April 26, 2015

Standing: A short story

The blue and red lights from the emergency vehicles lit up the parking lot, the brightness during the gloomy moment created an unsettling atmosphere as Adam Zhuralev sat there in his chair with a look of amazement on his face.

Adam was born to Russian immigrant parents some twenty-two years ago. He was never a normal child. He born two months pre-mature and was immediately diagnosed with spina bifida. By the time he was five he had already been through at least a dozen surgeries to correct his spine, but still he would never be able to walk without some kind of assistance. His life was a dependent one. Adam was still a very exceptional and bright child, he excelled especially in math and science. He was social and could speak well and even participated in the Junior Paralympics. His mother kept him busy and distracted, she knew he had a difficult life. He was teased relentlessly throughout school because of his appearance and disability. As he grew older, he became less social and more shy, he was so quiet he almost seemed invisible and that's the way he wanted it. School was always a constant reminder that he was different and would always be an outcast, even if he didn't want to be.

When I asked him about his school years, he never talked about it directly and always said he wanted to make things right if he could go back in time. I never knew what that meant. We knew each other from Junior Paralympics training. My late father was a disabled veteran and three time gold medal Paralympian and when I was around the same age as Adam, I would tag along. Adam was a hard worker and pushed himself in every race. I could see the motivation and dedication in his bright hazel eyes. He was inspirational and his attitude was more optimistic than anyone on the team. After his time in the Paralympics he enrolled in college to pursue a degree in Communication Studies. He wanted to be a public motivational speaker, especially for Paralympians. He would've made a great scientist of some sort but his heart was set on becoming a public speaker, he was anxious.

Before Adam enrolled, I had already graduated from college with a degree in secondary education and encouraged Adam to follow his dreams. Once I secured a spot at Clinton High, I asked Adam if he would speak to my students, as practice for what he really wanted to do. He declined repeatedly, looking back at it, I wish I wouldn't have pushed as hard.

Eventually he gave in and decided to speak during my sixth hour English course. He was nervous and even sweaty. I asked him if he was alright and he nodded as if in deep thought. Shortly thereafter, students rushed into the classroom. Some of them looked at Adam as he was in his wheelchair in front of the class. I didn't know how the students would receive him but for the most part they were good kids. I noticed his eyes shifting quickly as each student walked in. Just before the bell sounded, my most difficult student walked in with a group of his friends. I watched him walk into class and burst into raucous laughter. His group laughed with him seemingly at some joke that he told. Adam looked more uncomfortable as the group walked in, he was distant, he was somewhere else. His hand clutched the wheel of his chair so tightly, his fingers were reddening, his eyes were up at the ceiling, looking but not seeing.

"Hey! Take your seats now!" I yelled sternly trying to diffuse the situation.
"I don't think I can do this, not now. They're laughing at me again," Adam said in a whisper, his eyes still shifting nervously.
"It's fine...They aren't, why would they?" I said trying to sound optimistic and even oblivious. I narrowed my eyes at Scott and he just shrugged, so careless.

Scott wasn't particularly difficult, he was just a kid who was goofy and loved an audience. He loved to joke, often at other people's expense. He wasn't a bully, but he teased a lot and was good at making people feel bad about themselves. Nonetheless, he was still popular and well liked. I introduced Adam as a special speaker and allowed him to speak. He was nervous and stammered a bit but got increasingly better after a few minutes. During the speech, Scott put his head down, covered his head with his red and brown leather Letterman's jacket and went to sleep, even though it was rude, I thought it was for the best.

The kids seemed to be thoroughly interested which made me happy. He answered a couple questions and departed just before class was set to end. I thought he was done, I thought he had gotten in his van and left. The day went by as usual and about ten minutes after the final bell sounded, I heard three or four loud popping noises, I can't remember exactly, and then suddenly screaming. Honestly, I didn't think it was anything serious so I stayed in my classroom and finished grading essays. I heard sirens growing louder and more urgent as they seemed to get closer. From the window I could see flashing lights. I stood from my chair and walked out of my classroom, three teachers were running towards the nearest exit.

"What's going on?"
"A kid got shot! A kid got shot!" yelled Coach Bennett. The swish of his nylon athletic pants echoed down the hall, his breathing was heavy as was his anxiety. 

I started running too. 

Sixteen year old Scott Lawson laid dead in the school parking lot, next to the small black handgun that killed him. The lot was crowded with students, teachers, police, and EMS personnel. His body was still warm even as the cold, moist January air whistled across his body. Most of the students were horrified and inconsolable, Scott was popular, and everyone knew him. Even those who didn't particularly like him shed a tear, seeing him dead was a stark reminder that he would no longer roam the halls of Clinton High School. The teachers tried to move the students away but they were all in a shocked state.
The police ran up to students forcing them away from the scene. I helped with the students I knew, pushed them inside of the building, protecting them from what was already known and seen. I could hear varying accounts as the police interviewed the students who were well enough to talk. I noticed the red and white signs plastered on the outside of the building, ones I had never noticed before. They were old and weathered, some had graffiti on them or some obscenities smeared all over them. "Gun Free School Zone".

Within the hour his parents arrived, his mother shrieked loud enough to be heard a mile away. "Dear God! My baby!" she screamed as she ran towards him at full speed, crossing the crime scene boundaries to be with her son.She was a large woman, at least 6 feet tall and well over 200 lbs., no one could stop her or hold her back. She collapsed to the ground and covered his body with hers, she didn't care that he was bloody or that he was dead, he was her baby. Her husband was speechless as he stood several feet back, his boy, his only son was there on the ground in a large puddle of red life, he didn't seem to be good with being emotional but all he could do was cry from a distance.
Surprisingly, I was stoic. I was hurt, I was guilty, but I was numb. Before they cuffed him and rolled him over to the handicapped accessible van, I asked him, "Why? Why would you do this Adam?" His button down plaid shirt was stained with sprinkles of blood, but there was a twinkle in his eye and a slight smile on his face.

"I wanted to stand....So,

I finally stood up for myself."

April 19, 2015

My INFP Personality

One thing about bloggers, it's sometimes hard to know exactly who's behind the words. Here's my attempt to kind of show my readers who I am outside of the blogosphere because it may explain why I write what I write and why I feel a certain way about various ideas and topics.

My co-workers and I were talking about personality types a couple months ago and one of my co-workers suggested that I take a personality test. I had taken a personality test years ago to add to my Myspace profile, but of course that's unreliable. I went home that night and took two personality tests (see one of my test results here)  just to see if I would get different results but they both came back the same. These types of personality tests came from the ideas of famed Psychologist Carl Jung, however, fellow Psychologists Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers put these personality types together based on Jung's teachings/ideologies. There are 16 different personality types and with both tests I was diagnosed as an INFP...So, what does that mean?

I - Introverted

Above everything else, I'm an introvert. I don't do well with large crowds or gatherings, I like to have a small group of deep relationships rather than a bunch of acquaintances, and socializing is tiring for me rather than invigorating, as with extroverts. The first test that I took said that I was 90% introverted, which even surprised me. I think 90% is a bit over the top, I'd say I'm about 80%. I know that doesn't make much difference, but 90% just makes me seem like a hermit and I am not! I like to go out sometimes, only if the conditions are right. Why am I an introvert though?

I was reading this dating advice column and the person asking for advice said that he was an introvert and didn't like going out. The person giving the advice said that being an introvert is fine, but you should figure out if you're really an introvert or is it that you're just self-conscious and lacking self-esteem. As you probably know (if you read my blogs), I have struggled with self-esteem issues for a long time, but I've always been an introvert, even as a child. I didn't even like large family parties and events and it's just tiring being around so many people. It's tiring trying to start and keep conversations going. With extroverts, they seem to improvise and feel a rush of adrenaline when it comes to juggling conversations and people, for introverts it's hard because socializing is very taxing. I would say that my introversion has some ties to my self-esteem, but I think it's just in my DNA to be an introvert.

According to truity.com, Introverts enjoy:

  • Contemplating ideas and experiences
  • Being in calm surroundings
  • Exploring a subject in depth
  • Reflecting on thoughts or feelings
  • Maintaining distance and privacy
  • Quiet and solitude

N - Intuition (sometimes S - Sensor)

Actually with this part of my personality I am in between the two options, but I identify most with being intuitive. This means that I rely on the bigger picture rather than the smaller, technical details and I dwell more on the future than the present.

Specific traits are:

  • Observing patterns and connections
  • Interpreting meaning
  • Imagining potential
  • Ideas and concepts
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Possibilities for the future

F - Feeling

I'm a feeler, I feel emotions more than anything else. I lead with my heart rather than my head or logic. I don't believe in black and white and I always believe there's some gray areas. I wouldn't make a very efficient judge.

Specific traits are: 

  • Acting out their ideals
  • Engaging their emotions
  • Considering the impact on people
  • Seeking harmony and appreciation
  • Serving others
  • Making authentic decisions

P - Perception

This means that I'm a person who likes to make plans but I'm also open minded enough to where those plans can be adjusted. This is pretty accurate because I am a huge procrastinator. I started this blog about 2 months ago and I'm just now posting it, ha!

Traits of a perceiver:

  • Be free to do what interests them in the moment
  • Make the rules up as they go
  • Have the freedom to be flexible
  • Brainstorm options
  • Do things when inspiration strikes
  • Go with the flow and enjoy surprises

All of these descriptions pretty much describe what I'm like. INFPs are emotional people and they're idealists, which means they see the good in most situations. We're also very imaginative, open-minded, and hope to 'heal' mankind with our dreams and aspirations. INFPs are also much better communicating through writing versus through speaking, which is why I chose the very fitting visual above. Some of the issues with being an INFP is that we're very over-analytical, too idealistic/dreamy, and very unorganized. These negative traits describe me as well.

One of the main traits of being an INFP is that we latch on to people who we like. As I said, we're emotional and once you appeal to our emotions it's hard for us to let go. I spent a long time thinking I had an obsessive disorder, because once I liked someone I almost became addicted to them, especially with friends. I remember in middle school I hung out with this group of girls and I felt so sad when school was over and I had to go home, because I wanted to be around them as much as I could. They shared things with me, they liked me, we had a great friendship and I just latched on to them. Some people can be friends with someone (or a group of people) and not talk to them for days or even weeks and just pick back up where they left off, but that's not me. I still do that today, and I realized it just this past week.

I've been talking to this person and I think we have good conversations. I live for good, deep conversations and I like listening to people so it works out because this person is a natural talker and entertainer. I really like talking to people who open up to me, it's the best feeling in the world to have someone want to talk to you, to have someone want you to listen to them because they value your ear is simply amazing to me. So, this person and I have been talking a lot more in the past few weeks. This week I realized that I was so excited to be able to talk to this person again, I couldn't wait to figure out what we would talk about next. One of my personality traits is that I like deep relationships and when it comes to friends I'm very selective. I also think I'm very spiritual when it comes to friends, I have to feel your positive spirit before anything else. I also like people who are expressive and not expressionless. I don't like conversations that scrape the surface, I want something more. It's strange because as easy as it is for me to latch on to someone, it's just as easy to detach from them, especially when they bruise my emotions. Another thing about INFP folks is that we care deeply about people, but it's hard to express that when people think over-caring means crazy (see my blog about being clingy here!). I actually think it's another down side of being an INFP.

All in all, I think my love for blogging and writing in general stems from my introversion and introspection. I think a lot about things and I can't really express them verbally how I express them in writing. I also like connecting with emotions, which is why a lot of my blogs are emotion-driven. I think personality tests help you learn a lot about yourself and even your actions. I do also believe that a person's personality is quite fluid and changes probably a few times during a lifetime. INFPs only make up a small portion of the US's population (between 4-6%), which explains why I've never really met someone who I'm emotionally compatible with. I encourage you guys to take a test just to see where you are and it might help you sort of find who you are.

April 10, 2015

Should White People Raise Black Children?

Ok, I have a reason why I'm writing this, trust me I'm not 'trolling' nor am I trying to be a social heretic. I have been thinking about this for a little while and finally decided to put my feelings into words, hear me out.

Over the past few years race relations in American society has become even more controversial than it once was. The issues have always been there but now more than ever blacks are being more conscious and more vocal I would argue. A couple semesters ago I took a Sociology course on race, class, and gender. In class we'd of course always discuss past and present race relations of all types. It was the kind of course that hear about in movies, a course that inspires you and makes you more aware of your surroundings, it even had me considering changing my major to Sociology. My professor was an amazing and brilliant woman who had been a Sociology professor for quite some time. One class period in particular, I will always remember because it made me think about not just society but my own black experience. She said: "I have studied race relations for a long time. I know about the effects of white privilege, racial profiling, injustices and all sorts of inequalities when it comes to blacks versus whites. I can sincerely sympathize with blacks and empathize to a certain degree but I will never fully understand what it is like to be black, no matter how much I read or study." Honestly, I almost fell out of my seat when she said that statement. It's a statement that can be said about anything relating to the "Other", especially when it's something you can never experience.

What many people fail to realize is that you can sympathize with blacks, you can see the injustices, and feel our pain but still our shoes are different from whites. I'm not saying that we should be divided, but our world viewpoints are different. I would even argue that it's easier for blacks to see things from the perspective of whites than vice versa. Socially whites have it easier than blacks, it is what it is and it has been proven. Whiteness is also considered 'normal' while blacks and minorities are considered deviant. We all know what normal looks like and feels life and since whites don't face the same obstacles, it's easier to see things from the perspective of a person who is does not have all the constraints that we do. All people of color (black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, etc.) face a different reality than whites, which leads me to the question at hand: Should white people raise black children?

When I say 'black children' I am encompassing all children of color, but more specifically black and bi-racial/mixed children. I believe that whites are of course capable of raising happy, healthy, intelligent, well adjusted children, it would be stupid to think otherwise. I'm not talking about parenting skills here, my question is more directed towards the social issue of whites and blacks. How does a white father teach a black son about the fact that he might be murdered if he's stopped by the police? How does a white mother teach a black daughter that her full lips and darker complexion are attractive when the media says white women are always beautiful? Would she really believe that she's beautiful if it's coming from a white woman who does not look like her? How would a white parent teach a black child that socially they are ten steps behind whites no matter who their parents are, no matter how much education they have or how well spoken they are, they're always behind? How does a white family raise a black child amongst white siblings? Do you teach them all the same things? Because a black person can't just do what white people do, we don't have white privilege.

Some people might say, does it matter? If the children are being raised correctly and are happy and healthy, who cares? Could we just stop talking about race and society, I don't see color, I see children, who cares about color? That is exactly why blacks and whites are different, whites have the luxury of saying they're "color blind" (which is a false mindset, everyone sees color), but blacks are reminded of their color every single day we can't escape it. I know you might be thinking, I know where she's going with this, but actually the answer to my question is YES, white parents can raise black children BUT with one stipulation. I believe if an all white family adopts a black child they should have at least some sort of black mentor and expose the child to black culture. Even if the child is happy and healthy, their adult life will be miserable because they won't understand the social implications that comes along with being black. With mixed/bi-racial children it should be the same. Even with black children raised by black people, they should be aware of their culture and the implications that goes with blackness. Giving them the best and sheltering them from the black reality should not be synonymous.

Come to think of it, it reminds me of an episode of "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". Carlton who had been raised very well, attended predominantly white private schools, and had all white friends didn't understand Will who had came from a rough area in Philly, attended public predominantly black schools, and lived in a black neighborhood. In one episode when they were older, they were stopped by the police and Carlton couldn't believe how he was treated, while Will had seen it many times before. In fact throughout the entire series Carlton struggled with his identity especially once they were older. I know the show is fictional, but even black families hide the black reality from their children.

In conclusion, as children, they absorb the things the see more than the things you actually tell them. Growing up, my parents never told me 'whites are superior in society', it's just sort of understood. White was normal, white was right. Once I started to realize it, more so in my teen years, it was sort of depressing. If I didn't have my parents, relatives, and friends to relate to, I think it would be even more depressing. I believe, black children and all children of color need to know of the black reality. They need some sort of relationship with someone who understands what it's like. It's important!