The Side Eye Report: Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity Ignorance

One of the reasons I love technology is because it truly levels the playing field in a lot of ways. Yes, access is an issue, but as more people gain access, the ability for people to tell their stories has increased exponentially. There are positives and negatives to that and all of them are being dealt with in some way.

More people telling their stories means that more perspectives are being shared and more people are learning about the diversity that exists within the world and the universality of the human experience. And this is amazing. It’s so wonderful to experience the lives and thoughts of different people being as they are being brought to light.

But with any situation where the light is being shined, darker things can be shown as well as the wonderful things. In this day and age of the 24 hour news cycle, citizen journalism has become an important part of the news equation, much to the chagrin of some trained journalists. But without citizen journalism, we wouldn’t have stories like the ones I’m going to be sharing in my new feature: The Side Eye Report.

Essentially, this is a report that I will put together designed to draw further attention to situations, people and moments that deserve the side eye. Some of them may be funny moments. Others won’t.

The first thing I want to discuss is this video that came out showing members of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon singing a song about the type of members that won’t be allowed in their organization. Take a look:

So…Yeah…

There are a few reasons why this deserves the side eye. Yes, the obvious racism and ignorance are fully deserving of the side eye. Another thing that deserves the side eye is some of the reactions that I’ve heard to this video so far. The national fraternity quickly swooped in and suspended this chapter and the members involved. It also threatened to remove some of the members from the fraternity for good.

That’s great. But I don’t want to be confused about why that happened. This is obviously a song that the members of this particular chapter sing often. It’s not like one guy made it up and the others joined in. The lyrics were being clearly sung with gusto by many people on that bus. So the racism isn’t the why here. The public embarrassment is the why. No one likes their dirty laundry aired, especially on social media. But I get that and still appreciate the swift action of the fraternity.

However, what I think warrants a major side eye is the people saying things like, “We [black people] need to stop using the word, nigger so much so that other [non black people] won’t think they can use it too.”

*Pause*

If that’s not the worse form of ignorance misdirection, I don’t know what is. (Oh, wait, the mention of “black-on-black” crime in response to when a non-black police officer kills an unarmed black person. That’s actually worse.) But this is bad too.

Those frat guys singing a song with the word nigger in it has absolutely nothing to do with black people using it in any form. Abolishing the word nigger isn’t going to stop people from using it. It was already buried in 2007.

So apparently, this current iteration of the word is a zombie. It’s shown that the word can’t simply be killed. Plus, is that really the issue at hand?

If black people want to call themselves this word, they can. There are a lot of black people who don’t use the word. I’m one of them. I believe language has power, and I don’t like how that word feels when I say it. I don’t like the way I felt just typing it in this post but shying away from it isn’t going to lessen it’s existence. So I chose to type it. But, I digress.

The answer to this video is not a campaign to stop black people from using the word, nigger. It’s not black people’s fault that these people have an ignorant, racist song. It’s not black people’s fault that these young, white men felt comfortable singing a song that talked about hanging black people before letting them into their fraternity. It’s the fault of the members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (the University of Oklahoma chapter). Yes, they’re being punished for the song but the issue goes much deeper than that.

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

This month I will be sharing information about a condition called endometriosis. It is a condition that directly affects 1 in 10 women worldwide. When someone has endometriosis, it means that the lining of the uterus has gotten outside of it. This is problematic because of two main reasons:

1. The lining of the uterus is native to that environment but when it gets outside, it’s essentially a foreign body that’s affecting your organs, tissue, blood and anything else it may come into contact with.
2. The lining of the uterus sheds every month as a part of menstruation. This is fine when it happens inside the uterus. It’s much more problematic when it happens outside of the uterus. Essentially your uterine lining is bleeding in areas where it shouldn’t be.

One of the more commonly mentioned symptoms of endometriosis is pain. Those of us who suffer from it often have VERY painful menstrual cycles. We also often have pain during times of the month when we’re not menstruating. It can take a toll on the body, mind and spirit to live in constant pain.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 20 years old. I went in for surgery to remove a cyst from my ovary and the doctor found endometriosis (which she didn’t know I had) and fibroids (which she did know I had). So a 1 hour surgery ended up taking 3 hours. She removed the cyst and burned away as much of the endometriosis as she could (this is not a cure, only a temporary treatment–more about a better treatment later). She left the fibroids behind because they may die on their own and are shed as a part of the menstrual cycle. So while the plum sized cyst that was on my ovary was gone, I’d officially entered into the vortex that is an endometriosis diagnosis.

They started by prescribing me lupron which puts your body in a pre-menopausal state. I experienced hot flashes and night sweats. As it was explained to me, the purpose of the lupron was for it to stop my cycle and allow my hormones to balance out.

Sidebar: While endometriosis has no clear cause, there are lots of ideas about why it may exist. One of which is the estrogen in our bodies contribute to it’s growth and spread. So by stopping my cycle, it should reduce the estrogen and helps reduce the endometriosis.

This didn’t work. But at the time, I didn’t know that. I did experience the hot flashes and occasional night sweats. I also experienced severe hair loss.

Sidebar 2: No one told me I would experience hair loss but it happened at the same time that I took the lupron so the correlation wasn’t hard for me to make. I will write a WHOLE post about lupron and why I am very opposed to people taking it.

So I took the lupron for three months (I think). It was a once a month shot. After that, I was given depo provera which was a less severe form of lupron. I stopped having hot flashes and night sweats but my cycle didn’t return. (in my lupron post, I will discuss depo too. I’m also opposed to it).

So, fast forward to today. I’ve had endometriosis for almost 17 years. I live with it every day and thanks to the power of Facebook and social media, now I have a community of fellow endo warriors. I’ve gotten more educated, shared my story and found about some new treatments. So for the next 30 days, my social media, blog and life in general will be steeped in endometriosis awareness and updates.

Often, those of us who live with this condition suffer in silence. We grit our teeth, push through the pain and move forward in spite of things because we have to. Now we have a month where we can and will talk openly about our condition and how we push through it. If you have questions about endo, please ask. If you have questions about my experience, please ask.

For more info, visit: http://endometriosis.org.

The FCC Ruling on the Classification of Broadband Internet

So the FCC just voted to classify broadband internet service as a public utility.

Let the simultaneous cries of outrage and joy begin!

But in the midst of the angry outbursts about government interference and the happy conversations about a free and open internet, there can be some questions about what all of this really means. Let me take a stab at it for you.

I’ve published a couple of blog posts explaining what net neutrality is in an effort to clarify it’s importance. But now that this ruling has come down, I want to discuss how this affects us regular consumers.

Let’s start with the ruling.

Today the FCC ruled in a 3 to 2 vote to classify broadband internet service as a public utility.

What does this mean?

In a nutshell, it means that broadband internet will be considered a telecommunications service rather than an information service. So rather than it being classified as a tool that provides information, it’s being classified in the same category as public utilities like water, sewerage, gas and electricity. These are services that are provided by consumers through a company that creates an infrastructure for those services and are owned by the government or managed by the public that they serve.

Why was this necessary?

For years, government and public officials have been trying to figure out how to police the internet. Up until now, it has essentially been the wild, wild west. Cybercrimes are virtually impossible to prosecute and the responsibility of using the internet often falls on the user. So if someone does something shady or inappropriate and it causes you harm, you have to prove that you were harmed. And even if you’re able to do that, it doesn’t guarantee that the person will experience any consequences for their actions.

But crime is only one reason why government officials want to manage the internet. It’s ultimately about access to information. Remember Edward Snowden?

He took sensitive government documents and made them available to the general public online. But he’s an extreme example. There is a lot of information that can be found online. This has to be managed, right?

No. It’s been fine without their management.

I get that. This is what some opponents of the classification have been saying. They don’t think the internet needs to be managed at all. And this is a valid opinion that will likely lead to several lawsuits fighting this ruling.

But let’s be honest. The government has been looking for a way to manage the internet for years. While I understand why some people would say that their interference is unnecessary, I think it was inevitable. By doing things this way, the initial thought is that the FCC is going to work hard to keep the internet free and open.

This is what the supporters of this classification have been saying. They want to keep the internet free and open. We all see the government trying to find a way to manage it. At least in this case, they are saying they won’t try to control it.

Now that we have this ruling, the conversation about the management of the internet isn’t yet over. It’s likely going to disappear behind the political doors of government. So, these lawsuits and debates will continue to be had but by political pundits, talking heads and government officials.

But as consumers, we need to make it a point to keep our eyes on this conversation. When the dust around this issue settles, we will be affected by the outcome. Broadband internet service isn’t just something used by large government entities. It’s something that everyone uses—everyday. We all know what happens once something is in the hands of the government. It can become a bargaining tool. Corporations have millions (sometimes billions) of dollars to ensure that their best interests are kept in mind. Us regular consumers don’t have the luxury of teams of lawyers and millions (or billions) of dollars at our disposal. Should someone decide to tweak what free and open internet means, we would be affected by that tweak. We can’t afford to let this conversation disappear behind the political wall.

So please, ask me any questions you may have. I will research and do my best to explain things. Open access to the internet isn’t just an issue for large telecommunications companies. It’s an issue for us consumers too.

Free and Open Internet vs. Net Neutrality

So now the debate about the dissemination of information via the internet is becoming a hot topic. There are more news stories being written about it and more conversations happening around it. Unfortunately, those conversations have broadened to include the political world. I say unfortunately because there aren’t many people actually explaining what’s happening in plain terms. Initially the conversation was happening in tech/digital circles and it was filled with the jargon of those industries. Now that it has expanded to the political circles, it’s filled with the jargon of that industry.

No one is stopping to take the time to truly break down what’s happening in plain terms. It has become a conversation between large corporate entities and larger than life public personas which tends to go over the heads of the everyday individual. This is bad because the people that will be most affected by these regulatory changes being proposed are the everyday individuals. If the internet service providers (ISPs) begin to charge for access to the internet, the everyday individual will begin to have a tougher time surfing freely and accessing all of the valuable information online. If the government begins to regulate the information being shared online, the same thing will begin to happen.

Yes, the big communications companies will have to make some changes to the way they operate if the government begins to regulate the internet, but ultimately those changes will filter down to the everyday individual. Yes, large organizations will have to make some changes to the way they share information, but ultimately those changes will filter down to the everyday individual.

I hope you’re starting to get my point here.

So I’m talking to my fellow everyday individuals. Let’s start with the basics.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that any and all information being shared online is readily available for anyone who’s surfing the internet.

What is free and open internet?

Free and open internet is another way to say net neutrality. It’s the idea that the internet is free and open to anyone who has the ability to access it. Whether you’re doing it at home on your computer, on your smartphone, at work or at the local library, if you can get online, you have full access to all of the information that’s available.

So we’ll stop there. Do you have any questions?

You Are What You Say You Are

Recently I participated in an event where I was having a conversation with some of the attendees at the end about getting rid of gender identification. These were activist types who have conversations about gender identification on Facebook.

So I get and understand that those conversations happen in certain groups. I appreciate the activist community and my fellow academic feminists. They’re the ones writing papers, publishing studies and drafting proposals that are used to enact laws. I appreciate their contributions to the cause of the equality of all. But when people have those types of conversations about what people should be called, it’s always off-putting to me.

I think those kinds of conversations are ridiculous. Not because I agree or disagree with them but because I respect how people choose to see themselves. If I meet a trans woman who wants to be referred to as gender neutral, cool. If I meet a trans man who wants to be referred to as he, him and his, cool. I want to respect who you say you are so I will.

It’s that simple to me. I’ve always felt that way. I was exposed to the cross gender community when I was in high school because I was a volunteer with AID Atlanta. Visiting homes where people were living with HIV/AIDS, gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with men and women of various self- categorizations. And when I met these wonderful people, however they wanted to be called, I called them. And this always rang true for me.

When someone is living in their truth, you have to honor that truth. Now there are some people who are living a lie but unless you are close to that person, it’s not your job to expose them for the life they’re living. You respect who someone says they are and honor their wishes. There’s no need to throw out forms of identification because some people are empowered through the use of those labels.

Rather than getting rid of identification, let’s focus on being respectful of someone’s wishes.

Games Children Play

I participated in a horror writing prompt in 2010 in honor of Halloween. I enjoyed it and will be seeking out other prompt this years. But here’s the story I wrote below the link to where it’s featured online: http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/writingexercises/a/Games-Children-Play.htm

 

Games Children Play

After dinner, our host, who was then renting the place, told us that the house was said to be the vacation home of an eccentric millionaire who built the house in honor of his young daughter who’d drowned in the nearby lake.

“He wanted to be near the final resting place of his only daughter,” said Randi, our host, with a small smile.

We all waited for a ghost story to follow, but Randi didn’t go into one. She went to the kitchen and came back with two bottles of wine. Distracted by the wine, we all followed her into the living room to chat and drink. A couple of hours later we retired to our rooms. We’d been asleep for a while when the room got really cold. I sat up and looked at Frank who was still asleep. I nudged him.

“Are you cold?” I asked softly. “I’m going to find another blanket.”

Frank moaned slightly.

I got out of the bed and padded out of the room. I went to the closet where Randi showed us she kept the linen. As I was grabbing a blanket, I heard giggling. I quietly closed the closet door and looked around. Nothing was there. I headed back to our room. As I put my hand on the door knob, I got light headed.

I slowly opened the door.

“Frank, are you awake?” I asked. “I got another blanket.”

Frank didn’t respond. I took the blanket and put it over the bed. Then I lay down and promptly fell asleep.

Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. It felt like someone’s mouth was over mine breathing into me. I coughed and felt water come out of my mouth. I felt someone grab me in a hug then I heard Frank whisper in my ear.

“I thought I lost you. Oh my God. I’m so glad you’re ok,” Frank whispered hoarsely.

I tried to speak but my throat was dry and I was still gasping for air, plus I was wet and cold. The noise of sirens filled the air then stopped. I felt someone pull Frank away from me and something was put over my mouth. I began to breathe in the oxygen and passed out.

When I woke up again, I was in a hospital room. Frank was sitting by my bed and everyone else was sitting and standing in various parts of the room.

“I need some water,” I croaked.

Frank reached over and handed me a cup of ice chips. I ate them slowly because each chip made my dry throat burn. I looked at Frank with questioning eyes.

“I woke up in the middle of night and you were gone. I thought you’d gone to the bathroom but when you didn’t come right back, I got worried. I looked for you in the room then woke everyone else up. Tracy saw you skipping by the lake. By the time we got there, you’d gone under. I gave you CPR and you came back. Why were you at the lake?” said Frank.

“I went to the lake?” I asked. “I don’t remember going to the lake. I got up to get a blanket and got back in the bed. Wasn’t there a blanket on the bed?”

Frank slowly shook his head.

“It wasn’t cold in the room,” he said slowly.

Just then, everyone heard a giggle.

“What was that?” asked Randi.

Everyone Talks About the Nice Guy but What About the Nice Girl?

Last week a friend of mine sent me this article. It’s about the nice guy eventually coming into his own. It’s called, “Dear Girls Who Are (Finally) Ready To Date Nice Guys: We Don’t Want You Anymore” by Leo Steven.

The article is written with a touch of a bitter tinge to it but as I was reading it, a lot of what Leo was saying rang true for me too. I actually wrote my friend who sent it and said, “I get it and actually I feel like this guy. I stopped chasing bad boys when I was 17 and dated the responsible athlete with a job and his own, unfancy car. I’m the nice girl that was (and sometimes still is) overlooked for the “dimes” with the short dresses and long weave. I’m always told I’m different and quirky like a cool novelty item. So I see the bitter especially from a guy’s perspective.”

The funny thing, though, is that we keep hearing stories of these nice guys getting their comeuppance and those terrible women chasing bad boys suffering as a result of it. And that’s a great story to hear. Everyone loves an underdog who ultimately wins.

But what about the other side of the coin? For every nice guy out there being overlooked in favor of the bad boy there’s a nice girl experiencing the same thing. I was that nice girl. Growing up, I was the quiet girl in a group of not so quiet friends. Although I was shy, I never had a problem making and keeping friends. I always had a friend group. But I was always the last picked when it came to dating and guys. I dressed conservatively and wasn’t as outgoing as my friends. I was the girl that boys had to get to know before they realized I was cool and someone to date. So my lead time for building romantic relationships was always long.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve come into my own as a woman. I no longer care to fit a mold, and I do fine in the dating department. I still have some long lead times on romance, but I also get approached by guys who see me as someone they want to date. So while I get the bitterness of the nice guy, I think it’s misplaced bitterness. Holding onto the anger of rejection isn’t healthy.

I’ve actually met that “nice guy” and his bitterness makes him not so nice. I think us nice people should stick together better. if you spend so much time focusing on the fact that you “won out” over those bad girls that ignored you when you were young, you will become unappealing to the women that would be interested in dating you now. Holding onto the past is unhealthy and ultimately unattractive. Just like no man wants a bitter women, no woman wants a bitter man.

So you’ve had a successful life and become a guy that those bad girls desire. Good for you. Now go out there and find a nice girl who will appreciate you for who you are and what you bring to the table.

Professional Development – Google Analytics Certification

While I won’t be pursuing another degree any time in the near future, I am a supporter of continuing education and professional development. There are so many classes, workshops, certifications that people can take to extend their skills and make themselves more marketable. I like to provide a lot of value to my clients, projects and jobs.

So once I figured out that my specialty is Digital Strategy and Storytelling, I looked for some skills that could compliment those specialties. Ever since I was a style blogger, I was acutely aware of the importance of analytics. I struggled through a lot of internet marketing webinars, ebooks and workshops hoping to gain some insight into analytics and how to understand them. I got insight here and there but there were still some holes in my knowledge.

I was excited to find out about the Google Analytics Certification. Yeah, I said it. I was excited about something that’s really not that exciting. I’m a nerd. Go with me here.

So, I was excited to find out about the certification. I was even more excited to learn that it was a self-paced class and free to take. Late last year, I made the commitment to myself to dive in and start taking the course. I put it on my calendar (which works much better than you’d think) and started learning. I went through both classes and finished them but then I discovered that didn’t mean I was certified. I had to take a separate test.

So…I procrastinated.

Yep, I’d taken the time to go through these self-paced classes and take those tests but when it came time to take the big dog test, I stalled. Procrastination is one of my weaknesses.

So with the help of my accountability group and an appointment to go over analytics with someone coming soon, I had to take the test. I used Saturday night to go over the material and study. Then I woke up Sunday morning to take the test.

Sidebar:

It’s interesting that I stalled taking the test because I’ve always tested well. I was one of those students that could go to class, listen to the lecture and pass the class with at least a B+. Yes, this is a humble brag. I’m proud of being a good student.

Back in:

So I took the test and passed!!! I’m officially Google Analytics certified and will be creating a suite of services that involve Google Analytics. Stay tuned!

I finally watched the Whitney movie!

I wasn’t able to watch the Lifetime Whitney Houston movie in real time so I DVR’d it. Then I dragged my heels on actually watching it. I’d heard and read some of the negative reviews people gave the film. I also saw Angela Bassett being interviewed about it. The Aaliyah movie was a disappointment largely because they couldn’t use any of her music and that affected the soul of the movie. But when I learned that Deborah Cox sang all of the songs, I was more optimistic. No, Deborah Cox doesn’t sing exactly like Whitney but she can sing her face off and I knew she would do her songs justice.

So, over the weekend, I fired up my DVR and sat down to watch it.

I liked that the film focused on the love affair between Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. I know that Whitney was a glossy, beautiful R&B/Pop star, and people would always say that Bobby Brown contributed to her downfall. I never believed that. I always got the sense that they were kindred spirits and although she was a model turned singer with the voice of an angel, she was still a girl from Jersey. People always said she was such a real person and down to earth. And Bobby Brown may have been a bit of a hell-raiser, he always struck me as a real person as well.

I saw an interview that Angela Bassett did on Kelly and Michael and she said that Whitney and Bobby were an example of real love. I think that was evident throughout the movie. I think it was a nice homage to their love story with the good, bad and loving.

But…there were parts that dealt very directly with their substance abuse. It showed how Whitney used drugs to cope with the tough times and how Bobby used alcohol and later drugs to do the same. People were up in arms because the movie showed Whitney’s drug use and Bobby’s subsequent drug use. Nowhere did it say that she got him into using drugs. It did show that she used it socially initially then begin to use it as a tool later. But he did the same thing with alcohol.

Now Yaya DaCosta as Whitney was great casting. You can tell that she took the time to really study her. The guy who played Bobby Brown (Arlen Escarpeta) was a good actor but didn’t really make me think of Bobby Brown. But he did have good chemistry with Yaya.

All in all, I thought it was a good movie that showed a snapshot in the life of a legend. And it showed a very intense love story between two very creative and strong personalities. I got the distinct impression that Whitney was a caged bird with her strict upbringing and her often isolating career as a singer. Her voice was how she reached out to the world that she couldn’t always live comfortably in.

Nice work, Angela Bassett!

My thoughts on Selma

I got up this morning determined to go see Selma today. I wanted to make sure I saw it while it was in theaters so that my watching it would contribute to the viewership numbers for the film. This is important when I want to support films created by black people. Opening weekend is the most ideal time to go watch the movie but I try to make it no later than the second weekend. Those tend to be the times that people look at when they’re determining whether a film is doing well or not.

I didn’t make it out during Christmas when the film opened here in Atlanta. I was dragging my feet to go see it, and it took me a minute to recognize why. I was afraid to go see Selma.

I remember the anger I felt after seeing Rosewood in the theater. I also remember sitting for several minutes after watching Precious as tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t stop crying. Both movies were really upsetting for different reasons. I blame it on the way I watch movies. I like to immerse myself in the story. If the characters experience great emotion, so do I. It can be both thrilling and exhausting. When it comes to movies made about the struggles of black people, I tend to shy away from those. I feel those struggles all too deeply. I’ve read up on enough things to know that they happened. I don’t need to be educated about them.

But I realize that this isn’t the best way to be. I don’t want to shrink away from the truth. I want to confront it head on. So with this resolve I headed to the theater to watch Selma. After the opening scene, I knew I would be in for an emotional roller coaster. It was a great movie that is quite timely and really gave me some insight into what it takes to enact change. Yes, it was about the march from Selma to Montgomery to give blacks the unencumbered right to vote. But, for me, it was a glimpse into the organization and strategy required to build a movement. It really opened my eyes to our current movement of #BlackLivesMatter behind the public killings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and countless others at the hands of police officers.

It also gave me new insight into the idea of hash tag activism. I heard a snippet of Shonda Rhimes’s commencement speech where she talked about hash tag activism. She said that hash tags were pretty but not ultimately action. I have to disagree. One of the reasons why the Trayvon Martin case became such a big deal is because of hash tag activism. People learned about the injustice and took to Twitter to discuss it. When things were happening in Ferguson over the summer, it was the people tweeting, Facebooking, Youtubing and telling the story digitally that kept the story relevant. But if their stories hadn’t been shared by people in their living rooms, cars, coffee shops and other places, it wouldn’t have been as big of a story or lasted as long.

One of the reasons why the civil rights movement worked is because King would do things to entice the press to cover them. When the press would cover the marches, speeches and other nonviolent protests, it would tell the story on a much larger stage. Black people have been bullied by police officers for years. It’s not a secret that the police may or may not be trustworthy if you’re black and need their help. While this doesn’t apply to all police officers, it applies enough to be a longstanding issue. So while the killings that took place over the summer were upsetting, they weren’t surprising or shocking to many people. But this time, rather than these things happening in isolated silos, outraging a community, they happened in a time where we have social media.

So now the rest of the world’s attention is being brought to things that have been happening in the black community for decades because of social media. Hash tag activism is action. It shouldn’t be the only action, but it is a viable tool. After watching Selma, I realize that we have our stage.