The Outlook

This isn't for the sensitive

The Generation of Fake Reality

The internet’s been abuzz these last couple of days with the story of Karen Klein, a 68 year old bus monitor whose experience with taunting was videotaped and posted to facebook by one of her taunters — a middle schooler.

You can watch the video and read up on it here.

When I first took note of this incident and took to twitter with my thoughts, someone asked me “why didn’t they put a more intimidating monitor on the bus?”  I surmised that at middle school age, kids still, generally, revere adults.  So simply placing an adult on a bus typically solves any behavior problems because kids fear being reprimanded.  However it appears that in this case the kids had come to learn that she wasn’t to be feared and so they attacked her.

But that still leaves the question of why.  Surely not just because they could, right?

In a separate article, one of the taunters’ fathers is quoted as saying he was surprised to find out his son had treated another human this way and I got to thinking…

Kids in middle school, depending upon the grades that exist, can run in age anywhere from 10 – 14 years old.  That means the youngest kids in the building were born in 2002 and the oldest kids were born in 1998.  They have quite an interesting frame of reference for popularity.

Go with me on this…

Fame is just the grown up version of popularity and increasingly talent is less and less a factor in this grown up version of popularity.  All you need is a memorable act, on youtube or twitter or maybe even a reality show to garner fame.  These days fame is truly fleeting and it seems fewer and fewer people look to have it for the long run — just long enough to get money.

And if we trace this idea of fame that results from just one “by chance” act back to its more recent origins, I point to the year 2000.  Maybe its because we survived Y2K or because we were in a new millennium or because boy bands had made a strong comeback, but something about that year made us look at things a lot differently.  Take for example the series Survivor which crowned its first winner in the year 2000, Richard Hatch.

Now, Richard went on to achieve this new form of fame in part because of his underhanded way of winning, but also because of some other suspect things he involved himself in.  However, the point remains that he came to our attention because of a reality show, not so much because he had any great talent.

Survivor was not the first reality show.  I remember folks pointing out that MTV had been giving us The Real World since 1992 but none of those cast members had become break out stars and so while it would reason that perhaps something about Survivor (maybe its wider reach audience wise) or maybe something about Richard Hatch would explain his fame, I posit that no — we had just had some sort of shift in our social sensibilities and a new way to become famous made its debut.

Kids in middle school in 2012 grew up after the switch.  This concept of being on tv but not being famous is foreign to them.  Everyone who makes it on tv or gets over 500k hits on youtube or has more than 50k followers on twitter is famous.  Translate that to their world and anyone who can put up something on facebook that gets 50 likes is popular…

And this brings us back to these kids on this bus who taunted a poor lady to tears.  How could they?  The video first came to people’s attention because it was posted on facebook.  One of these boys thought so little of her and so much of what he had done that he posted this mess on a public social network and I bet he did it to achieve enough likes to be popular…

You see, peer pressure has always been a very real thing and we’ve all, no matter our age, experienced it and many of us probably gave in once or twice.  These days the pressure to stand out and be seen and be recognized follows kids everywhere.  It’s not enough to be recognized in the classroom, they need to be recognized on the field, at home and on the internet.  They need the likes and the comments and the tags.  And if in the grown up world it only takes a flash in the pan — a funny video or a funny tweet or whatever it is — then it shouldn’t take much more in their world.

And it doesn’t just follow kids.  I remember the first video a now very popular vlogger did that got over 500k (maybe even over 1M) hits.  I won’t link or tag or mention his name, but I’ll say this: he had done several videos prior, mostly just about his thoughts on things in his life and this particular video that went viral was in that same vein but with a lot more emotion and intensity.  It was truly funny and truly entertaining.  The video he posted right after, however, was this mixture of explanation and apology.  He told his viewers that the video they’d seen wasn’t really his style.  He talked about how he had just had a bad day and vented and while he meant what he said, expecting all of his videos to be that way would be a bad idea.

It didn’t take him long to realize that if the people wanted intense and emotional he had better figure out how to do it and he now regularly gets plenty of views, is a YouTube partner and like I said, is a very popular vlogger.  He snapped for one video and remodeled everything about his presence on YouTube.  Can we really not expect kids to modify their behavior for just one video to achieve their own version of fame?

Sure, some of these boys are probably just bad kids.  They probably lack home training and are probably always taunting somebody but I bet you that one or two of them just wanted to be seen.  They didn’t think about the monitor’s feelings because their eyes were on the prize.  Fame… or popularity, as it were.


June 22, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

How Race Slowed the Investigation of a Double Homicide

I love crime shows, especially crime docs like Forensic Files and Cold Case Files.  Lately I’ve been watching a show on Netflix called Crime 360.  In this reality show, cameras follow the investigation of homicides that are solved in part by using technology that allows crime techs to “freeze” a crime scene just as it is at the time of discovery for use later if detectives need to see the scene for some purpose after clean-up at the actual site has occurred.

Over the course of 2 seasons, the show was filmed in Richmond, VA; Indianapolis, IN; Rochester, NY and Cleveland, OH.  I’ve been watching for several days now, about an episode a day, and I quickly realized that approximately 90-95% of the victims were of color (mostly black) and with the exception of the episode I’m about to discuss, 100% of the perps were of color (mostly black).  All of the victims have been male and young and “in that life” as well as the perps.  To a certain degree I believe I’ve continued to watch this show just to see how many black men are killing other black men and how much of that a television show would air.

You have to wonder how many homicide investigations they filmed and how they chose to air the ones they chose to air.  Two episodes I watched back-to-back were almost completely opposite in every way, except for the city they were filmed in; both were in Indianapolis.

In the first episode we come up on a homicide of a young black male.  It appears that a shootout between two groups of people occurred and the victim was shot during that time.  He managed to run to a back alley where he collapsed and died.  The investigation went just as several others had gone: the lead investigator rounded up any possible witnesses and questioned them, came up with a list of suspects, and continued to use physical and forensic evidence to help him guide where he looked for more information until finally he was able to determine who shot the victim.

In the second episode, we come upon a double homicide of 2 older white males.  Both are retired professionals and we learn (needlessly, I think) that they are gay (homophobia actually runs a bit rampant in this show, but that’s a topic for another post).  Just like the prior episode and most of the others, the lead detective gathers witnesses and uses evidence to figure out where to go next in his search.

Both episodes end with the arrests of the suspect(s) but one takes a bit longer than the other to solve and I believe it has to do with race.

In the first episode a bystander is quickly brought downtown under serious suspicion of involvement.  It is believed that because he was standing close to the victim’s body when investigators and police arrived on the scene that he may have had something to do with the shooting.  The “person of interest,” a black male, gives a very plausible story that he and his friend (the victim) had been at a park earlier in the day.  He says that he and his friend and some of his friend’s friends left the area about the same time, but in different directions.  He says suddenly he hears shots and he takes of running.  He returns when the fire ceases and finds his friend in the middle of a group of people, dead on the ground.  The investigator is very suspicious of this story and reluctant to let the witness go, though he ultimately has to because he has no reason to hold him.

In the second episode, two men enter the victims’ home because one of them, a supposed close friend  of the roommates, realizes he has not seen them in several weeks.  This individual serves as an early witness who is also brought down to the station to give information to police.  He, a white male, is not seen as a person of interest.  He explains that he realized he hadn’t seen his friends in a few weeks and asked another neighbor to accompany him into the house.  They found a back window that was half open and used it to enter the home where the witness discovered the bodies.  He also adds that interestingly, a few days prior to this discovery, he got an anonymous message on his phone (it is never clarified whether this was voice or text) to retrieve one of the victims’ vans from a store parking lot.  He explains further that the men never lent their vehicles to other people and so investigators assume that whoever took the van killed the men.  They thank the witness and he is allowed to go.

I’m not a terribly suspicious person.  In fact, I’m much more liable to believe someone than to not believe them if we don’t have any history or I don’t have any real tangible reason not to.  I typically would just rather believe you than go through the trouble of suspecting you, but that second witness?  Oh he sounded to me like he was lying from the word go.  Everything just seemed so… planned.  This half-open window, and especially this van!  My mind was boggled as to why the investigators didn’t seem the least bit suspicious that this man got some random message on his phone to go retrieve a van that was a crucial piece of evidence!  I mean who in their right mind wants to get away with a crime and directs someone to something that could convict them?  I also wondered why no one asked the witness to produce the message so they could follow up.

Turns out that in the first case, the witness was telling the truth and had nothing at all to do with the shooting.  However in the second case the witness who’s less-than-probably story we believed turned out not only to be involved, but to be the perpetrator.  After a tip from another neighbor, the investigators determine he had a fairly intense rap sheet himself, including aggravated robbery.  Because it took so long to unearth evidence that he had not been completely forthright and also had his own criminal past, he had time to leave the city and make it cross-country before they found him.  I couldn’t help but ponder how differently that might have gone had he been a black man.

I’ve seen enough of these to tell you that police are generally suspicious people and with good reason. Several times I thought a witness was being truthful only to find that with just a few more pointed questions, their stories unraveled.  But almost all of those witnesses have been black and they’ve had information on black suspects involved in black murders.  I think it makes sense to wonder why a witness with questionable information wasn’t made a person of interest much sooner than in this case.

I’m not at all accusing the investigator of this “white” crime of racism.  I surely don’t have enough evidence, having never seen him work a “black” case.  He might just be a little inept in the investigating department, but I do think race is at least one piece of why one witness was questioned more harshly and much longer than another who turned out to be a suspect.

What do you think?  Am I off base?  The interesting thing here is perception.  As a person who is forced to pay attention to and think about how race works in our society, every day these things stand out to me a little more.  I think one could cloak this in class instead of race as many are apt to do, I think others could out and out deny that race plays any part.  Perhaps, some might say, the black witness was treated more harshly because of his own history.  All of these theories, including mine, have an equal chance of being true but I stand behind what I’ve said.  The black witness was treated much more skeptically than the white one and it had everything to do with the race of the two.

December 23, 2011 Posted by | Race, TV Shows, Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Stuff White People Do

I’ve done a guest blog post over at Stuff White People Do. Check it out!

I don’t know if any of you frequent other blogs run by a white person that attempt to do what swpd attempts to do, but I don’t. I don’t because I haven’t found many. Any that I have run across are run by a PoC (or, at least, a person pretending to be a PoC). Blogs like these take on a whole different spin when they are run by a white person. However, I’ve also noticed that such places don’t tend to stick around very long.

When Macon developed a list of rules for commenters, the comment section, as usual, lit itself on fire. One comment in particular from Randy caught my eye. Randy said here:

how is this blog, this whole thing, not just yet another example of a WP being in charge of a space for and about PoCs? however deferential, reverent, polite, well-intentioned, well-informed macon d may be; it’s still a WHITE MAN’S place. because he owns it. he controls it. it’s HIS own weblog. and he-not any black person-can pull the plug whenever it suits him.

how can all you razor-sharp fanon’s out there have faild to confront and critique this (sic)? sorry folks, but it appears that we whites just can’t damn help ourselves from taking over, from dominating, from setting the terms, from RUNNING THE SHOW-however benignly.

you all are constantly in a blither about ambient white supremacy…yet you don’t see it RIGHT HERE.

I actually had been doing a lot of thinking about swpd and how the commenters interact on this blog. I appreciate the work macon puts into it, and Randy’s comment made me ponder other well-meaning, well-intended “spaces” (we’ll use “spaces” to refer to any place, online or real-world, where race relations is the primary topic) that don’t ever quite pan out. The most prevalent sort of spaces are blogs/websites that discuss interracial dating. Many such blog authors quickly find they spend more time defending their opinions than discussing anything of relevancy and ultimately shut down their blogs.

There seems to me to be a presumption white people make that they can singlehandedly change people’s minds, while never really being ready for pushback, and never being ready or prepared to create a space that offers PoCs and white people the opportunity to honestly and openly express their opinions.

It’s a shame this is the case, because as much as I wish that I, a black woman in America, could create a successful space, it would take a lot of work and a lot of passivity (that I’m not prepared to give) on my part.

Why, you ask? Because white people are scared to talk about race with PoCs. Some of that fear is understandable, while a lot of it is absurd. We can’t talk about or come up with ways to combat the problem without white people being honest and open, but above all else present, in the conversation. Unfortunately, the history in our country has led to a situation where more often than not, race conversations begun by PoCs in a PoC space do not attract white people who don’t already at least “get” the problem and will simply echo what we say (and never follow the echos with action).

One thing that was established early on at swpd is that white people are a necessary part of this conversation. In fact, commenter Jara said here:

The responsibility for improving race relations in the U.S., for example, falls on white people’s shoulders because they are the privileged group.

It’s become my opinion that we need more spaces created by white people where we can have these open and honest race conversations so that one day we make enough progress where who creates and controls the space doesn’t matter. Some of us may consider this a necessary evil, while others of us take it at face value and go. Either way, there aren’t a lot of white people who are ready to take the flack (some deserved, some not) they receive for attempting such a thing. Wonder what type of flack I’m talking about? Most swpd comment sections will show you.

Anyone who is a part of a real race conversation, especially with people from different perspectives, and actively searches for ways to lessen racism’s effects and to ultimately eradicate it altogether, is helping to blaze new trails. To do so via the internet with relative strangers is an area that has yet to be fully examined, and so it takes a lot of trial and error.

It’s easy to want to be a part of the solution, to feel like you do things that others might benefit from knowing about; it’s harder than it looks, however, to share those things about such a contentious topic. Too often well-meaning white people set out to help, but end up with their feelings hurt and their tails between their legs. I hope that as we all have a hand in writing the how-to book on handling race relations, more people step up and are willing to create more spaces for these conversations to happen.

There seems to be an assumption that if white folks would simply do as they’re told, everything would be fine. I see such sentiments expressed on this blog regularly; however, the fact is this is a learning experience for all of us. White people need to be ready to use the privilege they’ve enjoyed for hundreds of years to fix the problems it has created. I firmly believe that it is the job of the PoC community to point out the cracks, and that it’s the white community’s job to fill them in, even if that means losing things they’ve become accustomed to (I use a crude analogy, but I think simple and crude is better than complicated and palatable).

Randy made some valid points (that he later expounded upon). One of them is the irony that swpd may in fact be everything we all say we don’t want. A space like swpd isn’t perfect, but it is a good example of what I mean when I say the white people fix the cracks PoCs point out. In almost every post, there’s one commenter who trips the wire and the alarms start blaring, and someone lets them know that they are exemplifying exactly what shouldn’t be done. More white people need to be willing to “be that kid” (as I like to say). More white people need to be willing to take the criticism to not only learn from themselves, but also to teach others.

There are things PoCs should do, but this blog isn’t called “stuff people of color do.”

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 4 Comments

Students Have Rights Too… Right?

Source: Seattle Times 

A Dean of Students at a school in Washington state turned over surveillance video of a student whose parents had asked that they be notified of any “unusual” behavior.

This surveillance video, meant to keep students safe, recorded this female student kissing another girl. The parents promptly removed her from the school when they learned of it.

Parents have the right to parent their children however they feel. So while there are a lot of things wrong with this story (like what constituted her kissing another girl as unusual) I want to focus on this idea of whose responsibility it is to monitor what your children are doing at any given time of the day.

Sure, teachers and babysitters and whomever else of authority that come into contact with your children everyday should be making sure they are safe, by any (generally speaking) means necessary. However, the parents were wrong for asking the school to spy on their daughter and the school was wrong for agreeing to do so. 

What about the student’s right? I’m one of those people that thinks we give children so many rights the parents don’t have any wiggle room to do their job, but come on already. Spying on your child at school via an administrator? What is that?? That’s not helping you be a good parent. A good parent would raise their child so that they could send them off and not have to be worried about what the child is doing when they’re not around, while also realizing that children and teenagers will do crazy things sometimes. What happened to letting kids grow up and learn from their own mistakes? Am I that old school?

Ultimately, I feel bad for this girl. She’s clearly got overprotective parents and that never bodes well in the long run.

May 8, 2009 Posted by | Could we overreact any more?, News, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Health Care in the USA

With the upcoming Presidential primaries and impending 2008 Presidential election, one of the hot topics is healthcare. I’m currently interning on Capitol Hill and the recently passed, and slightly controversial, SCHIP bill recently passed. So healthcare seems to be a buzz word that’s generating at least a little bit of action on the Hill, but how do real-life, everyday Americans feel?

Oprah recently did a show featuring Michael Moore, creator of the documentary Sicko. He’s famous for Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9-11. While I haven’t seen the doc. having seen others of Moore’s works I’m sure this one is an eye-opener as well. Anyway, some thoughts of mine:

I’ve had a few conversations about Universal Healthcare. It is my firm belief that no Presidential candidate will be able to convince the American people that UHC is the way to go until our nation is adequately educated on what UHC looks like. Most UHC opponents are wealthy and ill-informed. Additionally, if we as Americans really believe that healthcare is not a luxury, but indeed a right, we’re going to have to change our mindset. The American way is to earn what you have. The great American stories are of those who came to this country with nothing and made something. That’s great, but healthcare is not a luxury the way wealth is. You earn wealth, but just by virtue of being a human being, you DESERVE healthcare.

So, on top of being educated about our healthcare system in general, we need to change our mindset. We need to learn that sometimes, it’s okay to step back and let someone else go ahead of us. Everything in this life cannot be about being bigger, faster, stronger and better. Unfortunately it seems that as our country ages, that mindset becomes more and more set in stone. That’s a real problem. Having UHC will mean that some of us have to wait a little longer so that others of us can get the care we need. It might also mean that being a doctor is no longer as lucrative as it once was, but why is it that the medical profession is the only “helping” profession that IS lucrative? Teachers, social workers, counselors, community organizers, even local politicians don’t make as much money as doctors. So what if finally everyone is being paid what they should for their contributions to our society?

October 3, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Church cancels memorial for gay Navy man

Got an e-mail with this article from USA Today about a church that canceled a memorial service for a gay Navy man.

I won’t debate whether or not I think homosexuality is wrong. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle I lead; however, I’m also a big believer in what’s right for me may not be right for you so I don’t judge people who are. (Here’s the part where I’m supposed to add that I have homosexual friends, but I hate when white people say “I”m not racist, I have black friends” so I never say “I’m not homophobic, I have gay friends” — having black friends doesn’t make you not racist just like having homosexual friends doesn’t make you not a homophobe. I’m not homophobic, but saying I have homosexual friends doesn’t prove it.) I guess the point I’m getting at is that I have my views you can have yours and some I’m willing to debate, homosexuality and my personal outlook on it, isn’t one of those.

According to the article, the church offered to do a memorial service, even after learning the man was gay; however, his family listed his partner as a surviving relative and so the church backed out.

The church was wrong. Dead wrong. Homosexuality is a big issue in the church, today (you can read some of my thoughts on it here.) and that’s fine and dandy, but for a church to offer to do a memorial service, knowing full and well at the time the orientation of this man’s sexuality and then backing out last minute because his partner is listed in the obituary is ridiculous. If they intended to pretend like he wasn’t gay, then they shouldn’t have ever offered to do it in the first place.

I take issue when people like Rosie O’Donnell get up on national TV and say that being gay is like being black. That really sets me on fire, but I know that members of the gay community who are open about it and comfortable with it value what part of their life them being gay plays into, the same way I value being black and what that means for me and my life. So, if a church offered to do my memorial and then backed out last minute because my obituary said something about me being black, I’d think that was pretty stupid, too.

I think that our society needs to cut it out with the PC stuff, and own up to what we believe. If you believe homosexuality is wrong, then don’t pretend like you don’t care about it to appease someone else. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and as long as your opinions aren’t impeding on my life and how I live it, then you go right ahead.

This church was wrong — they were wrong for offering to do his memorial service knowing that his lifestyle was something they take issue with and they were even more wrong for backing out last minute because they were no longer able to avoid the issue.

For pete’s sake, people!

August 11, 2007 Posted by | Oh the ignorance of the world, Ok. That was stupid, Ramblings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LiveJournal Suspends Blogs

I found this article about LiveJournal suspending about 500 of it’s community bloggers. You can go here to see the full article.

The long and short of it is that LiveJournal received some complaints about some blogs that violates it’s user policy. They went through with a fine-tooth comb and picked out any blog that had interests including rape, incest or anything of the like. Sounds good, except there were some legitimate blogs that spoke about such topics in an effort to help themselves deal with it. Basically, it was a bad idea.

LiveJournal’s parent company has issued a “my bad” statement (that companies are getting REALLY good at these days) and has decided to go back over the suspended accounts more carefully.

This is just another example of how our society completely condones the loss of freedom. Look, I don’t agree with pedophilia or incest, or rape at ALL, but if we start taking away some freedoms, all of them will eventually be gone. We live in a day and age where the phrase “Homeland Security” is used a little too often in situations that have nothing to do with the Homeland.

Am I making a big deal out of this? Relating Homeland Security with Blogs? No, but blogs have become the easiest way for people to share their thoughts and ideas with each other and now Big Brother is stepping in and saying “yeah, but we don’t like that topic so we’ll just blindly punish all of you.”

C’mon, people. C’mon. What’s next? I’m afraid to suppose.

August 11, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment