Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Here's a riddle:

So let's say my parents are both white, insofar as they are of European descent and have light skin. I'm pretty white, too; but when exposed to the sun in reasonable amounts I turn a decent shade of brown like my dad. Two of my older siblings have a different biological father of some other ethnicity that has darker skin, but the same mom as me. Also, my dad has a daughter with another woman before he meets my mom (she's fairly light-skinned), and their daughter is white as a sheet and moved to Seattle for what might as well be the sake of her skin. Besides myself, my mom and dad have two other boys, same complexion as me but not nearly as handsome.

My older brother then goes and has children with a woman whose mother is darker-skinned and from a South American country and whose father is lighter skinned and of European descent; her own skin is somewhat darker like her mother's. Their five kids all come out fairly light skinned, up until they're exposed to the sun for more than 9 minutes at which point they turn a beautiful shade of brown. No, really -- it's not fair how well they tan.

Meanwhile, my older sister has two daughters with a guy who is of "Mexican" (?) descent. One ends up looking kinda Asian/Mexican, and the other looks pretty white, but like my brother's kids, they tan well too. She also has a kid with a man whose mother was euro-white (as far as I know) and whose father was black by way of African descent (I think). This guy has dark skin, but not REALLY dark -- maybe a couple shades lighter than Barack Obama dark. The son of my sister and this guy comes out more or less a spitting image of his dad; maybe a little bit lighter but that might very well be because he plays Minecraft all the time and doesn't get a whole lot of exposure to the sun. My sister also has a son with a man who's, as far as I know, white, but shockingly tan, all things considered.

Now, the riddle part: What race are they? What race am I?

Click here for the answer.

Assuming you clicked for the answer, let me just take a moment to say how ridiculously infuriating it is that anyone who doesn't know me or my family should judge any one of us, or anyone anywhere on God's Green Earth (or astronauts -- yes, not even them), simply by the color of their skin or who their parents are or any Goddamned thing like that. 

Sweet Jesus, I really had to get that off of my chest. All that in bold? Yeah, originally it was all in caps because in my brain I was yelling.

Racism is racism, which is just another form of bigotry. It doesn't matter what color the person is who's passing judgment; it doesn't matter what color the person is who's being judged. There is never a good excuse.

Peace and love, people. Peace and love. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Race, what a goddamned thing.

Anthropologists put it best (From the American Anthropological Association): 
WHEREAS all human beings are members of one species, Homo sapiens, and 
WHEREAS, differentiating species into biologically defined "races" has proven meaningless and unscientific as a way of explaining variation (whether in intelligence or other traits), 
THEREFORE, the American Anthropological Association urges the academy, our political leaders and our communities to affirm, without distraction by mistaken claims of racially determined intelligence, the common stake in assuring equal opportunity, in respecting diversity and in securing a harmonious quality of life for all people.
Everyone has bias about something, and that's normal. So figure out why you have them, and then work on getting over them.

I acknowledge that I'm not perfect and I don't have to be, but I also think that's a poor reason not to try.

Because, “if we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.” 

Because someone had a dream once about their kids being judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I think that's a damn fine dream to have.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Religious Tolerance and Religious Extremism

According to Google Maps, there are currently at least eight places of worship within three blocks of Ground Zero in New York. However, people across the United States of America have trouble allowing one more. People talk about how insensitive it would be to put a mosque near Ground Zero, or how thoughtless or what have you to the people who died on 9/11 it would be, but I think Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York put it best: "It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit as opposed to al Qaeda as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. .... There were Muslims killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help." He's also mentioned the fact that there is a mosque in the Pentagon.

A number of politicians have criticized the president for speaking up on this issue; it should be mentioned that his comment spoke to the constitutionality of the issue. His critics' comments weren't to disagree with constitutionality though, but to say that he's out of touch with Americans. What worries me about this is that a lot of these politicians who jump on his case about this are the same ones whose electors and supporters are yelling about how the current administration is trashing the Constitution. And I think that the president has a right to speak towards constitutionality, since his oath specifically says, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The truth is, it would be unconstitutional for him to say anything besides “[Muslims] have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.” Because that is what the Constitution grants protection for everyone to do in our country.

Now as for the argument that it's insensitive to people who lost someone on 9/11 or too soon or what have you to build a mosque in the area, Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America spoke to this. "In a breathtakingly inappropriate setting, the president has chosen to declare our memories of 9/11 obsolete and the sanctity of ground zero finished." I can understand that to a degree. But I'm also no stranger to grieving, having lost people in my life who were very important to me – and one of the things that is vital to recovering after loss is that you manage to forgive and to let go. How soon is too soon? It depends on each person, but I think that 10 years after the fact (because I don't think that the mosque would be built this year) is reasonable.

There's also a bigger issue here that's worth discussing, and that is the one of religious extremism. People these days are all familiar with religious extremism in terms of Islam, and a lot of people assume that because of this familiarity with it, it must be an accurate representation. But a few things should be mentioned about this. One, a lot of really bad things are done under the name of Islam, but most of it is done for political reasons. It's just that Islam (really, any religion) is a great tool to use for that. In case you didn't know, people in other countries deal with it, too.

The National Liberation Front of Tripura in India uses the threat of violence to convert people to Christianity. All of the terrorist activities in Northern Ireland (car bombings, shootings, etc) are all to do with Christianity. Anti-abortion violence and killings in the US is perpetrated by Christians. The Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda's recruiting of child-soldiers, leading massacres, rape, mutilations, etc... are all done in the name of Christianity. And those are all modern examples. Looking back into history, religion and violence went hand in hand.

I'm not saying that all religions are bad, but I am saying that most religions have their bad elements. Ignoring that is just as bad as ignoring all of the good things that come from religion, and leaves a person with just as jaded of a viewpoint. So, I dare you to look critically at yourself before others.


Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fame is a Four-Letter Word

February 1999
Television Hall of Fame
Fred Rogers' Acceptance Speech


Fame is a four-letter word; and like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it.

I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen – day and night!

The conductor of the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl grew up in a family that had little interest in music, but he often tells people he found his early inspiration from the fine musicians on television.

Last month a thirteen-year-old boy abducted an eight-year-old girl; and when people asked him why, he said he learned about it on TV. "Something different to try," he said. "Life’s cheap; what does it matter?"

Well, life isn’t cheap. It’s the greatest mystery of any millennium, and television needs to do all it can to broadcast that ... to show and tell what the good in life is all about.

But how do we make goodness attractive? By doing whatever we can do to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own – by treating our "neighbor" at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.

Who in your life has been such a servant to you ... who has helped you love the good that grows within you? Let’s just take ten seconds to think of some of those people who have loved us and wanted what was best for us in life -- those who have encouraged us to become who we are tonight -– just ten seconds of silence.

No matter where they are – either here or in heaven – imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now.

We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative imaginative ways.

On behalf of all of us at Family Communications and the Public Broadcasting Service, I thank you for all the good that you do in this unique enterprise ... and for wanting our Neighborhood to be part of this celebration tonight. Thank you very much.

I have a friend in China; we used to practice our languages together for a couple of hours a night, a few nights a week. After a while, we decided that it would be neat to swap pieces of works that had meaning beyond just the words they were made up of. My friend had a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book, which I thought was quaint, and I had a book of quotes by Mr. Rogers. And so we swapped stories and quotes.

As our practice went on, my friend asked me who these quotes were by, so I told her. Suffice it to say, I was a little bit floored when I found out that she'd never even heard of Mr. Rogers, so I explained that he hosted a children's show for many years and the sort of things he talked about, and then busted out the Wiki page on him.

After a few of these exchanges, my friend was impressed with this figure from a faraway land and let me know. "Wow, I don't know that we have anyone like that here," she said. It turns out that she found a video of him addressing the Senate (an absolutely important video to watch) back in 1969 trying to get funding for PBS. And he succeeded, quite well. But anyways, I thought she was quite enamored with the quotes, and I don't think ANYONE should be deprived of Mr. Rogers, so when I ended up going to China I gave her my copy of the book.

Looking back, I can see a little bit of humor in that encounter. She gave me a copy of "The Art of War," and I gave her Mr. Rogers. She gave me a book that details how to defeat your enemy through superior tactics, and I gave her a Little Red Book of Quotes (being Chinese, she was used that) on having the courage to be yourself, understanding love, the challenges of inner discipline, and the fact that We Are All Neighbors.

How's that for a cultural exchange?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Oh Jeeze, What Now?

So, yeah. I'm still not really sure what my plans are for this crazy blog-thing. Still trying to decide where I want to go with it. I had some ideas to start with, and I totally planned on posting something new daily, but my inspiration is lagging a bit.

Politics is always an option, I suppose, but I just don't find it interesting enough to talk about daily. Honestly, I don't think anyone sane does, either. But I'll see what I can do. So for now, I guess I'll just keep posting random junk with photos here and there to entertain the masses. Because everyone loves photos. :D

Friday, July 23, 2010


Originally uploaded by pmusser
This is a picture of a button I took at a Metra station in Chicago, which is also perhaps my favoritest city ever to visit. Click it to see it a lot biggerer.

Incidentally, this is also probably the only picture I'll ever post with me (or my reflection) in it. So savor it.

Mmm, Blogger.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

USDA Choice Beef.


Late last night, The USDA asked Director of Rural Development in Georgia Shirley Sherrod to resign because of a video of her in which she seems to be making comments to the effect that she (at some unspecified point in history) consciously treated a white farmer differently than she would have treated a black farmer; specifically, that "I was struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farmland, and here I was faced with helping a white person save their land," and that "I didn't give him the full force of what I could do." The NAACP also issued a statement condemning what she said (probably because she made these comments at an NAACP event in Georgia).

All and all sounds pretty damning. But wait, this was possibly taken out of context? She says that it was, and was part of her recounting a story of how she realized back in mid-1980's that people losing their farms wasn't a black or white issue, but more a case of "haves" and "have-nots." When she made these comments, in fact, she didn't even work for the USDA. Not just this, but the wife of the farmer she was apparently referencing said that, "we probably wouldn't have (our farm) today if it hadn't been for her leading us in the right direction. I wish she could get her job back because she was good to us, I tell you."

I think that as time goes on, this picture will have its share of twists and turns and maybe we'll get to the bottom of it (the video that was released was only a small part, for example, and I think one can look forward to a longer, fuller version coming out shortly). Personally, I don't think there's enough information to come to any conclusions on the matter, so I say wait and see.

But what I like about this story is that it's a prime example of all of this speed and information access that we have through the Internet, cell phones, TV, etc., and the effect that it's had on our society. I think it's an accurate reflection of how we as a society have developed in line with faster and faster access to information. A few examples we can draw on from this:

  • The video was released about a day ago (that I can find). In less than that time, Shirley Sherrod lost her job.
  • In less than a day, NAACP condemned her words, retracted their statement and said USDA should rehire her, and posted the full video of what she was talking about.
  • In less than 24 hours, the major news outlets had interviewed every single person possibly involved except maybe the President.

Personally, I'm bedazzled. This is a great example of the Information Age, and the influence that the media has on us. I don't believe that it's an inherently bad influence, but I will say that there are people (groups, even) that rely on this speed to others' detriment, or at the very least to their own ends.