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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Zimmerman Verdict.

Can I attempt to clear some things up regarding the Zimmerman trial? I can only speak about the reactions of people in response to the verdict reached this evening. As far as the court proceedings and the decision, I admit that as an average citizen, I do not know enough to make any statements. I can agree or disagree with the verdict. But there are some people who have been lashing out at others because they don't understand why they hold a certain opinion. 

There's a lot of confusion and a lot of things are not getting explained properly. This leads to a bunch of petty arguments and misdirected anger. On a much deeper level, that behavior is an expression of cemented beliefs, built up over the years by personal or indirect experience and one's environment. That, or 16-year-olds are mimicking the opinions of their parents. No surprise there. 

Everyone has a right to express their thoughts. That's the point of social media sites. So why am I so concerned about any of this? I'm just not a big fan of misinformed judgments. Especially coming from people that I will interact with throughout college and beyond. This is my attempt to eradicate confusion from one side, at least. 

A lot of people don't fully understand why race has been so widely injected into this. Ignorance out loud is the most obvious and obnoxious kind of ignorance. So for a clear, possibly extreme example, go on Twitter. (Seriously, just five minutes is enough to get the point across. Any more and you might want to flush your computer/phone down a toilet because it's so full of crap.) This might not be the case for you, but I noticed a trend. Most of the people who spoke out against the verdict were black people. This also has a lot to do with who I follow, too. 

Look at the trending topics, though- to get a more broad look of the crowd that opposed the decision. Most of them are black. This is in no way a "racist" statement, I'm simply stating what I see. It's not an assumption, either, so please don't jump on me for that. On the flip side, I encountered a lot of non-black people telling black people to "calm down already." One person stated that they were overreacting to all of this. 

I can't say whether or not that person was referring to an individual he had encountered or if he was generalizing the disagreements. But it was evident that many people didn't understand why black people took it this hard. 

If you had been watching trial coverage and the spin-off legal talks on HLN, you might have also tuned into a discussion on how much race mattered in this. A lot of radical opinions were expressed, and a lot of truth was knocked down because other people just could not relate. 

There is a long history of racial discrimination in the American justice system. Google it. Simply put, minorities have often been screwed over because of their skin tone. I'm not saying this as a cry for sympathy. I'm not saying this in an attempt to portray all black people as innocent victims all of the time. But people need to realize that the outcome could be seen as yet another example of this. 

What does this verdict mean for black people? It's hard to convey this, but this society is not completely rid of racial tension. Trying to get those who haven't experienced it is like trying to describe the taste of water. It is seen as a perpetuation of biased courthouses. This has meanings that go far beyond the surface. 

I don't doubt that the six women on the jury put a hell of a lot of thought and time into this decision. I understand that George Zimmerman and his defense team were fighting to avoid life in prison. Obviously, they wanted to win. But the fact still stands that a life was taken and Zimmerman is somehow free. Not even guilty of manslaughter. I meant to avoid including my personal opinion, but this is relevant. 

Perhaps the decision was not motivated by race whatsoever. Take out the jury, though. Take out those individuals, (try to) rid the decision from any individual bias. The decision has consequences in groups outside of Trayvon's family or Zimmerman and his family. That's why people are so upset. That's why people are worked up. It's NOT just because black people support other black people just because of race. It's NOT just because apparently all black people want to rise up against non-blacks. 

For some people, this is a sign that the life of an African-American kid doesn't have as much value as another life. You may have heard, "Oh, if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was white, this wouldn't have even dragged on at all." Hypothetical situations add nothing to the discussion. We really can't tell what would have happened. What matters most is the impact this has on certain groups. 

Before you think about how black people are overreacting to this, consider other variables. It might not have been about race. The trial itself could have been completely fair and equal in its dealings. But the consequences are what matter.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Subjects and Things!

There's a different kind of satisfaction associated with answers obtained through writing and answers obtained with more logical methods, like math. With writing, you launch yourself on this undirected journey towards a destination that you're not completely sure of. Or maybe you are. It's up to you. Everything is up to you. Hell, even the answer is up to you. When you feel like you've written something exactly how it's "supposed" to be written, you feel accomplished.

With math, I've always felt more relieved. It's much more methodical and guided, you have set ways of solving something, most likely. It's figured out for you in some ways, but you have to put it in the right order.

At the end of "mathing it out", I feel like I've just hiked up a mountain with a group of professionals and all of our supplies have been carefully apportioned and we have to eat at certain times and sleep at certain times, whereas writing is more like encountering a convenience store in the middle of an unknown city after wandering for four hours. Writing victories are more unexpected, in that sense.

Science is a weird combination of both. Maybe not many associate science with creativity, but it's fueled by creativity. Science is questions looking for answers that are derived from established facts. Plus curiosity on fire. Curiosity on fire is more than a boredom cure on a slow summer weekday. It's more than a laidback Wikipedia spree. Although those are very fulfilling, you know. (Who knew that Will Smith studied Scientology at one point? Not this chick.)

Anyway, curiosity on fire is this burning ache to figure something out. That's similar to the allure of writing--- not even writing, but imagination really. Writing exercises creativity in some ways. It isn't the only way of doing so, but it's one of the most entertaining. It lends the creativity needed to work something out. Math gives you a goal to reach and a method to use. Math gives security in the midst of the creativity, which can often be somewhat overwhelming due to the lack of solid facts. It's in science that both sort of run into the other. Both are equally important.

Writing is easy for me. As such, it's not as fulfilling as I once believed. There was a time where I considered it as a career, but for practical (monetary) and personal (soul-crushing emptiness and frustration) reasons, I decided against pursuing it. It's not going to be a primary choice, but it is going to run constantly in the background of my life. Doing just one thing would never be satisfactory, I think my future has to have a nice balance of things.

I don't "feel" math enough to pursue a career with heavy amounts of it. I acknowledge its importance and I am in awe of its intricacies amidst simplicity. When I hear people attack math and talk about how useless it is to know the Pythagorean theorem or how to find the area of a triangle, I disagree. It may not be my field, but I value its importance.

Science has areas that are less math-oriented, too. Chemistry made me feel bad about myself. Physics, too. But Biology? Animals and life processes and behavior and how things work together, all with a muted pull from the heavy mathematical stuff (although memorizing how many specific molecules were produced in a certain plant process was tricky), heck yeah. That was interesting to me.

Biology is life. And it's something that everybody can relate to. Since it's life. As a junior, I felt bombarded by the amount of lab reports we had to do and my negative obsession with that put a damper on how I saw the class. There was a lot of busy work to be done, reporting results and thinking of ways something could go wrong. I also was in the middle of a writing peak during that year, so I was hellbent on becoming a writer. As a result, I didn't even consider pursuing Biology after high school.

Now I'm here, summer before college begins, and I've developed a love-hate relationship with writing. I have a mutual like-like relationship with science. And a respect-my-space, I'll-respect-yours relationship with math. Junior me would have insulted current me on Twitter through a series of passive-aggressive tweets. Because right now, it seems like a lot of things are up in the air. What happened to the Big Writing Plan???

I've been spun around in circles with a blindfold and pushed lightly in the direction of science, so I'm stumbling towards it. I mentioned an interest in dentistry earlier. (I suppose the health field is the application of biology to actual human beings. And viruses and disease control and stuff like that.) While it would be nice to know about my future for sure, I have to admit that I'm still stumbling.


On Curiosity

People don't usually consider curious people unintelligent. They may lack the knowledge of a certain topic, yet they are willing to learn more about it. That separates them from those who don't wish to advance their knowledge at all. So why is it that asking questions is so frowned upon?

Perhaps it is due to the fact that any expression of a lack of knowledge would be categorized as stupidity. I've mentioned that I wasn't familiar with something and I'd receive cries of, "How could you not know that?" or, "Isn't that common knowledge?". I don't understand the attack on not knowing. Any incredulous outbursts should be focused on not wanting to know or not wanting to learn. Or ideally, people should keep their outbursts to themselves.

It goes back to the level of exposure. Nobody should be ridiculed for the lack of exposure, as people simply grow up differently. While one person might have had the opportunity to travel and read thousands of books, another might have grown up in an environment where that wasn't a priority.

My parents have always stressed the importance of education. While growing up, they made sure we were focused on our schooling and they cut down on mindless entertainment. For a while. When money and compatibility problems (light term, they just liked to argue, it seemed) came up, they no longer had the time or patience to devote to us. So my sister and I turned to other sources. We were kind of on our own. I didn't have someone to look up to at that point, as I am the oldest. And my behavior only influenced Mariela. We had a limited number of books, as our family did not find the time to go to libraries as often. We didn't visit museums, parks, we didn't go on giant adventures because the priorities had been shifted.

In the middle of this, we moved into a hotel for two years (yes, two years- no, no we didn't order hotel food) because of a mold problem. And then I switched schools. And my brother popped up unexpectedly. My academic performance took a toll and that was a result of the lack of stimulation and exposure.

I lack worldly knowledge and I have felt ashamed of that. I'm not able to toss out random "fun facts" in conversations. I haven't been able to offer opinions on foreign cultures and other things. But I am curious. I want to learn. And I feel as though people like me should be helped along the way.

I am in no ways an endless well of knowledge. I retain what I learn, but for the most part, I tend to think things out. I'll wander around in my head if I get a little bit of information. This makes a lot of my thoughts rather emotional instead of fully logical and based in truth. So I gravitate towards topics that require thought, rather than truth. That's why I like writing so much. You don't need to follow any sort of formula to get an answer, you make one up.  

The world runs on both questions and answers. Intelligence shouldn't be measured by the amount of knowledge you have, but also the willingness you have to learn more. People who ask questions should be more confident in asking them. People who know more should be ready and willing to help out.