Resolutions Check-In 2…

Well, I am already failing, but for good reason.  On March 18, 2017, I became engaged and could not be happier about continuing our lives with one another.  If only the wedding would plan itself… 😦

  • Run 1000 miles – I have fallen behind, bigly.  Sitting at 226.44.  Leaving me with needing to do 97 miles a month for the next 8.  It will be a challenge but I will get there.
  • Read at least 2 books a month – Ehhh…
    • Switch – Chip Heath & Dan Heath
    • Ship of Theseus – Abrams, JJ & Dorst, Doug (Work in progress)
  • Travel abroad – Going to the Dominican Republic at the end of May.  So I will be able to check this off the list.
  • Apply to a program to acquire a terminal degree – With the pending nuptials, this is going to go on the backburner for a bit longer.  I still want to make this happen, but I am ready to move on with life and come back to education later.
  • Get back down to 185 and stay there – Been hovering around 200 recently, which is an improvement.  Still, I need to get into a better routine.  Luckily, I will have some additional pressure from the wedding.
  • Donate at least $25 to non-profit groups 1x a month – I started a monthly donation to Let America Vote.
  • Reduce debt by at least 1/3 and hopefully 1/2 – Got some better tracking systems in place and have started to make some headway.  A long way to go, but feeling really long about getting there.
  • Post a blog entry at least every 2 weeks – An epic fail to this point.  Need to start cranking these out.

SOOOO… long and short of it.  Planning a wedding takes a lot of time, and I need to refocus on some of these.  Time to get to it!

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Cannonball…

I am on the mailing list for Senator Marco Rubio, since I am one of his constituents and feel a need to be informed about his actions.  His organization recently sent an email stating they were behind their first quarter fundraising goal and soliciting donations.  I decided to write a response.  It is posted below.

Senator Marco Rubio (or whoever will receive this message on his behalf):

Perhaps you are not meeting your quarterly goal because of your actions when Rex Tillerson was going through his confirmation hearing or your support of Betsy DeVos, a donor to you.  You expressed reservations but ultimately sided in favor of both.  New Attorney General Jeff Sessions is another example of supporting an executive branch leader who will potentially hurt your constituents.  We are seeing this.  Your constituents are watching.

I follow you because you are my democratically elected senator, but unfortunately, you have yet to represent me on a single issue, confirmation hearing, or vote.  I understand that I am one person in the third most populous state in the nation.  I also know my viewpoints are not shared by all.  I know that I will not always agree with your perspective or politics.  I simply ask that you hold town hall sessions to listen to your constituents, all of them (I encourage Senator Bill Nelson to do the same).  Even though I did not vote for you, you do still represent me, not just those who voted for you.  I still listen to what you have to say because it is extremely important to listen to ALL sides, as much as I may disagree.  Please do the same.

I greatly appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback on Supreme Court Justice Nominee Neil Gorsuch.  I implore you to keep doing this.  Paraphrasing your own speech to the Senate after Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked Rule 19, debate is vital to our democracy and it is becoming more and more difficult as people entrench themselves.  May I suggest that you take this a step further and encourage real, authentic dialogue?  This would require people to be vulnerable in ways that would make our leaders more open to criticism and more open to actually fixing problems, in bipartisan ways, that affect the people you serve.  If you are looking for more information on this topic, I highly suggest the book by David Bohm, On Dialogue.

There are no perfect solutions to the imperfect problems that plague us.  However, we have to work towards solutions.  This requires listening to people who do not agree with us to make sure we understand the situation to its fullest extent.  It requires using factual information to come to logical conclusions and suspending politics where data supports a differing viewpoint.  It requires getting in the trenches and doing the difficult work of reaching across the aisle and looking for the best possible solution and not the most partisan one.  It requires vulnerability.  It means one may need to put their own political future on the backburner to further resolutions that are in the best interests of the people and not lobbyists or donors.

Perhaps more importantly, it requires people to approach these complex issues through an ethic of care.  An ethic that centers the people, and not the laws.  And centering of people does not simply mean those who voted for you.  It means ALL people that you represent.  It means centering the most vulnerable, and not the most affluent.  It necessitates perspective taking and empathy.

Whether you read this, or not, I value the opportunity to express to you my views and thoughts, a cornerstone of our democracy.  I do not anticipate a response, and that is perfectly fine with me.  All I can hope is that someone will see this, read it, and reflect on it.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Sincerely,

–Justin Sipes

Jacksonville, FL 32207

I know that this caters to respectability politics.  Niceness = Whiteness.  That does not miss me, and that will be upsetting to people.  I have many privileges that protect me from the many harmful policies that could [are anticipated and have started to] come down based on recent executive branch confirmations.

I don’t know the perfect way to respond, act, and resist in these uncertain times.  I am doing what I can, with what I got, when I can.  I am doing my best to keep up with everything and speak up when I can.  I start everyday reading almost a dozen news stories to try and stay abreast.  Every day it seems like something new, and I am left with not quite knowing what I can do, if anything.

For the vast majority of my life I have avoided politics, so this is all new to me.  In the last year, I have tried to educate myself on various issues and stay informed.  I have not spoken out about everything.  I have picked and chosen when I feel I should say something.  I have stayed out of the fray.  I realize I don’t have that option anymore.  I have to be more vocal.  This letter and tweets are dipping my toe into political pool.  It is becoming clearer these methods are not enough.  It is going to require a cannonball.

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Resolutions Check-In 1…

January went pretty well.  A quick recap of how things went…

  • Run 1000 miles – still have one more day but hit 88 so far. On pace for 1056 at this rate.
  • Read at least 2 books a month – Done!
    • Experience & Education – John Dewey
    • Made to Stick – Chip Heath & Dan Heath
    • I have also included a lot of articles in the mix. The vast majority are based on what has been happening in current politics.  All in all about 50 this month.
  • Travel abroad – Thanks to the NFL’s attempts to extend abroad it seems my first destination will be London in September.
  • Apply to a program to acquire a terminal degree – Scheduling my GRE test for this month.
  • Get back down to 185 and stay there – I have been weighing myself once a week and keeping track of calories. So far, 8 lbs closer to this goal.
  • Donate at least $25 to non-profit groups 1x a month – This month was the HRC and I am officially a member.  This upcoming month will likely be the ACLU.
  • Reduce debt by at least 1/3 and hopefully 1/2 – some progress but I would like to make more.  Working to re-organize some loans and payments to assist with the process overall.
  • Post a blog entry at least every 2 weeks – January worked out well.  This is #1 for February.  Will likely post something on the immigration ban EO because of my experience with INS, CBP, SEVIS, and HiEd.

Let’s keep this going…

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day Thought..

I quick reflection about today…

We are all imperfect vessels.  That does not alter what we are capable of doing and how we can impact change.  It means we must reflect on and acknowledge our shortcomings, yet continuously strive for what we know is right and just.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place… but your statement fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.  I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with the effects and does not grapple with the underlying causes.

-Martin Luther King Jr. (1963) Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Above quote from a tweet by @elielcruz and originally cultivated by @DJRarela

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Resolutions…

It seems that every year, I renew a commitment to write more often in this space.  Year after year, I have a few posts early on and then things peter out over time.  This year will hopefully be different, but no promises.  I figure one of the best ways to hold myself accountable is by putting my 2017 resolutions/goals out there for all (whoever still follows this) to see.  So here we go…

  • Run 1000 miles – Averaging 19.25 per week will get me there.  I was close two years ago.  Time to hit that milestone.  I have some races that will assist in hitting this mark.  Nothing more than a half marathon.  I still don’t see the need to go that far.
  • Read at least 2 books a month – I used to be a voracious reader.  Time to revisit that part of me.  I have gotten caught up in streaming services, and I let reading fall to the wayside.  Need to keep learning and expanding my knowledge.
  • Travel abroad – I am 33 and finally got a passport.  It is time to explore and see the world.  I have seen most of the United States.  There is so much more out there to see and experience.
  • Apply to a program to acquire a terminal degree – I have kept pushing this back because it was never the right time.  If not now, it may never happen.
  • Get back down to 185 pounds and stay there – Three years ago I started a physical transformation and lost almost 60 pounds.  At my lightest, I was creeping towards 170.  More importantly, I vowed to never get over 200 again.  Over the course of the last year, I slowly started to gain weight.  It finally caught up to me and it’s time to reverse that trend.  This particular one includes eating something for every meal and tracking what it is that I am eating and how I am exercising.
  • Donate to at least $25 to non-profit groups 1x a month – I have always donated to my various alma maters and random non-profits.  I am committing to donating to a new non-profit each month throughout this year.  Some groups already in the queue: Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, Circle of Sisterhood, NAACP, and Police Athletic League.  It is time to put my money behind organizations that support my beliefs.
  • Reduce debt by at least 1/3 and hopefully 1/2 – This is probably going to be the most difficult one to accomplish.  The sheer volume of my debt lies in student loans and it is beyond time to get this under control.  If all goes as planned I can make a significant dent in this area.  I have already started to identify expenditures that I can reduce or remove and started to take action.  Once I get into a rhythm with this it should be fine.
  • Post a blog entry at least every 2 weeks – As stated in the opening of this post, I have good intentions every year.  This time, it will hopefully be different.  This may be cheating, but one out of every four will be an update on my resolutions/goals.

The task is to stay on top of these items.  It is about prioritizing my time and decisions.  If you will notice that word “time” pops up in every resolution/goal.  We have a finite amount of time.  How we decide to use it is up to us.  Above are some of the ways that I will use mine in 2017.

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Balance…*

Balance…

One of the struggles I have being in higher education is the balance of being political and outspoken on particular national topics and issues, especially through social media. Every day, I scroll through numerous posts, photos, and tweets from friends, family, students, and mere acquaintances.  Primary, secondary, and tertiary relationships.  The content of these messages varies from items I wholeheartedly support and things I vehemently oppose.

Balance… Two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.

I think it is important to keep reading and listening to information from all sides of a situation, no matter my position.  I cannot understand someone if I immediately dismiss them based on disagreeing with something they post, tweet, or say.  We cannot engage in a truly, authentic dialogue if we are not open to hearing the other person and trying to understand their position.  If we did less proselytizing and more listening, I believe we could make more progress.

I also recognize that my various privileges make it easier for me to take this stance.  The violence occurring is not perpetuated against people like me.  I am able to sit in a place where I can absorb this information because it is not aimed at me.  As I see numerous friends check out of social media for a few days to heal, to mourn, to recover, to practice self-care, I am reminded that even though I am affected, it is not to the same degree as others experience.

Balance… Progress will only happen IF we can find common ground.

There are many things happening in our nation that concern me, and I believe need to change.  These are not new issues.  They have been festering for years, decades, centuries.  They are bubbling to the surface, at seemingly more rapid rates.  I know that change can happen.  Progress can be made.  We need to talk to each other to make that happen.  Diametrically opposed platforms with an unwillingness to engage in dialogue will never get us to where we want to be.  We have to find the places and spaces that we share as humans and start there.  We need leaders who will model this for us.  We do not need figureheads bantering in ways that continue to divide and separate us.

Balance… Ignorance is bliss.

Even the most ignorant can change.  The difficulty is appropriately challenging the person in a way that does not push them too far, where they completely retract.  Then it is about supporting them as they potentially adapt new knowledge to their pre-existing schemas.  It is not a one-time conversation.  It is an ongoing process.  That is what dialogue is about.  It takes time energy and effort.  A post or tweet will not change the ignorant because it is difficult to demonstrate an ethic of care.  Shaming someone into changing is also not the way.

Balance… Remember at one point and time, we were all ignorant.

To not recognize our implicit biases, past beliefs, and mistakes is a disservice.  People evolve in thought and feeling.  We are taught things and then often need to un-learn and re-learn as we grow older.  As we gain new information, we decide whether to ignore it or incorporate that into our way of being and thinking.  Sometimes we discard that knowledge.  Sometimes we absorb it.

We need to expand our worldview.  We have more information than any generation before and more ways to access that knowledge.  The problem is this ease allows us to further entrench ourselves in ideologies that support our current beliefs.  Anyone with technology has the ability to scaffold or dismantle an issue.  Anonymous likes, retweets, reposts, and follows further embolden individuals who aim to separate and vilify the “other.”  We have gotten less critical and more accepting with our information.  Not every source of information is a valid source.

Balance… Our world is not black and white, it is gray, and that can be difficult to resolve.

Dualistic thinking can be detrimental to progress.  Our hearts and brains are big enough to feel more than one feeling and think more than one thought.  We have to role model this behavior for others to understand that it is okay for there to be multiple perspectives.

Balance… The road is long and winding, but there is a final destination.

I have a lot of work to do.  We have a lot of work to do.  It is extremely difficult work.  It will not be easy.  It has never been easy.  We need to find a way to do it.  I am tired of seeing posts and messages from people questioning the future.  Contemplating leaving the country.  Discussing how they have conversations with their kids about the realities of society.  I am tired of seeing it because it is disheartening.  It is gut-wrenching.

Balance…

*I started this post after the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, and prior to the mass shooting of the Dallas Police Officers.

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Cultural Competency Pursuit Capstone (Part 7)

Intersectionality and Privilege.

My various identities do not operate in a vacuum.  There are times and places in my life that certain identities resonate more than others.  When I have changed geographic locations from the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest to the Pacific Coast to Southern Georgia, particular identities were more relevant to my daily life compared to others.  These shifts have led me to explore more about my own identities, especially in relation to others.  It allowed me to see how my various identities intersect with one another.

I understand why being a White, Straight, Cisgender, Able-bodied Male in the United States carries exceptional amounts of privilege.  Most people perceive that I am Christian from my previous identities, so I get a free pass on that one too.

Over time, I realized how fortunate I am.  Quite honestly, how lucky I am.  My identities mean that I virtually cannot be discriminated against.  Outside of my Atheist identity, I do not share any underrepresented identities (based on the ones in the CCP curricula).  This means that I get to operate in the world differently.

My dad never had to have a conversation with me about how to interact with police.  My mom never had to have a conversation with me about the dangers of STIs, specifically HIV/AIDs, in the gay community.  I never had my gender questioned based on what I was wearing.  I never had to map out my walking path to make sure there are ramps and proper lighting.  I have never been afraid to walk alone at night.  I always felt that I could be myself in any situation without being questioned.

A majority of the students I work with share similar identities to my own.  Many have not started to do the work that I have had to do over time.  I do my best to role model for them what it means to have these privileges.  I question them when they make comments.  I ask them to really think about what it means they just said.  I do it in a way they can learn from the conversation.  I do not want to shame them in the process.  I want them to think differently.  I cannot force them to change their point of view; however, I can get them to see another perspective.  I can ask them to look at things from a lens different from their own.  Many have never done that.  A lot of the time it is the first time their views have been challenged.

I have introduced activities to students and facilitated discussions where we explore identity and ask questions about the intersections of these identities.  It is amazing what can happen when the right environment and space is provided.  It has shown me that students are willing to engage in these conversations.  They are often scared to do it on their own without the support that mistakes will be made.  And trust me, mistakes are made and will continue to be made.  They really, really want to learn.  They want to share about themselves.  They want to hear from others.  It is up to us (educators) giving them the time, place, and skills to do this effectively.

The work is difficult, but oh so very important.  We cannot do this work well as professionals unless we are willing to put in the personal commitment.

My privilege and the intersections of my identity allow me to enter this work from a different place.  I am not the “angry, Black woman” or the “gay activist.”  I am a White, Straight, Cisgender, Able-bodied Male that cares about this work because I have grown to understand the importance of being inclusive; allowing people the space to be their true authentic selves.  I have benefitted from that experience.  I know that my advantage, my privilege, is that I have never had to be something that I am not.  Being able to live my true authentic self is liberating and reaffirming.  My goal is to provide spaces and opportunities for others to do the same.

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