Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who Is America?

Below is text from the third installment of my race column. It appeared in the Setonian and Setonian Online in the September issue.

Of America in 1890, Walt Whitman said we are a “Centre of equal daughters, / equal sons, / All, all alike endear’d…” 

Who are we post Civil Rights? Who are we post 9/11? Who is America, professor of communication Frank Klapak likes to ask. Anyone who has had a communication or journalism class, a “defining target audience” class with him knows he drills the mixed and missing cultural identity of Americans.

We are multicultural; the clichĂ©d melting pot. Others wail “No! We are a mixed salad” because we do not enjoy actually mixing our differences. We tolerate the separate pieces that make a whole.

We stem from a white Puritan, a Christian faith background, but that does not nearly make up the whole. We are also Jewish, Muslim and atheist. We are black and burgundy, yellow and brown.

Because as kevjumba from YouTube says, “Girls are like M&Ms,” and if we like one then we should like them all. I mean, essentially we are all the same thing; carbon gelatinous blobs composed mostly of water.

But now I have gotten away from the topic and I seem all free love. In America, we are separated by race, which is a human construct created to put one person above another. Why do we do that when we already have classicism? When something goes wrong, we blame differences, give them a face, and apply them so liberally that we devalue whole groups.

FYI: You might want to hold on to your butts because I’m bringing out our tainted past. When the English first came to America, they took the land from those red-skinned savages because, you know, the whites needed it more. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we took all those squinty-eyed people and put them in camps for our safety. Who cared really that they were Korean, right?

When terrorists hit the World Trade Center, we said, “Damn you Muslims!” and gave the stink eye to everyone with a turban and brown skin. Never mind that the five pillars, the main tenets, are of peaceful prayer, fasting, giving to those in need and believing in God. Like anyone in the Bible ever fasted.

You want an equivalent? It’s like the extreme rightist Tea Party bombing some country and the citizens (of the bombed country) being like, “It was those pale-skinned, rich bastards in North America,” and then attacking Canadians.

If you really want to divide and conquer in the world, you should first focus on bringing together a nation with something other than tragedy. Who makes up America? I know we don’t like immigrants anymore, but I think we can learn from the Latino population.

The Latino nations are unified. They are not fixated on race. In fact, they are multiracial, having mixed with European settlers, slaves, and natives centuries ago. In Mexico, they are Catholic, but they’ve integrated native traditions and made religion specific to their nation. They have a unified language, Spanish, with inflections in dialect that connects them no matter the distance or change in face.

My fiancĂ© overheard a few men shopping near Pittsburgh. They spoke Spanish with a Mexican lilt and my guy instantly connected to them. It didn’t matter what they looked like, just that they spoke his language. They were his nationality.

Would an American care the same way? Would an American even be able to find common ground to do so? Because in Mexico, they aren’t “African-Mexicans” or “Spanish-Mexicans.” They are unified. They are mestizo.

Just be happy I didn’t talk about slavery and how even after years of being free and “equal,” the persecution that was constructed by facial differences ran so deep that they had to fight for basic civil liberties and get shot with fire hoses to do it.

Peace, Love
And All that Jazz

For more information on race relations, visit:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tagged and Talking

I have been tagged, which means I must answer ten questions of my choosing about myself. Oh the humanity!

Want to know who tagged me? So did I.

1. I knew I wanted to be a writer/author before I was 10. While other dreams changed, this one did not.

2. I write best with confusion: noise, smut, and music. I love music whether it be from Earth, Wind, and Fire or Prince to Top 40 hits to bands like Mumford and Sons. But I came from a family of seven and always shared a room so I write best with commotion in the background. When I can't get that, I turn on a little Jersey Shore or Keeping Up with the Kardashians to...you know...keep up.

3. My best stories come lying in bed, in dreams, or in the shower. Any inconvenient time, really. I try to write them down, but mostly I forget.

4. I am a thesaurus and dictionary. When peers need a different word, they ask me. As a newspaper editor, I'm also the go-to kid for fluid transitions.

5. I fear butterflies. My first published short story "Predator's Eyes" was about them.

6. I'm crazy about dinosaurs, but I try to keep it out of my work. Although, I did do a set of blogs on my dinoAdventure, where I spent one summer digging for bones on cliffs in Wyoming.

7. I love to travel. I hope to be a travel writer--whether this be fiction or A&E stuff I'm not particular. I've spent extensive time in Wyoming, D.C., Italy, Pittsburgh, Maryland, and Ocean City so far. My next stop is Mexico, where I plan to be married.

8. I talk to myself in public, and then aloud I will tell myself to stop talking to myself because it's weird.

9. I like to apply all learning to my writing whether it's a current event, historical reference, internet sensation, or classic literary reference. Especially for YA, I feel it really draws readers into a setting and a  "real place."

10. I believe that doing what you love takes precedence over doing something to make money (especially if it makes you unhappy). There is always a way to go for what you want, whether that be a partner in life, a college education, or a poor writer. However, this is not to say you can do everything. Quitting and failure are necessary albeit frustrating parts of life. (A writer stands up a yells "LIKE REJECTIONS?!" Yes, like those form-slip rejections that I have stacked in a folder in my inbox.)

Now I must Tag All the Bloggers! (It's a meme, and actually I'm doing just four.)
Christina Simon
Milana Howard
Shannon Palmer Bennet
Julia King

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Meeting President Barack Obama

Photo by Jalen Gumbs
On September 11 of 2011, I saw President Barack Obama (LIVE AND LIVING COLOR) at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. He very somberly placed the wreath and bowed his head in prayer.
Photo by Aja Hannah
And then he came over to the crowd. I wasn't expecting it and nearly fell from the slanted wall on which I was standing. I missed the first photo, too busy staring at his standout ears. (They're bigger than they appear on television.)
Photo by Aja Hannah
Then I was clicking away with my iPhone as he shook hands with the people in front of me. We were separated by no more than an arms length. If I had reached out, perhaps jumped...
Photo by Aja Hannah
His wife, Michelle, shook those same hands. On screen, she was average. Here, in her black fitted dress and deep tanned skin, she was beautiful. So beautiful, I shouted that it was so.
Photo by Aja Hannah
In my bed that I night, I cried. I want to do something reputable, be someone respectable. I want to be someone that The President wants to shake hands with. I'm just not sure I ever will.

I think I'll write him a letter.
Fellow student reporters from left to right:
Katy B., Jalen Gumbs, Aja Hannah (Me), and Jessie K. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

America: Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago, they turned the televisions off.
Ten years ago, they refused to speak to us.

Ten years ago, the class bell still rang.
But, they stopped teaching and we played guessing games.

Ten years ago, we still changed rooms.
Ten years ago, we walked empty hallways of middle school.
Because ten years ago there were no instructions, no plans or rules.

Ten years ago, my mother took me out of class.
Ten years ago, she refused to speak to us.

Ten years ago, she called our father in D.C.
She twisted our corded phone and waited impatiently.

Ten years ago, American meant brother.
Ten years ago, Bush was our father.
Because ten years ago, all we had were one another.

Ten years ago, terrorism meant muslims, and muslims were blamed.
Ten years ago, Hussain was my friend's last name.

For ten years, I hated and baited and played-
On my friend, her family, and her last name.
And for ten years, she took it and shook it off.
And still she never stopped talking to us.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cause of Month: Stop Discrimination Against the Unemployed

In this time of economic turmoil, you would think being unemployed would not ruin your chances of getting a job. After all, many good and strong workers have been laid-off due to budget cuts and downsizing, not poor work ethic or job performance.

Still, Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com are being used by employers to weed out those that are unemployed, keeping them from even getting an interview.

As a soon-to-be college graduate, this concerns me. Sure, I have had a work-study job these four years and stints in sales, but (aside from one internship) I have not yet had paying work in my field of choice (journalism and creative writing). How can I enter the job market confidently when I know men and women who have spent years as experienced professionals are not being hired?

I have signed this petition to ban sites like Monster.com from listing these discriminatory ads. There are over 91,000 signatures, and with your help, will meet their goal.

Already President Obama has voiced his support, saying the jobless discrimination "makes so sense." Also, Indeed.com, another job search engine, has blocked discriminatory ads from their site.

This petition was found on Change.org.