A Buddhist Meditation on the Election: Get Your Act Together, Marginalized People!

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via Flickr

In many Buddhist traditions, there is a type of meditation called loving-kindness, which involves wishing happiness and peace for not only yourself but also your loved ones as well as those you find difficult. In the spirit of this practice, I will create a loving-kindness meditation specially tailored for the presidential election and everyone it’s affected. This should be fun.

For Self

First, may I have the restraint and not insult Donald Trump and call him names such as an Oompa Loompa with a suit on and/or a Jack-o-Lantern that had botched surgery and then was jizzed in. Starting now though. That didn’t count before.

May I have the courage to fight for others whose lives and identities are at stake in ways that mine are not. And may I take that courage further than liking a few #NoDAPL statuses on Facebook and then promptly returning to taking a BuzzFeed quiz titled, “We know which former US president you want to have sex with based on your favorite Thanksgiving side dish.”

May I speak out against people’s racism, especially old white men’s, instead of making that weird noise that’s halfway between a cough and an awkward laugh, and going, “Well, they’re just the product of their times,” especially since I grew up in the era of  Jersey Shore and managed not to become a guido. If I can do it, they can too.

For Trump

May Trump develop compassion for those who look differently and love differently than him. That would include Muslims, Mexicans, people from LGBTQ+ communities, blacks, Native Americans, people whose skin tones are lighter than those safety cones students use to learn driving with, those who don’t actively yearn to have sex with their own daughters, and anyone who has gotten married fewer than three times.

For Trump voters:

May people who voted for Trump know that many of their troubles are valid and that economic difficulties are not a laughing matter.

But also, may they know that other people’s suffering are similarly valid, and that by supporting Trump even if they didn’t agree with some of his ideas, they are still to blame if he ends up actually enacting them.

For others:

May people of color be unafraid and learn how to work with whites to create a better America, because it’s not like we haven’t done enough to improve this country under the threat of discrimination and for some, death, while mayonnaise-lovers did the bare minimum like acknowledging we were human and wearing safety pins on their sweatshop-produced Forever 21 jackets.

May LGBTQ+ people finally realize that cis-gendered folks want to cooperate and achieve landmark accomplishments like adding rainbow filters to their Facebook profiles and attending Pride parades.

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It’s time to pull your weight, disenfranchised communities!

Finally, may the rest of the world … just like, turn the other cheek, please? This is extremely embarrassing for us. If you do us this solid, we’ll pretend Brexit wasn’t a thing and Marine Le Pen is just a new Chanel perfume. Alright, cool.

Love,

Rachel

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What the rise of Trump means for me as an introvert

INNER VOICE

I’ve often told myself that although I am an introvert living in a country full of extroverts, it does not mean I can’t still succeed. I’ll just do it my own way. Where I lack in networking skills, I will make up for in my strong writing and work ethic, and where I fall short in outspokenness, I will remedy with my initiative and enthusiasm. And not to mention, I’m constantly working on being more assertive and more confident in my own ideas.

That’s my inner voice telling me I can forge on and make it in this world by following my own path of dedication and creativity, alongside talented and driven people using gregariousness as one of their own tools.

Being introverted isn’t inherently better, and being outgoing isn’t bad at all — it’s just when it’s amplified 1000 times in the wrong direction, while simultaneously ridding itself of qualities like basic human decency that it becomes toxic. This election cycle has certainly shown that the cult of personality¹ can dominate real abilities and integrity.

THE CULT OF “PERSONALITY”

It’s true, many people hate Donald Trump and see through his false promises and bravado for what he truly is: a bully who has no original ideas and who has succeeded by exploiting people around him.

However, plenty of others have fallen for his tricks. Even if he loses this election (crossing my fingers here!), the fact that he managed to reach the stage of Republican nominee for president is a testament to how far just coasting on personality can go.

Even if he loses, his followers and many others are still going to value slander, histrionics and frankly, talking out of your ass, as valuable assets needed by an employee, a friend, even a government official.

And even if he loses, we are still reminded of the reality that our new president is somehow just as unpopular as he is. Trump, a man with little feasible ideas managed to get into the final rounds of the election, while a smart woman who has worked her ass off for decades had to claw her way through inane scandals to get to the same place. I know Hillary Clinton is deeply imperfect, and I’ve never been her biggest fan, but it is clear she at least has real policies in her mind and she is diplomatic, hard working and will do whatever she can to fix her previous mistakes.²

NOT TO TOOT MY OWN HORN OR ANYTHING…

I’m not saying I am the perfect person or the perfect employee. Like Clinton, I am flawed, although I will say I have had far fewer email scandals (the most extreme thing I’ve done is forgetting to attach a file to my emails). But as someone trying to keep my head down, do my own thing and work on being better than I was yesterday, I can’t help but feel defeated by this festering crap bag of an election season. It makes me think even if I bring everything I can to the table — good ideas, commitment, willingness to compromise, ability to take action — the person with the loudest mouth will get the attention.

If there’s anything I want people to remember, it’s that the rise of Trump is not singular. Sure, he may seem like an anomaly to a lot of Americans who wonder to themselves, most people aren’t that pompous, that ineffective or that ignorant, right? Right??

But don’t we all know that loudmouth who skated by in a presentation, group project or even a career just by talking the most and taking credit for other people’s work? They may not be as noxious as Trump,  but such gasbags do exist and take opportunities from those who actually show up to do the work, even if they’re not as flashy about it.

SO BE LIKE SPIKE LEE AND…

 

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Vote. Please please please vote. Vote for who is clearly the right choice. But going forward, regardless of the outcome, I hope we can take lessons from this year, and remind ourselves it’s important to be careful about what we stand for and who we support. Don’t be fooled by vague promises or tremendous³ emotion. Don’t just vote or support someone because they’re relatable or they seem fun to have a beer with. Do your research. Listen more than you talk. Give attention to those who are smart and have actual consciences, not just those who brag and talk about themselves. The world does not need another Donald Trump.


¹ If you can even call what Trump has a “personality.”

² e.g. her changed stances on same-sex marriage and the Iraq War.

³ tremendous: also known as the only advanced word Trump knows and doesn’t hesitate to repeat 200 times in every debate

Why Asian Americans Should Support #BlackLivesMatter

One night about a week ago, I decided on a whim to go to Wegmans. It was late, but I didn’t know when I would have time to shop for groceries. After exiting the parking lot, with my bags of spoils in the trunk of my car, I turned on the radio to listen to one of those adult contemporary hit stations. Not my usual jam, but it did the job. As I sang along passionately (albeit very off-key) to some ballad or other, I saw, in the rear-view mirror, flashing blue and red lights.

Oh shitttttt, I thought to myself. Was I speeding? Or maybe I was swerving a little and he thought I was drunk? Perhaps he saw me gesturing wildly with my hands and assumed I was insane?

Then it hit me.

Ohhh, my headlights aren’t on. Immediately I turned them on, but the damage was done. I pulled over on the side of the road, put the gear to park and started tapping nervously on my steering wheel.

The officer took his sweet time to walk to my car door, and informed me that yes indeed, I was driving without my headlights on. I gave him my license and he went back to his car. Within five minutes, he returned and handed back the license, then told me in a jovial tone that he would let me off with a warning but in the future I should remember to have my lights on at night.

My first emotion was obviously relief. Thank goodness I didn’t get a ticket. My money should be reserved for useful things like grocery shopping at 10 p.m. and buying McDonald’s fries!

But my second thought was, I wonder how that exchange would have gone if I didn’t look like, well, me? Maybe the officer is a fair person all-around, but maybe not. Would he have been as cordial as he was with me if I weren’t a tiny, Asian girl, and instead a 6-feet-tall Black man or woman? Would he have felt threatened? Would he have shot me while I was reaching for my license and registration?

Those have been the thoughts ruminating in my head recently, as we mourn the loss of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and as we remember Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and countless other Black Americans.

I don’t think that just because I’m a woman of color, I am obligated to talk about race-related issues. Why can’t white people be forced to discuss race? They’re the ones who colonized half the world.

But I sometimes forget that not all minorities experience racism the same way and we have different struggles. As a Chinese woman, I’ve been called a ‘chink,’ I commonly see sexualized and stereotypical images of Asian women on the screen and I have to live with the fact that America calls itself a cultural melting pot yet once barred Chinese people from entering its shores.

And as a minority, it can be exhausting to talk about race. It is frustrating to hear people deny that racism still exists in 2016 or that reverse racism against white people is a problem. It is frustrating to experience discrimination firsthand, but then be told that my experiences are invalid, that I’m overreacting or too focused on race.

But as an Asian American, I do not have to deal with police brutality. I’ve never had to worry about wearing a hoodie in public and being seen as a gangster or a thug. I’ve never had people feel threatened by me for just walking around. I don’t ever have to panic that even if I comply with orders, I can still be killed.

I wouldn’t have to worry that if I reach in my pocket to retrieve my ID, a police officer would assume I was grabbing for my gun and shoot me multiple times. I wouldn’t have to fear that other police officers would leave me to die of my injuries while consoling the officer who had shot me instead.

My headlight “incident” goes to show that if I were to ever find myself at a police station for some reason, it would be highly likely that I would be treated to a cup of warm coffee, a jacket draped over my shoulders and an officer calling me “sweetie” to console me.

And that’s why as an Asian-American woman, I feel like I need to discuss the recent shootings. I am still privileged in a way that black people in the United States are not, even if I am also a minority.

To not acknowledge that privilege, to turn a blind eye to what’s happening in the world, to act that because I am a fellow person of color I get a free pass on discussing racial matters, is to do what many white people do and be ignorant. It means I am not acknowledging that there is a deep-rooted issue in our justice system and our society in general, where Latinx, black and dark-skinned individuals, especially those in LGBTQ communities, are unfairly targeted for their appearances and identities.

If it seems I’m sharing this opinion too late (and I probably am), it’s because I’ve held out on discussing this issue on the blog on purpose. I thought it was a strange platform to talk about police brutality, but then I realized, it’s actually not. This is a place where I share my thoughts on hip-hop and rap, genres created and dominated by African Americans. And I love hip-hop and R&B, and I love rap. It gives me joy to dissect Kendrick lyrics, to talk to anyone who will listen about the genius of Kanye West and to discuss underrated artists such as Vince Staples and Kali Uchis.

But the songs I listen to often talk about very, very real things: America’s anti-blackness, the degradation of black women, the history of this country being built on slave labor. What kind of person would I be if I listened and rapped mumbled along to these songs, yet refuse to acknowledge it when the contents of these tracks manifest themselves in real life?

It would mean I am the type of person who only cares about black people when they’re entertaining me, but when they are suffering and need support, it is no longer convenient for me. It would mean I benefit from blackness while giving nothing back to it. It would mean that while I lambaste Iggy Azalea for exploiting slavery in her lyrics while ignoring black issues, I am stooping to her level.

Sure, I am a woman of color, but that is not a valid excuse. “I suffer from racism too” is not a valid excuse. Asian Americans who face discrimination can still contribute to anti-blackness. We do it by making black jokes, touting #AllLivesMatter instead of #BlackLivesMatter and by refusing to discuss race. As Asians, we can still contribute to ignorance toward black issues in the United States. I know I’ve done things in the past, and may unknowingly continue to do things, that contribute to it.

But as Asians, we can do our part to support #BlackLivesMatter and raise awareness of police brutality and anti-blackness in this country. We can start conversations in our families about race and discrimination toward black people. We can donate to funds supporting the family of victims of senseless, race-fueled shootings. We can educate ourselves about so-called “black on black” crime, #AllLivesMatter and privilege. We can apologize and correct ourselves when we say or do hurtful things. We can do better.

Links:

Video: “‘But What About Black On Black Crime?’ #AltonSterling”

https://lettersforblacklives.com: How to explain #BlackLivesMatter to parents, relatives from different cultures

Blacklivesmatter.com: Find out info about how to donate, where your local branch is, etc.

Follow: @deray, @iJesseWiliams, @ShaunKing, @Nettaaaaaaaa & many more


P.S. Although I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who reads my own blog (typical), but if you’re here: 1) Thanks! 2) Let me know of  links or things I can add to be more inclusive!

Stew About It: Why We All Need To Get Off BuzzFeed’s Ass

Hey all two of my readers!

I’ve been a little M.I.A recently, which was due to finals/me crying about finals/being on break and doing nothing but watching “Archer” and eating egg tarts. But no worries,  I still have a lot to say and this time I’m introducing a new series! I wasn’t sure what I should do with non music or news material, but I decided to keep going with the food analogies and call it “Stew About It,” because ya know, beating a horse and what not. I’m just going for it until I run out of ideas (which will probably be very soon). Anything in this series will pertain to my various long-form musings about random things, and for the first post I want to talk about BuzzFeed and why critics of the site may be missing the point. Enjoy!


It seems like every day, I’m reading yet another article about how BuzzFeed’s rise signals the end of journalism as we know it, plunging us into an era where mindless drones, void of any journalistic integrity, occupy a barren digital landscape stripped of anything of substance, but filled with a barrage of listicles and personality quizzes.

Personally, I think people are overreacting: BuzzFeed has never claimed to be The Wall Street Journal, so why are we holding it to such high standards? And the last time I checked, WSJ, The New York Times, The Washington Post and a myriad of other “respectable” publications are still here. They haven’t been sucked into the same black hole of irrelevance that AltaVista and MySpace went to die.

So why are people freaking out?

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I think we just assume that everyone these days is off reading garbage like BuzzFeed instead of The New York Times. And while sites like the Times have millions of readers, it is true that BuzzFeed is growing more popular, especially with the younger generation (does it make me sound old when I use phrases like “the younger generation”?). Whether you like it or not, that’s partly because BuzzFeed has an undeniably better digital strategy than a lot of the more established outlets, and I think that’s something to respect and learn from.

Digital dominance

First, BuzzFeed has done a lot to make its site a community and not just a destination. Sure, not all of its quizzes are winners, but by having such quizzes and polls, users can feel like they’re contributing to the conversation and their voices matter. In fact, the famous white and gold vs. blue and black debate about “The Dress” got much of its traction from the BuzzFeed poll, which has racked up nearly 40 million views. Not too shabby. Furthermore, members can also post their own content that often lands on the front page and garners sizable views, furthering this idea of building a network or a community. People come back to the site because they value it, and because it values them.

Much of the other content on the site, like listicles and articles, also taps into things younger people care about and want to read, and writers talk about these subjects in an accessible way. There are tons of pieces about topics like college, being in your 20s, dealing with anxiety, etc., that’s bound to be relatable to The Youth (which vaguely sounds like the name of a punk band). Users feel like the writers are on their level and know what they like, instead of trying to talk down to them, which is more than what I can say for some other outlets.

BuzzFeed is also everywhere: Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and even Vine, and whoever is running these various social media accounts has a firm grasp on the cultural zeitgeist, at least for millennials. It thoroughly understands what is popular among younger people and enlists popular users on these platforms to collaborate on vines or pop up in BuzzFeed videos, which boosts their credibility and “coolness” among its audience. People know that BuzzFeed knows what’s up.

I’m not saying the editor of The Washington Post needs to buy a snapback ASAP and write about the best vape pens, but other more “respectable” sites need to recognize that while they’re busy criticizing BuzzFeed, they could be learning from it and adapting strategies like building a community, relating to a younger audience and using social media in a smarter manner.

Lastly, BuzzFeed is a great place for finding new sites, and pretty much every article has a host of links to other sites (as well as links back to its own content), for everything from recipes, online retailers, videos, you name it. It becomes the go-to place for people to visit in order to explore the Internet more.

You’re not off the hook, buddy

Secondly, a lot of what you see on Twitter and Facebook is based on your existing online habits. If you tend to like and click on articles called 10 Celebs Who Look Hotter With Man Buns,” over time, Facebook’s algorithm tailors your news feed so you see more content of that type. So, you’re not completely blameless here.

Also, to the people who can’t shut up about how there’s just so much nonsense online nowadays, what’s stopping you from reading a feature piece on The New York Times? No one is “Silence of the Lambs”-ing you, pushing you into a well and forcing you to read every single BuzzFeed article, OR ELSE. You could go and read an op-ed on the killing fields in South Sudan by Nicholas Kristof, but you don’t, do you? You go on BuzzFeed to figure out What Does Your Poop Really Say About You? That one’s on you, dude.

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Furthermore, even when BuzzFeed does produce serious content, it tends to get less views. For example, on Jan. 27, it released “The Disappeared Trans Sex Workers of El Salvador.” The same day, it also posted Women Wax Each Other’s Mustaches.” The former has garnered about 395,000 views (as of today). The latter? Almost 1.5 million.

To be fair, I watched and enjoyed both videos, although they are very different in subject and tone. But the point is, everyone’s always complaining about BuzzFeed only producing garbage and not doing any quality storytelling, but when BuzzFeed does actual journalism, people don’t watch it.

As an aside, people never mention that BuzzFeed has an entire news section!! That does good reporting!! Just because all you ever do on the site is look at crockpot recipes and personality quizzes doesn’t mean that’s all it has!!!

Adapt or die (dun dun DUN…)

I’m tired of hearing old, white people — who are probably wearing tweed jackets and under-tipping their waiters right at this moment — complaining about the state of journalism and the Web. Do people not realize that every time there’s a technological advancement or change, everyone predicts that it’s not going to last and cause society as we know it to deteriorate? That’s what happened with the creation of film, when television was invented and now, with BuzzFeed and the Web.

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You only dislike it because you don’t understand it. But regardless if you’re on board with it or not, the Web will continue to grow, and if you wait too long before you realize it’s useful, you’re going to be left in the dust with your newspaper that no one reads and your typewriter that weighs 10,000 pounds. People just don’t read the news the same way anymore. Younger people are more likely to keep up with current events on Facebook, Twitter and BuzzFeed, but the point is, they still care about what’s happening around the world, so does it really matter how they go about it?

Furthermore, one big reason that some sites are getting less popular is they don’t know how to appeal to younger audiences, how to adapt their content to the web and build an online community. They didn’t realize the power of Facebook, Twitter or even Vine quickly enough, and now it might be too late, while the BuzzFeeds of the world take over. And I say, good riddance. That’s what journalism is: adapt or die.

When a tree falls in a forest…

And for people who say, “It’s not about digital strategy, it’s about the quality of writing,” I want to challenge you on that. Of course, at the end of the day, Content is King — but that’s only one part of it. At the core of it, journalism isn’t about propping up your own ego and using fancy SAT words — it’s about delivering news and educating your community. Therefore, journalism has to be a two-way street: You write the article to inform the audience, but to have anyone to inform in the first place, you have to build a community that will see it. One could argue that if your content is good, people will naturally flock to it. But on the Internet, when there are probably thousands or maybe millions of new web pages created every day, it’s hard for the little guys (a.k.a. those who are not BuzzFeed or The New York Times) to get pageviews even if it is good. Even if you succeed at the first part, writing a good article, failing to accomplish the second might be a graver error — if you don’t develop an online audience, you’re essentially talking to yourself in an empty room.

Girl, wrap it up

BuzzFeed is not perfect. I wish it would cut back on dumb quizzes and make fewer listicles whose contents are essentially gifs plucked straight from Tumblr. And sometimes I think its sensational articles titles are contributing to the black-and-white thinking people these days are prone to do (Really, are baths “literally the worst”? Worse than Johnny Depp’s facial hair??) It has room to grow, like many outlets.

But that doesn’t mean what it’s doing right now isn’t worth noting and learning from: It reels people in with fun quizzes, and gets them to stay with thought-provoking, in-depth pieces about Angelina Jolie’s public image and tennis match-fixing. Even if the percentage of people who are staying to read these long-ass features are smaller than those who only come to browse listicles, that’s still a substantial number. In my book, that’s a solid digital strategy.

So for everyone and their mothers (and grandmothers) who are bemoaning the downfall of the Web and journalism: Please calm down, get off your high horse and take a BuzzFeed quiz or something. You know you want to.