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Ta-Nehisi Coates (TNC) has written one of the finest long-form pieces you will ever read: Fear of a Black President.
As a candidate, Barack Obama said we needed to reckon with race and with America’s original sin, slavery. But as our first black president, he has avoided mention of race almost entirely. In having to be “twice as good” and “half as black,” Obama reveals the false promise and double standard of integration.
Please set aside half an hour and read it.
We Indians, both those who live here and those back home, tend to view America from the prism of our compatriots. That view spans only a miniscule portion of a complex nation. For us, America starts in the 70s when our relatives emigrated and brought back American goodies. Today, our friends stay there (and don’t need to bring any goodies because we get everything in India). Most of my Indian friends seldom follow politics unless a bill about visa quotas is at stake. We don’t need to: in our America, there is little difference brought by Democrats or Republicans. Unlike white Americans, Indians in America rarely even have a token black or hispanic friend. We’re not yet there. We do however like our Asian friends.
(These are not meant to be criticisms or surprising facts, so don’t take them as such. I’m generalizing my experiences around Indians my age. As always, I could be wrong.)
I think we’re not very comfortable talking about race itself. Frankly speaking, we’re not very good at it. We fear that our non-racism—which in atleast a few cases is hidden racism—might be perceived as real racism by an excessively politically correct crowd. You should see the discomfort with which some of my Indian friends use the word African American instead of black. Or Mexican for Hispanic. Or Chinese-looking for Koreans, Singaporeans or Tibetans. Of course, I much prefer that to hearing derogatory terms such as kallu, makku, babban, gora or chink.
True story: A friend was convinced that chink/chinki was a term coined in India and known only to Indians so there was no way Chinese people around him would take note of the word. I had to correct him and lend him the word Asian for future use. I couldn’t correct his racism.
I think TNC’s piece ought to be read by all Americans. But more so it is a fine starting point for Indians who want to enter the complex world of race relations. Go read it. You can claim to understand America a bit better.
And I know I’m repeating myself but what a writer, that TNC guy!
I closely followed the story of Tyler Clementi’s suicide and Dharun Ravi’s trial–in part because I couldn’t tell right from wrong. I couldn’t place blame enough for me to find closure and move on.
More than a month after the New Yorker article, I finally found someone whose views I could identify with: Ta-Nehisi Coates
I neglected to state this clearly in my last post on the subject. I don’t think Dharun Ravi should go to prison for ten years. I’m not even sure I think he should go to prison at all. Prison is an awful place, where truly horrible things happen. In my mind, it should be used, mostly, to protect society from dangerous predators. I don’t think Dharun Ravi qualifies. I think even arguing that Ravi is responsible for Tyler Clementi’s death is a difficult case to make.
We often like a simplistic approach to everything–a black and white view. The world is much more nuanced than that. Close to everything I read these days leaves me sad at the lack of nuance. Everyone is sure. Their opinions absolute.
That cannot be true.
Amit Varma wrote about Ta-Nehisi Coates a while ago:
Back to Coates. In a blogosphere full of urgency and topicality, I find Coates’s blogging, laidback and introspective and so honest, a welcome break. Consider, for example, his post from last October, ‘Shame’. Look at those last two paragraphs. That is how it is done. It is timeless and transcendent.
I admire TNC’s writing; I admire him as a person much more. I’ll be happy to retire from life the day I am as good a person.
My favourite astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson makes an passionate plea for NASA, in light of the ongoing defunding of many of its programs by the U.S. government:
No less than four Republican candidates for President have been asked by god to run for President.
You cannot make this stuff up.
This guy Rick Perry was, only a month ago, a serious contender for Republican nomination. In today’s debate, he had a moment that was frankly painful to even watch:
After following 10-odd Republican debates, I’m this close to staying away from them in the future. The debates were comical at one point; now the only after-thought I have after watching a debate is: This place is fucked. One party isn’t even pretending to care anymore.
I get and even respect ideological differences. With someone like Jon Huntsman (who will never be nominated), you can bring a thesis, hear his anti-thesis and design a synthesis. Or if not, walk away by agreeing to disagree.
But everyone else is a batshit-crazy hypocrite. Ron Paul is perhaps the most consistent candidate in ideology, and even he doesn’t appear to be interested in working with any other positions except his. You could have the perfect plan but it amounts to zero if you can’t convince and work with others.
And now I’m just parroting lines from the debate.
A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.
Its obvious effects are shocking:
The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills,” which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.
And then Slate Magazine listed the non-obvious corollaries of the measure:
1. If you are legal person at fertilization, does that mean you could drink at 20 years and three months? Could you drive at 15 and three months? Could you vote at age 17, and collect Social Security at 64?
2. For legal purposes, would your birthday still be your “birth” day? Or your fertilization day?
3. Could you get a tax deduction for your dependent embryo?
4. Could you post ultrasound photos of your fetus (naked) on Facebook? Or would that be child pornography?
There is hope though: the amendment was rejected by voters.
Every year thousands of gay kids are bullied in schools just for being gay. It led to Dan Savage starting the well-known It Gets Better campaign.
Today Michigan state senate passed an anti-bullying bill. The caveat?
The Michigan state Senate on Wednesday passed the “Matt’s Safe School Law,” an anti-bullying bill that contained a last minute addition by senate Republicans that essentially nullified the bill by allowing an exception to the law for “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.”
(The bill is pending approval in the Republican-led house.)
This is a deeply flawed bill and I cannot decouple the flaw from the religious beliefs of Michigan’s senators. It says you can bully a gay teen if your religion taught you homosexuality is wrong — which I’d wager a majority of religious people believe and a majority of the population is religious. It will take the death of another teen due to this loophole and/or national outrage to correct this blunder. I’m not very hopeful for this is the crazy wing of the Republican party.
If you’re religious, do you see now why atheists outrage at the very mention of religion? Religion makes people unaware of the crazy things they’re doing. At the very least, religious people have to stop righteously controlling other people’s lives and infringing upon their rights. Beyond that, nobody cares whom you pray to. Really.
OR if you are religious, how do you propose one must reach out to such lawmakers/citizens?
This question is like those signals SETI sends into deep space. I don’t expect an answer — it has been suggested to me that I might have scared religious readers long ago.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. of A. cops seriously injured a war veteran Scott Olsen at the Oakland Occupy Wall Street protests. When other protestors came to his help … watch for yourself:
This is just today’s police brutality video. There’s one story every day. Worse, it is unlikely the cop will ever be identified or punished. Atleast in India, we have a process in place to suspend and/or transfer cops.
I am beginning to wonder if those who don’t follow politics tend to be happier. I follow India and U.S. and both countries have some fundamental fuck-ups. Just knowing that is bad enough, but knowing that the political class has no incentive to fix things is worse. Things are not going to get better, not anytime soon. Finding solutions is the easiest part — for every problem there is atleast one obvious, simple, non-crazy solution. There is just no incentive though, and it is telling that I’m using incentive as opposed to will.
Don’t dismiss this as pessimism — it is the conclusion everyone will reach based on facts.
Perhaps I’d be more optimistic if I knew lesser. Then again, Republican candidates don’t seem happy.
Daniel Kahneman writes about something called the illusion of validity. Pasting an excerpt won’t do justice to the piece. Here’s something from the piece that might entice you into reading it: There is evidence that financial advisers don’t quite know what the hell they’re doing.