“Your numbers look great”: non-human solutions to very human problems

working-lifeWhen the twins were in kindergarten they were separated between two classes across the hallway from each other. Victoria’s teacher was a soft spoken, cardigan wearing woman with great patience and tenderness. Vanessa’s teacher was a loud, hostile, bitter old lady with no patience for little kids or the learning process. As the school year wore on, Victoria would come home happy, holding up a finger painting she’d done and talking about how she couldn’t wait for school again tomorrow. Vanessa would come home with her head bowed, somber and clingy asking if she can stay home and never return to that mean place again.

I thought Vanessa was simply having trouble adjusting; after all, some kids don’t take to socialization as well as others. But then the phone calls from Mrs. Bitter started to come in. Daily, I would get a call from a gruff, inpatient voice telling me how my daughter was hiding under her desk and refusing to come out or crying in a corner and cannot be swayed to move. Another time she called and said that Vanessa just wouldn’t stop crying, so Vanessa was separated from the group until she stopped being disruptive.

I finally had a meeting with the school and here is what they told me: “Mrs. Bitter can be a disciplinarian, but her numbers are through the roof; she forces her students to do the work by any means necessary, yes, she can seem a little harsh but she gets the job done.”

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The school cared not that my daughter was frightened out of her wits by this overbearing, unnecessarily harsh woman. Mrs. Bitter yelled at the children without cause and humiliated them by calling them names and getting the other children to join in. I knew this from witnessing it myself when I came into the class to monitor Vanessa’s behavior. Mrs. Bitter was horribly impatient and totally unqualified to be a kindergarten teacher – she had no patience for the job. But out of fear and harsh punishment, her students had the highest academic performance rate in the entire school.

After months of being a confused first time parents, my husband and I finally told the school that we wanted our daughter taken out of that class immediately. Yes, Mrs. Bitter squeezed out high tests scores but she also crunched the spirits of tiny kindergarteners and that was not okay. The school loved this lady because her numbers were great, never mind that she abused the students.

 

I find this mindset prevalent in America. The most successful are the most abusive. This mindset has to stop. Abuse is not okay, even if it gets the job done. The job can be done with compassion, levelheadedness, grace with respect for humanity. The twin with the nice patient teacher did just as well as the twin with the mean impatient one, so why are we rewarding destructive pathways to success?

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Our web-based lives further perpetuate this idea that cruelty as a strategy to produce perfection is okay. Increasingly our lives are maintained by algorithms, these complex applications choose our meals, mates, books, toys, fashion, schedules, careers, doctors, diagnoses, and prescriptions.

Technology is helpful and does create the feeling of ease and efficiency, hence my ability to post to this very blog right now. But computerized technology sends the message to its users that they can be as mechanically efficient both on line and off line. Educational systems are built entirely around the idea that pupils perform at the same scientifically established level. Exams transform human students into data elements that either successfully or unsuccessfully navigate algorithms.

We utilize computerized tools to demonstrate performance but the data is only half of the story. At work my performance is based on how well I navigate complex algorithms, not giving any thought to my humanity. If my report was done with accuracy, I’m good; no one cares that my grandma died, a colleague stole my idea, and I just found out that I have a serious medical condition. Human emotion is in play forever and always, yet our technological world turns a blind eye to the things that truly matter offline.

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Social media is thought to produce a layer of humanity for us but it is really insufficient. Our social media profiles are heavily curated advertisements of ourselves. There is really no humanity in our social media. There is really nothing authentically social about it. We post our stances, arguments, and position on issues but we are not really socializing. We are gathering data and arranging pseudo committees to further digitize our lives. I hear that some authentic friendships are made through social media and this is encouraging. Some people really do get married as a result of meeting online. However, speak to these people and they will likely tell you that their relationship was “set up” or “initialized” online but it blossomed offline. Therefore, our online activity serve as a tool to be used to live our lives not to be lived through

 

Bottom line: your numbers, on paper, on social media, on spreadsheets, on data reports, can look awesome, but you as a human being can be doing horribly. It is everyone job to continually remind each other that our “numbers” don’t represent us fully. It is fine to use data as guide but data will never replace humanity.

Identity

 

thesearchThe most painful part of being a Black American is the fact that our history stops at slavery. Many African-Americans know nothing beyond that their people were once slaves. We don’t know our African tribal languages or rituals. Our ancestors were so terrorized by slavery that survival was the only imperative. Documenting their past wasn’t high on the agenda of a black American slave. So the past went undocumented and soon unspoken of and then completely lost.
Because of this stoppage, this unknown component, it is so easy for us to develop low self-esteem. Jewish people can hold on to a time before and after Hitler. They have a lineage to reach back to and know that they functioned with pride prior to being dehumanized by the Nazi regime.
Black American’s have tried to reach over the sea to the African continent and use African traditions as a foundation for a declaration that even before slavery we proudly existed and thrived.
I am Black American female and my ancestors, no doubt, were taken from somewhere from the shores of the African Continent. Where, exactly? I have no idea.

mind changing is allowed; hypocrisy is not.

Many people don’t use hypocrisy in the proper context.  They’ve muddled the meaning.  A hypocrite isn’t merely someone who says one thing but does another.  I am very slow to assign the label of hypocrite to others because human thought expands and shifts frequently.

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hypocrite eyes

 

Some of the things I believed as a teenager, I no longer believe as an adult.  I allow wiggle room for beliefs updates, converts, and maturity.  Mind changing is allowed; hypocrisy is not.

 

True hypocrisy always involves a blatant lie.  It denotes known deceit.

When my uncle would puff his cigarettes then blow the smoke in my face and say, “don’t you ever start these things…they’ll ruin your life.”  He wasn’t being a hypocrite, he was being honest.  He didn’t hide his use of cigarettes while bad mouthing the habit in public. He used openly and bad mouthed openly. He was not a hypocrite.

Sometimes we can slowly drift into the hypocritical realm without being aware like accidentally giving donations to a slaughter house because you didn’t read the form right and you are a known animal rights advocate with a website and everything and recently updated your site condemning meat eaters.

It is very rare that one is unaware that they are being hypocrite.  Most of us know, rather acutely, when we have veered past the beliefs that we’ve pretended to live by.

The girl who preached to me about the wickedness of premarital sex whilst having it herself yesterday is a hypocrite.

If you scold someone for a sin and then find yourself in that same sin a year later, I do not consider you a hypocrite.  You are simply a misguided individual who spoke too soon.  If you however, continue to scold people for the very sins that you regularly indulge in, then you, my friend are a fabricated, fictitious, master of the stage, worthy of an Oscar, bona fide hypocrite.

 

Flying birds

Hypocrites are typically the double-lifer’s; you know, those people who live in two opposing worlds. People like the president of a rape prevention organization, who rapes women in his spare time, and the upstanding preacher who casts out homosexual demons yet maintains a homosexual relationship in private are the paradigm of hypocrisy.

The thing to remember about hypocrisy is that it is based on contradiction.  It is not based upon changing your mind (truthfully), learning, growing, or changing perspective.  I guess this is why it is not a good idea to be judgmental, preachy, or disparaging towards others.

You may find that you feel differently later and people will mistake you for a hypocrite.

 

 

lure of the vampire

Twilight’s Edward Cullen isn’t the only handsome charming vampire.  There are millions of them.  The type of vampire I speak of doesn’t suck blood or live forever.

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tempting…

Although these warm blooded creatures don’t feed on blood, they do however hunt humans and charm them accordingly.  These vamps are suave characters that dress well and put their asymmetrical faces to good use.  The appeal of a glistening bicep, shapely legs, and doughy eyes hypnotize the prey making these creatures irresistible.

 

These anthropomorphic vamps have a hankering for the jolt that human emotion supplies to the ego. We walk around forming, breaking, and enjoying relationships all the while feeding off each other’s energy.  Vampires suck the joy out of the joyful and the peace out of the peaceful. Vampirism perhaps explains our human inclination towards good and evil. Darkness and light. Black and white. Pure and soiled.

Let us be aware of the vampires among us.  Let us resist their charms and cultivate healthy relationships that don’t suck the positivity out of our bodies.

soul junk

I am subscribed to my local library’s great reads newsletter.  The library service emails patrons listings of new book releases in different categories. For the past two years I’ve been getting the African American New Releases. And for two years I have exclusively seen books that are about neurotically religious freaks that sleep with preachers, pimps, kinky sex pots, gold diggers and drug dealers.  Here is a sample of the listing I received today:

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African American December 2012

New and Recently Released

 By the Grace of God – by Keshia Dawn

Gracie looks to God for strength when her fiancé, Dillian, leaves her one day without so much as a warning, and when she finds out the reason for his abrupt departure, it causes her world to flip upside down.

Outcast – by Lewis Ericson

A gritty, page-turning Urban Renaissance debut introduces a troubled young man who gets mixed-up in a dangerous drug trade that threatens to destroy his life.

Gift of Faith – by Robert Fleming

Fleming reminds readers that even a man of God can sometimes falter in his faith.

The Other Side of Dare – by Vanessa Davis Griggs

Griggs weaves the compelling story of a family threatened by a shocking secret.

Playing the Hand You’re Dealt – by Trice Hickman

After her mother dies, sweet-natured Emily Eloise Snow joins her best friend Samantha in Washington, D.C. where she comes face-to-face with a man from her past and must make a choice that could destroy not just her life as she knows it, but the woman and friend everyone believes her to be.

Rise of an American Gangstress – by Kim K.

Born with a platinum spoon in her mouth thanks to her drug dealing parents, Fancy is a young, spoiled princess. But when havoc enters the picture and the Feds seize her family’s ill-gotten gains, Fancy’s lavish Caribbean trips are traded in for cold winter nights in the heart of the hood.

P$$y Power – by Tya Love

Precious, Baby Doll and Sassy, three call girls from the Diamond Palace, are on their grind, living the street life and chasing the all mighty dollar. Beauty, brains and a feisty attitude are a deadly combination when running game.  Will this combination work for them or against them?

Reverend Feelgood – by Lutishia Lovely

“Lovely once again expertly illuminates the wacky world of the devout and devoutly devilish.” (Publishers Weekly)

Make Me Yours – by Sophia Shaw

A free-spirited woman. A man with a plan. Filled with fascinating characters and steamy romance, this sizzling romance contains plenty of heat that will keep readers hooked.

Contact your Librarian for More Great Books!

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Really?  Trust me when I say that EVERY list is similar to this one. I am let down and insulted by this list.  Not one book about deep spirituality experienced by an adult who’s not obsessed with money, delusional about religion, caught up in appearances, or heavy in drugs? Not one book that appears hopeful in a non-sensational way?  Not one imaginative story about a black person who transcends the stereotypical lifestyles of the bravado laced hood society?  I suppose it is these popular ideas that sell books.  But the black experience is so much more than this.  I understand that publishers want to sell books but some inventive, positive, and bohemian perspectives are desperately needed in the market.

The first title by Keshia Dawn (By the Grace of God) is the only one that I would even attempt to read.  The rest of them come off as soul junk.

a soul weighed down

a soul weighed down

Soul Junk – literature, images, movies, people, attitudes, lifestyles, drug use, violence, wickedness, or any substance, place, person, or thing that causes, induces, teaches self destructive behavior

America: crazy people with guns

Another mass shooting. When, oh when will America understand that mental health and weaponry don’t mix?

 

A cousin of mine was shot to death. I had a shot gun pointed at my face once. I’ve been shot at as I stood on my front porch as a teenager. All my experiences with guns have been negative, scary, and lasting.  I suppose NRA members and “responsible” gun owners have heartfelt stories to tell about their love affairs with their 9 mm Beretta’s. I unfortunately have a hate-hate relationship with weaponry.MP900315556

Give a gun to a mentally unstable person and you get Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson Arizona, Omaha Nebraska, Henderson Kentucky, and that Pennsylvania Amish school. The trouble with gun law is that people are probably not crazy when they legally purchased their guns.  Declining mental health dilapidates in spells.  A bipolar person is not manic every day. A depressed individual may have days where he feels like his life is going okay. No one truly knows if their put-together next door neighbor who works as an accountant is capable of pulling his 45 out of a locked box and then walking outside and start shooting at random cars passing by.

Afghanistan and Syria have terrorists; groups of trained vigilante killers who cause havoc to all who oppose their laws. America has the mentally disturbed; typically single white males who feel underscored, failed, or simply confused about the capitalist society in which they dwell.

A terrorist is a terrorist no matter what his evil purpose appears to be, but still I can’t help but wonder what’s crazy American Joe Smith’s purpose? What is he avenging? Protecting? Fighting for?

the psychosis of marriage

Prior to my marriage, I hated horror films.  I disliked all the blood, gore, and deep spooky music that made goose bumps scale on your arms.  Witnessing a beheading was a barbaric act and all those who found human mutilation entertaining were mildly psychotic.

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Then I got married.  I married a great guy, handsome, responsible, a good provider and in all of his goodness, there are also complexities that I cannot even begin to understand.  As I irritate him with my tendency to leave half empty glasses of water around the house, he irritates me with perpetual condescending questions.

As we tried to talk through our differences but sunk deeper into frustration, I began to feel anger building in my stomach.  I couldn’t understand why he felt the need to remind me seven times to mail the mortgage check and he couldn’t bare to see yet another forgotten glass on the nightstand. The tension in our talks sucked all of the air out of the room.  We could no longer breathe so we stopped talking.

Each day we go through the motions of daily living, caring for the children, running errands, reporting to work, and still I feel the bridge between us grow wider because we don’t take the time to discuss our grievances.

I know that our petty aggravations must be stress reactions put upon a fast-paced young family. Our fights are either stress related or they are motivated by some deeper issues that we would need a therapist to uncover.

The days rush by and we continue to plug away at our domestic duties in our suburban shell and I can feel the resentment tank filling to my chest now.  After helping the kids with homework, making dinner, giving baths, cleaning the kitchen, and prepping for morning, the house is finally quiet besides the snore of my spouse. I plunk down the sofa and take a breath.  I realize as I flip through channels that I could do with a little blood right now, and a healthy dose of gore would do me some good.  With all my frustrations and tensions, I can witness a beheading without wanting to gag.  I can yell at the foolish young girl who trips on purpose as her stalker gets closer.

A chopped off head symbolizes the severed bulk of connectivity in my marriage.  The monster hunting the teenage campers and slashing them one by one is the same evil that comes into my marriage flinging its machete causing chaos, confusion and unnecessary pain.

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