Podcast Storytelling: Musack

My recounting of events with good friend Gregg Deal.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-7-musack/id1474444881?i=1000448779460

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The Mote and Beam of Race in America

If you are a white American, who feels blamed for all that is wrong with America, and you are getting tired of it- I understand. I know that feeling. I get it.

Some of you, or us, might have actually been called a honkie, or a cracker, but most of us have not. Most of us have never been accused of racism, or called a racist to our face. But we get that message on television, online, or in classrooms and books. It is out there. Most of us, with very few and far out exceptions, don’t hate anyone because of their color, and in fact, quite like and appreciate people of all sorts and descriptions. We know who we are on the inside and it is so very tiring to be told by others that we are something different. Something bad. Because we aren’t that.

 

Right.

 

I invite you, us, to just ponder this feeling for a moment. How despite not being directly accused, as in no person has said “{insert your name here} you are a racist and black people have it hard in America because you {insert your name} make it that way”, we still feel that blame. This message in the atmosphere causes us to feel a burden and shame that we either have to reject or bear. It does not feel right and that feeling takes a toll.

 

Now, having pondered that reality and that feeling, I ask you to consider, or imagine, what it must feel like for any average black person to live in America. Imagine being a black American who goes to a school named after Robert E. Lee, or whose neighbor flies a confederate flag, or whose town square has a statue commemorating the confederacy. Perhaps none of these things, or none of the people responsible for their existence, are there calling this black person the N-word, and maybe no one has refused them a job because they are black, but still, there is in this environment, a bad atmosphere. There is, and are, these physical manifestations that might not say “I hate you”, explicitly but rather just celebrate these people, or symbols, or times, that considered you, the black person, less than human. Just imagine how in every history class, on every 4th of July, before every sporting event, or every time you pay for something with cash, there are physical celebrations of individuals and times, that considered you, the black person, equal to animals and property. No one around you seems to care, or even notice.

 

No one is saying to this contemporary black American that they are an animal or less than human- but the face on that quarter said it.

 

Would that get tiring?

 

If you are a white person, like I am, and you feel the pressure or the angst or the frustration of being blamed or defamed, consider for a minute there are no government monuments in your life honoring Farrakhan or Elijah Muhammed. The United States of America has no holiday or currency that honors anyone who expressed an explicit hatred for, or belief in the inferiority of, you.

Nothing in your day to day life, puts you naturally in the position of honoring or paying homage to a person or institution, that explicitly and with federal sanction demeaned you.

 

The more I consider this, the more I think things are not the same. It isn’t an equivalent. I might still have some feelings, I for one have indeed been called all those names and been directly accused (in my mind unjustified), but even considering that I must admit that what I bear is far less significant, or even existent, than what my surroundings say to black people all the time.

 

It is like comparing a wisp of a ghost to the Secret Service. Neither really have anything to do with me or have any direct influence on my life, but I know one exists and can be touched, but I can’t really prove the other. One is obvious and indisputable, even if it doesn’t know me, while the other might just only be in my head.

 

So I, and we, the white folks, have this experience and this feeling, but I urge us to use this feeling to better understand, and perhaps empathize, but absolutely respect, those people, especially the black people, who choose to kneel during the anthem, who ask for statues to come down, who lobby for streets and schools to be renamed, or all of those people who might complain about something that you or we might consider insignificant or imagined, and just understand how big the beam is in our eyes. We cannot refuse or ignore or deride those who point out the tangible, when we ourselves harbor ghosts.

Is America Fair: what is white supremacy?

Does America treat black and white citizens equally?

If your answer is yes, then we must grapple with some additional, hard, questions.

If America treats black and white citizens equally then why does the median white family have 41 times more wealth than the median black family? (median white has $147,000 in wealth while black median is $3,500) https://inequality.org/facts/racial-inequality/

Why are black people incarcerated at a rate 6 times that of white people? (1,549 black prisoners for every 100,000 black citizens versus 272 white prisoners for every 100,000 white citizen). https://www.pewresearch.org/…/shrinking-gap-between-number…/

Why do 35% of White adults have college degrees while only 21% of black adults have the same? https://nces.ed.gov/progra…/raceindicators/indicator_RFA.asp

Why the huge gap in wealth, incarceration, and education?

Is it simply the result of individual choices?
Is it that black people are making poorer financial decisions, committing more crimes, and performing worse in school?

To say this, is to imply, directly, that white people make better financial moves, are more law abiding, and do better in school.

Another way of saying that, is to say, white people are better than black people.

If this is your answer it does not mean you hate black people. It does not mean you are evil.
But it does mean you need to grapple with the truth that this idea is the foundation of white supremacist ideology.

When we hear the term white supremacist, most of us envision a KKK member in a white hood, or a Neo Nazi with a shaved head, out committing violence against black or brown people. We are appalled and shocked that such people exist, we condemn them en masse, and none of us think we are anything like “them”. But really, if we think that the disparity between black and white in America is simply the result of black people making bad choices, then the only fundamental differences between “us” and the white supremacists, is hatred and violence.
But the ideology is the same.

The facts are that white people have vastly more wealth than black people, both overall and by percentage. Black people are exponentially more likely to serve, or have served, jail time than their white peers, and white people attend and complete college at much higher rates than black Americans. Are these just benign facts?

If America is fair, then are we to assume that white people are just smarter, better, and harder working than black people and these data points are just evidence? Or could it be something else?

Maybe our meritocracy, isn’t anywhere near as meritocratic as we like to believe.

I have known too many lazy, criminal, and non-academic white people to accept that things are fair. I myself, a white man, have lacked ambition, broken laws, for most of my teen years skipped my homework, and by many measures I am doing great.
Conversely, I have known far too many brilliant, savvy, and law-abiding black people who are not reaping the same harvest as their white counterparts. The cultural, or personal choice, disparity explanation simply doesn’t check out. It doesn’t bear up under investigation.
Yes, all choices have consequences, and we all make choices, but the outcomes, the consequences, are not uniform across the color line.

America simply does not treat black and white people equally.

We can fix this.

But we have to be willing to do the hard work- including the initial prerequisite wrestle with our own ideas and perceptions.

**By “America” I mean our legal system, our economy, and our day to day interpersonal lives.

American Pros and Cons

IMG_9146 (8)Suppose I am a philanthropist who gives one million dollars each year to a certain charity. I love their cause, I identify with it in some way, and it does good, so I in turn, do good.

But every time I see you, I punch you square in the nose. Hard.

Not like my brother and I growing up messing around sort of pop, but reconstructive surgery on your face sort of right cross between the eyes. And not just once, but pretty much every time we see each other, which is a lot, because you live in the basement of my house.

Would you care about my charitable giving? How would you feel about me?

Now what if the charity I loved, was one that helped people with broken noses get their faces reconstructed, and I, was a plastic surgeon? Every year I donate that million dollars and 10,000 children with deviated septum are made to be able to breathe through their noses despite their inability to afford the surgery otherwise. Then, on top of that, I grow wealthy doing the work of fixing people’s faces, whether it be from damage, or maybe just some elective cosmetic touch ups, because I am a plastic surgeon. That is what I do.

But every time I see you- pow! And not just you, I punch your family too. Your grandma, your kids, your little sister, every one of you who live in my basement (it’s a big basement), get socked in the face. I go straight-up Tasmanian devil on you and your loved ones till everyone within my reach are bloodied and battered.

How would you feel about me?

Would you care about my charity or vocation?

 

I am a white man and as such I am the beneficiary of my Uncle Sam’s charity. He gave me the vote and a bill of rights. He gave me land grants, and Pell Grants, a HUD home, and the GI Bill. He built me public schools and universities and reduced my work week to 40 hours. He taught me that I belonged in his home.

All the while this same uncle was punching other people in the face. He denied them citizenship and the vote, kept them out of schools, red lined them, barred their testimony from courts, allowed their murderers to go unpunished, and he took their money.

Who am I to tell these other people to look past all of that abuse and praise this uncle for the charity he gave to me?

Rowing Blazers: selling the club’s stuff to members and non-members alike

Most of us live in Ralph Lauren’s world, the one where we are a Lifshitz, which should be just fine, but in hopes of becoming something else, something we see as more, we put on the trappings of that more, portraying ourselves as belonging to, or being of, that other thing.

In Mr. Lauren’s case, he did it so well that he has not only gained admission to so much of that imitated world, but he has created a whole new universe built right over the top of that old one to the point that most of us are completely unaware of this past.

But this past still exists. As in it isn’t gone but is still alive; it just usually isn’t ours.

With an eye on this old world, I have watched this little brand, which grew out of a book, that sort of sprung from an old blog, up till just now, when I was able to go check it out in person.

Rowing Blazers has been written up by GQ and Esquire, all sorts of style or fashion folks that know much more than I, so I will stick with what I got myself from them directly.

Jack is doing the work. At the Los Angeles pop-up I found him glad handing in a way that appeared surprisingly invested. LA normally lives up to its reputation of shallow fixation on the who’s who brand of social climbing, and here we have a clothing style rooted in emblems and icons communicating very specific memberships, and here was Jack paying authentic attention to all sorts of nobodies. Like me.

I have a lot of experience with nobodies and a now solid set of associations with somebodies, and way to much intimacy with wannabees. I have learned that a defining characteristic of actual somebodies is that they do not, or no longer, need to try to act or project their somebodieness. Wannabees on the other hand must constantly police and buffer themselves against the nobodies lest such association put their charade in jeopardy.

Jack showed no interest in sleuthing my pedigree before paying me attention. I watched him act the same with others.

That works for me.

Now I have never met Ralph, and maybe he acts the same, and for all I know all of this is just an act, I know how that works, but this sort of access versus authenticity matters in the realm of tradition and clubs.

And that is most definitely the world Ralph, Jack, and any other trad, prep, ivy, or otherwise institutional representative style of clothing are engaging. But while Ralph once sued the American body governing the sport of rugby for infringing on his presumed ownership of the word “rugby” (I will never let that go), Jack sells a line of rugby shorts that celebrate the rebelliousness of that sport’s roots. While tried, and tries, to pass traditional emblems off as his own creation, Jack has published books explaining the history and meaning of sartorial emblems.

In the end they are both selling things originally meant to denote in group to those who are most decidedly not in, Rowing Blazers is at least being up front about it. I should also note that Rowing Blazers is also the official outfitter for USA Rugby, USA Rowing, and a whole bunch of other actual clubs or teams. It isn’t all for the masses.

 

How Much Will Being White Hurt My College Application: not at all

With news that the SAT is rolling out an adversity score for possible use in college admissions, I have been asked the question, “how much does being white, hurt my college application?”

I have been asked this question before (every time a white person talks to me seriously about college applications) and in light of this new metric I now have to answer with…

“Not at all.”

IMG_2382The truth is, being white has never hurt your chances of getting into college. Not even a little bit. Not even at the most liberal, left leaning, social justice minded institution will being white hurt your chances of getting into college.

When I give that answer, those who know and trust me, argue that this is the opposite of what everyone has ever told them. Those who don’t know or trust me, simply don’t believe me.

May I offer up some points of perspective?

At no top tier American university does any ethnic or racial group outnumber white people. Now, this does not mean that there are not schools, good ones too, where the majority of people are not white. Howard for example is a great school, and there are almost no white people there, but odds are if any remotely qualified white person were to apply- they would get in. It happens. But Howard isn’t really what most white people are worried about. They are more worried about Harvard, Princeton, or State U of wherever. Places they actually want to go, and are worried that their whiteness will be a disadvantage.

I understand.

I get it.

College is not only competitive but high stakes. That is why all those celebrities paid large sums of money to cheat their way in. Diversity is a hot button topic, everybody wants it, and if you as a white person think you don’t have any of that, then you feel disadvantaged.

I know.

I get it.

I may have actually both thought and felt that before. Thinking or feeling that doesn’t mean you are bad. But it does make you wrong.

If you step back for a moment and look at American colleges (or businesses, or government, or Hollywood) you will realize that all of those places and institutions are dominated and usually run, by white people. 80% of college presidents are white.

Yale’s student body is 52% white, Michigan is 65% white, and Harvard is 42% white. As you read that, you might screech to halt at Harvard and think, “that is less than half!” And you would be right. But what you might not go on to think about is that Harvard is not enrolling America, but rather the world, and the world is not white. In fact, that is part of why Harvard is being sued right now. Because the largest group next to white people is Asians (a large swath of ethnicities all lumped together) who make up 14% of the Harvard student body, but 60% of the globe’s population. In fact if you combine all of Europe and North America’s population, you only have approximately 19% of the world… and not all of those people are white. So how in the world (pun intended) are there so few Asians at Harvard… and so many white people? I added that last part. The plaintiff doesn’t mention the white people.

But not every school is Harvard.

Florida State is 62% white, “The” Ohio State is 68% white, and for so many of my friends and loved ones… BYU is 82% white.

Remember that most schools categorize students as white, LatinX, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, and other. At U Texas in Austin, a geography with a lot of non-white people, 41% of students are white while only 20% are LatinX. Written another way, the number of white students is double the size of next largest group. It takes all the non-white people bundled together (which isn’t how race and ethnicity functions in society), to ever outnumber the white people.

White people are not having trouble getting into good colleges.

Now there are some other things that will definitely hurt your chances of getting into a top college. Things like:

Not being rich.

Marginal grades.

Marginal SAT/ACT score.

Poorly written essay.

Being the first one in your family to apply to any given college.

Attending a high school that has not sent a student to a top college in our current lifetime.

Not applying.

 

Then there are things that will hurt your chances of getting into a good school:

Bad grades.

Bad SAT/ACT scores.

Poorly written essay.

Being poor.

 

These are different than the things that will hurt your chances of actually attending a good school:

Being afraid of loans.

Homesickness and family pressure.

Notice that being white is not on any of those lists.

Look, I know that there are articles, and people, and even actual policies out there directed at increasing the diversity of college classes. That is in fact a real thing. I participate in those things. That is part of my job. There are people who have dedicated their entire lives and billions of dollars and lobbied and sued and protested and legislated, and argued, and educated and done all sorts of things to push for diversity in college admissions but none of that equates to whiteness being an actual disadvantage.

College is too expensive and elitist and competitive -for everyone- and being brown skinned is not going to remove all the obstacles and check all the boxes and open all the doors that white students are expected to go through.

There is no sentry posted at any college gate with orders to bar the entry of white kids because they are white.

 

Never was.

 

 

Tyler Durden, Style Icon

Tyler Durden is not bound by convention. He does not play by the generally accepted rules of demeanor, modern capitalism, or clothing.

Getting recreationally punched in the face is attractive to very few people, until they see someone who looks unusually attractive getting his tooth cracked. Then suddenly people want to be that guy.

Were this guy wearing a standard business suit he would appear an authority figure and hence a bully if in fisticuffs.

If he were just wearing a t-shirt and jeans he would likely be dismissed as trailer trash whilst scuffling. 3DB3028A-5136-4D82-9EC2-7519DC886E35

There are those who would point out that Fight Club is just a movie and Tyler Durden isn’t a real person.

When it comes to fashion, Durden is every bit as real as Brad Pitt.