Saturday, January 31, 2009

Barack Obama

This past Tuesday I went to Washington DC for the inauguration. I was down there for two days. It was just an amazing experience to say the least. I had the privilege of witnessing history and more importantly being part of it. I want to share my experience and what I felt while I was down there.

Today was nothing but miraculous! A few of my friends and I stood out in the cold on the National Mall for about seven hours just to hear Barack Obama speak. We distributed Obama post cards, conducted interviews, and even went as far as to innovate Obama dances (dont ask) lol. This monumental event meant so many things not just to me but to evwrybody. The event is significant because of the international impact it has. The global view of the US has improved dramatically. I met a person from Ghana by way of Germany, along with Londoners, Grenadans, and Norwegians, that came to see Obama get inaugurated. Nowhere in the world or at any point in history has an election generated so much attention, unity, excitement and craze. Everybody was enthused and the camaraderie among people of all different ages, races, and ethnicities left me dumfounded. I honestly did not believe I was standing there, it was surreal. It seemed as if I was watching a live tape of the events of inauguration day.
I met a Ghanian woman and she told me that having a person of color in the oval office meant a lot to her. She was living in the US for a number of years up until the war in Iraq had started but she was unable to stomach the Bush administration. Then she moved to London where she encountered racism and she got tired of London so now she plans on moving back to the United States somewhere in the near future. Everybody hated Americans for the past 8 years. If you went abroad you were bashed. People mistakenly tried to identify American people with the administration. Although most people disagreed with what was going on in Washington, Bush's policies tarnished the image of America and unfortunately Americans everywhere. The whole world believed that the Bush administration made ill advised decisions with respect to foreign relations. But now the rest of the world is hopeful and are starting to have more positive views about America.

I met a white five-year old girl today. She ran up to me and said "Obama is the new president of the United States". It was a defining moment for me because it was a sign of how far we have come as a country in respect to racial relations. It means a lot to me as a person color. It means that despite the color of my skin the obstacles I may encounter can be overcome and the unachievable is now achievable. We must stop victimizing ourselves and feeling sorry for ourselves and just go for the Gold. I know it is easier said than done but IT CAN BE DONE. On a more somber note the prodigous legacy of the Unites States has been humbled especially since the ongoing economic downturn. Obama embodies that humility in another light. He is using his humilty and empathy to embrace the rainbow of nations and form a worldwide unilateral coalition. He has not only restored the American people's confidence in their government and politics but the whole world's confidence. People in Germany, London, and parts of Africa had their own celebration for Obama's inauguration which is unprecedented for any event in history. Obama said yes we can; now its YES WE DID! The first black president of the United States provides hope for people of color, especially those who live in urban areas and are devoid of resources, opportunities, and/or support. He also provides hope for the lower middle class and the people who are suffering due to the economic and political status quo.

Obama's inauguration signifies a human revolution and foreshadows the changes that are to come for the better. The changes will occur incrementally but Obama becoming the new president is a huge first step. It is astonishing that somebody who has slave blood is now the president of the United States and virtually the leader of the world. It will be a tough journey but the challenges that Obama will face as the first person of color in office will be superseded. This also means that the war on racism and discrimination has made significant progress and will continue to do so, God willing. I feel motivated, more now than ever, to pursue my dreams and accomplish my goals at any cost. Hopefully the atrocities that are committed around the world because of the American government will be dramatically reduced if not become obsolete during the Obama presidency. I am sure that the economy, health care, and other social issues will be ameliorated during Barack Obama 's time in office. He is one inspirational individual. Barack Obama is arguably the biggest celebrity to ever live.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gender issues

I was suggested a blog idea by one of my friends. Gender issues always seems to be concurrent with any time period. It is particularly notorious amongst the younger crowds. We always get into heated debates on different gender issues. Although this is also a touchy topic I am willing to share my thoughts. I will reiterate, these are MY thoughts so feel free to add to it in the comments section. The most popular type of gender issue seems to be none of other than the double standard. I will focus on the double standards between men and women.

First off I wanted to state the textbook definition of gender: sexual identity, especially in relation to society or culture. The textbook definition of the double standard is an ethical or moral code that applies more strictly to one group than to another. The biggest double standard that everybody talks about is the one regarding sexual activity and image. This double standard states that if a man has various sexual partners he is deemed a "player or a "pimp", but if a woman has various sexual partners she is viewed as promiscuous or unclean (which of course is a euphemism for "slut" or "hoe"). I owe this double standard to the patriarchal society we live in. To me it is a pseudo-patriarchal society because the women are the ones really in control. They just let us think we are in control most of the time in order to cater to the male ego. A perfect example of women being in control is the relationship between Michelle Obama and Barack Obama. In the interview they had with Barbara Walters there were numerous questions that she asked Barack Obama in which Michelle Obama interjected and answered before he could. This was her way of conveying the message "I have the final say in any issue". In every household the women usually "wear the pants" and usually raise the kids. The only reason why patriarchy is still such a dominant tour de force in society is because it is perpetuated by males in power and some females.

In present day society, females are viewed as submissive because of the ideals of the American culture that emanated from the European culture. Therefore females get the shorter end of the stick in respect to the double standard. In no way shape or form do I agree with the double standard. I think it is absurd and unfair. We were all created equal by God so we should all be held to the same standard. Unfortunately there aren't many males who agree with me.

Although I think that men who have many sexual partners shouldn't be glorified I don't think females should be neither. But I personally think that there should be certain traits that characterize a woman. For example I like when females speak a certain way, dress a certain way and smell a certain way (that lovely fragrance that they wear.) I think rather conservatively in those terms a paradigm is if a girl likes me she shouldn't directly tell me or be aggressive instead she should take the more subtle approach and send me hints or wait until I ask her. The same thing goes for sexual intercourse and any other male-female interaction. In addition I believe that girls should have an emotional and profound reason before they partake in sex.

One of the ways that the double standard is perpetuated is through misoginy. Although I do not condone misogyny I understand why it exists. It exists because females that seek economic prosperity, attention, and/or glorification will compromise their self worth to do so. It is prevalent in the rap videos and in everyday relationships between a woman and a man that are portrayed by the media. This causes people to call these women "easy" and "sluts" (both women and men). So not only are guys perpetuating the standard but ladies are too, by calling girls derogatory terms. I have also noticed that females who lack fathers seek attention so much more than females who have father figures at home. Usually the females who seek the least attention are those who have healthy and strong relationships with their father and and/or any other significant males in their lives. Their fathers gave them the necessary affirmation, confidence and encouragement so that they wont go looking for it anywhere else. In fact girls that seek attention either subconsciously or consciously by wearing revealing clothing or by having sex with many guys are usually insecure and have low self esteem. If the root of the problem is self esteem this means they need to build themselves up. Some of them think that if they receive attention from the opposite sex this is all of a sudden going to give them confidence and make them a superstar. This is an inflated and artificial sense of confidence that disappears whenever the opposite sex is not present. Therefore certain females must dig deep and build themselves up before any guy can. they need to find that true confidence and believe in themselves before anybody else can!

I also think that females should not put themselves in vulnerable positions to be called "sluts and hoes". If you are sleeping with everybody frivolously without any moral premise and telling everybody about your sexual encounters, then do not be surprised when certain guys call you demeaning terms. Again there are females who will call other females who are known for sleeping around deragatory terms. This means that certain females do not oppose the double standard but agree with it. It is a harder standard to fight when both females and males support it. One question for the females though. Some females do not like the double standard but do like the "player type". So in reality you support the double standard by having relationships or "talking" to the player type guys or guys that are womanizers in a sense. And trust me, the "player-type guys" get the most girls!!!!!!! This intrigues me so much, so please ladies feel free to answer!

As for guys that are under the false impression that the more sexual partners you have makes you more of a man, you are very wrong. I think the reason why guys have so many sexual partners is to inflate their ego. I also think we succumb to peer pressure and heed the images portrayed by the media of how we are supposed to act and think. A real world example is in a setting where there is a group of guys and one guy talks about a girl he had sex with, in this situation most guys feel the need to contribute to the conversation by saying a story of your own. This is where the peer pressure comes in, so you either fabricate a story or "get busy" so to speak in order to impress your friends and other girls. In addition most guys emotionally detach themselves in order to receive the instant gratification that sex offers. When you emotionally detach your self it is easier to have sex frivolously with no conscience; which is what most guys do. But we are in a new day and age and times have changed. Females are starting to revolutionize the way they think and have also emotionally detached themselves and "played" the guy before they could "play" them.

I think it is harder for males to fight the dynamic of the double standard because it is in favor of us (males), and as human beings we are naturally engineered not to fight things that are in our favor. Hopefully there will be a day where the double standard is eradicated and does not exist! Until next time this A-Rod signing off!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Race and Racism

Before I begin blogging on this issue I just wanted to state a short disclaimer. I know race is a touchy subject and I do not intend to offend anybody by my own personal beliefs on this topic. This blog was created in hopes of cultivating a forum where people can share ideas and have an open dialogue. Again I will reiterate that these are my own personal opinions on the issue. If you wish to challenge my ideas I gladly welcome that and you can do so in the comments section.

Race is a social construct that was created by mankind in order to divide human beings. Being that race is a construct, it is theoretical and abstract so technically it is not concrete and does not exist. It is merely another way of segregating society. From an anthropological standpoint there is only one race the human race. Being that we all originated in Africa and then disseminated to different parts of the globe, it is a testament to the idea that quintessentially different races do not exist. We all started out the same, then race was used to classify people according to their phenotypical traits. According to social psychology we as humans have the natural tendency to categorize ourselves. But not everything is black and white( pun intended).

The textbook definition of race is a "local geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by genetically transmitted physical characteristics." Race has three categories: Black, White, Asian, and Natives. For me Race has always been enigmatic. How can your skin color along with other physical characteristics define your race if other people within your race differ in that aspect. So it brings me to my next question, is race what people perceive you to be or is it how you see yourself. For example someone can see themselves as white but I may perceive them to be black. How do I know that I am in the right and he/she is in the wrong or vice versa. Theoretically there is a discrepancy between what people perceive you to be and what you really are. But often times we as humans let other people's perceptions of us dictate how we view ourselves as individuals. Is race confined to certain characteristics that undeniably distinguish me from the next person? If this is the case then my race cannot be negotiated and it is concrete. Although my race is definitive, this still doesn't stop me from opposing society on their beliefs about what my race is. Another factor that contributes to what your race is, is your personal upbringing and childhood. If you are taught from a young age that you are white, what people perceive you to be really do not matter as much because the people that have had the most valuable impact on you are the ones in your household. Your life experience in the world outside your home has significance in determining your "race". If you are treated like a black woman, chances are more than likely that you will grow up identifying with being black. How can something be objective but so subjective at the same time? This is a paradox.

Race becomes even more complex when you incorporate miscegenation. For example a white woman marries a black man and they have a black and white son. He is "biracial" so what is his race? Or a child that is half Asian half white. Does he have to choose a side in order to define his race? Latinos have an even more obscure racial dynamic. Latinos are one of the most if not the most heterogeneous ethnicity. There are Latinos that look more Asian than any Asian, more Native than any Native, more African than any African and more European than any European. Latinos are a mixture of Native, African, and European blood. The racial mixtures have names. A mestizo is a mix between a Native and a European. A mulatto is a mix between an African and European or (black and white). So in actuality a Latino can identify with whatever race they desire. Now you have one ethnicity with many different races? How can this be?

Racism is the main reason why I disagree with the concept of race. It is the discrimination of somebody due their racial background. It is responsible for a large amount of heinous crimes along with merciless discrimination. The current textbook definition is "the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races. Society has a sadistic way of using mental constructs to divide people. Racism has been implemented by different cultures in order to dominate, conquer, and subjugate people. The legacy of racism has been passed down from generation to generation. It has been perpetuated due to ignorance and miseducation. There are various ways in which racism has continued to be a cultural tour de force in society. Before we get into that I want to profess the belief that Racism is taught, THEREFORE YOU ARE NOT BORN RACIST! Being racist or partaking in racist behavior is a learned social behavior. One way it is cultivated is by how you are raised. If you are taught from a young age that all black people are evil you will grow up thinking it is true. Racism is then reinforced by factors apart from the home environment such as peers, schoolmates, life experiences and the media. Apart from the home environment the other main determinant on whether you will be racist or not and towards whom, are life experiences. The media does a good job of reinforcing negative stereotypes that you may have learned in the household. The same kid that was taught from a young age that blacks are evil also watches, witnesses race crimes and tv shows that reinforce negative stereotypes about blacks. These all contribute to the prospering of his racism. The same goes for a kid that is taught that all white people are evil. The child will grow up believing this. Then you combine the viewing of a show that documented hate crimes that whites have committed along with an experience of a white person calling the child a racial slur and you have fueled a flame that is hard to put out.

Racism against your own race is even trickier. This is called interracial discrimination. There are whites that are racist against each other. When Jews first immigrated to the United States they were denied housing and many other rights that any other citizen should be granted. How do you explain Race when you are racist against your own kind and you believe that your race is superior to the same race? There are also blacks who are racist towards other blacks because of the deep rooted self hatred and complex they may have. I find this very self contradictory. Racism is no more omnipresent than in Latin America. In the Latino culture the blacker you are the more you are discriminated against and marginalized. The whiter you are, the more stature, prestige, and acceptance you have. The racism is due to the brainwashing of European colonialism that is historically built into the Latino culture and imbedded in every Latino's head. A prime example of this is the Latino saying "pelo malo pelo bueno". This means good hair and bad hair. Bad hair is coarse hair while good hair is straight hair. What makes kinky hair bad hair and straight hair good hair? Colonialism brainwashing thats what. Anything that resembles a black person is considered to be bad. And anything that resembles a white person is considered to be good. Also in the Latino culture they will say oh she is black but she is a pretty black. As if to say that blacks who are good looking are not found that often. To me if you are Latino and are racist against any blacks you are being racist against your self. Reason being that Latinos are comprised of a mosaic of races therefore you are being racist against the black part of you. As a matter of fact if you are Latino and are racist against any other race you are being racist against your self. Again this is due to what we discussed earlier with respect to the mixture of races that is present within every Latino.

An ultimate cure for racism would be the eradication of the concept of race. But I propose some more plausible solutions. I know it is human nature to gravitate to your own race. For example in any given social environment blacks will always go to where blacks are and Asians will always migrate to where Asians are situated. I would encourage interracial dialogue. I think that interracial dialogue would be great in battling racism since the most direct source of racism is ignorance and miseducation. This would get people to understand other races and become more knowledgeable about other cultures while learning how to become more open minded. Another possible solution is the idea of interracial marriages and relationships. I encourage these types of interactions because it would get people to accept others for who they are not the color of their skin. In addition it would also allow the parents' and grandparents' generations (that have the most staunch racism and biases) to break down stereotypes, dispel myths about the opposing race, and ultimately reduce ignorance

After serenading you with this superfluous amount of information, people must think what is the point of all this. My mission is to get people to think differently from what society has taught us and to challenge our own beliefs. If we do not start to think differently and follow suit with our actions we will follow the same trends that have been dominant for centuries and we will not evolve into a better society. The insidious culture of racism must be disrupted. I will leave you with one of my personal quotes. "Perpetuating a legacy of ignorance is just another way of keeping the mind in shackles you must seek the truth in order to be liberated."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Destiny or Personal choice

Do we create our own path or is destiny already mapped out for us? I have always been intrigued by this particular philosophical question. I personally believe that our ultimate future is in the hands of our Creator. Nobody knows where we will end up in next ten years unless somebody has a crystal ball that I don't know about. Basically what I am saying is that our future is predestined and we have no direct control over our fate. Just like how we do not have direct control over when we are going to perish from this earth. Although I do believe that we have to be cognizant of the cues and signs that reveal our destiny we ultimately do not have control over where we will end up in life despite our own personal efforts.

The ideology of mankind having a destiny is easier to comprehend when you have an allegiance to a higher deity or have firm convictions that a cosmic force superior to us exists. The belief that we have total and volitional control over our lives is dissonant with the belief that our paths are set out for us. This brings up another point I want to address...coincidence. Many people believe in coincidence. My firm belief in destiny leads me to have a fundamental disbelief in coincidence. I think that things are meant to happen and that they happen for a reason not due to sheer chance. There is a higher power that orchestrates the happenings and mishappenings in the journey we call life!

We all have destinies; whether or not we choose to fulfill them is our personal choice. Now the notion of free will enters the equation. We have the personal choice to take action or not take action, to accept or not accept. I will propose an example: we are all in the same class in sixth grade and at the same level academically but only one of us has the destiny to be valedictorian. The person who is destined to be "the one" has to make the right choices in order to achieve that goal. She/he has to apply him/herself and work diligently in order to get the number one spot.

For example if we look at people's career choices some people switch careers every month while others have a lifelong career that they stick to. One possible example is a teacher who over the years has randomly thought about becoming a doctor and has received constant signs that are urging him/her to pursue that career. According to the signs that were given to him/her it is more than likely that her/his destiny is to become a doctor. These signs were not a coincidence. So then it becomes the person's responsibility to follow suit and take the necessary steps to becoming a doctor.

This is not to say that our destiny at any given time won't be determined by our actions. If you want something bad enough and have dedication to reach for that goal then the universe will do everything in its power to help you achieve it. A perfect example is in the book Gifted Hands (no pun intended). In this book a young black inner city African American youth from Detroit,Michigan rose from the bottom ranks of his class to become the top scholar. This proved to be an arduous process but his mom pushed him and fostered an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Subsequently he decided to maximize his potential and overcome his obstacles. Eventually he became one of the world's most renowned pediatric neurosurgeons in light of his struggles throughout his academic career. He had a personal choice. He chose to work hard and find his purpose. Once he made the right choice, he continued to carry out his legacy and fulfilled his destiny. On the other hand if he had decided to be lazy and wait for the opportunity to become great he would have let his destiny pass him by.

My final thought on this question is that certain things are in our power to change or to make happen, but the oversight is in the hands of our Creator. The higher power serves as a catalyst to make things happen but if we do not do our part and pay attention to the signs, then we deviate from our predestined path.

I will leave you with this quote from the book the Alchemist "...there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, its because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. Its your mission on earth."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Poverty Breeds Crime

I wonder if there is strong correlation between poverty and crime. Or is it just that they just coincidentally coincide? I think not. I have firm convictions that crime has strong ties to poverty. The places that have the most poverty also have the highest crime rates. There is only one really good reason for this. When a person becomes despondent and the economic and social burdens of society become too much to bear you resort to one thing...crime!

Let me provide several possible scenarios:

Scenario number 1 -A younger male from an impoverished neighborhood has three children to feed and clothe. His wife cannot work because she is handicapped. He also has light bills and a mortgage to pay. He gets layed off from his job. He cannot find a job anywhere and public assistance does not suffice. They cut off his light and heat in the middle of winter. He is unable to carry out tasks such as laundry and buy food due to the financial deficiency. His last thought would be to rob because it is against his morals but he pensates it until he finally commits himself to robbing a convenient store. He commits the crime and gets jail time. He does his time in prison and is released. He still cannot find a job because of the negative stigma surrounding the word ex-con indicated on every job application he fills out. He begins to think about robbing again because he every job he applies for turns him down. Poverty breeds crime... and crime breeds more crime! It is a never ending cycle!

Scenario number 2- An older man in his 60s was a war veteran from Vietnam. He becomes homeless because the government didn't give him any housing when he got back from Vietnam and he has no family besides his estranged wife. He has no job and goes to various shelters in order to get a hot meal and a place to sleep.He has no healthcare and has to pay child support. On top of that he is a recovering drug addict. He is struggling with his drug addiction while trying to find the money for a dyre cancer surgery he needs. The pressure and stress is too much so he goes insane and he starts to hold people up and pickpocket people on the street and in the subway. A cop in the train spots him pick pocketing and he is cuffed and sent to jail.

Scenario number 3- A male teenager comes from a single mom household and the mom is barely making ends meet. He has disciplinary problems in school. As a result he starts having academic problems. They expel him because he is failing and because of his misbehavior. He needs to help out with the bills at home. So he deals drugs in order to bring in a steady income. He gets caught and gets prison time. (This is a big problem with the incarcerated male youth in today's prisons. They have nobody to guide them, teach them how to be a man, and be a good role model and so they commit crimes)

These are seperate scenarios where the the circumstances of these people's situations coerced them to partake in illegal activities. They did not want to commit these illicit acts yet had to do so in order to survive.

In an ideal society this would not happen because the economic resources would be evenly distributed. Or there would be more jobs available for people how desperately need them. I know what you are thinking....socialism. NO!!!!!!! I am talking about capitalism in moderation. Extreme capitalism, greed, egoism, and the fact that we are an independent society which focuses on the individual rather than the collective group don't help poverty neither. Until we create a financial system that that tries to distribute wealth more evenly, create better social programs, and jobs the status quo will remain inert. If change does not come about poverty will soar and crime will flourish! The cycle will perpetuate itself. Hopefully this new administration can revolutonize the way our finance in society functions