When You Have to Take a Step Back

I am so tired of 2018.

I’m tired of people saying they’re SO liberal on LGBTQIA issues and then saying things like (paraphrasing), I don’t think this woman should have mentioned her wife in class because it’s a conversation I would like to have privately with my children at home…. but I belong to a liberal open and affirming church so I can’t2018-04-08 13_27_52-tired - Google Search possibly be construed as a bigot. In 2018, why is homosexuality something that has to be explained privately as if children don’t have enough agency to understand basic family constructs on their own? They’ve probably had classmates with same-sex parents since they were in kindergarten. By the time the asshat father I paraphrased got to his kids, they were probably eye-rolling because OMG. Gay people. I have to be prepared to see them out in the world. It’s not as if when queer people move into your neighborhood that spaceships land and little burritos walk out. For the love of Christ, literally.

I’m tired of Assad and his chemical attacks and his bombing of the people he’s supposed to serve. I’m sure he doesn’t see it that way, but the best rulers lead from the back. I’m tired of wondering if our military, our diplomats, and our intel operatives and their friendlies are safe or fighting for their lives as equally hard as Syrian citizens. I’m tired of American attitudes that our people’s lives are worth more than theirs.

I’m tired of Donald Trump and his Twitter foreign and domestic policy, but I’ll bet I’m way less tired than the people trying to reign him in.

I’m tired of journalists, bloggers, and media influencers being put on a list, not knowing what the information is for, but know that nothing good can come of this. I’m tired that every single story President Trump reads is deemed fake, as if “The Fourth Estate” isn’t supposed to do their damn jobs. I’m exhausted thinking that both Helen Thomas and Molly Ivins are dead and there’s no one being as loud as they would be if they knew what was happening. I am happiest picturing Helen Thomas flipping the bird.

I am tired of black people dying for absolutely no reason, and the chutzpah cops have in shooting someone eight times in the back, because they know there’s no penalty. Not all cops are bad, but the ones that are aren’t being punished nearly enough.

I am tired of children having to ask for help with gun control and it being this huge debate, as if adults aren’t the ones in charge of keeping them safe. I am sure that for gun freedom advocates, it will take their own child being shot in math class to change those hearts and minds. It is not, however, something I would wish on them. No parent should ever have to bury a child. It is only an observation that it takes a truly earth-shattering realization to change someone vehemently entrenched in the position that all people should be able to own firearms in which the Founding Brothers never could have conceived.

I’m tired of angry rants on Facebook that come up in my feed whether I’m looking for negativity or not…. that even discourse that starts off as civil ends up being monstrous. I will engage in politics, but at the first sign of an ad hominem attack, I’m out. This is both because I don’t need that temperature in my life, and second because when I play “Let’s Be an Asshole,” I am in it to win it. I am just not interested in seeing that version of myself, because it’s egocentric and therefore, absolutely toxic. There is no exhaustion worse than being tired of listening to yourself.

I am tired of having to be this version of me, the one that has to stand up for all the little people, because the majority doesn’t understand that they don’t get to dictate to the minority what hurts and what doesn’t.

I am tired of thinking that it will be this way my entire life, because society won’t progress far enough to accept everyone by the time I die…. but, I hope so.

2045: Martians are so eloquent…… I want to touch their skin just to see what it feels like….

I wish we could all step back and take a breath, but it seems as if when we do, it’s not a matter of learning to listen to each other, but thinking about what we’re going to say next. I am certainly not immune to this…. but in a lot of ways, I can’t breathe under the best of circumstances. One of my tribe was just fired for simply showing a photograph of her family. It’s just not possible for me to contain rage over it, although I try to put a smile on my face even when I want to scream, as I often do when I wake up to news that transgendered people have been shot, most of them to death.

And some of the time, it’s by people who claim they live and let live.

I’m tired of the marijuana debate, and not because I’m all excited about smoking it. I don’t. I’m tired of violence at the border and inequality in sentencing when minorities get caught smoking and/or selling. White boys will be boys, but scary black men are going to prison for life.

I’m tired of the immigration debate, the back and forth between enjoying cheap tomatoes and the gate should have closed after I came in. You don’t want to give minimum wage and health care benefits to full-time farm workers, but you don’t want to welcome people that will do the job for peanuts, either…. surprised that after immigrants have been deported that fruits and vegetables are withering on the vine.

I’m tired of people still harping on Hillary Clinton as if she’s been elected to anything or even has a public life anymore. I mean, she’ll always be well-known, but she’s not influencing public policy. She doesn’t even have an advice column. Have a Coke™ and a smile and shut it.

I’m tired of people going bankrupt over medical bills, especially when they’re shot or otherwise injured through no fault of their own. I am sure there are people who were gunned down at the Pulse night club (and lots of schools) who now have to pay for the “privilege.” We are one of the richest nations in the world, yet most of us tied to jobs with golden handcuffs as not to lose insurance. Other countries have so much more freedom than we do because their people are allowed to move freely and take any job they want because insurance is not dictated privately or state-by-state.

Most of all, I’m tired that we claim all people are created equally, but some are just a little more equal than others.

Facebook Thinks I’m Black

In terms of ad preferences, Facebook lists your likes and dislikes and compiles information they infer about you by what links you engage with (like, share, click through) the most. The most maddening of these inferences is race, because they can’t come out and ask what race you are, they call it “Cultural Affinity.” There are already minority groups chomping at the bit to get Facebook to remove it, because it has led to more than one case of housing discrimination. Facebook insists that it’s just a cultural identity, not a way to actually determine race, but I believe this is untrue. In 2016, they mined for “ethnic affinity,” and had to quickly come up with neutral language to spin it. Oh, it’s not racial profiling. It’s an “affinity.” That it’s OK because Facebook does not have an official channel to report race. They’re not talking about the color of your skin, just saying that if you’re a member of the NAACP on Facebook, you’ll probably like ads targeted towards African Americans.

This is why I find it troubling, and my Facebook status yesterday:

I did that thing where you look up what Facebook thinks about you (in terms of ad preferences). Apparently, Facebook thinks I’m black. I have mixed feelings about this. I am proud of myself for posting so many things about inequality that Facebook has noticed. I am weirded out that Facebook thinks just because you post things about inequality that you must be a minority. It’s not that I care about being labeled African American. I care that so many white people don’t care that companies infer that I’m a minority because I do.

Here’s the thing. I looked it up, and there is no “Caucasian Cultural Affinity.” If Facebook believes you are white, there’s no Cultural Affinity at all. This is problematic because yet again, white is the default and non-white is a classification. It is especially troubling because 85% of Facebook’s daily active users are outside the United States and Canada, and non-white is the default in the rest of the world…. that I can identify. Some scientists do not consider race to be a valid identifier, and some do. But by and large the statistics I could find by world population say that Asian is the majority for the globe. I found a web site claiming racial population, but did not deem it a viable source of information.

It is a valid argument that race is invalid, considering that there are billions of people who have genetics from every continent. For marketing purposes, though, the current thinking seems utterly backward for all sorts of reasons…. the biggest being what are we missing by giving different audiences different ads? Why do you, as advertisers, only want to cater to people you think will already like you? Isn’t the whole point of advertising to reach out to new people rather than the ones already on board?

It causes more problems than it solves, because the information gathered can be used in nefarious ways. It is not as inert as you think.

For instance, you can find ways to advertise jobs to an overwhelmingly white audience, or perhaps real estate listings. Facebook was sued in November of 2016 for this very thing, and after looking through the docket, I can see no evidence that the case has been resolved. The closest is that Facebook made a motion to dismiss, then vacated the motion to continue mediation. But that was in October of 2017, and no official decision has come down (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or law student- if an official decision has come down and it hasn’t been published publicly, I wouldn’t be able to get into Lexis-Nexis to find it).

Here is the last order that is public facing:

By December 14, 2017, the parties shall file a joint status report addressing the status of the mediation efforts and, if appropriate, propose new dates for the hearing on Facebook’s Motion to Dismiss and Initial Case Management Conference.

I can find articles on Facebook claiming that they’re taking down the “Cultural Affinity” classification altogether, but mine is intact and sources referenced, again, aren’t viable.

I am going to be chewing on this for a while, because I think Facebook believes what it’s saying- “cultural affinity” is not race. However, intent and reality are not the same thing. There is a wide margin between Facebook’s claims and how the information is being used.

I am dismayed because instead of erasing divisions, we seem to be striving towards sustaining them, or finding new ones altogether.

It’s Starting

I am really mad at Facebook. With all their data mining technology, they can’t stop the Mother’s Day ads in my feed? Of course, I also got an invitation last year to “Black People Meet Dating,” so……. It actually looked really fun. I just thought they might be surprised if I showed up……. and what am I saying? Even if it looked like the best time on earth, I don’t really do things. I remind myself of events all the time, and then when the date arrives, I am the classic it’s too late…. I’ve already changed into my pajamas chick (there are only four or five people for which I will change back into real pants).

Today, I thought about getting out….. For all of April, on Wednesdays you don’t have to get tickets to the relatively new National Museum of African American History & Culture. I have been dreaming about walking around those halls for months, and it’s the first day I haven’t had to order in advance. But did I actually get on the damn Metro? No. No, I did not. I was being low-key workaholic and trying to knock out a few things so tonight I could change into pajamas without remorse….. or did I? Now, I kind of wish I’d gone to the museum. I will say that every Wednesday night until May and wonder where April went.

But, it was time well spent nonetheless.

I finished another book for review, broke for food and TV,  then started writing. I told my editor yesterday I’d have a first draft to her by Thursday or Friday. My eyeballs are starting to glaze over by constantly reading my own writing, so I’m trying to keep the juice flowing by doing different writing. You’ll forgive me for grammatical errors. She won’t.

But, I asked for it. And the problem with asking for an editor is that they will do their dead level best to make you a better writer, even if they have to kill your darlings.

Editing is a little bit easier in Microsoft Word, because I am not handed back a piece of “black and white and red all over.” It’s like getting back books you lent with cute little notes in the margin, like, I had to read this three times and I still didn’t understand it. It’s soul-crushing adorable.

All kidding aside, I’d do anything to make something I wrote even better….. even if it means pulling out my eyebrows one at a time as I try to say the same thing I just said in different words.

Which leads me to a different topic altogether- that I can stop being mad about all the Mother’s Day ads because the twins are here and I want to celebrate their mothers.

It’s starting.