W  H  A  T  S  U  I  T  S  H  I  M
a multimedia project • launched 1 january 2016


Hypocrite(?!): Black Authenticity in the Age of Social Media

We’re each playing a version of ourselves on the internet; the majority of us have officially been around long enough to have earned some sort of cyber-reputation, one we’ve either carefully crafted for ourselves or one we unwittingly wear — or sometimes both. Oftentimes, the truth about our character lies somewhere in the middle, between the perception we’d like to see accepted as truth and the actual reality of our lives. I totally understand it. I’ve been crafting my personal brand around the aesthetic that I’d like WSH to exude — clean, refined, much cooler and over everything than you’d believe — and while it can be fun to play that character on Twitter and Instagram, it’s a weird feeling to consider how detached our two personalities can be. Not entirely disparate, mind you; I’d never accuse anyone of faking for likes and retweets. But we’ve all now become curators of our personal running diaries, for better or worse. Can’t blame a curator for exercising creative control, can you? That's precisely why my Twitter drafts folder is pouring over at the moment. Creative control.

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Black (Super)star Power: The Political Awakening of the Millennial Athlete

Sure, continue to ignore all the intentional system failures harming people of color in the name of pretending we don’t have a legitimate gripe. Let’s also pretend these wealthy, black athletes weren’t dead broke once-upon-a-time, because in this fantasy, they shouldn’t complain about anything! They don’t have it bad at all! Or — even better — let’s continue to pretend that America has this spotless history, that the many terrible things happening right now in the United States — white supremacist rallies, mass shootings by domestic terrorists, the election of an incompetent imbecile to run the country — are just aberrations and not the byproduct of backlash from the eight years prior, anger not only of a black man being President, but of him being damned good at it, too.

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Eight Years Later

For the first time, I had a president who I knew culturally understood me, who – even if he was handicapped by an inability to be explicitly racial – intricately knew the pain of every black person in this country. My nephew, who tomorrow turns 13, likely can't remember a time when a black man wasn't running this country. All of my nieces were born in this midst of this presidency. As a kid, I'd always been told I could be whatever I wanted to be – even the president. They've got the last 8 years as proof.

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Mr. Trump's America

Cursory acknowledgment somehow meets their -ism threshold. "I occasionally say nice things about these people; therefore, I can't be racist! I can't be sexist! I love gay people! They're the best!" There's a tolerance there, but not an acceptance. To accept would beget a willingness to share. And the closer we inch toward true equity actually bound to law, the angrier the cult seems to get.

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I have grown enough to see the trap I allowed myself to fall into. My stance on public education in many ways fell into the respectability politics position I so deeply loathe. If black kids receive the same level of education as white kids, then we will gain the equity we deserve! This is the implicit idea that dominates conversations regarding race relations: if people of color somehow become 'better' - smarter, wealthier, more respectable - everything will be alright. Forgive me for arguing the opposite. My people have done nothing wrong. As a human, I deserve respect. I deserve equitable treatment. I deserve my life.

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Where You From?

I assume I'm not alone in isolating myself as a Detroiter. We have our own problems to worry about down the road, so why should I concern myself with what's happening there? And the more I consider that mindset, the more disappointed I become in myself. Pretending Flint is some land far far away only makes me something of an accomplice to the crime. What am I doing to rectify the situation? How can I be of service? Is there something in my experience as a Detroiter that I can apply to what's happening there? I wasn't thinking about any of that. I just didn't want to know. I actively chose ignorance, and I'm not proud of it in the slightest.

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A Case for Stronger Alignment of State & National Assessments

Personal story time: Heading into eighth grade at Bates Academy ten (!) years ago, I began to consider which high school I’d like to attend. Many of my peers had their hearts set on Detroit’s top-two public high schools, Cass Tech and Renaissance. Familial ties bound me to Cass as a fallback option, but I’d gone all-in on attending Cranbrook Kingswood, a private school in a Detroit suburb. For some reason I’ve yet to discover, Cranbrook admitted me, but my high school years proved far more difficult than I anticipated. I feared I was overmatched, and the fact that I was being quantitatively outperformed by my friends who remained in Detroit Public Schools only heightened my anxiety. Fast-forward to college, and I found myself more than adequately prepared for post-secondary education. Contrast that with my peers, who consistently complained they felt ill-equipped to handle the rigor of college academics. Remember: these were students with high grade-point averages, students who were made to believe they would be prepared for college, university, or the workforce by virtue of receiving a high school diploma. This year, Detroit Public Schools reported a four-year graduation rate of 71 percent, but only 2.4 percent are scoring at Proficient on the MME. I know that 71 percent very well. But what are the odds I know the 2.4 percent who we can unequivocally say will be academically prepared for the next level?

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