain in order to expose and address these issues.

Having said that, I cannot agree that individual conversations are unimportant – or – as stated by Jay Smooth in a tv interview, that it is sometimes better not to have a conversation if that conversation is not focused on the big picture. I get (and, again, agree with) the idea that entering the blame game does nothing but create defensive, closed off people who are no longer a potential part of the solution.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be like that. My father, for years, said “that was mighty white of you” whenever someone did something particularly praiseworthy. He grew up hearing it on a daily basis (never as a contrast to something being mighty black or brown by the way… it had nothing to do with race to him). *I* grew up hearing it on a regular basis (from him) and not really thinking much of it… until I went off to college that is.

I played basketball in college, and – as such – the racial makeup of my friends changed significantly (not a lot of diversity in a private Catholic high school in Reno Nevada). I never really got into my dads pet phrase so I never ran into a problem using it, but as I hung out with my new friends I found myself becoming increasingly aware of what was and was not racially charged. Suddenly, for example, the Cleveland Indians mascot was significant to me. Over the years, I sort of forgot about dear old dads expression. But then I went home to visit and *boom* there it was, big as life, and through my new world lens… unconscionable.

So I talked to my father about race, about bigotry, about reinforcing negative (or falsely positive) stereotypes… about “mighty white.” He was shell-shocked. What he was saying (the meaning rather than the words) had never occurred to him. Some would say my father doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, other would say everyone has some racism or bigotry in them and he is no exception; but either way, it is highly unlikely that anyone has ever said (nor are they likely to ever say) he is a racist in any way shape or form. The guy simply doesn’t have “race” or anything like it in his value system… people are people, their actions determine “good” or “bad.”

But here’s the thing, I could have talked to him for days on end about systemic racism or about institutionalized bigotry and it really wouldn’t have been something he could relate to. In his insulated world (he moved to Boise Idaho after I left for college… also not a hotbed of racial variety, especially in 1984) those idea just wouldn’t (couldn’t) resonate with him. His world, consisting largely of one race, didn’t really contain any racism. However, once I was able to illustrate how he, himself, was acting, it opened the door to the bigger, more substantive, conversation. Simply put, once he realized he could be doing racist things (without actually having any racist thoughts or ideals) the idea of a society so conditioned was no longer such a far-reaching concept.

My (long-winded) point is that the individual conversations do matter, in fact, they are important. It’s not the existence of these conversations that cause defensiveness, it is the method of delivery or approach. Most of society is not ready to take on big conceptual issues. Heck, much of society is already pretty occupied trying to get the kids fed and the house cleaned up in time to get some sleep before they start all over the next day. And, if they are potentially open to waxing philosophical about race (or gender, or sexual preference, or gender identity et. al.) they are probably more likely to do so if they are invested or the subject resonates with them in some personal way.

Again, I appreciate your focus on the more entrenched societal norms and how they effect race (and other issues) today. Those are the areas in which real and lasting change can take place. I’d just encourage you not to lose track of the value of everyday, personally relevant, conversation in the mix. It’s not a matter of settling, it’s a matter if being comprehensive and fully vested in your efforts, and I think that goes well beyond the shallow bar of settling for “okay.”

With Respect,
SBJ

March 6, 2015

Why I love “The Dress”

Yeah, I said it. I’m not sick, annoyed, confused, or tired of “The Dress” and it’s blue, orange, white, black, gold… purple, pink, green… whatever… hues. It’s not a waste of time, nor an extravagant distraction of the first world order, and here’s why. Because, to put it simply, it has made people think.

Today I saw this:

Sorry “time wasting” apologists… that is not a frivolous message; and it resonates with just about everyone with an internet connection and a pulse.

Not enough for you, how about science:

“These receptors, called melanopsin, independently gauge the amount of blue or yellow incoming light, and route this information to parts of the brain involved in emotions and the regulation of the circadian rhythm.”

Still not your bag… okay how about some deeper (there-is-no-spoon’ish) introspective thinking:

All is conditioning. All is social construction, thought forms, carefully built identities, established “facts” that aren’t really facts but merely mutually agreed-upon illusions we greedily suck down like wine.

Consciousness swallows all labels, spits them back out as origami ducks nowhere near in a row.

Which leads to this very interesting, contemporary and in some ways ironic discussion on the absence of moral facts (vs opinions) in our children’s perceptions of today’s society.

I could fill countless lines of blog space with links to fascinating and educational conversations about, or uses of, “the dress” (none of which, by the way, spend any time arguing about which color it is; those arguments seem to be being made by the same people who think facebook and twitter are all about pictures of burnt peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other wayward “this is my lunch” postings).

So, with apologies to those (very specifically some members of my family) who find “The Dress” to be some sort of productivity succubus bent on destroying the last vestiges of “time well spent;” I’m glad this little debate went viral, I’m glad we are able to recognize – if only briefly – that we all see things through a different lens, and that one view is not necessarily the right or only perspective on things.

We can all learn a something from that little rainbow of a dress.. as long as we don’t waste too much time arguing about it.

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