Blog Post 4: Because It Applies

“Why do you always have to bring up race?” Is probably the most common statement I would hear from my (primarily white) friends both growing up as a kid and even today as an adult. In the grand scheme of things it is one of the least harmful questions one could ask, although tone is everything in this scenario. However, the answer to the question—no matter how in depth you go—often falls on deaf ears; pointing to the possibility that the question itself was meant to stop the discussion rather than progress it further. As a result, over time answer become less thoughtful, more terse, until the holy grail of answers is presented: because it applies. What I aim to cover in this blog post is to highlight how and why race is always a factor in discussions: whether it be popular culture, public policy, education, social media and more.

 

The fact of the matter is most folks who don’t identify as a marginalized group(s) will never truly be able to relate to their experiences, but that is not an excuse to stop trying. Far too many allies are discouraged by this fact because it renders their own lived experiences as null and void. When you try to participate in a movement that does not cater to you in any way it’s nearly impossible to feel engaged or empowered—which is a completely human feeling. Now imagine if nobody on television, in school, in government or in your neighborhood shared your experience living as a person… this is precisely the struggle that Black folks have been born into for centuries.

A forced participation in a system that at best doesn’t serve them in any way and at worst is built in direct opposition to them.

 

One of the most pivotal voices in this discussion is the late Toni Morrison, whose life’s work expands from critical theory, to nuanced sociological analysis, to escapist literature. Through her writing so many black folks (and especially Black women) have found their voice, a spotlight pointed directly to their experiences of love and loss, and the means to digest the nature of racism and sexism as a construct. She has taught countless people that so many of these biases are truly figments of our imagination, or at least that is the root of them. The danger comes when these imaginations aren’t just given a voice, but given power to distribute laws, rights, resources, jobs, and more. Her writing allows Black folks the opportunity to point these things out and find refuge through her storytelling; providing her readers both a sword and a shield when interacting with racism and sexism in their daily lives.

“In this country American means White, everyone else has to hyphenate”

-Toni Morrison

While her work is incredible, it is only one facet of a Black experience that is wide-ranging and encompasses centuries of stories and billions of lives. Many of the Black actors who have broken through racial barriers are still alive today, and of the stories Black directors get to tell far too many are limited solely to slaves or the civil rights movement. Black folks have to settle for this because there simply isn’t enough space in the lexicon for Black fantasy/sci-fi/horror films. While the horizons for Black media are beginning to widen in the last decade, the cost of having Black stories is that it still has to be somewhat digestible by a larger commercial audience. The question now is: where is the pressure for white movies to include Blacks? The same way some English period films don’t need Black characters to maintain relevancy there should be a similar understanding that stories of color (Live action Aladdin for example) don’t need White characters. However, that just is not reality at the moment.

 

When I explain to my friends that Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and other franchises “don’t do it for me” I’m usually met with some type of mild animosity.

“What??”

“I can’t believe this!”

“you’re lying, right?”

Are the calling cards I’m left with. When I tell them that there’s very little for me to grasp onto (other than the usual divides based on class or mythical race) the curiosity turns to disdain:

“So it’s a race thing”

“Why does that matter?”

“It’s about the story, right?”

There are a lot of Black folks who love these stories, they are wildly successful for a reason, and those Black fans of fantasy bring about concerns of their own. In subtle ways all of those stories give their audience rudimentary tools to parse out how prejudice can lead to injustice; and yet, that vein of the story is never expanded upon. Maybe the authors didn’t mean to make that type of statement, perhaps they didn’t have the skill to give voice to goblins, elves, and muggles in a manner that would mirror reality a bit more. Overwhelmingly though, these types of twists to the narrative only occur when I speak to my friends from minority backgrounds.

 

When we look to our government, or even the media coverage of our government, there are racial structures we can rattle off like an itemized receipt of oppression: police brutality, gerrymandering, the prison-industrial complex, the school-to-prison pipeline. But what has come to the fore most recently due to Covid-19 are the devastating statistics about who’s getting infected and ultimately dying more than others. The Covid Tracking Project, a collection of corona virus data subsetted by race, how outlined what so many Black and Brown folks have been suspecting all along. When the government fails to protect all people, the most vulnerable communities will be hit the hardest.

 

Over the course of the past few weeks we have seen how disparities in health and socioeconomic class directly affect who’s more or less at risk. Black people across the country are disproportionately suffering at the hands of this virus and there are multiple stories of Black people getting denied a test several times. This dovetails with what we’ve already seen in healthcare settings, that Black people with symptoms are often not believed—outlined clearly by maternal deaths during childbirth. So yet again race applies here—and even further—race is critically important to understanding the situation at hand.

 

Yes, America was founded by the genocide of indigenous people, fueled by the enslavement of Africans, and today stands directly on the backs of essential workers who are overwhelmingly from impoverished communities. Although these are facts we can all bring up relatively easily with no backlash, the question I’m begging to get an answer to is “what has America done to take responsibility for this and remedy the situation?”. Native Americans are definitively the most vulnerable population in the face of this pandemic and yet have the least amount of resources available. Black and Brown people in jails are living completely defenseless from the virus and huge amounts of prisoners die daily as a result.

What I’m attempting to say here again is that at its best, Black people are at an overwhelming disadvantage in every facet of life. And when America fails its citizens, Black bodies are on the front lines whether they want to be or not despite only being 13% of the population. Everything is about race and that’s because America was built by and lives off of racist ideals. I would love to find a positive way to spin this blog post before it reaches the end but the fact of the matter is right now there’s very little to look at for optimism. I try to imagine a framework where these disparities cannot just be called out, but can be confronted and mediated for the sake of the greater good, but it’s honestly hard to see. Diversity and Inclusion are pivotal to the success of people living in the margins of society but in order to see real change, systematic change, we need to create new systems of government, education, entertainment, and health that work to directly solve the problems society has caused up to this point.

 

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You Want Blacks to Stop Talking about Race…..(blog#5)

So I had no intention of talking about another African-American/Black issue for my last blog because I just knew something else was going to pop-up in the news and give me something to talk about. HOWEVER, this story made me so mad (especially because this is close to my hometown) and makes me think back to some of the things we talked about in class and how we want to have “one race” or “how people are tired of blacks pulling the race card” or even “how blacks shouldn’t have the mindset of nothing is going to change”. WELL GUESS WHAT!? Here is a right here right now, in your face, current reason why those statements fall on deaf ears!

Ahmaud Arbery, 25 years old, was a football player and graduated from Brunswick High School in 2012. He went on to attend South Georgia Technical College and was pursuing a career as an electrician. Decided one Sunday afternoon around 1p.m. in FEBRUARY that he was going to take a jog. Enter Gregory McMichael (64) and his son Travis (34). Allegedly, there had been break-ins in the neighborhood and Greg, who once worked for the district attorney’s office and has a background in law enforcement, and Travis saw a BLACK MAN in broad daylight jogging so decided to take it upon themselves to get in their car with shotguns (because they didn’t know if he was armed) and pursued him. They tried to cut him off, so he turned around and ran the opposite direction. Instead of calling the police, they decided to follow him and get out their car WITH THEIR GUNS and try to question him. When he refuses they get out of their car and a fight breaks out. Well once the fight breaks out, you hear 2 gunshots, Arbery falls to the ground and a 3rd gunshot is fired. Dead, because it was ASSUMED he might have been a robber because he might have fit a description. Want to hear the cherry on top? IT HAS BEEN 2 MONTHS AND NO CHARGES OR ARREST!

Here’s the problem…

First, this happened about 3 days before the anniversary of the Trayvon Martin shooting that occurred in Florida in 2012. I will bet you any amount of money that the McMichael’s will claim self-defense and say they were in their right to do a citizen’s arrest. Both of which I’m sure will come up for interpretation of the GA state’s self-defense and gun laws. I guarantee you somehow, someway Arbery was either, on drugs, had a record, or looked like he was going to pull out a weapon. I guarantee someone is going to say they saw him casing a place or trying to break into a home. How do I know these things? Because every time an innocent black person is shot by a police officer or by a “vigilant citizen” it always seems that blacks seem to have that problem.

Now let me paint a picture, according to documents obtained by The New York Times, a prosecutor who had the case for a few weeks told the police that the pursuers had acted within the scope of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute and that Travis McMichael, who held the shotgun, had acted out of self-defense. (Told you so)

White Privilege

There are many white people walking around right now protesting about this lockdown. Storming townhalls with semi-automatic weapons and shouting, “hail Hitler” and slandering police to their faces. Yet I have yet to hear about anyone being shot, killed, or even jailed for these actions. Think about it if it were a group of black people not following social distance orders and doing the same thing this will be a different song and dance. And if you don’t think that’s true, watch these 2 videos of how a black man got tased and beat down for breaking social distance laws but white men get to walk around with assault rifles and storm the capitol.

But I guess social distancing applies differently amongst races……

Why do I bring this Up?

Because I am so tired of having to turn on the news and see crap like this. I’m tired of turning on the TV and yet another disparity against minorities is being put out there OR the opposite you see it in the news and then we turn a blind eye. I’m over it that minorities are slighted even in the medical system being told “we clot better”, “we feel less pain”, and “our skin is thicker”. And if you don’t believe these myths are still being said to this day, Google it. I’m tired of minorities getting the short end of the stick and getting told, “give it time, it’ll get better soon”. When will it be soon?  When will I start seeing the change because right now all we are comparing is that we are no longer calling white people “Massuh”. If you don’t believe that minorities are still enslaved by the law, you are living in a fantasy world. Whites can plead insanity and get probation while Blacks will get the death penalty for the same crime no questions asked. Why are police trained “shoot to kill” when it comes to black people but trained “shoot to stun” when it comes to whites? Blacks are pursued and assumed as criminals but whites aren’t. Whites rarely get followed in a store, people don’t clutch their purses as they walk by, and can wear hoodies without being a suspect but let it be a black person. The fact I have to constantly look over my shoulder because I had the honor of being born black not because I actually did something wrong. Where is the change? Oh yea, I forgot “it isn’t about race, so stop talking about it”.

I Know, I Know, I was Standing on a Soapbox for a minute there…At the End of the Day…

If you want it to stop being about race. Well, its time we look at the facts. Stop watching these injustices fall by the wayside. Stop pretending that you don’t see the pattern that is ongoing. How is it fair for a race to constantly walk in fear because anything they do could cost them their lives, even if it isn’t criminal. If this doesn’t bother you or make you raise an eyebrow, you are part of the problem. Blatant murdering of Blacks is a systemic crime and injustice. ALL lives matter and Black lives are just as important and valuable. I guarantee you this won’t be the last time we hear something like this, in fact, a Black man just got shot and killed in Indianapolis. And OMG, I don’t want to hear, “just do what the cops say”, because we get bullets for that too. It is an obligation for ALL of us to speak out against these wrongs and injustices. And I want to see some SERIOUS change not just, “oh we will look into it” or “lets put another law into place and then half-ass enforce it”. I want the same way blacks get locked up for crimes, the good ol’ boys shouldn’t be able to buy, cry, or plead insanity their way out of anything. Make them serve the same time you put blacks under, hold them to the exact same caliber.

Until that happens: A) I don’t want to hear anyone say “stop talking about race/it ain’t always about race” and B) I don’t believe there is any real change happening. 

 

 

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Blog #5 The Fight for Service Animals in STEM

I got the idea for this blog while I was talking to my sister and she brought up a great interview on NPR with a woman named Joey Ramp and her service dog Sampson. It was all about her struggles to get permission from her university to be in various science labs with her service dog at her side. I provided a link below to the interview and a short article that summarizes the main points.

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/29/800911230/service-animals-in-the-lab-who-decides

To start off here are some great pictures of Joey and Sampson –

As you can see, Sampson is geared up in his PPE while in a lab – this PPE consists of goggles (the same kind as worn by military and police canines), a lab coat, and rubber booties over each paw.

The story of Joey and Sampson started back in 2006. Joey was working as a horse trainer when the horse she was riding got scared and fell. This resulted in her hitting her head and breaking 23 bones. As a result of hitting her head, she suffered a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. These two combined led to her to start suffering cognitively a few months after the accident and then she began isolating herself. As a result of her self-isolation, she lost her job and didn’t leave her home for 3 years. During this time she began thinking of suicide until she saw a book about how a dog helped a veteran through their PTSD. This book gave her hope that she could get the help she needed – and that’s where Sampson comes in. He alerts her in situations that may trigger her PTSD, picks things up for her (because she can’t bend over), and helps her balance while she moves around. She mentioned that she truly feels like Sampson saved her life.

After regaining hope for her future, she decided to go back to school and get a degree in neuroscience so she could work to figure out what was going on in her brain and others. She started off at community college and then moved to the University of Illinois where she had some trouble getting her service dog to be allowed in her advanced science labs. She was originally told she couldn’t work in a lab with a service animal as it was “too dangerous” but she persisted. It turns out there are no federal guidelines under ADA that can answer questions about service animal admittance to labs, so it is up to the individuals in charge of labs whether or not they feel it is safe for service animals to be permitted entrance. Some common questions were – What if the dog gets in way? What if someone is allergic or scared of the dog? What if the dog gets exposed to lab chemicals that can hurt them? All of which were answered by Joey easily. Service dogs are highly trained animals that are able to sit under benches and be out of the way without protest for long periods of time and instances where people are allergic or scared of dogs are covered under ADA guidelines. Lastly, service animals can wear all the PPE required by humans in the lab and be placed out of the way so they can also be protected from dangerous chemicals.

Because of the lack of federal guidelines, Joey had to withdraw from the first lab she was trying to take and spent almost two years fighting to get Sampson allowed to be everywhere with her. Joey is sadly unique in this regard. She knows many students who are told to change their major if they attempt to pursue a STEM degree in college or that drop out of college entirely because they do not feel welcome. One student mentioned was trying to finish up their last semester of college (with a 3.96 GPA) and was asked to drop a lab because they wouldn’t be allowed to have their service animal. Unfortunately, after dropping the lab the student dropped out of college. I had no idea that this was such a problem because I had never heard of anyone being barred from taking classes because they required a service animal. I figured that they worked out accommodations with lab managers that would permit them to complete their education.

Joey and her classmates are not alone in feeling unwelcome in the STEM field while living with a disability. According to a survey of recent graduates that got health, science, and engineering bachelors degrees only 5% of them who are working in those respective fields are living with disabilities. According to another survey only 8% of scientists under 50 are living with disabilities. It is important to keep in mind that this impacts all occupations and there is room for improvement everywhere but it is alarming how many people STEM is missing out on because of their current practices. This is due to many factors but one mentioned in the interview was there is a high prevalence of fake service animals and a lack of common knowledge on service dog training. It’s a terrible thing that people will fake having a service animal so they can bring their pet places they wouldn’t normally be allowed. These individuals prevent those who truly need animals to go about their daily lives.

I think the biggest thing that could help students and professionals in the STEM field would be a change in ADA guidelines to include information on service animals in labs. I recognize that service animals can’t be present in all labs because of they could cause contamination of samples or be at too high or a risk of getting infected in labs where they have to wear special protective suits. However, there are many labs where it would be perfectly fine for service animals to be present provided they wear the appropriate PPE. Most labs wouldn’t really be changed if a service animal was present – especially lab classes taken during while getting a bachelors. Hopefully, legislation can change so individuals living with disabilities that have service dog will feel welcome to all occupations and educations because it is a shame that people aren’t able to pursue their passions and contribute to their respective fields in the way they desire.

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Blog #5-To Wear or Not to Wear

In western civilization, clothing has always been a major part of expressing gender and one’s position in society (I only refer to western civilization because as a product of my environment I was pretty much only taught about western civilizations). While fashion and clothing ideals are constantly changing, a constant is that clothing has an important role in society and an impact on our biases and perceptions of ourselves and one another rather we would like to admit it or not. Some smaller studies have even gone as far as supporting that it affects our mental health that then cascades over into our physical health. Some study the social psychology behind clothing and how it makes us, and others feel. There is no wonder that there is so much confusion about clothing and opinions on it nowadays. As a woman, I hear women’s clothing is meant to sexualize the body, but it can also empower women to feel show off their body. People say that if a woman shows off too much skin, they are a slut but if you dress too conservatively you are a prude. In high school, I remember how sexist and hypocritical the dress code was. As women, we had to curtail what we wore in order to not distract boys. If a girl broke the dress code she was forced to change or go home thus interrupting her education. In 2018 Sasha Jones wrote, “”These rules aren’t neutral: many target girls, and especially black girls, by regulating skirt length and headwraps,” While a report on school dress codes in the District of Columbia that was compiled by the National Women’s Law Center states corroborates this, “And the rules aren’t applied equally, either. Students report that black girls, and especially curvier students, are disproportionately targeted.” Not only women are targeted with these idealizations of clothing. There are so many convoluted, confounding ideas shrouding clothing. This is not a new thing, like stated earlier; these attitudes and values of clothing are not only annoying but can be down right dangerous. Do not get me wrong; I love expressing myself with different styles of clothes and putting thought into what I am going to wear so I do not think everyone should wear the same thing and then live happily ever after. I just feel as though our ideals of clothing should not be so rigid with gender.

I think back to my studies of ancient Rome where there were standards of attire for the men and women and each style and even colors of clothing represented their class and gender. Only royalty was allowed to/ had enough money to wear purple, and men wore clothing that was easy for them to move around in. I then think of a class I took on women’s roles in medieval France. Many know about the triumphs and strengths of Joan of Arc leading many men to victory in war and then her tragic ending of execution by the Catholic Church. We delved into it, and she was mostly sentenced to death because of dressing as a man despite the fact that she was a woman. The Catholic Church repeatedly brought up that she was wearing men’s clothing and little else of other transgressions when they decided she should be executed. Later the Catholic Church (after Joan of Arc was already killed by them) revoked their sentence and made her into a Saint for everything she did and as a prophet for God. Obviously, clothing held such an importance that cross-dressing was punishable by death.

Cross dressing apparently reversed roles that society had placed upon men and women despite the competence Joan of Arc showed in a stereotypical man’s role of warfare. Over 200 years ago, France put in law that women were not allowed to wear trousers, and it was not taken off the books until 2013. (I realize there are a lot of stupid laws still on the books but why on earth can they not be taken off yet?!) This is one of many examples of laws put into place to control gender roles in how people dress. The United States is no exception to this. In a PBS article written in 2015, they state, “In Columbus, Ohio, where one of the earliest ordinances was instituted, an 1848 law forbade a person from appearing in public “in a dress not belonging to his or her sex.” In the decades that followed, more than 40 U.S. cities created similar laws limiting the clothing people were allowed to wear in public.” In a society where we place such importance on what we wear, how do people not understand why it is upsetting when they tell a man who wants to wear something more traditionally feminine or a woman wants to wear something traditionally more masculine or any identity wants to wear whatever they want to wear that it is not okay. People should have the right to express themselves however they want as there is such an importance placed on how people express themselves in society. Ultimately, what someone chooses to wear or not to wear is their choice and even if you do not agree with it is a victimless crime so people should just get over themselves and people should wear whatever they want.

Even though our society is evolving and changing, roots in the importance of clothing is still dug into United States’ society. Even though I do not particularly think clothing is important it is still ingrained in our culture to think that it is. We refer to blue collar and white collar workers, are told to dress to impress, and are constantly advertised to about all different fashion trends and styles. There are countless shows about fashion like Say Yes to the Dress, What not to Wear, and RuPaul’s Drag Race to name a few. Politicians, celebrities, everyday women are often judged harshly on what they wear and how they come across. Hadley Freeman says, “This is a strange pocket of the western world where it is still deemed utterly acceptable to take smart, successful women and reduce them to beauty pageant contestants,” when talking about how women are constantly interviewed about what they are wearing and how they got fit compared to their male counterparts who get asked ‘deeper’ questions about themselves.

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Blog Post 5: International Collaboration

Since the late 1950s, international research collaboration has emerged between countries to achieve better innovation and efficiency. Nowadays, as the progress of globalization, gathering an international team with individuals, universities, organizations and agencies, and using their strength to benefit the related research has become more and more important. In this essay, the author is going to give a brief introduction to the history, current situation, and some thoughts on international collaboration and how it has influenced academia. 

Generally speaking, the international collaboration on research can be achieved in multiple forms, for example, sharing data with other colleagues, exchange thoughts and ideas, visiting each other’s facilities, etc., all these can be regarded as international collaboration and can bring some advantages to the collaborators. If we take a look back to the history of scientific research, it is easy to find out that these forms of collaboration have never stopped, and have triggered some most prosperous times with some most brilliant names. For instance, in the 16th century, the mathematicians and physicists tend to write letters to communicate with other to share new findings and achievements, the intellectual communication between those brilliant minds, represented by Sir Issac Newton, brought to the birth of the system of classic physics and built the foundation for the industrial revolution. Another example is in the 19th century, the communication between the scientists excited and stimulated each other and build the modern physics system, which contributed to the invention of nuclear power and modern electronics technologies. 

Figure 1. The picture of the fifth Solvay Conference, among the attendees are some most well-known names including Albert Einstein and Marie Curie

After the 1990s, the trend of globalization and the emergence of the internet has brought much convenience to international communication and further stimulated it. 

Figure 2. The percentage of the research publication that involves international collaboration in the United States

Figure 2 illustrates the percentage of the research outcome in the United States that is related with international collaboration according to the largest international academic journal publisher Elesvier, it can be noticed that the rate grows steadily in the trend, and the percentage grows from below 20% to almost 40%, considering the amount of the overall publication is also growing, the number indicate that the collaboration is very popular nowadays. 

Another large country, China, has the similar trend, however, due to the relative lower research level and more occlusive government policies, the trend didn’t start to go up until around the year of 2000. 

Figure 3. The percentage of the research publication that involves international collaboration in China

The reason for the rise of international collaboration result from several reasons and can mainly categorized into the following:

Figure 4. The international space station

  1. Combination of resource. As the topic of research has become more and more subdivided, it becomes more and more difficult to be an expert in a certain research area in a short period of time to solve all the issues met in the research process, and the easiest way is to organize a team and get help from each other. In an even bigger picture, the collaboration may be organized by multiple governments from different countries to gather resources for exploring the frontier of human technology. A most famous example is the International Space Station (ISS), which is led by the U.S. government and involves more than 16 countries, this result of collaboration greatly fostered research in medicine, ecology and other areas of science.
  2. Innovation. One good reason for choosing to collaborate internationally is to bring in people from different thinking patterns and culture backgrounds and introduce some out of box thoughts and ideas and help to generate innovations.
  3. Funding opportunities. More and more funding agencies have open opportunities to international researchers, working with other researchers can help to gain the chance of getting additional funding support to conduct non-sensitive research. For example, the United States National Science Foundation announced to have supported more than $11.5 million funding to 9 international collaborative projects on grand scientific challenges.
  4. Other reasons. There also remain other reasons for the researchers to be motivated to involve in international research, for example, to share information to avoid meaningless effort, accelerate personal career growth, proof of leadership in a certain research field, take advantage of the existing research equipment or facilities, etc. For example, in the field of astronomy, it is financially impossible and unnecessary to build large telescopes in every country. As a result, the design and construct of large telescopes often involves intellectual and financial investment from multiple countries, and most telescopes are open to all the researchers globally to make the full use of the equipment. 

Figure 5. The Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain which involves effort from Spain, the United States, German and Mexican, etc.

For the reasons mentioned above, the collaboration is usually encouraged by the science management agencies in different countries, however, like the coin has two sides, the collaboration can also meet difficulties and challenges, and can bring negative impact to the collaboration

Figure 6. J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the leading scientist and project leader for Manhattan Project

  1. Research management. The management of an international project which involves multiple participants can always be challenging, not only can the different countries have different policies, the collaborated projects themselves can be large, and require someone with adequate experience and prestige to manage. 
  2. Intellectual property and data sharing. The ownership of the intellectual outcome of the research that involves multiple collaborators can always be difficult to decide, especially when the funding comes from different countries. In addition, the research data can introduce more complicated problems, especially how it should be published. These problems need to be considered and solved in advance to guarantee it won’t outbreak at the end of the project. Another situation is some researchers may use the research data that they already achieved in one country to apply for projects in another country, which technically should be considered as research misconduct, however, due to lack of communicating mechanism, it can be difficult to discover behaviors like this. 
  3. Culture and language barrier. Although English is being recognized as the most used international language in the field of scientific research, people from different cultural backgrounds can have conflict in the way of thinking and behaving. Moreover, for a non-native speaker, communicating in another language can always be less efficient and more effort consuming. 
  4. Political reason. As mentioned previously in the advantage of international collaboration, one reason for the government to encourage international collaboration is to grab the leading position in a certain research field, however, it can be challenging if multiple countries seek to compete for that position. Whatsmore, due to national security reasons, the government may restrict some research areas to researchers from a different country. For example, even some universities in the United States are willing to accept international students to major in some sensitive major, the student can have a large chance of being rejected to receive a visa for studying that. 

At this time, with the spread of the COVID-19, the world seeks more than ever the collaboration of international collaboration to overcome this challenge for human beings. Yet, it is disappointing to find out that a lot of governments turn their policy to conservatism and isolationism and hold a negative attitude towards international collaboration on solving this issue. Closing the door for sharing and collaborating can benefit no one and only causing more death of innocent people. I hope this situation can be changed and let the world hold hands together to win this battle against the virus. 

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My Latest Obsession: Stitch Fix; Blog #5

Friends, we have made it to our last blog post for the class. I took a few minutes thinking about what was left that I could possibly write about that relates to diversity and/or inclusion. I won’t lie, another ‘twist’ or aspect on COVID-19 would have done the trick. But quite frankly, I am over talking about it, hearing about it, watching news about it, etc. So, you are in luck; I can promise you that this blog is 1000000% not about COVID-19 in any way. Other than maybe how I came to find and use the business called Stitch Fix. In a round-about way, you could argue that it does relate a pinch (half of a pinch) to COVID-19; because of  COVID-19 there has been closures of many public businesses including most clothing stores. Well folks, with extra time on my hands locked (not really, but you get my point) in my apartment, I did a very important task – I cleaned out my closet. I separated clothes that I never wear and are just taking up space into the far end of my closest so that when things do open up, I can take them to get donated. Due to that, I now need to replenish my closet and that is when Stitch Fix came across my mind.

For those of you who don’t know, Stitch Fix, is an online-based clothing company that uses algorithms and personal stylists to select and then mail you clothing, shoes, and/or accessories. This business caters to everyone: women, men, and children.

To begin, you have to fill out a style profile. This includes entering your clothing size for shirts/blouses, dresses, bottoms, waist, bra (if a lady obvi), and shoe. It then asks questions about your body shape including height, weight, and body proportions. You might be thinking, body proportions – what?? It is pretty cool, for each body proportion (arm, shoulders, torso, hips, legs, and bottom) you get to say if you have larger than average parts, short parts, long parts, big parts, curvy parts, etc, that way they can really tailor the clothing they select to best fit your body. Next, you have to select your preferred fit for your top half and your bottom half. For example, I said that I preferred a loose fit for my top half. From there you have category details where you basically select which items you would never want. For instance, I do not want to ever receive skirts, bags, scarves, or bracelets. In addition, I don’t want to buy any shoes that have heels or wedges. Lastly, I also want to avoid some certain prints like paisley. The next category of the style profile is denim. How do you like your denim to fit? For style – skinny, straight, bootcut? For rise – low, mid, and/or high? For length – short, regular, or long? Next, if you selected to receive jewelry, do you have certain tone preferences like gold and/or silver? Lastly, it asks about occasion and outfit frequency: how frequent do you wear office wear, casual wear, night out wear, and special event wear?

Real quickly, you can see that Stitch Fix highly values diversity as it caters to all types of people with all kinds of body shapes and personal preferences. (Yes, this is really my diversity plug people)

Stitch Fix also asks about your occupation to get an idea of the kind of clothes you would need or want to wear. For example, clothing needs or styles probably vary greatly between a CEO and a farmer. Also worth noting, for each type of clothing item like tops, pants, dresses, etc they ask you for a price category that you feel comfortable spending. As a grad student, I of course opted for the “as cheap as possible” option haha.

After completing the style profile, they show you a handful of outfits that you either give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to. This is where the algorithms come in. If you start down thumbing a certain style, they will know via their algorithms not to select this style or look in the future. Conversely, if you thumb up certain outfits or pieces of clothing, they will get a better idea of your style. The more you do the thumb up/ thumb down process, the more accurate they will get at figuring out your exact style. Once it is time for Stitch Fix to send you clothing aka a ‘Fix’, the algorithms have clothing narrowed down, but then a stylist comes in and does some final checking. In addition, you have the option of writing a note for the stylist to see (highly recommend doing this). So, for instance, on my stylist note I said “I am in need of cute tops and pants/and or jeans. I also love cardigans. I do not yet want professional clothes. And I can go either way on jewelry or matching shoes.” The stylist then sees your note, and make final selections based on that.

I received notification that my first Fix is in the process of being shipped to my door as I am typing this! They use FedEx and it looks like they do 2-day shipping based on my expected delivery date.

If you are impatient and want to take a glance at what will be in your Stitch Fix box before it arrives, you can log in online and under the tracking button, it has a link that says something like “Already arrived? Check out now.” So of course, I did that and could see exactly what will be showing up on my doorstep! I have to say, I am really impressed. My stylist listened exactly to my note I left and the items she or he selected really do match my style, and to think, this was only their 1st try!

Once it comes, I will try on all pieces. If I don’t like the way something fits, I can do an easy return or ask of an exchange in a size. In the box that comes to you with the clothing, they already have free return shipping labels and packages for you to easily send it back. All you have to do is drop it off in a USPS mailbox or go to a USPS facility directly to drop off. Something that is really cool is if you like and keep every item, you get 25% off of the entire order! So even if you don’t like one of the items, keeping it and doing the 25% off can end up making that item free plus more.

After reading this, have I made you interested in trying out Stitch Fix yet?! Haha. I promise I am not sponsored. You may be wondering is there a cost or subscription? You do pay a $20 styling fee for each Fix; however, it gets applied to any item you buy, so if you buy one thing, you really don’t lose any money. As for subscription, you have the ability to chose automatic deliveries which range from every 2-3 weeks, every month, every other month, or every 3 months. HOWEVER, you do not have to, it can just be a 1-time thing no questions asked.

Overall, I am excited and plan on continuing using Stitch Fix until I replenish what I need. I will say the only thing I did not love about this whole process is that due to COVID-19 some of their warehouses that store the clothes are backed up because some were shut down for a couple weeks. Therefore, my Fix is about a week late as it was supposed to arrive on the 23rd but will instead get here on the 1st. But don’t let that scare you off because they are now all back open so I don’t think that will be a problem in the future.

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

Blog #4 Essential Workers and COVID19

Among the many reminders this pandemic has brought us, there is a renewed appreciation for essential workers in health care, grocery stores, agricultural workers, plumbers, electricians, etc.  Except for health care workers, other essential workers have lower paying jobs and they are performed mostly by minorities. Latinos make up a large proportion of what is now considered “essential” workers in grocery store staff, restaurant workers, caretakers, cleaners and delivery workers, which places them at the frontlines of the pandemic. I have to say that I, as many other people, initially failed to recognize this issue. I changed my outlook as I realized the level of exposure my sister experienced working in a supermarket when she came in contact with all the customers shopping every day. The workers at this chain only received Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) about a week ago, and it was mainly a result of deaths in other supermarket chains. It was and still is like a Russian roulette every time essential workers go to work. They do not receive special bonuses for showing up unless we consider additional $0.25-0.50/hr. an actual incentive. Not knowing who is asymptomatic and contagious creates higher risks for all these workers. In addition to these higher hazards, they must deal with customers that do not believe is social distancing and refuse to follow the rules when shopping. I have seen people repeatedly touching fruits and vegetables as if they could not look and choose, at least until we find a COVID19 vaccine to prevent people from getting sick.

My sister got sick and I did as well. We tried three times to get tested. We even got a doctor’s prescription but the few places that were testing in Northern Virginia refused to do it. The answer was always the same – if the fever did not go over 103Fwe were not “worthy” of being tested. She had to self-isolate for 14 days before she went back to work. Even today, we do not know what we had. I look forward to serologic testing to find out if we have COVID19 anti-bodies.

I now realize the efforts these essential workers must make to support their families. Some of them, do not even have access to childcare so they can self-isolate knowing their families are being taken care. In the Latino population many households are headed by single parents, thus they do not have the choice of leaving their children with the other parent.

Latinos across the US are disproportionately getting sick from coronavirus, in some regions infected and hospitalized Latinos are up to three times the rate of white Americans. This is compounded because they are the least able to access the healthcare systems and unemployment benefits that could bring them relief. New data from cities and states are making increasingly clear the virus’s unequal toll on minorities.

  • “Data in New York City shows that Covid-19 is killing Latino people at 1.6 times the rate that it is killing white people.
  • In Utah, Latinos are being infected and hospitalized at three times the rate of white people. Whereas Latinos make up 14% of the state’s population, 29% of the patients who tested positive for Covid-19 in the state identified as Latino.
  • In Oregon, Latinos accounted for 22% of coronavirus cases where demographic information was available. Latinos make up 13% of Oregon’s population.
  • In New Jersey, Latinos make up 19% of the population, but nearly 30% of Covid-19 patients in that state identified as Hispanic.
  • In Washington state, 25% of those infected are Latino while they make up only 13% of the state’s total population.”

For example, in New York, the number of deaths also disproportionately falls on the Latino population as shown in the graph below. What is more worrisome, public health experts warn that the official statistics may be underestimating the virus’s toll on Latino communities since they are cautious of seeking medical care due to a lack of health insurance, and in many cases fear that going to a hospital will expose them to deportation because of their legal status.

Furthermore, how can I trust, when I have health insurance and I am a us citizen, that these numbers are not under reported after my personal experience with testing, and reading who is getting into the hospitals? I cannot.

The larger picture is that this pandemic has amplified social inequities. We have been fortunate that more Latinos have not gotten sicker at higher rates; this pandemic could disrupt our food supply chain. For example, in California, agricultural workers work in close proximity to each other with limited access to water and food for 12 hours shifts. If we have a bigger outbreak among these workers, how would supermarkets safely stock their fresh produce departments? We are not providing safe and humane working conditions for those agricultural workers at the bottom of the food supply chain. We are so consumed trying to assure each other that we are a fair society that we believe our own lies.

For many Latinos, the economic fallout from the pandemic is just as worrying as the health risks, leaving many with little choice but to risk their lives at frontline jobs. Hence the general public, all of us are at a higher risk. We live in a global economy; all the pieces are interconnected. Looking the other way and pretending it is “those people’s problem” is not a solution. Economic inequities affect them directly and affects the rest of the population indirectly. There are no winners or exception when it comes to consequences of social and economic inequities. Unemployment has also disproportionately affected Latinos. Compared to the overall US population, Latinos report that they or someone in their household has taken a pay cut, lost a job or both since the pandemic hit, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. Assuming that we all noticed who was cooking and serving the food are restaurants before the pandemic, it should not come as a surprise to anyone, jobs losses have disproportionately affected Latinos.

I cannot live out the Trump administration policies discouraging Latino immigrants (more like threats) from making use of public health insurance and food stamps while continuing immigration enforcement, as Covid-19 spread through the country and at the risk of exposing US immigration workers to instill the fear that asking for assistance could land them on the radar of immigration officials or even separate them from their children. Overall, not a fair or good prospect for Latinos…

Among the many reminders this pandemic has brought us, there is a renewed appreciation for essential workers in health care, grocery stores, agricultural workers, plumbers, electricians, etc.  Except for health care workers, other essential workers have lower paying jobs and they are performed mostly by minorities. Latinos make up a large proportion of what is now considered “essential” workers in grocery store staff, restaurant workers, caretakers, cleaners and delivery workers, which places them at the frontlines of the pandemic. I have to say that I, as many other people, initially failed to recognize this issue. I changed my outlook as I realized the level of exposure my sister experienced working in a supermarket when she came in contact with all the customers shopping every day. The workers at this chain only received Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) about a week ago, and it was mainly a result of deaths in other supermarket chains. It was and still is like a Russian roulette every time essential workers go to work. They do not receive special bonuses for showing up unless we consider additional $0.25-0.50/hr. an actual incentive. Not knowing who is asymptomatic and contagious creates higher risks for all these workers. In addition to these higher hazards, they must deal with customers that do not believe is social distancing and refuse to follow the rules when shopping. I have seen people repeatedly touching fruits and vegetables as if they could not look and choose, at least until we find a COVID19 vaccine to prevent people from getting sick.

My sister got sick and I did as well. We tried three times to get tested. We even got a doctor’s prescription but the few places that were testing in Northern Virginia refused to do it. The answer was always the same – if the fever did not go over 103Fwe were not “worthy” of being tested. She had to self-isolate for 14 days before she went back to work. Even today, we do not know what we had. I look forward to serologic testing to find out if we have COVID19 anti-bodies.

I now realize the efforts these essential workers must make to support their families. Some of them, do not even have access to childcare so they can self-isolate knowing their families are being taken care. In the Latino population many households are headed by single parents, thus they do not have the choice of leaving their children with the other parent.

Latinos across the US are disproportionately getting sick from coronavirus, in some regions infected and hospitalized Latinos are up to three times the rate of white Americans. This is compounded because they are the least able to access the healthcare systems and unemployment benefits that could bring them relief. New data from cities and states are making increasingly clear the virus’s unequal toll on minorities.

  • “Data in New York City shows that Covid-19 is killing Latino people at 1.6 times the rate that it is killing white people.
  • In Utah, Latinos are being infected and hospitalized at three times the rate of white people. Whereas Latinos make up 14% of the state’s population, 29% of the patients who tested positive for Covid-19 in the state identified as Latino.
  • In Oregon, Latinos accounted for 22% of coronavirus cases where demographic information was available. Latinos make up 13% of Oregon’s population.
  • In New Jersey, Latinos make up 19% of the population, but nearly 30% of Covid-19 patients in that state identified as Hispanic.
  • In Washington state, 25% of those infected are Latino while they make up only 13% of the state’s total population.”

For example, in New York, the number of deaths also disproportionately falls on the Latino population as shown in the graph below. What is more worrisome, public health experts warn that the official statistics may be underestimating the virus’s toll on Latino communities since they are cautious of seeking medical care due to a lack of health insurance, and in many cases fear that going to a hospital will expose them to deportation because of their legal status.

Furthermore, how can I trust, when I have health insurance and I am a us citizen, that these numbers are not under reported after my personal experience with testing, and reading who is getting into the hospitals? I cannot.

The larger picture is that this pandemic has amplified social inequities. We have been fortunate that more Latinos have not gotten sicker at higher rates; this pandemic could disrupt our food supply chain. For example, in California, agricultural workers work in close proximity to each other with limited access to water and food for 12 hours shifts. If we have a bigger outbreak among these workers, how would supermarkets safely stock their fresh produce departments? We are not providing safe and humane working conditions for those agricultural workers at the bottom of the food supply chain. We are so consumed trying to assure each other that we are a fair society that we believe our own lies.

For many Latinos, the economic fallout from the pandemic is just as worrying as the health risks, leaving many with little choice but to risk their lives at frontline jobs. Hence the general public, all of us are at a higher risk. We live in a global economy; all the pieces are interconnected. Looking the other way and pretending it is “those people’s problem” is not a solution. Economic inequities affect them directly and affects the rest of the population indirectly. There are no winners or exception when it comes to consequences of social and economic inequities. Unemployment has also disproportionately affected Latinos. Compared to the overall US population, Latinos report that they or someone in their household has taken a pay cut, lost a job or both since the pandemic hit, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. Assuming that we all noticed who was cooking and serving the food are restaurants before the pandemic, it should not come as a surprise to anyone, jobs losses have disproportionately affected Latinos.

I cannot live out the Trump administration policies discouraging Latino immigrants (more like threats) from making use of public health insurance and food stamps while continuing immigration enforcement, as Covid-19 spread through the country and at the risk of exposing US immigration workers to instill the fear that asking for assistance could land them on the radar of immigration officials or even separate them from their children. Overall, not a fair or good prospect for Latinos…

 

 

https://youtu.be/dmvyOAi5zdc

 

 

 

https://youtu.be/h_59D-b_cRo

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

PC Stands For Pure Comedy (#4)

A Comical Introduction

During this time of crisis, when we are all holed up at home with nothing to do, one thing we all need is a good laugh. From the internet memes,  tik toks and other funny videos we are demonstrating our creativity and utter boredom during this weird time of isolation by spreading laughter. It allows us to block out the fear while connecting with one another. It’s been the bright light during a time of confusion and uncertainty. I mean, can all you cool cats and kittens imagine having gone through this quarantine without all of the Tiger King jokes?

meme

In All Seriousness

Comedy has been around since the beginning of time, with its documentation originating with Aristophanes, a Greek play write. He was instrumental in using wit and farce to address important issues facing society at the time. His subject matter centered around “poking fun” or “digging” at politics, women in society, and social reform….Sound familiar?

Comics today address the same list of issues (and more) in their comedic sketches as Aristophanes did in his plays. So what’s changed? Lately, it seems, political correctness has become a major hurdle that a lot of comics are facing. New rules or protocols must be followed so as to not offend certain groups of people. But I believe laughter is that “spoonful of sugar” that we all need (especially in times like these) that “helps the medicine go down.” Yeah, I went there.

The Butt of the Joke

The point of comedy is to bring about laughter. This we all know. So where is this invisible line where laughter becomes insult?

 

It is true, “historically speaking” (and not too “historically”) comedy has been overwhelmingly male oriented. From the stage to the screen to the writers table, men have ruled this field. I’m sure we’ve all seen at least one episode of Saturday Night Live. The sketches cover every topic relevant to society and more. Some of these skits make us laugh until our bellies hurt, while others, unfortunately, are a little cringe-worthy. Sometimes the joke simply misses the mark. But those jokes that make us “die” of laughter are still on important topics affecting our society. They somehow become more comfortable and acceptable to talk about when sprinkled with a little humor.

To some, it’s all fun and games until they learn who wrote the sketch. But why does that matter? What if we changed our viewpoint of comedy from “making fun” to “drawing attention”. Would it matter so much then who wrote the joke?

Jerry Seinfeld did an interview a few years back and discussed his views on political correctness in comedy. Whether or not you liked his TV show or his stand up, he made a point that political correctness has gotten in the way of comedy. I believe this has truth to it for a couple of different reasons.

First,  Comedy needs to be an outlet for EVERYONE to address, and yes, LAUGH, at issues that we typically take so seriously. While prejudicial issues may be made to be the “butt of the joke”, perhaps by bringing light to these turbulent topics in a comical way would allow for more responsiveness. And maybe, just maybe, this response provides a greater likelihood of change occurring.

Just like in every other career, perhaps talent is more important than filling diversity gaps. I’m all for more women in the workforce and equal pay; but I also work extremely hard every single day to ensure that I deserve what I get. I don’t expect, nor do I want, a handout because I’m a woman. Handouts do not fix problems of diversity. It creates new problems if you ask me.    

It’s not just Jerry Seinfeld who feels this way. There are other comedians of different races and gender than Seinfeld who feel that political correctness has led to a level of sensitivity that has negative consequences on comedy because comedy is and should remain an avenue of discussing important issues.

More Than Just a Laugh

Comedians are often scrutinized for their seemingly offensive jokes. But they play an important role in our society. It takes both talent and guts to stand up in front of a crowd and bring attention to a taboo issue and induce laughter from it.

When done well, comedy allows us to face issues in unconventional ways. It softens the rigid edges on topics you may not feel like you’re “allowed” to talk about, possibly because it doesn’t personally affect you. But it certainly helps bring attention to it in a more accepting environment.

Sometimes comedy is just for a good laugh. When we turn on a funny movie we are able to sit back for a while and forget our troubles while watching Will Ferrell act ridiculous. (Because let’s be honest, most likely the funny movie is either Step Brothers or Anchorman.) And that’s okay. Boosting our endorphins is a good thing. But that’s not what comedy stems from and that’s not all it has to offer us.

Remember in the movie “Shrek” when Shrek explains to Donkey how ogres are like onions?….Perhaps comedy is also like an onion….I know, but before you judge just indulge me… At first glimpse, you hear a joke and experience a good laugh. But beneath each tear-jerking layer of these jokes is another facet of social commentary that forces us to confront realities of stereotypes and prejudice. The comedic aspect just provides a more inclusive and humorous avenue of exploring these topics. It reduces the sting associated with peeling back each layer so that we can get to the core of the issue and make necessary changes.

 

 

Is The Joke On Me Or In Me?

We’ve all heard of the funny bone, right? So, if we have a funny bone does that mean we also have a funny gene? Scientists speculate that there are genes linked to humor. Researchers have discovered a discrete segment of DNA located on the X chromosome (The sex chromosome you receive from your mom if you’re male, or both parents if you’re female) that codes for a specific protein that is mutated within individuals who are socially considered “humorous”. This mutated protein, ironically enough, is called the HAHA-1 gene. (Doesn’t that make you want to laugh a little?)

So, if you laugh rather easily at a joke or funny movie you, more than likely, have the HAHA-1 mutation…. That’s right men, you have your mother to thank for your sense of humor…. The jury is still out on that one for us women, though.

If, however, you prefer to watch C-SPAN on Saturday night, then sadly you probably lack this mutation; and therefore the joke is more likely on you. And I’m sorry about that.

There is good news, however. In addition to genetics, humor is also associated with environmental factors. So that means that if you really love C-SPAN but your mother is quick as a whip with her jokes and witty comebacks, then there may be hope for you yet.

The Punchline

At the end of the day, comedy is intended to unite us all. Humor is extremely powerful in its’ ability to bring attention to and neutralize stereotypes and microaggressions. Comedy is a tradition that brings people together by allowing us to discuss issues that would typically be met with criticism. It doesn’t by any means make racism, homophobia, xenophobia, or stereotyping okay. But laughter could very well be that sugar coating we all need in order to take the medicine that is the bitter truth, and finally begin to heal and make changes for a more inclusive society.

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

PC Stands For Pure Comedy (#4)

A Comical Introduction

During this time of crisis, when we are all holed up at home with nothing to do, one thing we all need is a good laugh. From the internet memes,  tik toks and other funny videos we are demonstrating our creativity and utter boredom during this weird time of isolation by spreading laughter. It allows us to block out the fear while connecting with one another. It’s been the bright light during a time of confusion and uncertainty. I mean, can all you cool cats and kittens imagine having gone through this quarantine without all of the Tiger King jokes?

meme

In All Seriousness

Comedy has been around since the beginning of time, with its documentation originating with Aristophanes, a Greek play write. He was instrumental in using wit and farce to address important issues facing society at the time. His subject matter centered around “poking fun” or “digging” at politics, women in society, and social reform….Sound familiar?

Comics today address the same list of issues (and more) in their comedic sketches as Aristophanes did in his plays. So what’s changed? Lately, it seems, political correctness has become a major hurdle that a lot of comics are facing. New rules or protocols must be followed so as to not offend certain groups of people. But I believe laughter is that “spoonful of sugar” that we all need (especially in times like these) that “helps the medicine go down.” Yeah, I went there.

The Butt of the Joke

The point of comedy is to bring about laughter. This we all know. So where is this invisible line where laughter becomes insult?

 

It is true, “historically speaking” (and not too “historically”) comedy has been overwhelmingly male oriented. From the stage to the screen to the writers table, men have ruled this field. I’m sure we’ve all seen at least one episode of Saturday Night Live. The sketches cover every topic relevant to society and more. Some of these skits make us laugh until our bellies hurt, while others, unfortunately, are a little cringe-worthy. Sometimes the joke simply misses the mark. But those jokes that make us “die” of laughter are still on important topics affecting our society. They somehow become more comfortable and acceptable to talk about when sprinkled with a little humor.

To some, it’s all fun and games until they learn who wrote the sketch. But why does that matter? What if we changed our viewpoint of comedy from “making fun” to “drawing attention”. Would it matter so much then who wrote the joke?

Jerry Seinfeld did an interview a few years back and discussed his views on political correctness in comedy. Whether or not you liked his TV show or his stand up, he made a point that political correctness has gotten in the way of comedy. I believe this has truth to it for a couple of different reasons.

First,  Comedy needs to be an outlet for EVERYONE to address, and yes, LAUGH, at issues that we typically take so seriously. While prejudicial issues may be made to be the “butt of the joke”, perhaps by bringing light to these turbulent topics in a comical way would allow for more responsiveness. And maybe, just maybe, this response provides a greater likelihood of change occurring.

Just like in every other career, perhaps talent is more important than filling diversity gaps. I’m all for more women in the workforce and equal pay; but I also work extremely hard every single day to ensure that I deserve what I get. I don’t expect, nor do I want, a handout because I’m a woman. Handouts do not fix problems of diversity. It creates new problems if you ask me.    

It’s not just Jerry Seinfeld who feels this way. There are other comedians of different races and gender than Seinfeld who feel that political correctness has led to a level of sensitivity that has negative consequences on comedy because comedy is and should remain an avenue of discussing important issues.

More Than Just a Laugh

Comedians are often scrutinized for their seemingly offensive jokes. But they play an important role in our society. It takes both talent and guts to stand up in front of a crowd and bring attention to a taboo issue and induce laughter from it.

When done well, comedy allows us to face issues in unconventional ways. It softens the rigid edges on topics you may not feel like you’re “allowed” to talk about, possibly because it doesn’t personally affect you. But it certainly helps bring attention to it in a more accepting environment.

Sometimes comedy is just for a good laugh. When we turn on a funny movie we are able to sit back for a while and forget our troubles while watching Will Ferrell act ridiculous. (Because let’s be honest, most likely the funny movie is either Step Brothers or Anchorman.) And that’s okay. Boosting our endorphins is a good thing. But that’s not what comedy stems from and that’s not all it has to offer us.

Remember in the movie “Shrek” when Shrek explains to Donkey how ogres are like onions?….Perhaps comedy is also like an onion….I know, but before you judge just indulge me… At first glimpse, you hear a joke and experience a good laugh. But beneath each tear-jerking layer of these jokes is another facet of social commentary that forces us to confront realities of stereotypes and prejudice. The comedic aspect just provides a more inclusive and humorous avenue of exploring these topics. It reduces the sting associated with peeling back each layer so that we can get to the core of the issue and make necessary changes.

 

 

Is The Joke On Me Or In Me?

We’ve all heard of the funny bone, right? So, if we have a funny bone does that mean we also have a funny gene? Scientists speculate that there are genes linked to humor. Researchers have discovered a discrete segment of DNA located on the X chromosome (The sex chromosome you receive from your mom if you’re male, or both parents if you’re female) that codes for a specific protein that is mutated within individuals who are socially considered “humorous”. This mutated protein, ironically enough, is called the HAHA-1 gene. (Doesn’t that make you want to laugh a little?)

So, if you laugh rather easily at a joke or funny movie you, more than likely, have the HAHA-1 mutation…. That’s right men, you have your mother to thank for your sense of humor…. The jury is still out on that one for us women, though.

If, however, you prefer to watch C-SPAN on Saturday night, then sadly you probably lack this mutation; and therefore the joke is more likely on you. And I’m sorry about that.

There is good news, however. In addition to genetics, humor is also associated with environmental factors. So that means that if you really love C-SPAN but your mother is quick as a whip with her jokes and witty comebacks, then there may be hope for you yet.

The Punchline

At the end of the day, comedy is intended to unite us all. Humor is extremely powerful in its’ ability to bring attention to and neutralize stereotypes and microaggressions. Comedy is a tradition that brings people together by allowing us to discuss issues that would typically be met with criticism. It doesn’t by any means make racism, homophobia, xenophobia, or stereotyping okay. But laughter could very well be that sugar coating we all need in order to take the medicine that is the bitter truth, and finally begin to heal and make changes for a more inclusive society.

Posted in Diversity, Inclusion | Leave a comment

#4 New Academic Experiences with COVID-19

Hello all!

I hope you all are staying healthy and safe. Let me be honest. For this blog post, I wanted to do proper research and write about how academia has been affected since the pandemic started. However, I just took the Qualifiers Exam yesterday, and I had a very rough and busy month I could not keep up much with my classwork.  So here I am again with my academic experiences since we are away from campus. 🙂 Where to start? Let’s start with my TA responsibilities.

It was the first week after spring break ended. It was that time, nothing was definite. All we knew was the classes would be held online. Then we started to receive emails from several professionals that tell how to proceed. The campus was still open to us. However, we were not encouraged to be present on campus unless it is necessary. My adviser strongly encouraged us to work from home. We organized everything in the lab and office area in case of a lockdown. I am also a TA for Mechanical Engineering Lab. We conduct different experiments every week, and after the spring break, I was responsible for the preparation of the test setups and training other TAs, etc. However, I did not know how to do that online. I came up with a couple of ideas. I could just prepare a detailed test instruction with pictures and also sample data so the students could still understand the concept of the experiment. I reached the class lecturer about it, and he replied to me as “Wait a few more days. You are about to be a movie star!.” SIGH!!! That means he will ask me to record a video of the experiment. Understandable. He wants to show the students a better way, but how were we gonna do it with practicing social distancing. I emailed back I do not think it is necessary to record a video in this unpredictable period. He ignored my email and replied to me, “See you tomorrow at 2 PM. We will have some guys who will help us to shoot the video.” OH, this ignorance of people is killing me every time. The lab is not sanitized; we have no gloves, no masks, no hand sanitizers, but we will come together and shoot a video. This did not sound reasonable to me. That day I talked to my adviser, and since he knows I take a bunch of medicine, he said it is my right not to go. I informed the lecturer, and he said, “if you do not do it, I will make someone to do it.” and he did! He forced someone else to do it. While my adviser made this experience easy, I had difficulties in conducting my TA job. Other than that, there has not been any problem with keeping doing my TA responsibilities. I grade my students ‘papers online, which takes more time this way, but at least it is secure. I get online for the office hours, I sometimes get online to chat with them to give them some comfort also. It is more challenging to explain the things online, but in the end, we are all learning and experiencing how to get things done better online together.

For research-wise, we can only do things online. Literature review, analytical solutions, more theoretical studies. As a group, we meet regularly on Zoom and have our meeting with our adviser there also. We have lunches on Friday together. Sometimes we even play online games together. One more time, I realized my adviser was a great team leader. We just adjusted this situation like we have been working like this for years. We also have a working zoom room people just log in through the day and keep each other’s company while working. It is like a virtual office area. However, our field requires to conduct experiments and compare the results with analytical solutions. This pandemic will definitely affect my graduation. As long as we can not do experiments, we will not be able to have a strong dissertation that would bring our degree. Hopefully, we will get back to normal, at least slowly.

I am only taking our class this semester, so I do not have any online classes to attend. The assignments are online friendly. Group work is doable with zoom meetings. I do not have any difficulties except my bad habit of “procrastination.” It is one of the challenges I am dealing with about myself. I need to write a blog post, and there is always something else distracting me, and I end up not accomplishing my goal. Hopefully, this pandemic will give me some time to work on my procrastination.

I had the Qualifier’s exam yesterday. What an experience! I was already trying to make the department hear our struggle about this exam. This pandemic made it worse. So let me explain a bit more what I was complaining about it. It is a written test that you have to choose three areas in Mechanical engineering and you have to pass them. You can take it twice during your first three semesters in the program. They describe it as the evaluation of your undergraduate level knowledge but in my opinion, no undergrad has been asked those types of challenging questions during their college time. Each exam takes two hours and you have 45 min between each exam. So your 6 hours will determine if you are eligible to continue your graduate program. I think this is a fragile testing practice. I do not believe it shows the real knowledge of each student. Everyone’s background and strengths might be different, and you can not eliminate students in this way. Graduate school should be more research-focused. It should show more personal effort while you are evaluated. It is not an open book or takes home exam, so imagine how much time we spent on trying to memorize the equations. If you are lucky enough to remember the topics, they ask the questions you will pass, and they usually ask two questions for each field and ask for 75% of the full points. No need to explain more, but this is a terrible way to prepare your students as prospective doctors in their field. Other departments ask for research and present them as a qualifier exam. This is a better way so you can work on the specific topic that you will be using for your dissertation. They can also see how much you can present your work in a big group of people in the field. This will also give them some idea of what the students have been working on in the department. But instead, we just find the undergraduate textbooks and try to solve the examples and problems to practice for the 6 hours of our lives. soooooo what happened with a pandemic? First, the exam is postponed from March to April. Then, they came up with a new style of testing. I thought they were trying to come up with a new way of testing. Maybe take home or multiple choice so they would be able to use Canvas. Takehome exam would be reasonable too. Some amount of time with openbook testing does not sound too bad. We recieved the email about the new date and how were going to take this exam. Sorry, but I will not be able to continue without expressing this first. IT IS RIDICULOUS! The exam is held online. You set your camera to your face. Your microphone is muted. You can only communicate with the instructor via texting when the exam starts. He emails you the exam, and you take it. Take pictures of your papers, mail it. Then Sounds reasonable still. But it is a close book exam. Now it began to turn out to be skeptical. Why? Many evil questions come to my mind:

How can you make sure the actual person is taking the test. What if s/he has a twin, or you might not even recognize that is the exact student in that name.

How can you make sure he just pretends like he is solving the questions and someone else is solving it for him.

How can you make sure the person did not cover the walls with cheat sheets behind the camera?

How can you make sure he does not search the questions online or read a book from his laptop? ……. so on….

When I asked those questions the professor, he justified this exam by hiding himself behind the honor code. We are adults and we would not cheat. Please be realilstic now. Be honest to yourself. Are you able to say what the professor told me? As a student, I think many students took the advantage of this online exam and I can not wait to hear the results. Why? Because they will see the number of people who passed the exam will increase. Then what will they do? Will they cancel the exam or just say oh this stay home order made them work harder at home. What a joke! Anyway, I will wait until the results come up so I can go ahead and see if people abide the honor code or just studied harder than usual 🙂

I am sorry that I threw everything I had in my mind here, but for such a character like me I am not good at staying home all time and this is the only way I can reach out to others.

Cheers,

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