Mask wearing

Back in April, when we finally started wearing masks here in New York City, I immediately predicted that to wear or not wear a mask would become a political issue. Health should never be a political issue, but in this country with one of the worst and most incompetent leaders in history, I knew it would become one. President Dipshit refused to wear a mask in public. He said people could choose to wear or not wear a mask, but he personally would choose not to. So did his moronic VP, who was filmed being indoors at hospitals and not wearing a mask. And so people started saying that to mandate wearing a mask would be violating their constitutional rights. Governors across moronic states in the south refused to allow local cities and counties to mandate masks. People complained to their local officials, insisting that “masks are killing people!” These states’ infection rates continue to rise, and they do nothing to address the issue. Instead, they look back at New York for having high rates back in March/April. Well, hey, peeps — that time has passed. New York is in a pretty good state now; we’re actually reopening, and our rates are going down. Yours, on the other hand, are not. Are you going to hold yourselves accountable or continue your denial, or worse, blame states like us?

It really is like George Orwell’s book 1984, except now, we’re in the year 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic, and stupid Americans are making up their own “facts” and selfishly getting other people infected and ultimately killed.

Many times during my life, I’ve felt embarrassed to be American. But now, I really think I’ve reached my peak in terms of feeling ashamed of how senseless my country is. There is really nothing applaudable that is being done on the national level now, and now, not only are we the laughing stock of the world, we are also literally killing people at a rate that is just obscene.

Aunt Jemima is finally denounced

I’ve never enjoyed fake pancake syrups. In this country, they are primarily made of high fructose corn syrup, which is probably one of the unhealthiest things you can consume, a sign that America is too cheap to spend money on real cane sugar, but would rather stuff American bodies with fake sugar to lead them to an earlier death. Aunt Jemima was problematic for me as I started learning more about American history and realized that the face on the bottle of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup was a caricature of the “black mammy” archetype, a black female stereotype of the American South who worked as a slave in the home of white families and nursed white babies. The bottle, the brand, the company, were all racist symbols that were being embraced here in the U.S., long, long after slavery had ended. It was sad to constantly see this in grocery stores and even in my own family’s kitchen.

When I worked at a digital marketing agency years ago, I was asked to work on the Aunt Jemima search engine marketing campaign. I looked at my manager and said I didn’t feel comfortable working on a campaign that promoted a racist brand. She gave me a funny look, said it was “just business,” but respected my wishes and reassigned it to another colleague. Unfortunately, race is part of everything, and no, to this day, I do not believe it is “just business.”

This week, we’ve learned that finally Pepsi Co., which owns Aunt Jemima under Quaker Oats, is now finally waking up to the fact that their caricature is racist and has announced they are removing the caricature from the brand and doing a full rebranding “to make progress toward racial equality.”


LATE MUCH???????

It took decades upon decades of systemic racism, black lives being shot and killed with no one to be held accountable, and finally the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, for this brand to wake up? It’s so convenient, isn’t it, for brands to act all faux “woke” with their performative allyship, as long as it helps their bottom line… to make more money, to profit off of their faux progressiveness.

It’s infuriating.

When They See Us

Last night, I started watching the Netflix 4-episode series When They See Us, which documents the Central Park Five incident that happened in the late 80s in New York, where five Black and Latino teens were (wrongly) convicted of raping and beating a white female jogger. Although I knew the story at a high level, I read more about it last summer, around the time this series came out on Netflix, because it was discussed during Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show. At that time, I actually had no idea this incident had occurred.

I only got through one episode, but it was hard and painful to get through. To think that kids can be tried as adults… what… simply because they are Black or Latino, is just beyond comprehension, that people in the legal system can force children of color to admit to wrongdoing that they haven’t even committed is just disgusting. The justice system in this country is unjust; there’s nothing that works in favor of people of color. It’s even worse to think that the original prosecutor who worked on this case, to this day, still thinks she was justified in all she did, is even more hideous, especially given that DNA tests showed that none of these five kids actually committed the rape. Her justification for this? She said they weren’t only guilty of rape, that they committed other crimes.

Wow. Not everyone learns from their mistakes or is even willing to admit to making mistakes. And that’s what is wrong with society, and in this case, white society.

Hands, wrists, and elbows

For the last week, my hands, wrists, and most recently, my elbows have been acting up. It’s likely from all the stress I put on these parts of my body from my computer usage, whether it’s for work, video editing, or just internet browsing, but either way, it’s not great. I’m 34 years old, supposedly at the “peak” of my life, and I’m already getting arthritic symptoms in my hands that seem like early-stage carpal tunnel. I do all the things you’re supposed to do: exercise, take breaks, stretch, walk around… and then I have this. My video editing has increased in hours since the quarantine began since I have nothing else to do with my free time, so why not edit more and produce more material? But that’s clearly had negative ramifications for my physical health.

My Dynaflex power ball that I usually use to exercise my wrists and forearms has not been helping; if anything, I think using it has exascerbated some of the pain. I’ve been icing, elevating, trying to rest as much as possible, but you kind of need to use your hands, right? Having weak wrists and elbows is not a great thing, and having tight hands is not comfortable at all, to say the least.

Dreaming of puppies

In tumultuous times like what we are currently living in, the subconscious has a tendency to go one of two ways: erratic and tumultuous as well, or calming, comforting, peace seeking. It seems that my subconscious has chosen the latter and has served me up dreams of puppies for comfort and cuddles.

Last night, I dreamt that someone rang my bell, and when I went to answer the door, a large woven basket with two little dashshund-poodle mix puppy siblings in it. I was confused, as no note was attached, so I brought the basket of puppies into the apartment and closed the door.

I debated whether to keep the puppies, and in the meantime, I figured I would enjoy them and their company. I picked one up and placed it into my lap. She immediately looked up at me with innocent, sweet eyes, and then proceeded to pee all over me. I could feel the warmth all over my lap.

Peaceful protests

Chris and I joined a friend and her colleague in the protesting here in Manhattan yesterday for about four hours. We marched for about 60+ blocks, chanting, kneeling, attempting to make a statement about racism and police brutality. It was thousands of us; all the way down to Foley Square up to the 90s on the east side of Manhattan. It’s sad and infuriating that the news doesn’t seem to want to cover peaceful protests and instead focuses on a few bad apples that have to ruin it for all of us.

The most emotional moments of the protests for me were when we would put our hands up and chant, “hands up; don’t shoot!” When you hear thousands of people at the same time chanting that statement, over and over and over again, it just breaks you. It makes you feel their pain. It’s our pain, a shared pain, because oppression of one group is an oppression of all of us, especially those of us who are not “mainstream” looking or white. I felt so choked up the first few times chanting this. I could not even imagine being in this situation in real life, hoping to not have my own life lost with a senseless, needless shot of a bullet.

Then again, I suppose if you do not care about other people, about human rights, this would not break you. You’d just insist this isn’t about race, that this is about “tribalism” and that we’re all violently protesting. And you can go shoot yourself in the mouth if you really feel that way.

How media companies make money

A lot of people via social media and texts I’ve been getting seem to be falling into a group of people who are not critical consumers of the news. When I say that, what I mean is: do you always believe everything you read? Do you ever fact check claims that you hear about or read? Do you ever question the source of the information? The answer, for many Americans (and people around the world) is no. The human mind is trained to crave and seek out negative news vs. positive news. It’s why newsletters like Good News and Reasons to be Cheerful compilations are put together. It’s also why media companies, seeking to make money, will be more likely to have click-bait-y headlines and over report/cover bad news vs. happy news.

How do media companies make money, you ask? Well, there’s two major revenue streams: a) ads and b) subscriptions. Not everyone requires a subscription, but with ads, this is pretty much universal. How do media companies get people to click ads? You have more sensational headlines and stories that will attract them to read the articles by clicking into them, thus getting exposed to the ads. The user clicks on the ad, and boom! Money is made for CNN, Fox News, and the New York Times.

That’s a bit depressing, right? Well, it is to me. It’s why I discount a lot of headlines I see about protestors majorly being violent, looting stores, breaking into cars and store windows. Yes, looting is happening, but it’s the minority of all protestors. I know based on the way media works and thrives that these are the outliers. The vast majority of protestors are peaceful, trying to make a point and fight for human rights. Don’t let the media brainwash you into thinking all protestors are violent, or even half of them are. This could not be any further from the case.

Racist vs. “not racist” vs. “anti-racist”

In the last week, there’s been a lot of discussion in the media regarding what it means to be racist vs. “not racist” vs. “anti-racist.” Being racist has an obvious meaning: it means that you believe that certain groups of a certain skin color/from another country that’s different than yours are higher or lower than you on the socially constructed totem pole of life. Then, there’s people who are simply “not racist.” These are people who do not consciously harbor racist ideas or white supremacism in the front of their mind, but when threatened or upset, they weaponize race… or, they just do not do anything actively to combat racism. That means that they do not speak up against race-based injustices. They do not speak out when their friends or family make disparaging remarks against a certain race/skin color/nation. They passive accept it and move on. And these people are a huge problem, as Martin Luther King, Jr., once said. Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, and many other activists have spoken out about this. Desmond Tutu famously said, “If you are neutral in the face of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The people who claim to “not take a side,” be “impartial,” or “moderate,” — these are the people who allow oppression and injustice to continue. And they are a huge, huge problem.

Then, there are anti-racists – people who genuinely want a society where people can be seen and treated equally regardless of skin color or country of origin. People who identify this way actively engage with people who are consciously or subconsciously racist or “not racist” in an attempt to educate, to build empathy with those who may not fully understand. I think I first was conscious about this term when I saw Ibram X. Kendi speak on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah about his book How to Be an Antiracist. I’m about to start reading it since I’m nearly off the e-library hold list.

Being an anti-racist is exhausting beyond belief. It can build bridges, but it can also destroy them. It’s no wonder that so many people cut off “friends,” family members, extended family members, in light of Donald Trump winning the 2016 election. In my own life, it’s been infuriating and painful to have discussions about race with my own family, whether it’s my parents, my cousin, or my uncle/aunt. When they’ve made comments about black people being ‘thugs,’ about Latinos being “lazy,” or about how mainland Chinese people are “animals,” who are deceptive and cannot be trusted (even though my family actually is Chinese and my grandparents are originally from there…), I’ve selectively chosen times to argue against them, but it’s always to no avail. We argue, yell, and maybe I am biased saying this, but it’s mostly irrational on their side. An aunt has tauntingly said to me that I am short-sighted, that “I know who you voted for in 2008 and 2016, and you were wrong to do it.” I try to state facts, statistics, map the history of Chinese people in America vs. black Americans, and it’s no use. They don’t want to listen. They write me off as being “brainwashed by liberal media” and insist that one day, when I have reached a certain tax bracket, I will become a Republican and “see the world for what it really is.”

It feels hopeless. It makes me feel like I’m fighting for the sake of fighting… perhaps even to make myself feel better that I’m at least attempting to “do the right thing.” So, is it really more for the cause or is it for me and my self-righteousness? I don’t know — maybe a combination of both?

Anyone who thinks racism is not a problem in today’s world clearly has such massive privilege to the point that their privilege has blinded them and drained them of even a drop of empathy.

There’s always a right and wrong side of history.

When Chris and I visited Little Rock, Arkansas, in October 2016, just a couple weeks before the 2016 presidential election, we went to see the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. We read in great detail and saw endless photographs and videos of the “Little Rock Nine,” which were nine black children attempting to attend their first day of class at Little Rock Central High School, which was, during segregated America, a “white” school, but they were prevented from entering by then Arkansas governor Orval Faubus. The Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education was announced in 1954, but states refused to abide by this ruling, including Arkansas. The documented accounts by the black children who endured this were beyond excruciating and inhuman. The account I remember the most vividly is one of the girls who literally got spit on so much by all the white students and white protestors that she had to actually wring out her dress when she got home. Her dress was sopping wet.

Chris and I walked through the exhibit, looking over the faces of all these 1950s white people protesting, truly believing they were the better race, that people of color were beneath them. Chris commented, “How would it feel to be a child or grandchild at this site and being able to identify one of these white protestors as your own family member, knowing now that they were on the wrong side of history?”

That’s how I feel about all the white people on social media, insisting that the protestors of George Floyd’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s deaths are “thugs” and “criminals” who should be the ones brought to justice. Twitter posts will live on, won’t they?

Why is everyone hating on “Karen”? and the racist white female Democrat (no, it’s not an oxymoron)

So, based on what I am seeing on social media, everyone is calling Amy Cooper “Karen.” Apparently, this is slang for my generation (I am seriously just learning about this during this week), where Karen is defined as “a pejorative term for a person perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary.” Well, I feel really terribly for people who are actually named Karen.

So while I’ve learned that, I am also learning via social media, both generally on Twitter and within my own social networks, a) how surprised people are that the Amy Cooper/Christian Cooper incident happened right here in New York City and b) that Amy Cooper is not a conservative Trump supporter, but rather a registered Democrat who has repeatedly donated to progressive causes. Neither is surprising to me, and I’m actually shocked that people are surprised by this.

First off, just because someone lives in an outwardly liberal/progressive city like New York or San Francisco does NOT mean the person is for the equality of races, and it certainly does not guarantee the person actually cares about people outside of themselves and their families. Bigots, both closeted and those out in the open, are literally everywhere.

Second, while there are vocal and outward bigots who hate black people, Asian people, Latino people, think women are lesser species than men, etc., they are the obvious people we need to go against if we have any heart or soul. The people who are truly a danger that we should all be worried about are the ones who harbor subconscious racism, sexism, and bigotry without even being aware of it. That’s scary… because how do you identify these people? And that racism/sexism/bigotry tends to come out only when said person feels threatened, which is exactly what happened in Amy Cooper’s case in the Ramble. As Martin Luther King, Jr., so aptly put it in his letter he wrote from the Birmingham Jail:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.

That was 57 years ago, but how true it still painfully rings today when incidents such as these continue to crop up, when the white men and women who surround us at school, at work, in our social circles, make subtle racist comments without even realizing they are being racist. They initially appear as micro aggressions, but they are just masked racist thoughts. They say they voted for Obama or love Michelle Obama. They say they donate to the ACLU. But that’s what they want to show of themselves to the public.

I would even challenge that the people who are surprised by either point above are part of the problem, that they desperately need to educate themselves on the voices and opinions of people of color because they clearly are out of touch with reality. They are the ones who need to read more, listen more, and seek out more information. But will they, or will they just be paralyzed by their shock that wow, a white Democrat-voting woman could be racist and do what Amy Cooper did? So shocking! Or, wow, something this could actually happen in New York City?

And that is absolutely terrifying.