Talking Racism in America

Let me begin all of this by saying: I don't know if I am a racist.

I mean, i don't think that I am. I hope that I am not. I believe that I am equitable, fair, and kind. I am, however, not colorblind.

I see captivating tones of copper and earth in the face of my native american friends, the profound depth and beauty of blackness in the hands of some of my peers. I see the pearly sheen on the crest of the almond shaped eyes of my neighbors and the perfect olive hew of my delivery man. To me this is observation, but even as I type this I was conscientious of the words I chose for fear that they would be misunderstood.

Since I'm exploring my own racism allow me to explain why and where I am coming from.

A coworker and I were speaking about learning moments in life. He mentioned his youthful ignorance of homosexuality and how it was uncomfortable for him until his best friend came out to him. As a gay man I could understand his position. He then shared that he grew from that and became an advocate. We continued our conversation, talking about vulnerability, growth, and lessons learned. We were walking on the streets outside and he said he didn't need sunglasses because of his, as he put it, "chinese eyes." Given the nature of the conversation we'd had I shared I opened up about a korean babysitter from my youth. I was five, maybe six years old when one night I asked her how she see anything with her eyes being so squinty. I was a child. I was curious. I distinctly remember trying to imitate her eyes to understand her view of the world was, to see what it was like. I made fun because I didn't understand. When finished my seemingly innocent story I turned to him he looked at me, appalled.

"That's racist" he said flatly with a clear air of offence in his tone.

I tried to defuse the situation by saying how much I learned since, and how I'd grown. But the moment left me raw and doubting my own impartiality. Was that racist? Am I racist?

Growing up I don't ever recall attributing physical or other differences to race. I do remember overhearing words that seemed to my tender young ears to be cruel, but they came from the mouths of people, family members I knew to be kind and loving. So how could that happen? I learned that Grandpa didn't trust Japs because so many of his friends were killed during the war by Japanese soldiers. He wasn't all too fond of Beaners because Mexicans had taken the much of the carpentry work that he built his family home with. There was a story behind his racism. He grew to become racist because his life experiences shaped his opinions and assumptions, those assumptions just happened to be based on race. Grandpa died at 80. I don't ever remember him doing anything violent or
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i'm thankful

On this thanksgiving I'm particularly thankful for the beauty of juxtaposition, the art of the unlikely, the privilege of opportunities realized. I'm grateful for the temples of creativity and imagination that surround me in this amazing and trying city. I'm grateful to be in the company of strangers, families, and friends who cherish the unusual, celebrate the fantastic, and revel in experimentation. I'm grateful for the trials and triumphs that have made me who I am. I'm grateful to shed a tear for something that moves me and to change the life of those that inspire and touch me in ways i could never have dreamt. I'm grateful for this life I live and all that have made it what it is...

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Finding humanity in the smoke of tragedy

Flowers, flags and balloons at a memorial in Boston near the site of Monday's explosions.
Wang Lei/Xinhua /Landov

By Nathaniel Eggleston

This week has brought out so many emotions in all of us. It’s been ugly. It’s been a wake-up call. It’s been the week from hell. It’s been a rallying cry. Hopefully, the turbulence has subsided and, for now at least, we can take this time to begin healing and understanding everything that has happened.

But how do we go about processing a series of events so jarring to our way of life? How do we begin to readjust to life when these kinds of events are part of our recent history? I can’t answer that question for everyone. I’m not a counselor or therapist. I’m just another human trying to cope.

I struggle to find sense in the motivation behind the bombers’ actions that would, in a quest to bring attention to some cause or plight, forever alter the lives of innocents and shatter the sense of security that has lulled us into complacency. I’m not talking about being vigilant about our physical security or having more scanners and frisk-down searches at public events. I’m talking about a different kind of complacency.

This week we’ve seen thoughtless posts on social media from men and women we call our leaders who, in a quest for some I-told-you-so moment, offended not only the memory of those lost but, made us, as Americans, look heartless and cold. Yet in stark contrast we saw ordinary, everyday, men and women, spectators and first responders who became valiant heroes and selfless defenders; running to the rescue of the unknown, putting their lives at risk to uphold a standard of selfless humanity that is all too often ignored except in times of crisis; two sides of the same coin.

An explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas. Photo Credit Unknown.
That is the miraculous thing about human nature. While we are bound to our animal and instinctual behaviors our humanity permits us choice and control. In the minutes that followed the blasts on Boylston Street incredible feats of human excellence, unabashed selflessness, and unassuming greatness rushed in to save lives. In the words of Fred Rogers we saw “the helpers.” This scene was repeated in Waco, Texas in the aftermath of the terrible explosion at a local fertilizer plant. Some of the first confirmed deaths there were first responders rushing into the fire. In those initial moments our instinct to survive and help our neighbors triumphs over every other emotion. We are bound, not just by survival instinct, but also by the instinct to nurture and lift up, to rescue our people, stranger or loved one.

We are all one in the smoke that lingers after tragedy strikes. No matter where we are in the world when we hear the news of horror we send up a prayer, make a wish, and extend our energy in the hope that somehow our best intentions will give strength to those in need.

Then comes the speculation, the questioning. Our instinct wants vengeance, justice, retribution.  But revenge is an ugly beast, the polar opposite of the benevolence our humanity just displayed.  Columnists, TV and radio personalities, and pundits of all philosophies offered voice to the concerns, fears, and dark aspirations of every American. 
Got you asshole!!”

I’ll be the first to admit that for a brief instant I felt these same emotions. I was angry.  Then a came across a meme on Facebook with the words “an eye for an eye only leaves the whole world blind.” When it comes to the consequences for wrongdoing, we have a choice. That’s the great thing about humanity, we, as conscious, sentient, reasoning beings, can seek out those guilty of crimes and do the same to them – or – we can seek them out and find the root of their action and from that learn to better ourselves and offer hope that in the future the same egregious acts will not be repeated.

Makeshift memorial in Newtown, Connecticut. Mario Tama/Getty Images
In the wake of the Newtown Massacre, where twenty young boys and girls and six of their teachers lost their lives, we all cried out for something to be done about gun violence. We as a society made a choice to not seek vengeance but rather to learn from our ways and improve our nation. On Tuesday, the senate voted against that action. They selfishly chose greed and power over doing what is right, what 90% of Americans supported. This only added further insult to injury as only 12 hours before a gun battle broke out on the MIT campus and one brave police officer lost his life. Former Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords has taken her fury and mined it into the fuel that continues to inspire positive change. She had a choice, just like we do now.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in custody. But as of yet, is only a suspect. American justice relies on the neutrality and surety of evidence-based convictions.  My emotions might tell me that this is the mastermind behind a gruesome attack and he deserves the very fire of hell itself. The media, though attempting to fain neutrality, will present every minutiae of this case for years to come and may convict Tsarnaev in the court of public opinion before he, a naturalized American citizen, even steps into the halls of justice.  Here’s where our humanity comes in again. From all accounts this young man was a pleasant, happy, respectful person. While some are gathering outside with pitchforks, torches, a rope and ipads to film it, let’s take a moment to try and understand what happened in the life of this youth. What led to this kind of 180? We can reach deep within our animal instinct and wish evil upon him or in this moment, we as a people can show how, even in the face of unadulterated terror, we are still good, not better-than, but simply good. We have a choice.

This week has been one hell of a week for us. It felt like one blow after another. For some of us everything has changed. F
or most of us our lives will go on with little change. We’ll be dismayed by the challenges in D.C., terrified by the deaths in Waco, and horrified by the actions of two young men in Boston. But Monday morning the sun will still rise and our responsibilities will still be there and we’ll move on. The catch is - we have choice.

This week we’ve seen our share of violence. We’ve seen our efforts to curb it defeated. We’ve witnessed death on an inexplicable scale. But we’re not alone. The big picture in the world shows us: an earthquake in China, a car bomb in Iraq, a shoot-out in Somalia, a young girl raped in India, and Syria is 18 months into a bloody civil war. It’s all terrible news yet from the ashes of that destruction the smoke that rises somehow unites us. It brings us all together regardless of where we are, what language we speak, what sins are in our past or what greatness we hold. We are all one despite and because of the tragedy. The key is to not forget that unifying spirit once the smoke has cleared. The bombing at the international Boston Marathon wasn’t just an attack on Americans. It was an attack on our very humanity. It was an attack on Kenyan, French, Canadian, Ethiopian, Mexican, Columbian, Japanese and many more runners and spectators. In this world of so much tragedy wouldn’t it be tragic to forget that we’re all human?

We can choose the instinct to be vengeful and violent, even in the smallest way – or we can choose our humanity, choose to be good, to be benevolent, to be selfless everyday.  We can turn our anger into action and our outrage into outreach. That is what is resilient and grand about the human race. That is the vital lesson that we must learn. There is opposition in all things and with every bad day there is a great one just around the corner, it’s our choice what to make of it.

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statement of purpose - teach for america application

My passion for education was ignited at a very young age, unusual I'm sure, I was quite lucky though. I was a part of the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Program in California schools. I had some of the best educators in the state as my guides and mentors. I still look to them today for advice and direction.  I believe that our most supreme responsibility is to create opportunities for young people to live out their fantasies, dreams, and wildest ambitions. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago teaches that through play young people are able to connect with parts of their creativity and intellect in a way that no other activity allows. I believe that active learning is the optimal environment for any student but it must be tailored to their needs. I believe that education is not a one-size-fits-all formula, but rather, a constantly evolving experience as unique as the individuals who can be forever shaped for the good. 

I believe that learning should happen organically and that the most effective lessons are the ones you learn when you don't even realize you're being taught. I believe that learning is a lifelong pursuit and a habit that begins in our formative years. We are inspired by those that are around us, who motivate us to work hard, to become something greater than we are today. I believe that education is the greatest equalizing tool that awakens giants and emboldens them to take charge of their destiny and change the world. If my students feel empowered and inspired then I have succeeded. If they have been challenged enough to see their own capacity for growth, I have succeeded.

Teach for America empowers our most impoverished communities. I have worked in schools from Abidjan and Yamoussoukro in Côte d'Ivoire, to the tough banlieu of Paris, France. My classroom was filled with young men and women from all over the globe and from nearly every socio-economic class imaginable. These students had to fight to survive. I grew up in the rough gang schools of outside of LA. and experienced first-hand the difficulties of being a minority, being bullied, and being different. Education is inevitably about more than just books and tests. It’s about breaking down the barriers and helping that young person find their passion. That’s why Teach for America is successful and why I want so much to be a part of that mission.

Education is my passion. Helping people achieve their dreams is what truly animates me. Working closely with Sir Ken Robinson I learned that passion is what activates real learning and ignites a life of imaginative beginnings and happy endings. I believe life is a school and every moment a privilege to share our vision of the future with those around us. I believe that young people are our future. I believe that it is our calling and our responsibility to help them make this a better place. 

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inalienable rights and the pursuit of happiness

     your definition of god has nothing to do with the protection of inalienable rights. rights are not granted by government, churches, communities, or all powerful beings, but rather are innate at the birth of all creations. this nation was founded on a principle of EQUALITY FOR ALL. all is not defined as those who fear god, or live according to traditional definitions, or have blue eyes; all is fully encompassing. there is no qualifier.  I'm certain that even those living beings over whom we have dominion deserve fair and compassionate treatment, if not the right to joyful pursuits until their moment of purpose arises. as this nation has grown and learned and improved we have seen the error of our ways and corrected the path that we have taken. we have made right our wrongs and opened the gates of opportunity and the full pursuit of happiness to all races, genders, and abilities. we have boldly protected the human pursuit of faith. we have sought forgiveness for our foolish interpretation of tradition and restored the rights of men and women that had before been denied their path.  

     i fully respect your right to worship and believe as you so choose and though i disagree i would NEVER take that away from you, yet you actively seek to deny me access to rights that you readily enjoy. how dare you. you, sir, do not emulate the god that you profess to believe in, nor do you live by that first law of heaven, "treat others as you wish to be treated." if this nation is to truly be a "beacon on a hill" and stand up as a model of right and good we must put aside this kind of action, this bigotry and stand for equal treatment of all americans. we are, after all, a nation founded on the idea that "all...are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

     my definition of equality is a world in which the pursuit of happiness is possibility for all people. when it comes to rights - those guarantors of promise, protection, future, and hope -  those rights are not granted by a government, or men, or any other earthly entity, those rights, they are innate. we born free. it is only by our very own societal consent that governments and people strip our neighbors of those freedoms and rights. we are undoubtedly complicit in the restriction of joy by those that would seek their happiness in a manner that we do not consent to. is it our role to define what happiness is? is it our place to take from one being its right, its freedom to live by its own accord? it is not our place to define another's joy. it is certainly not the role of government to restrict, confine, block, or deny my rights or the rights of any other that seeks only their own happiness through no harm to another. 
     i should not be discriminated against/denied access to rights based upon any characteristic of my being, nor should anyone else. it is not government's place to impose any belief system on anyone regardless of what that belief system is. it is the role of government to protect all citizens rights, freedoms, and pursuits, as long as those rights and pursuits do no harm to another. you have every right to believe as you do. you have the right to pursue work, housing, marriage, family, retirement, travel, to pay your taxes with your partner, to feel secure, to feel protected under the classifications of the law, to worship your god(s), to educate yourself, to better yourself with no infringements because you are 100% protected by the laws of this land. you enjoy hundreds of rights and privileges that I have been denied because of one singular characteristic that I DID NOT CHOOSE!!!!!!! that restriction, that roadblock on my journey toward happiness, is 100% preventable by adding less than 10 words to our constitution. 

     now, i will fight to the death for you to be able to express your religious beliefs. i will fight for the death for you to be able to worship how you wish. i will respect and defend the practices of your faith. but the moment that someone tells me that despite my willingness to defend their rights, they will not only deny me even the pursuit of those rights they will also spend millions of dollars to insure that the laws of this land prevent me from even being able to to aspire to equality; that my will light fire to my rage. that is undeniably discriminatory behavior, it is, in fact, the definition of bigotry. and that is not acceptable in the America that I believe in. 

     there are many practices that i personally do not condone and cannot stomach, but may the lord strike me down, if someone were to take away the rights of those individuals to be members of the KKK, or to sacrifice animals to worship their god, or the right to bear arms, or the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to be as ugly and hateful as they are, or the right of someone to vote, or due process granted to a certifiable murder... regardless I will stand up and defend those rights. so how dare any american try and take away my pursuit of happiness.

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STEM and the Ballet

Marginalizing the fields of study (the arts, history, reading, English, foreign language, etc.) that promote the creativity, critical thinking, and out-of-the-box ingenuity that is required to make entrepreneurs and scientists successful is unwise. Americans are strong because we're not bound by convention, we're not restrained by rules and norms, we're individuals, at least we used to be. If we empower that kind of educational environment then we will continue to remain on top. We need to unleash the imagination of our people and allow them to be anything that they can IMAGINE! 

Confining education to STEM is foolish and it will only tie us down to be like every one else, we're not like everyone else. There is a unique spirit in this country that you cannot teach, you cannot capture, you cannot put it in a textbook; you can only create an environment where the American spirit and creativity is unleashed allowing imagination to be our guide, truly showing us that there are no boundaries. Our students from primary schools all the way to PhD programs need to be empowered to think about things in new and creative ways and that happens by bringing the humanities together with STEM, that happens by teaching chemistry through theatre and history through biology. We need to REINVENT EDUCATION not simply regurgitate the past ideals and call it dinner. If our economy, our culture, our society, our nation is going to survive this crisis and survive it well we must turn to educators and innovators to create the world's most successful students by allowing them to be empowered to create a better future, and that will only happen through REAL and MEANINGFUL Education Reform, it won't happen by focusing all of our efforts purely on STEM. 

We will not be successful in science without the ability to question what is accepted and find greater truth. We will not be successful in technology if we do not have a culture that empowers the dreamers to think up the ideas of the 21st and 22nd centuries and beyond. Engineering will be bound by what we know and the beauty of architecture, bridges, and even computers will be limited by the creative talents of virtual porridge. Mathematics is tied up by endless rules, laws, and theories; but the greatest breakthroughs were made by those that refused to be held down by those rules, those that made mathematics work in their favor and created phenomenal works by challenging the status quo. Our students get this sense of adventure, this healthy appetite for rebellion from the humanities. All things are linked together. Education tells a story of humanity and creates the authors of our future.  We must begin to see that STEM is nothing without the ideas of Shakespeare and Robespierre, Pollack and Picasso, and so many other artists and writers, performers and activists. STEM education is needed and necessary, but we need to look at science from the perspective of a sculpture, we need to look at technology like a dancer, see engineering as a protagonist and antagonist in a great novel, we need to see mathematics in the way a revolutionary sees the spread of democracy. 

Education, is not a formula that can simply be applied and then automatically pop out a perfect solution; it is a unique combination of ideas and circumstances, experiences and exposure to the world. An education system focusing purely on STEM, is like a plumber in a flooded house looking only at the kitchen sink to fix the leak. 
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is it time for a revolution?

we are governed by fear, and even fear of our own. we are fretting the tiniest of infractions, distracted by their manufactured gravity, while votes are regularly stolen by machines operated by the secret combinations that would overthrow real democracy for the shadow of choice and the illusion of freedom. we are willingly sacrificing our rights to those fears. we're abandoning the sacred principles of this nation in the name of national security. there is a coup that is happening and it has nothing to do with this supposed threat that we're trying to protect ourselves from but has everything to do with slow and steady demolition of our rights.

I would much rather be too forgiving, too bound by process, too strict to the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution, too liberal in the interpretation of our laws, too gracious in the giving of aid, too kind to those that seek asylum, too laborious in the excise of justice, too generous to those in poverty, too careful to strike out at war, too quick to admit our errors, too clear and transparent in my doings, because i would much rather err on the side of goodness at the risk of being called naive than be perceived as a nation of bigots, fear-mongers, and war criminals, quick to abandon their poor and strike at the slightest hint of wrong doing. A few votes here and there aren't going to make or break us it is what is done with those votes that will determine this nation. it is the powers that manipulate those voices that would bend to their money that we should worry about... we have much bigger problems to worry about.

i cannot tolerate those that will plunder our society by remaining barely legal in their actions and leaving behind all shred of honesty, duty, values, and responsibility to the society, the world, the environment, their consumers. i cannot stomach wealthy men and women who will lobby, plot, manipulate and destroy the fiber of competition, integrity, and decency that makes our nation and this world great. i cannot tolerate the encroaching monopolies. i cannot sit by and idly watch our houses of government filled with men and women whose allegiances to their oath of office are overshadowed by their duties to those that bought their place in office, and therefore their voice. i cannot simply watch the middle class be systematically eliminated by those that would hord power and money, while fleecing the public to believe that by taxing the rich justly they are stealing the American dream, a dream that has been made impossible, not by the efforts of those that would protect the middle class and the poor but rather a dream that has been eliminated by those who have bought this nation from those who have bled to keep it free. i truly believe that the power lies with the people but only if they are wise to the lies that they have been told.

right now we have been controlled by fear, manipulated by scarcity, and lulled into a sense of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. the devil in this day and age is those that have not known sacrifice, have not known struggle, have not known poverty, have not known difficulties... they are the ultra-rich, the new monarchy of this world, the elite, the royalty that believe they are above the laws because they can make those laws by dropping their billions collectively on campaigns that buy elections. it is time that the people, the every day people, us commoners, we, the people must stand up and scream that enough is enough. we must remove from power those that have stolen it with their unrighteously earned millions, and would say to us, "let them eat cake." it is time for OUR revolution, it is time for us to chop of their figurative heads and start again with the interests of all in mind, that poor man might become rich by the sweat of his brow, that opportunity might become a right for all mankind and not just for those that can afford it.

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i want to know what it's like...

words cannot express how much this impacts me, affects me, touches me. this is every word that i have ever wanted to say regarding equality.

please, support equality.

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Students at Boise State University are offered the world. They are offered to learn and grow beyond textbooks and group projects. Students are given the opportunity to experience life outside of their comfort zone and stretch their realm of possibilities to a new level. I have been fortunate in my university experience to have seen much of the world, but one of the most poignant experiences has been working with my peers in some of the poorest regions in the western hemisphere, communities like Ketto, on the tiny Caribbean island of Jamaica. 

It wasn't too long ago that Student Involvement & Leadership Center Director, Jeremiah Shinn, brought PROJECT JAMAICA to Boise State University. This service learning experience has allowed students to live the lessons they were taught in the classroom, and put into practical application the lessons and theories of leadership and service. Students involved in various university programs and student organizations have been able to travel to Jamaica and offer up their time, talent, sweat and strength. This winter 2012, the trip was especially designed for the Greek Community, the Sororities and Fraternities at Boise State University. As a new member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity I considered myself lucky to be able to participate in such a worthy venture. In total, there were representatives of nearly every Greek social organization on campus. 

The members of the sororities and fraternities at Boise State University stood in the face of their stereotypes and defied convention. I have never seen a more cohesive, respectful, and uplifting group of young people working toward a common goal. Gandhi taught that "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Not only did our community find our true identity but we as individuals were able to find something greater than ourselves. 

Poverty isn't something we are very familiar with here, Seeing the world through the eyes of those that live so simply yet with such grace has reminded me of what is truly important in life. As a photographer, I saw the beauty and struggles of Jamaica through my camera. Being with my DU brother allowed me to see our goals through a more refined lens, the values upon which I will continue to build my life.  As a student I have been able to focus my vision on the excellence outside the classroom and beyond the library. I can honestly say that I wouldn't be the man that I am today had I not been afforded the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of my fellow observers of humanity. I am a better man because I have seen the world through the eyes of a child as I served their needs and gave of myself. 

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