Archive for December, 2010

I am working on a term paper for FRE 340.  It is due on New Year’s Eve, but damnit, I will finish this before tomorrow night ends!

The topic is about trade restrictions on Indonesia’s export of raw rattan affecting farmers and the forests around them.  The research process has led me to discover that one of the leading researchers in this area, an R. Godoy, worked at the Harvard Institute for International Development back in the 90’s.  And this was also the unfortunate topic of my public policy admissions essay.  Let’s cross our fingers that he’s not actually reading this and terribly disgusted with my rudimentary analysis of the actual problem.


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My parents do not agree with me on many things.  We’ve had more than our fair share of all-out shouting matches, which only escalated in recent years, graduating from pedestrian topics such as “grades and staying away from boys” to race and race related issues.  One of the things that we fiercely disagree over is the role that race will play in being a glass ceiling for me, career-wise.  My mother has said on multiple occasions said something along the lines of “do what you want, but people will look at you and see an Asian; people will see your face and your face will only cause you perpetual disappointment in life.”  This was all rather indigestible, but I’m glad that even when I don’t agree, they will say this to my face.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon one of those made-for-tv movies on CTV, called “Playing for Keeps.”  You can probably still find it under their “Videos” section.  It was based on the story of a child custody battle between a Kimberly Van de Perre, who was an unwed, working class, Caucasian woman, and Theodore “Blue” Edwards, a married, Black professional basketball player.  There were other factors involved: could a single mom provide an environment comparable to that of a married couple?  What about the obvious income disparity?  And the accusations of Kimberly being a golddigger? What about them?

But the majority of the case centred around the issue of racial identity, and whether or not Elijah’s being a mixed race child might make the Edwards’ household better equipped to prepare him society’s treatment of him as a Black man.  The final judgement is included below, as well as the CBC article.

Van de Perre v. Edwards, [2001]

Ex-NBA player loses custody of son

The Appeals court probably decided that race did play an important factor, and awarded Edwards sole custody because he and his wife could provide Elijah with a strong, black family.  I’ve only skimmed the decision itself, but the statement by Van de Perre’s attorney in the movie really stuck with me:

The Appeals court didn’t take his mixed race into consideration; instead it said, “What you see is what you get,” which is a kind of racism in itself.  Noah, will face racism in his life, we all know that.  But because of his mother, he will know that he is loved and cherished just as he is.  There is no greater defence against any difficulties, than that.

I’d like to point out the makeup of the Canadian Supreme Court at the time of this decision, in 2001:

Hon. Charles Doherty Gonthier, Hon. Frank Iacobucci, Hon. John C. Major, Hon. Michel Bastarache, Hon. William Ian Corneil Binnie, Hon. Louise Arbour, Hon. Louise Lebel, Rt. Hon. Beverly Mclachlin.

All nine justices, all Caucasian.  They reversed the decision of the Appeals court and awarded Kimberly sole custody, probably in an effort to downplay the importance of race as a factor.  Elijah is many things and his Caucasian mother can provide him with love and support, and while this ignores the fact that Theodore would love and support his son too, I am supposed to believe that this is enough to prepare him for a world with the persistent stench of institutionalized racism.

My friend Judy and I were talking about our racial histories ranging from flings to long term relationships one night over macarons; even though our experiences were completely opposite, we agreed that empathy is sometimes not enough to compensate for the fact that your other-race partner is never going to understand racism or its sting, if (s)he can’t experience it directly.  You could make up for this with a lot of listening, but it’s not the same as saying you’ve been there too.

When you are a Caucasian Supreme Court justice, it is easy to say that race isn’t the only thing that is important, with all that love and support and it’s-what’s-inside-that-counts stuff.  This probably has to do with the fact that there were fewer barriers to your success due to your physical appearance, so it might never occur to you that this would affect someone else’s life experience.  You might even nobly invest hope in the idea that we as a society have moved beyond racial labelling.  But the truth is, that our brains are programmed to take shortcuts, and we take shortcuts based on appearance and other factors affecting first impressions.   There is a fine, but ideal, balance, between our ability to acknowledge our own psychologically hardwired assumptions of people, and not taking them so seriously as to act on them.  What the Van de Perre v. Edwards decision did was swing blindly to the side of failing to acknowledge that race and appearance will influence how Elijah is categorized, and that his dad may be a better parent because first-hand experience lends credibility to empathy.  In my opinion, having both parents raise a biracial child would always be best, but if I had to choose, I actually do think that appearance is a factor that needs to be considered seriously.

As a generation of adopted asian children grows up in North America with primarily Caucasian parents, it is interesting to see how they can be a projection of the Elijah custody battle.

Asian Nation – Adopted Asian Americans

I’m not in any way condemning families for adopting different race children, but I think the identity crisis and struggles that were highlighted in these studies and the videos demonstrates that the most well-meaning parents will have a difficult time finding the best way to raise children who will be treated differently and may encounter racism in their upbringing.  The Caucasian families themselves struggled to understand that being Asian and being Asian American are two entirely different monsters to tackle, and that bringing your kids to a Chinese restaurant once every month is not going to inform them of the struggles they will eventually face.    Love may not be enough to bridge that gap in understanding, but it certainly shouldn’t discourage anyone with a big enough heart and enough determination to adopt.  The only thing to keep in mind is that awareness is power.

When Hon. Sonia Sotomayor was up for her Supreme Court Justice appointment, there was an uproar over this article, “A Latina Judge’s Voice,” in which she talks about legal judgements being influenced by personal experiences as a woman and as a Latina.  It makes me sad that she was attacked for this, because the argument against her is inherently biased by assuming that only laws and judgements passed down by white men are immune to personal bias.  That, and the attacks took her words out of context and unfairly imply that she’s racist.  What Hon. Sotomayor was saying was that bringing in judges of colour, women judges, did not affect the fairness of a judgement but would add validity by bringing voices who had weathered various prejudices and assumptions themselves.  She was saying that the obstacles she encountered as a Latina woman would lend her an increased awareness and sensitivity to her assumptions about a case, and how prejudice may influence the result.  She was attacked for even mentioning gender and race in the same breath as the law, as if somehow the law was created by an impartial, raceless, sexless body to begin with.

We can’t raise our society to be colourblind, because colour exists and is part of our perception of the world.  This is not an invitation to succumb to racism by believing that those assumptions are automatically true.  It does mean that when we are living in a world where I can go an entire night watching tv and be able to count the number of Asians on one hand, that a perception of my differentness, is real, is valid, and shouldn’t be unfairly papered over with counterarguments of colour-blindness.  It means that cases like Van de Perre v. Edwards may have been unfairly decided by people who have no consciousness of the struggle of being Black in Canada.  And it means that love and dedication and openness will never be a perfect substitute for first-hand experience.  While my parents and I don’t have the most fuzzy bond, I get a sense of comfort from our fights, knowing that race  will never be an issue that they cannot understand.

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I am always surprised every year when I emerge from my exam cave to find Christmas has taken over everything. Malls are stuffed full of people, I turn on the news and it’s Christmas everywhere, suddenly meals have gotten really delicious and extravagant.  O, and CTV plays the Sound of Music  . . .  😀

While this is great and all, I get frustrated when the only thing I hear for two weeks is  BUY, BUY, BUY.

My brother has one of these really comical habits – he scours the internet for deals, and then bulk buys the most useless crap.  Ten of the same plush stuffed animal. Five video game controllers. Twenty entertainment books. Then he gives it all away for Christmas, kind of indiscriminately to anyone he can think of.  I guess this is what you would call “gift slutting.”  But isn’t the point of Christmas not to spend money, but to spend the currency that you think would bring the most joy?  By moving to a bulk system, I would think it shifts the focus away from the purpose of a gift, to show someone that they are important to you, and towards something less meaningful – here’s this thing I bought because it was on bulk discount, you can have it.


I want YOU!

I rarely buy gifts for anyone anymore because I started to realize it was meaningless, and this probably interpreted as miserly by people.  The truth is two fold.  There’s very few people that I actually care about, and this is true for all of us – most of us spend 80% of our time around the same five people.  And if I do care about our friendship, then I’ll show it in non-monetary ways throughout the year.  The currency that exists in the most scarce supply for me is time (think about how chronically sleep deprived I get, I just woke up from an 11 hour sleep!), and I’ll make plans and spend time with the people that I care about, either by making plans, or pushing for skype dates, or checking in in whatever way I can.

In a lot of ways, this applies to all non-Christmassy parts of life as well.  A lot of parents, mine included spend their entire lives working so that us children would have savings to pay for our college tuitions, when the truth is, that I wish my mom and my dad would have taken more of an interest in what I was doing, and let me find a way to pay for university. Time is a currency that in North America in general, is undervalued in families and one day of gift giving a year can’t do very much to compensate for it.

So cheer up if I don’t send you a scarf this year, but if you remind me, I’ll make it up for you by suggesting I make you brunch instead 🙂

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Exchange favours with a financially generous man, call it what you like.

There’s a lot of niche dating sites out there, but this is the first time that I’ve heard of anything that offers such, *ahem* upfront communication.  For the young ladies involved, all you have to do is list the usual details, and in addition, the types of payments you are seeking – rent, tuition, a car, etc.  The site will allow you to match yourself up with the appropriate sugardaddy, and you are off on the path of financial bliss.

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Post-exam/packing/flying, I slept a total of 13 hours in a row and emerged from the study bubble  . . . to find this!

When did this happen???  Was I just MIA for too long?

I am no expert on the military, nor do I have any personal ties to it.  And to me, it always seemed a bit strange that there were policies in place that explicitly barred anyone who was openly gay from doing anything.  I guess the opposition would argue that it would lower troop morale, but if there’s no evidence for it, then I am assuming this is because of some latent condemnation of homosexuality.

I’m always torn between the role of the government to stand for an idea, and it’s obligation to enact policies which are actually effective.  In general though, I tend to fall on the side of government taking a role in protecting the efficiency of society, and such efficiency generally means protecting the validity of transactions.  This is probably why I would lean towards decriminalization or pot vs. prohibition if I feel like a legal ban would do little to curb actual consumption.  In this case, I guess I can’t see there being any real change in the efficiency of the military, and the Pentagon studies would show this.

So now we can ask gay soldiers to die for their country in combat, to protect ideals such as freedom, justice and equality, but when they return home, the country they fight for will still not honour their equality by granting them a legally binding marriage license.  Why then is there all the opposition to gay marriage in the US?  From an institutional point of view, the role of a marriage license is to protect all sorts of unromantic transactions, such as the distribution of pension benefits, adoption benefits, property laws, blah blah blah.  Do people actually believe that it is the role of the government to stand for the traditional of marriage?  Does government protect marriage from any of the more common threats of divorce or the fact that you can have a splashy public marriage announcement with someone else’s recent ex-spouse?  When did government’s role ever move beyond simple transactional efficiency?   If the government is to legitimize transactions, then it has to recognize that like gay soldiers, gay married couples pose little threat to the detriment of morale in a country where the straight people have already tarnished it with their cavalier behaviour.

When I think about the reluctance of America to legalize same-sex marriage, and how far this reluctance deviates from the purpose of law, I think about this speech.  I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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Menu Costs

If my brain were a computer . . .the hard drive space would be limited, but with adequate processing power, post-exam I dump out everything I know to make space or the next test. Basically I’m excusing myself until this hell is over.

Interesting picture from Mankiw’s blog with a real life example of a menu cost.

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