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If you know me personally and a reader of my blog, you know that my son plays hockey.  He is nine years old and he loves the game and I love watching him play the game.  I don’t know a lot about hockey, but I have come to love the sport.  In many ways, I think there might be a conspiracy perpetrated by the White Conglomerate Program (also known as WCP, but pronounced affectionately as “wasp”) to hide the sport.  Because hockey is lit.  I enjoy watching it more than football (insert gasp here), and I especially enjoy watching my boy play, and he is good (and there are many independent parents to support my claim).  I’m 45 years old and I watched my first Stanley Cup game last year.  I have been to several minor league hockey games and now have two NHL games under my belt.  It’s a fun game.  So, when I tell the story that I am about to tell, it makes me sad.
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Hockey is a white sport.  In other words, it is a sport dominated by white players, at every level.  My son is black.  Actually, my son is half black and half white, but that doesn’t matter, he is black (I could write a blog about this subject alone).  He plays on a team that has 15 kids and he and one other kid is black.  So far, they are the only two black kids I have seen on the ice this season.  During a game with a very good team (they loss 0-9), the other kids and the coach were using foul language according to my son.  He said they were taunting him and his teammates.  We talked about it after the game, and he seemed fine and moved on.  That evening I received a phone call from my son’s hockey coach.  Here is the short version:  According to my son’s teammates, one of the other players AND the coach called my son the N-word.  I got off the phone with the coach and talked to my son about it.  He did not hear anyone call him that.  He said he heard other bad words, but not that one.  And he said that he would know because “I’ve been called that before”, he said.
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Let’s take a moment to pause.  My nine-year-old son was confident that he didn’t hear that word because he had been called Nigger before.
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Pause.
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There are so many reactions that one can have to this story:  One could explain it away.  Maybe they didn’t hear it right.  It was the heat of the moment, it happens.  Don’t worry about it, I’m sure it won’t happen again.  Don’t be so sensitive, it’s just a word.  They were taunting the other kids too, why does it have to be about your son?  Oh man!  I could write about this all day.
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It sucks that I have had to prepare two children so far (my oldest son has an N-word story as well) about being treated this way because of the color of their skin.  Many of you reading this now do not have this on your “I must teach my kid this lesson” on your parent to do list.  Maybe you understand, maybe you don’t, but I am here to tell you, it can be difficult to be black in this country.  But let me teach you the appropriate response to this situation, and I will make it simple, with one word … empathy.  Don’t get defensive.  Don’t rationalize.  Empathize.  Even if you don’t understand.
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The story continues …
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My son’s coach called me immediately after the game.  He did not see nor hear the incident.  He was informed by his players.  Not by my son.  Not by me, but the other white nine-year-old players.  They were upset by it.  One of my son’s teammates was compelled to tell his dad, who than relayed the story to the coach.  The coach called me, and made it very clear that he was bringing up the other team and its coach to the league.  This behavior is unacceptable.  He could have dropped it.  Once he learned that my son did not hear the word, he could have said let’s not rock the boat.  Maybe it was just a misunderstanding.  Nope.  Unacceptable to the coach.  Unacceptable to the kids.  I could not have been more proud of a group of kids and parents than I was of my son’s hockey team and coach.

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Life is not perfect, it is messy.  It sucks that I have two sons that have had to deal with this issue.  It sucks that I have to prepare my sons for what it will be like to be a black man in today’s society.  It sucks that in 2016, nine-year-olds will be using the language of their adults to treat other groups of people as lesser human beings.  I hope this story sticks with you.  Maybe it will inspire you to talk to your own kids about the N word.  That nine-year-old boy could have been silent.  He chose to speak up.  That’s good upbringing.  They say kids are taught to be racist.  Well, than kids can be taught to speak out against racism too.  The hockey coach could have swept it under the rug, and I would never have known.  The kids on his team could have been silent and no one would have known.  Today was not the day to tell me that all kids matter.  Today was the day to tell me that my son’s life matters.
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Roll credits.
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I should probably just end this blog in a serious way, but I can’t, it’s not in my nature.  I will leave you with one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies, Canadian Bacon, starring the late great John Candy as Sherriff Bud Boomer.  Here is a brief conversation between Roy Boy, played by Kevin O’Connor and my man, Bill “Radio Raheem” Nunn playing Kabral.
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Roy Boy: How come you never see any black guys playing hockey?
Kabral: Now do you think it’s easy to just gradually take over every professional sport? Let me tell you something, man. Brothers have started figuring out this ice thing. Hope you enjoyed it!
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Sadly, Bill Nunn recently passed in September of this year.  RIP.  There’s your serious ending.
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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.