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I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I love seeing pictures of friends and family and learning what they are up to.  I love funny jokes, videos and shares of memes, podcasts and things gone viral (whatever any of that means).  But I hate, and I mean HATE, drive-by opinion sharing.  If you are reading this, yes, I get the irony.

Clinton sucks!  Trump supporters are idiots!  Don’t believe this!  Don’t believe that!  It all sums up to “I’m screaming my opinion so that everyone can know where I stand!”  So, as I write this “scream of my opinion” I ask the question, “Why must so many of us do this?”  We have basically all turned into virtual bumper stickers, and I don’t want to be a bumper sticker (roll credits).

There isn’t nuance online.  We lose the often necessary emotional attachment of our words online (which sometimes is a good thing).  We can be lost in sarcasm online.  But most importantly, in these short sound bytes, we lose the particulars/details that can drive a point home properly.  It is the thing I struggle with the most when I teach biology to undergraduates.

For example, evolution is a complicated subject.  You can take an entire year of class on the subject, but yet many will make opinions, strong opinions about the subject because of what they learned online, TV, or quite frankly in a classroom.  I teach evolution in all of my classes, but it is difficult to to teach it in its entirety when its practically impossible to do so.  So, students are left with the best that they can make out of it, and unfortunately, they will have gaps in their knowledge, but think they do not have gaps.  Heck, I have gaps, and I teach the stuff, how can they not possibly understand that they too have gaps?

So, what’s the answer?  I don’t know, but I know it’s not Facebook, nor instagram, or whatever the kids are using these days.  I believe in relationships.  I believe in time.  Strangers are way less likely to listen to my words than friends.  I believe in talking over dinner, beer, or coffee.  I believe in being open-minded.  My mind must be able to listen to others with the real possibility that my mental framework can change based on what I hear.  It may not, but I must believe that it can change.

Here is the bet I am willing to make every single time.  If you vote for Trump, you didn’t do your research.  If you vote for Clinton, you didn’t do your research.  If you vote, you didn’t do your research.  I won’t win that bet everytime, but I am winning it more than 75% of the time.  But I guess the main point of my blog is that research is not a bumper sticker.  Whether read on a car, or read on a post, it’s still just a bumper sticker.  The volumes of information available on multiple subjects, simply can’t be summed up in a blog, a post, nor a sound byte (yes, I know I am spelling it this way).

I’m a pretty smart guy.  I know a lot about a lot of things.  But the most important thing that I know, is that I don’t know a lot about a lot.  I find the bumper stickers of life, politics, Facebook, etc., dangerous to society.  How important is it to believe in certain things?  In other words, if I disagree with you on a subject does it hurt society?  It’s not the disagreements that bother me, it’s the us versus them mentality that bothers me.  The bumper sticker, the post, the tweet, the politcal sound byte tells the world which team you are on.  It’s not about sharing.  It’s not about opening discussion.  It’s about declaring sides.  I’ll talk to just about anybody about anything, but it needs to be in-person, or at the very least on the phone.  So, give me call.  (Terrible ending for this blog.  Oh well, what you going to do?)

On a related note.  Vote!  Because what else you going to do?


My son and I drove passed some cotton fields two days ago.  Cotton fields are HUGE!!  Do you have any idea how big cotton fields are?  Also we passed by bales of cotton.  They were HUGE!!  Do you have any idea how big bales of cotton are?  Cotton is also very prickly.  Dangerous for the hands and there are millions of bolls of cotton in the field.  My perspective on “picking cotton” has never been more adjusted.

My family and I are on the road to North Carolina to our next adventure.  I am in a hotel in Indiana and about to head to breakfast with the family.

My daughter is watching some sort of cartoon based on Lion King.  Supposedly the cartoon is of the descendants of Simba.  Here is something to think about:  In the movie, Lion King, Simba, the son of Mufasa eventually has a cub with Nala.  Nala is another lion within Mufasa’s pride.  If both Simba and Nala are the cubs of lionesses in Mufasa’s pride it means one thing.  Simba and Nala are half siblings.  Both of them had the same father, Mufasa.  Only one male is the father in lion groups.  This is how it works in lions.

At the end of the Lion King, the presentation of the new prince cub’s parents were brother and sister.  And a side note, but also interesting, even if Simba did take over the pride, his first order of business would be to kill every cub in the pride, so that all future cubs would be his, just as his father, Mufasa would have done.  Puts the movie in a whole new perspective, doesn’t it?

The more you know …

When it comes to race and race issues, I believe a lot of people would rather not talk about it.  It’s better than it used to be, so why can’t we move on.  I think one of the problems is the lack of experience with racial issues.  Yes, this is another blog about race.  It’s OK, it won’t make you feel bad, but might enlighten you to something that happens on a regular basis.

I’m writing this blog from a hotel.  I got upgraded to a suite.  My suite is not relevant to the blog, I just wanted to say, “my suite”.  The reason I am at a hotel is because I was invited to lead a day long workshop on inclusiveness in the classroom.  A group of professors are interested in making sure that their classroom is a safe learning environment for all students, especially students of color.  I give the university credit.  They looked at the data, and found that the students that were unsuccessful, especially in the science classes, were disproportionately underrepresented minority students.  Faced with this data, they chose to do something about it, but did not know what to do, so they called me.  That last sentences was a bit hyperbole.  I’m not a Ghostbuster, but I think I have a few good things to say on the subject.

I hope the workshop went well, but that is not the point of this blog.  The point of this blog is what happened over lunch.  Our group broke for lunch.  We ate at the institution’s cafeteria.  A group of PhDs, all white, except for me.  While ordering my food, a person behind the counter asked for my ID.  I told her I didn’t have one and I was a guest of the university.  She proceeded to ask for more information and a contact that she could call to get the appropriate account to pay for my meal.  I said I didn’t know the account, but here is the name of the person that is hosting me.  She gave me my food and I went to sit with the rest of the group.

During lunch, I asked if anyone else got “carded”.  Everyone said, no, they did not.  As one of the professors pointed out later, “You are a PhD and still being accused of stealing lunch.”  Yup.

During the second half of the workshop, this began our conversation.  If I, as a 45-year-old professor can’t get lunch without being harassed, how will your students feel in that environment.  But was I “harassed”?  Was it really that big of a deal?  You might be reading this, and think that it was a small, innocent mistake.  Maybe it was a small, innocent mistake, but it might be the 500th time that small, innocent mistake has happened to me.  To me, one of the biggest disconnects between people is their lack of experience with these types of events.  For the professors in that room, they got to experience this little incident indirectly through me, possibly for the first time.  But this has happened to me so many times, it has become my new normal.  If something small like that has happened to me hundreds of times, would you blame me if I lost it on the 501st time?  It would make sense to you to think I was overreacting, but not when you realize how often stuff like that happens.

I was happy on how affected the other professors were by this event.  One professor asked, “What do I do if instead of you it was my student?  And that student was spending the first 20 minutes of my class thinking about the harassment they just received?”  Exactly.

My workshop may have been useless, who knows, but getting to “experience” what it is like to be a minority in a predominantly white institution probably taught more lessons than I could have ever given.  Perspective and experience, we need more of it.


Insert bad transition here …

I have so many blogs that I need to get to, but there is not enough time in my day.  At some point I am going to blog about several questions I have about people.  For example, how common is it to pee in the shower?  Do only guys do it?  This question and more, I would love answers to.  Until next time.

I’m back from a week long vacation with the family.  It was a great time.  Scratch that, it was great the first two days, good the third day, OK on the fourth day, I’m ready to be done on the fifth, I question if I like these people the sixth day and wow, I hate you guys so much on the seventh day.  All in all, a great week.

I’m an introvert (a blog for another time), which means social interactions drain me.  It doesn’t mean that I hate being social, which is a common misconception about introverts, but as the social interactions continue, my energy levels drop.  I enjoy hanging with the family, I really do, but the need for quiet time and isolation increases as time goes by.  It is even worse when screens are not allowed on our family vacation.

No screens is the brain child of my wife, God bless her.  It is her desire for us as a family to focus on each other for a week.  As far as I can tell, she loves this concept and enjoyed the tech-free week.  And I will admit, it was good for the family and it was good for me.  I recommend it to all the families out there to spend time together unmolested by internet, Facebook, Instagram, snap chat, etc.  But for me, it’s as appealing as exercise or an enema (roll credits).  There is no doubt that exercise is good for you, but most people don’t look forward to exercising, especially if you aren’t used to it.  And don’t get me started on enemas.

But just like exercise, dieting, etc., you get to a point where it feels good.  You start to wonder why you haven’t done this sooner.  The same is true for eliminating screens from your life.  Taking a break from email, Facebook and the internet is a wonderfully cleansing activity.  But then you get home, and the TV is back, Wi-Fi is back, and it’s like at the end of a good run is a Dunkin’ Donuts and you decide, “One donut won’t hurt.”  Next thing you know, you haven’t run for years, because donuts and watching TV are way easier than exercise.  I’m not ready to give up my devices, but I love the fact that I have kids and a wife that don’t mind (or at least they fake it well, which is all I really ask) focusing on our relationships together as a family.


I was at Walmart today buying a gift for my daughter’s birthday.  Some glitter from the gift got on my face.  The cashier pointed it out to me and highly recommended that I clean it off before returning home.  I looked at her and knew exactly why she was telling me that I had glitter on my face.  I had to laugh.  Walmart, saving marriages from gross misunderstandings every day.  Where is this commercial?

 

The family is on a no-tech holiday, more on that later. As a result, the blog will be back next week. Here is what I have planned for the future: My No Tech Vacation, Emotion vs Logic: Battle of the Titans, and a multi part series on Wisconsin. So, stay tuned. In the mean time, here is a quote that I like:

“I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious views of anyone.” – Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

If you are an owner or proponent of guns, please read this blog.  I have a question for you, but it’s not till the end.  We now return you to your regular scheduled program.

This is not a blog about race, but race is going to come up, and come up quickly.  I was talking with a friend about Black Lives Matter, the recent acts of violence of police against black people, and various people that have gone on air to share their opinions about the matter.  For example, our own, David A Clarke Jr.’s “controversial” comments on CNN.  I place the word controversial in quotes, because I didn’t think what he said was all that controversial.  I disagreed with the tone of his words, but I couldn’t disagree with the facts of his statements.  However, yeah, what he said was true, but irrelevant (roll credits).  I introduce to you one of my biggest pet peeves regarding arguments/discussions about serious topics:  Person A makes a point with Comment Z, and Person B counters their point by tying Topic X and makes a claim that it is connected and refutes Person A’s comment Z, even though they are no connected at all.  Confused?  Let me help.

A police officer kills a black man.  In the court of public opinion (which is where we are right now and it should not be forgotten that the court of public opinion is not in fact the court of law) the killing of the man was unjustified.  The cry of outrage is “Why is the system against black people?”  In other words, black lives matter too.  The white person’s response might be, “How dare you!  How dare you say that the police are racists!  If you are so mad, why aren’t you mad at the fact that more black people are killed by black people?  Huh?  What about that?”  Mic drop, and they walk away victorious.  Really?  Really?  Yeah, it’s true, more black people are killed by black people than by white people, but it’s irrelevant to this discussion.  Now before you get all mad, let me explain.

I’m against domestic violence.  There, I said it.  Husbands should never beat their wives.  But don’t you realize that there is more violence between single people than married people?  Oh, and by the way, sometimes the wife beats the husband.  What about that?

I’m against child abuse.  Wow, I’m really going out on a limb in this blog.  But the fact is, kids are more likely to be hit by other kids than their parents.  Why aren’t we outraged by that?  Why are we spending so much time on stopping child abuse?

They’re not the same.  I hope you see that.  But let’s pretend for the sake of argument that you are unable to distinguish the differences in the various topics.  Then why can’t you be mad at all of it?  Be outraged by white on black violence AND black on black violence.  But you know the real reason Person B is trying to counter your argument?  It simple.  They want to win.  They want to win the argument, and more importantly, not change a damn thing about how they live their life.  “Guess what angry black man, I win, and I don’t have to change a damn thing about who I am, how I think, or how I act.  How do you like them apples?”

Recently I read a posted article on Facebook where a man with a gun foiled an armed robbery of a restaurant.  It came with a snide comment by the poster (which I don’t remember what it was exactly), but I interpreted it as, “See, this is why everyone should be allowed to own guns.” (mic drop)  Really?  This one example is why Americans should keep their guns?  This is similar to my original pet peeve, or at least in the same family.  This is, “Let me give you one true event to prove my point” guy.  I don’t care who you are, you have used this one at some point in your life.  Whether you are uplifting the one black person in your life that agrees with your points (people do this with Charles Barkley ALL the time).  Guess what Mr. “Famous black person said something I agree with that proves my point” guy?  Mr. Barkley does not speak for me.  Or, you see a one time event, and say, “See, I told you it was true.”

Someone in my life never wears a seatbelt.  His argument is, people don’t know what they are talking about.  As kids, no one cared about seatbelts.  You see, they don’t know what they are talking about.  Opinions keep changing.  You see, it’s all the same.  We don’t use facts to inform our decisions, we use facts to confirm our decisions.  (I may be tooting my own horn, but I like that previous sentence.  I like it so much, I’m going to write it again.  Toot toot!)

We don’t use facts to inform our decisions, we use facts to confirm our decisions.  So, as I continue to blog from my very high horse and attempt to make the world just a little bit better.  I challenge my readers.  Don’t attempt to be discussion stoppers.  The examples above, in my opinion stop discussion.  If you care about making yourself better, and you are the only one you truly have control over, try to stay in the conversation and think, in what ways could I make this situation better?  Which leads me to the quasi end of my blog.  I want to ask a question.  And it is a question to all gun owners and proponents of guns.

Imagine a scenario by which a new strict gun control law was created, and you lost your right to own a gun as a result.  Because of this new law, America gun violence is reduced by 50% or more for the rest of time.  Would you support this law?

If you don’t understand what this question has to do with this blog, than I’m sad.  You missed the point of the blog.  I’ll do better next time.


I usually go in a different direction for this section, but this time I’m going to stay on topic.  Many of us want our police to be “above the law”.  They have jobs that most of us could not do.  They deserve our respect for what they do.  They are getting their hands dirty on a regular basis, where we are keeping our hands clean within the safe walls of our home that they protect.  I am both scared and super happy of the existence of the police force.  You may not get that, but it is true.  But the reality is, our police can’t be above the law.  They are human and will make mistakes.  When mistakes are made, things should be corrected.  I don’t want to be in a society that has a special group dressed in black that handles all of our dirty work for us and is given carte blanche as long as they get the job done.  It is a reflection of who we are, who we want to be as a society.  So, I will leave you with one of the greatest movie scenes of all time and amazingly relevant to this discussion.

From the Movie:  A Few Good Men (1992)

Judge Randolph: *Consider yourself in Contempt!*

Kaffee: *Colonel Jessep, did you order the Code Red?*

Judge Randolph: You *don’t* have to answer that question!

Col. Jessep: I’ll answer the question!

[to Kaffee]

Col. Jessep: You want answers?

Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to.

Col. Jessep: *You want answers?*

Kaffee: *I want the truth!*

Col. Jessep: *You can’t handle the truth!*

[pauses]

Col. Jessep: Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

 

Colonel Jessup went to jail.

Thanks for reading.

Welcome to the third installment of the racist trilogy.  It’s Return of the Racist and I promise no Ewoks, which were racist as hell.  I don’t have time to get into that right now, but trust me, raaaaaciiiist (said sing songy).  Despite the titles of episode one and two, OK, you actually are racist (roll credits).  You are not only racist, but your racism can be scored.  Do you know your Race Credit Score (RCS)?  This blog and the URL home of this blog were inspired by a friend of mine.  She was concerned that asking me questions about race and race relations would be offensive and cast her in a negative light.  I informed her that she had a very high RCS with me and like Experian, she would have to do a lot of negative things to significantly lower her race credit rating.  Then it got me thinking, what if you could find out your RCS, kind of like on a website called racecreditkarma.com (roll credits).  Thanks to her and others, a blog is born.  Or in my case, reborn.

So, how would it work?  I would love audience participation on this one.  If you have ideas, please feel free to comment.  But, I’ll go first.  Similar to a credit in real life, most adults have some sort of credit rating.  So, everyone has an RCS, meaning everyone has a level of racism.  For those of you that don’t see color, you don’t have a score at all, and just like in real life, having no credit is worse than bad credit.  My first thought is how long have you gone without making a racist joke or snide comment?  This would be similar to on-time payments and would have a major impact on your RCS.  How many accounts do you have?  Or how many friends do you have on the color spectrum?  Are they accounts that you never use, or do you have a history with any of your more colorful cards?  Any bankruptcies in your past, such as usage of the N-word.  And of course, the myriad of minor impacts on your RCS, such as calling someone by the wrong name because you thought they were the “other black guy”, going up to a minority and saying, “Do you work here?”, showing the not-so-veiled look of surprise when you find out that the black woman you are talking to is a doctor, and the ever popular, “Do you know the other minority that I met a year ago because you all belong to the same network?” question.

The reality is that many of us care to know just how racist we really are.  And perhaps an even greater reality, many of us don’t care to know how racist we are.  It is kind of like the millions of Americans that don’t care to know their credit score.  They just want to live life as if everything is OK and then become surprised when they can’t get a loan to buy that house.  What?  Me?  That can’t be true?  But I have 10 credit cards and I’ve only been late on them a few times.  Well, guess what?  You’re racist.  Whaaaaaaat!?!  As I mentioned in the previous blog, we all have biases in some form or another, but what we don’t realize is these biases make us racists.

We are a society of lines.  We encourage each other to get as close to the line as possible.  We tell stories of near death experiences, and times when we almost asked that fat girl if she was pregnant and we love these stories.  These stories keep us at the edge of our seats.  But when we cross the line, we get crushed.  No one gets mad at a great tackle, but we balk when someone gets hurt.  What did you think was going to happen?  You can’t be negative, biased, tell the “harmless” race joke, or discount someone’s worth because of the color of their skin and expect to escape the racist designation.  Time and time again people behave in such a way that makes certain groups feel lesser and become offended when called a racist.  Really?  So what do we do?  I’m sorry, I like the analogy.  You need to know your Race Credit Score.  Are goal should NOT be how close we can get to the racist line, but our goal should be to be as far away from being racist as possible.  This might mean that you can’t tell that joke that you think is sooooooo funny, because we are going to start caring about how others feel.  I know it’s scary baby birds, but Daddy is going to chew it up and spit in your mouth to make it go down easier (How do you like that image?  I love it!)

Here are some factors to help you determine your RCS (I don’t have time to rank them, I wish I did, but I neither have the time nor the energy to give them their respective point values, but once again, I welcome your input on this list):

  1. Eye contact – When you address a mixed group (various races and genders) do you give everyone equal eye contact?  You have no idea how many times I have been in a group setting, the only black person in the group, and the only person not receiving eye contact from the speaker.  Or conversely, receiving ALL the eye contact.
  2. Assumption of Power – When given the opportunity to choose a person of power, in other words, who among this group is either most likely to know the answer to my question or the leader of this organization.  You assume the minority is not in a position of power.
  3. Mistaken Identity – Do you believe, or by your action prove, that we all look alike.
  4. Relationships – Are you likely to shy away from interracial friendships.  I also include talking to a black person because you are overly trying to be their friend.  Trust me, this is not good for anyone.
  5. Negative/Dismissive Language of Any Kind – <You don’t care about other people’s lives.  They are blowing it out of proportion.  They don’t know me, I’m not racist.  It’s just a joke.  Why can’t they just let it go.  Maybe it’s their fault, did you ever consider that.  It’s not everyone, and it’s certainly not me.  I wish they would just shut up about all of this. Why are they so angry?> Have any of the above phrases crossed your mind or come out of your lips?
  6. A Lack of Desire to Be a Part of the Solution – Do you want to help, or do you just want to be proven right?

I could go on and on, but this blog is getting long.  If you struggle with any or all the above, your score has taken a hit.  So, how can you raise your RCS?  I could go on and on about this as well, but I have chosen to sum it up in one, hopefully, great sentence.  I’m even going to capitalize it for emphasis:

ANY BEHAVIOR BY WORD OR DEED THAT YOU ENGAGE IN THAT AT IT’S HEART IS TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE OTHER GROUP’S PERSPECTIVE WILL RAISE YOUR RACE CREDIT SCORE.

I am not asking you to be black , Mexican or Asian.  You don’t need to start wearing a dashiki to work.  I just want you try to understand my and others’ perspectives.  If you interact with me in a way that shows your true desire to know where I’m coming from, than there’s not a mistake you could make that would make me lose respect for you.  We would grow together, and both of us would come out better people.  Don’t ignore your racism.  Look at it.  Examine it.  Get to know it.  Then, and only then, can you know how to be truly far away from it.


Insert bad transition here …

I lost a Pikachu the other day, and I can’t let it go.  I mean, I can’t let go the fact I lost a Pikachu.  I had a lure and incense going.  I was at the local library.  It showed up and I was soooo excited.  I tried two Pokeballs and it kept getting out.  I used a raspberry and on my third try it was in the Pokeball forever and ever, and ever… and as I anticipated the “Gotcha”, it became clear to me that the program froze.  Denied.  I still haven’t let it go.  I have a problem.