Tag Archives: privilege

Trevor Noah: There’s a New Court Jester in Town

 

 

 

A New Court Jester in Town

I’ve written a lot about Stephen Colbert and how much I appreciate someone with such a strong yet progressive Christian faith, reaching the audience he does. I listened to an interview with Trevor Noah of The Daily Show recently, and I find myself equally appreciative to have his voice in our cultural conversation.

Noah grew up in Mandela-era South Africa–and he grew up “very very poor” in Soweto. His background gives him a very different perspective, and it’s a welcome one. (If you haven’t seen his bit about how Donald Trump is an African president, check it out now.)

Noah has talked about how bizarre it is to be as dirt poor as he was, now navigating fame and fortune. Here’s one exchange between Noah and Linda Holmes, the interviewer:

I was going to the Emmys and someone suggested I get a stylist. I inquired as to how much a stylist cost. And I was told anywhere between 5 and 25 thousand dollars.

Per what?

Per styling!

Per individual event?

No, I thought it was to buy the person as well! But it’s not. This is what people are paying! I couldn’t bring myself to do it. In fact I said I would rather take the money, buy one outfit myself, take a chance on that red carpet, have it out with the fashion police, and then take the rest of the money and give it to charity… and at least I know every time I’m on the worst dressed list, there’s a bunch of kids cheering, because they know they got the money I would have spent looking good.

He also addressed head-on the good intentions of people who say, “I want diversity in hiring—this position is open to absolutely anyone,” but then do nothing to ensure that people of color or women even hear about the position. We rely on our own networks to find people, Noah says—it’s an understandable impulse, but when our networks are comprised of people who look and think like we do, it doesn’t get the job done. For example, when The Daily Show put out a call for correspondents, they plugged into the network of agents and managers, and got something like 1,000 applicants… four of whom were black people. He thought “Well, maybe black people don’t like the Daily Show.” Then he was in a comedy club and met up with a table full of black comics, one of whom said, “Hey, if you need anybody for The Daily Show, I’d like to try for it.” Turns out none of the people around the table had heard about the casting call because none of them had agents or managers. Diversity is work, Noah concluded, but it’s worthwhile work… and if you put out a call to your usual networks and do nothing else, you haven’t done the work.

Jon Stewart often saw himself as the court jester for the media. They were his target, and he was at his best when battling their excesses and biases. Trevor may end up being the court jester for the privileged. Which could be very interesting to watch—especially if he can do it with a smile and a laugh. I’m interested to see where the show ends up.

Friday Link Love: Character, Luck and Love, and a Homemade Helicopter

 

Away we go:

~

Poetic Cosmos of the Breath — Colossal

 

The artist took huge sheets of colorful foil, taped the edges to the ground, then filled them with air. Transcendent:

 

 

~

Children Succeed with Character, Not Test Scores — NPR

An interview with the author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. I’m seeing stuff about this book all over the place.

The author’s focus seems to be on how kids prevail in rough neighborhoods and despite socio-economic disadvantage. As a parent in a very different context, I’d like to know specific ways to encourage my own children. The schools are still focused on IQ and test scores as measures of success. How do we transition toward grit, curiosity and character?

~

What Can I Say That’s Actually Helpful in Times of Grief? — Lifehacker

A very good list:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.” Yes, it’s completely unoriginal, but that doesn’t really matter here. If you knew the person who passed away, you could add in meaningful memories. When my previous boss died this year, I told his family, whom I was also close to, how he had been my mentor when I was just a kid out of college and one of my biggest supporters. I’m not sure if it helped them, but probably most families would appreciate your recognizing their loved one and their loss.

~

Tough Times, Luck and Love: One Family’s Story of Childhood Leukemia — Vimeo

I am acquainted with this family through friends. Sweet and (some) wrenching photos combined with an interview with the mother. Wise and heartfelt.

Tough Times, Luck and Love: One Family’s Story of Childhood Leukemia from Liisa Ogburn on Vimeo.

~

The Water-Park Scandal and Two Americas — Esquire

Waterparks are implementing “flash passes” so people can pay more to cut to the front of the line. The author sees this as a metaphor:

It sounds like an innovative answer to the problem that everybody faces at an amusement park, and one perfectly in keeping with the approaches currently in place at airports and even on some crowded American highways — perfectly in keeping with the two-tiering of America. You can pay for one level of access, or you can pay for another. If you have the means, you can even pay for freedom. There’s only one problem: Cutting the line is cheating, and everyone knows it. Children know it most acutely, know it in their bones, and so when they’ve been waiting on a line for a half-hour and a family sporting yellow plastic Flash Passes on their wrists walks up and steps in front of them, they can’t help asking why that family has been permitted the privilege of perpetrating what looks like an obvious injustice. And then you have to explain not just that they paid for it but that you haven’t paid enough — that the $100 or so that you’ve ponied up was just enough to teach your children that they are second- or third-class citizens.

It wouldn’t be so bad, if the line still moved. But it doesn’t. It stops, every time a group of people with Flash Passes cut to the front. You used to be able to go on, say, three or four rides an hour, even on the most crowded days. Now you go on one or two.

Praise and thanks for Disney, whose Fast Passes are free and available to anyone who wants to go to the trouble of retrieving them.

~

Less — theskyislaughing

My goal for the year is “less.”  I just want to keep all my vices but engage in them less often.

I’m not giving up Diet Coke, but I’ll drink it less (like once a day during work days)often.

I’m not giving up driving, but I’ll do it less often.

I’m not giving up computer time, but I’ll do it less often.

This is excellent. I think there are Sabbath implications here. We sometimes think that if we can’t do it perfectly then we won’t do it at all. If a weekly Sabbath seems impossible, how about every two weeks? Every month? How about a commitment simply to labor a little less?

~

The Two-Spirit People of Indigenous North Americans — Guardian

Interesting article about Native Americans’ reverential treatment of sexual minorities (including gay persons) in their communities:

Rather than emphasising the homosexuality of these persons, however, many Native Americans focused on their spiritual gifts. American Indian traditionalists, even today, tend to see a person’s basic character as a reflection of their spirit. Since everything that exists is thought to come from the spirit world, androgynous or transgender persons are seen as doubly blessed, having both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman. Thus, they are honoured for having two spirits, and are seen as more spiritually gifted than the typical masculine male or feminine female.

Therefore, many Native American religions, rather than stigmatising such persons, often looked to them as religious leaders and teachers.

~

Everything Is Incredible — Vimeo

A man in Honduras, crippled since birth, has been building his own helicopter for more than 50 years. This is funny, sad, and inspiring all at once.

Everything is Incredible from Tyler Bastian on Vimeo.

~

Have an incredible weekend, everyone.

My Kid Won’t Swim the Olympics

Camille Adams, who will swim in the Olympics in London.

Caroline competes each summer with our pool’s swim team, and last week their coaches had given them an assignment to watch some of the Olympic time trials held in Omaha. It was fun to watch elite athletes swimming at the top of their game and to listen to Caroline’s observations about the different strokes.

I took particular note of Davis Tarwater, who was once described as one of the best swimmers never to make an Olympic squad. The announcers last week noted that he has a 30 hour a week job designing banking software for third-world countries. I wondered how having a job like that impacted his ability to train at the highest level. As it happened, he failed to make the team in all three events he attempted, only getting a slot in 200 m freestyle after Michael Phelps opted not to swim that event in London.

Don’t get me wrong–Tarwater is an elite athlete, holding a national record. And it sounds like he feels a sense of mission around his “day job”–I don’t think he’s doing it for the money. But it was a reminder for me of the roles that circumstance and privilege play in achievement.

The other day our swim coaches posted the ladder with the kids’ times thus far. In the 9-10 age group, Caroline is currently 6th in freestyle and backstroke and 4th in breaststroke and butterfly. Caroline is a good swimmer technically, and she loves the sport. She’s had some fun victories and finishes this season, but she is not in the top tier of her teammates. Then again, she’s competing against kids who play various sports year-round, including kids who swim competitively for a program that is supposed to be amazing but costs almost $2,000 a year.

The pressure to achieve, to give one’s kids the best of everything, is huge around here. As a mother, I am in it, even as I disdain it. I felt a little torn when I read the ladder this weekend. If we had the time, energy and money to invest in her swimming, maybe she would move up from the middle of the pack. But we just don’t have the extra bandwidth to make that happen. I already push my job to the limits of its flexibility; I wrote last week’s sermon on deck at the pool, for heaven’s sake. One of those elite swim programs meets at 4:30 in the morning. Yes, you read that right.

Caroline doesn’t seem all that interested in upping the intensity of her swimming, so I’m certainly not going to push it. This post isn’t really about swimming. Rather I’m struggling with how we talk to our kids about privilege. How do we understand our own privilege? How do we frame competitive events like a swim team in a way that encourages kids to do their best, while acknowledging that some kids have an advantage by virtue of circumstance?

And can we explain all of this to our kids in a way that doesn’t foster bitterness, but rather a hunger for justice? I don’t want my kids to resent the only child with the mom who can devote time and energy to driving them to extra practices. But I do want them to wonder about kids who don’t even have the advantages we do. Our upper middle class swim problems are small potatoes; read this article that profiles six people who live at the different levels of income disparity in the U.S. and extrapolate it out. You think competitive swim team is expensive? Have you checked out four year colleges lately? What does all of this look like for the Pallwitz kids (page 3 in the article), whose parents are barely making ends meet? What will achievement look like for them?

When the playing field is uneven at many levels, what does it mean to “do well”?