Commercialism: xenophobic, racist, and sexist

One of the most worrying aspects of our society is the extraordinary racism and sexism that continues to permeate it. Look around you—look at the UNC poster on the wall or the picture of Kim Kardashian’s birthday party from the Instagram feed on your phone.

Beneath the message they consciously display—that you like the Heels or that you’re in tune with pop-culture trends—can lie a more sinister one. Notice that the poster shows a black person who is famous for playing basketball while the Instagram post shows a white person who is famous for being famous.

This racial disparity is just one of the many forms of discrimination in our society today; others include the gender pay-gap or the intensely-negative sentiments towards Muslims.

However, more dangerous than just the existence of this discrimination is the way that it is perpetuated. Discrimination is peddled not only by bigots with orange faces, but also by the defining facet of our American society: commercialism.

Beyond various other material issues that this system creates, the far and-away worst part of commercialism is its ability to perpetuate cultural norms that are—very unfortunately— xenophobic, racist or sexist.

The genius of modern commercialism is advertising. The best advertisements have always been the ones that appeal to their audience on a subconscious level—they appeal to desires that I myself may not even realize I have.

It isn’t until I see my favorite rapper wearing Vans that—on a subconscious level—I realize I want a pair. While this subconscious marketing does fit into our increasingly globalized and capitalist world—a world that brings some marked upsides—it has some distinct downsides.

The negative side of advertising can also be seen in the Vans example; Vans uses Black rappers to market their shoes, preying upon the societal expectation that there is something cool about being black and making music to drive up sales. Black rappers aren’t often seen in advertisements for things that imply a more settled, suburban or white lifestyle—things like cleaning products or groceries.

This race-based divide in advertising is just one example of a plethora of discriminatory undertones perpetuated by commercialism. The effects of these undertones can be characterized only as extremely negative, and it’s something that I’ve recently begun to notice more and more in my daily life.

However, advertising isn’t the only industry guilty of perpetuating those aforementioned attitudes through certain undertones.

Hollywood executives will often point to the monetary advantages of sticking with their tried-and-tested formats for white male-led movies, but what they’re actually talking about there is the very cycle that reinforces this archaic discrimination. Because films with white male leads have been successful, their success is mostly ensured just by pop-culture inertia. Therefore, executives who are just looking to turn a profit have very little motivation to try an alternative film format—perhaps one with female or non-white leads.

Don’t take this as an attack on capitalism or Hollywood, though. In most cases (I would hope), companies don’t even know beforehand that their products, content or advertisements are having such a negative impact on the national consciousness.

Instead, all the companies see is the easiest way to extract the most profit. And without regulations or incentives to make or market their products in any other way, there’s simply no reason for anything to change—especially when their current methods are working so well.

The United States’ GDP in 2013 was sixteen trillion dollars (World Bank). around 65 percent, or ten trillion dollars, of that was consumer spending (Bureau of Economic Analysis).

If we assume that discriminatory attitudes permeate even half of the consumer products in the US, then the pure immenseness of this problem could create disillusionment with our country’s ability to combat it.

But any small progress counts.

The biggest action I’ve taken in my personal battle against misogyny and racism is pointing out instances of these discriminatory feelings, in the hope that by consciously acknowledging the feelings, I will be better able to not perpetuate them through my own actions.

My confidence in our country—and in turn the rest of the world—in overcoming these issues stems from seeing an advent of conversations around sexism, racism and many other pressing issues in the past few years. No progress in fixing something can be made before the problems are acknowledged and diagnosed, and that’s the stage I’m at now.

Now, of course, it’s easy to just talk about fixing something; the hard part remains ahead, in actually implementing definitive and meaningful measures to end these problems, likely in the form of legislation. That stage represents the true challenge and is something that we should all hope to be a part of.

 

The neglected aftermath of Matthew

Stepping off the ferry onto Grand Bahama Island after 21 continuous hours of traveling felt like seeing the sun for the first time after weeks of rain. That was until we took a second look and noticed the torn off roofs, litter on the streets and the destruction of almost every building.

My siblings and I were bouncing off the walls with excitement because we had never gone on an exotic vacation as a family before, but once we got there, the island was not exactly how we expected it to be.

The first thing we noticed was the trash. It was everywhere: in the trees, in the water, in the middle of the road, on the beach, in the village—everywhere. Along with the trash, all of the palm trees were destroyed. All of the branches were ripped apart and all of the remains were just swept to the side of the road. Similar to palm trees, the houses were ripped to shreds. With winds of over 100 mph, it’s not wonder Hurricane Matthew had a huge impact on these tiny islands.

I arrived almost three months after Hurricane Matthew hit, and the Grand Bahama Island is still suffering from its destruction. Christmas is supposed to be one of the busiest times of the year in the Bahamas, but after the hurricane, only one of the hotels on the island was open. The other hotels had their roofs blown off, windows shattered or paint removed. The hurricane’s destruction left the island a barren mess.

My family had no idea the island would be this beaten. We expected some damage, but nothing to this extent. The island stopped making money after Matthew hit, making it almost impossible to fix the hotels, pick up the trash and replant the trees that were destroyed. Most of the tourists on the island come from cruise ships, but a lot of them stopped visiting the islands after the hurricane hit. This left almost all of the people who live and work in the Bahamas with little to no customers and little to no money.

As a country, we are so oblivious to the effects of natural disasters that do not directly affect us. Families had their homes torn apart, shops ripped from the ground and businesses were ruined by debt.

We are so lucky to live in a place that can recover quickly from any disaster that is thrown our way, as rarely as that happens, and we continuously take it for granted.

Hurricane Matthew hit NC pretty badly as well, but North Carolinians are not as reliant on tourism and the beauty of our land as Bahamians. We were able to clear up the destruction much faster than the people of the Bahamas. Disasters like this happen frequently, and although we help at first, a week after the event, it is forgotten and we move on with our comfortable lives.

 

Watch your words

Many people try their best to be politically correct and inoffensive, but sometimes it’s the little things that escape us and can accidentally hurt someone. I get it. Remembering that what you say has a different effect on everyone is hard. Small jabs or comments can affect someone we didn’t even think was listening. And even here where we’d like to think that everyone is open and respectful, there are still instances where a stray judgement can cause upset.

Something that I have personally experienced here at CHS, a place where I would like to feel safe, is the abundance of rape jokes meant to impress friends.

But making an offhand joke about rape or assault is anything but impressive, or funny for that matter. The sad truth is that you don’t know who around you has personally been affected by rape or assault of any kind. A crude remark could reopen the wounds of someone who doesn’t want to rehash traumatic memories.

It is never okay to make fun of serious issues like domestic violence, sexual assault or objectifying someone’s body for the amusement of others, just as it is not okay to joke about someone’s socioeconomic status, race, sexuality or religion.

Microaggressions are a common problem that go unacknowledged. For example, telling someone they speak well because they are a stereotypically inarticulate race. Microaggressions are unintentional, which is all the more reason to think about how the undertone of what you’re about to say could accidentally hurt someone.

There are countless ways to say something that could offend someone, but it can go beyond that. You don’t know what someone has been through, and that creates a fine line between being offensive and unintentionally offending someone because of a crass joke or quick assumption.

Being mindful of your words can be simpler than it seems. If thinking before you speak is difficult for you, one thing you can do is to just be considerate of others around you. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t ever change what you say. You might regret it later, apologize for it or even change your opinion on what you said, but you can’t go back to the original moment when you first uttered the cutting remarks.

Not everyone is going to be the epitome of kindness all the time, but we can put forth a little extra effort to make sure we’re being considerate and respectful. So before you make an assumption about someone or something you know nothing about, stop. Think about who this could seriously affect, and try being a little more mindful.

 

CHS wrestling wins States

On February 18, the CHS wrestling season came to a close, marking the end of a successful season for the entire Jaguar team. The season culminated with a victory at the 2A State Championship.

Winning states was preceded by a hard-fought victory at Regionals. On February 2, the team competed and won against Wheatmore High School.

Senior Emmanuel O’Quaye, completing his second full season due to injuries in his freshman and junior years, commented on the effort that he and his teammates had to put forth in order to succeed.

“You get what you give. When you’re on the mat it’s just you and the person you’re competing against,” said O’Quaye.

After the victory at Wheatmore, the team geared up to wrestle in the team state championship. Before the competition, however, the team went to the dual-team state championship, where they lost 32-28 to Newton Conover City School.

Ultimately, however, Newton Conover gave up the title when it was discovered that they used an academically ineligible wrestler.

CHS didn’t let the loss get them down, however, and got right back to work preparing for the team state championship two weeks later. That work was clearly evident by the season’s end.

David Veltri, junior, described the atmosphere and mood heading into the final test of the season.

“States was fun. We showed up there trying to show the whole state that we’re the best team,” said Veltri.

Coach DeWitt Driscoll has been an integral part in the team’s success this year. In an interview, he spoke about the reasons for CHS’s success.

“I think the team dynamic was great this year and it definitely showed on the mat,” said Driscoll, speaking on the season as a whole. “Overall, all the guys put 100 percent effort into this season, and it has definitely been one of our best.”

The season is over, and the seniors who finished their last wrestling season at CHS are proud of their accomplishments.

“These past years on the team have been great and definitely shaped me to be the person I am today,” said senior Curtis Selby, who took on a leadership role this season.

For Selby and other seniors, the win is bittersweet.

“I will definitely miss wrestling. These past years have been the greatest moments of my life,” said Selby.

Clams carry CHS spirit

For most high school teams, the prospect of not being associated and funded by their school would stop them in their tracks. The Carrboro Clams, a club frisbee team, however, are used to it. For the “Clamily” this dependence has never been a problem.

“It’s not very hard. Sometimes logistics are difficult but all of the players are very driven and independent,” said senior Ben Heuser regarding the student-run aspect of Frisbee.

That’s not to say the Clams being a club doesn’t influence the team at all though.

“The biggest influence of being a club is not having access to school fields – we’re about to lose our practice fields and don’t have a backup,” said Heuser.

Since their main practice field is located at Lincoln Center, some recently-unveiled plans bode very poorly for the Clams. With plans to replace the fields out front of the center with a parking lot, the Clams will have to find a practice field, and fast.

The Clams don’t let this get them down however, as they prefer to look at the positives.

“I really like that Ultimate Frisbee is a club and not a sanctioned school sport. While the Clams might not have field space at Carrboro, we gain a lot of flexibility in our practice scheduling,” said senior captain Connor Greene.

Once again, the Clams prefer to look at the positives.

“We have the ability to attend several tournaments every year, which give new [and returning] players a lot of valuable experience.” said Greene. “But the best part about the Clams is how relaxed it is, but also how much people care about and each other. It’s a lot of fun, but we get serious when we need to.”

But no matter how intense it can get, the Clams always keep the fun-loving and positive attitude that make them one of CHS’s best, and quirkiest, teams; sanctioned or not.

Shadowing a student

Upperclassmen thinking about college would benefit from shadowing a student at a local university. My experience shadowing a friend at UNC taught me about college life and what to actually expect.
Growing up in Chapel Hill, I’ve never felt the need to spend extensive time at UNC because I felt like I already knew the school. In fact, UNC has never been my top school of choice because it felt too close to home, and I wanted to go to a completely new place. But when I spent a day with my friend Claire, a freshman at UNC, I came away feeling differently.

For the first half of the day I joined Claire for the three classes she had. What surprised me most about her classes was how they were structured. In high school, most classes don’t exceed 25 students and the level of individual attention is greater. However, Claire’s classes had upwards of 50 students with teachers that didn’t know all their student’s names. The lack of one on one connections made me feel worried about class in college because the teachers wouldn’t be able to help me on the same level my high school teachers have.

After class, I walked with Claire to the Rams Head dining hall on South Campus. As I walked in, I was greeted with an array of culinary options: Mexican, Mediterranean, Chinese and Italian. I could choose from any type of food imaginable.

During lunch, Claire and I talked about the preconceived notions many students had about UNC, and how accurate they truly were. For example, I’d always expected college dorms to be a vast hallway with one bathroom. But Claire’s dorm was a shocking six bedroom suite with a shared bathroom.

Claire and I spoke about the concern that many CHS students have about going to UNC—that the university is so close to home and, perhaps, an extension of high school. However, she said that being at UNC was a completely different world, even though she had also grown up in Chapel Hill. She also highlighted the potential upside of living close to home: she can go home for the weekends, have access to her car and do laundry for free.

I appreciated Claire telling me about the unglamorous aspects of college like the loss of personal space and the fear of being one step closer to the real world. We talked about how the college tours we’d been on never mentioned the hardships some students face when entering college and that tours can often feel misleading.

Had I not taken a day off and experienced a day in the life of a student, I wouldn’t have understood some of the realities—positive and negative—of college. For Carrboro students unsure about their paths, I highly recommend living the life of a college student—even for just a day.

Students on the Slopes

On Friday, February 3, seven hours away from Carrboro in temperatures that dipped into the single digits, 29 CHS students were ripping down the ski slopes. After waking up at 4:30 am and driving through the morning to get to Snowshoe Mountain, in West Virginia, everybody was on the slopes by 2:00pm. The group stayed two nights in the resort hotel. Most attendees skied into the night on Friday, throughout the day and night on Saturday and then on Sunday morning.

This was the second ski trip for the CHS Outdoor Club. Last year, a group of 25 students drove four hours to Wintergreen Mountain, in Virginia. This year, however, the club opted for the longer drive to West Virginia in return for Snowshoe’s guarantee: “more open terrain than any other ski mountain in the Southeast.”

The decision paid off, according to sophomore Alex Naismith, who said, “Yes, so much better—like one-hundred times better,” said Naismith when asked about his preference for Snowshoe.

While most of the trip’s attendees were fairly experienced skiers or snowboarders, some were still learning. CHS Junior Izzy Benson, for example, had not been skiing in more than three years before the trip. However, similar to everybody else, she said she had fun.

There was one attendee who didn’t have a good time: Camden Aguilar, who broke his collarbone
on Saturday morning. However, after being taken care of by Snowshoe medics, he was in good spirits during his recovery.

Sunday morning, after skiing for a couple hours, everyone packed their bags and got back on the bus. The group left West Virginia around 11:45am, leaving just enough time to get home for the Super Bowl.

After a weekend of skiing, and friends in West Virginia, all the returning members of the Outdoor Club are already looking forward to next year’s ski trip.

Side-stepping sportsmanship

April 6, 2015: Grayson Allen becomes one of the most well-liked and highly lauded freshman collegiate men’s basketball players in the nation as he drops 16 points to lead Duke to a victory in the National Championship game against Wisconsin. December 21, 2016: Allen becomes one of the most hated players in college basketball as he receives a technical foul for tripping an opponent during a game against Elon.

Going into his sophomore season, Allen ranked highly until two tripping incidents lessened his accomplishments on the court. Now in his junior year, Allen’s talents have been largely undermined by his alleged sportsmanship infractions. His credibility suffered a third blow most recently on December 21. Allen received a technical foul for tripping an opponent during a game against Elon. ESPN aired footage of Allen being restrained by team managers in response to the technical foul call.

After this third offense—followed by an unprecedented tantrum on the sidelines—Allen was suspended for one game before returning to his position on the Duke Basketball team. Coach Mike Krzyzewski also stripped Allen of his captaincy.

The issue of sportsmanship led to consequences in regard to Allen’s actions. CHS track and field coach Melvin Griffin believes that sportsmanship speaks to a person’s character, including family values passed down through generations.

“Sportsmanship represents the way you hold your name, the school name on the front of your jersey, the name on the back, your teammates and your family,” said Griffin.

Sportsmanship may also hold roots in team performance. Following the Elon game and Allen’s suspension, the Blue Devils went on to lose their next four out of seven games. This period of rough losses pushed Duke down to sixth in the ACC after being ranked as the top team nationally in a CBS preseason ranking.

Duke’s struggle has come both around the time of Allen’s sportsmanship infractions and Coach Krzyzewski’s leave of absence due to medical issues. In evaluation of Duke’s less- than-stellar- or unexpectedly mediocre- performance this season, sportsmanship can affect both team chemistry and performance in games.

According to Natasha Turner, CHS senior and Duke Soccer commit, sportsmanship is key to a team’s success in games for all sports.

“Sportsmanship is important because you have to take ownership of your actions and have the respect of your teammates and fans. Without sportsmanship, a lot of things can go wrong within the team which translates outside of it in games,” said Turner.
A win against top rival UNC on Thursday, February 9 led Duke to jump up six spots in national rankings to number 12 in the country with a 22-5 record (twenty wins and five losses).

While the Blue Devils still have a lot to prove heading into the NCAA tournament season, this win may be just what Duke needs to fully recover from a losing streak and the consequences of sidestepping sportsmanship.

 

The boy wearing the Trump shirt

Trump/Pence” and “Make America Great Again 2016” printed in bold red, white and blue on the T-shirt. That morning, I woke up and knew; today I had to put that shirt on.

Passing the shirt everyday, I felt it had a certain power that I feared. That morning I knew I had to subject myself to its power to get the answers I needed. I had no idea how a t-shirt alone could have so much power or how exactly it would manifest itself when I got to school, but I was determined to find out—determined and scared.

First period came to an end. On my way out I had a brief exchange with a student; we’ll call her “A” for the purposes of anonymity. As expected, she asked me why I was wearing the t-shirt.

“Because I voted for him,” I said.

Her response intrigued me, “I’m shocked because of how you answered Katie yesterday.” She was referring to a conversation between me and a girl in my Statistics class that she had overheard. We spoke about police brutality. I gave her a lot of responses, but for the most part I condemned the assault of my people by the same force that was tasked to protect us.

In response to student A’s comment, I let out an awkward laugh and then headed to class. I chewed on what she had said for a bit: even if I did, why would voting for Trump mean that I’m okay with the destruction of my people?

Then the heavy truth revealed itself; the power of the t-shirt was that it could erase me, all that I stood for and who I was as a person.

With it on, I was only a “Trump Supporter” in the eyes of my community. This problem lies with the people who give a shirt that power; those who look at someone through a narrow lens of political affiliation, race, color, religion, or social class, then let that one aspect alone, define a person.

At Carrboro, I always felt that there was a strong emphasis on acceptance, tolerance and love. On the day I wore that T-shirt all of those morals laid down before their tribal imperative.

“Don’t touch me”

“F–k off”

“We can’t be friends anymore”

These were all hateful comments I received at Carrboro for wearing a Trump shirt. The love and tolerance I knew disappeared, and all that was left in the eyes of most was disdain. That is the initial effect of one-dimensionalizing a person; it reduces them to friend or foe, then justifies whatever comes next.

The one-dimensionalization of real people has many more visceral impacts that may mean more to you all at CHS— much more visceral than a few hateful comments and sideways looks at school. Recall February 26, 2012: this was the day that day Trayvon Martin was shot. The man who shot Trayvon saw a black boy, nothing more. He saw that black skin and it was enough for his conscience mind to take a break and murder that child. This is the rawest effect of one-dimensionalizing real people.

Both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin had been pulled into a war where they must forfeit everything that made them a real person other than their skin color. The sad reality is that we all see out of narrow lenses, just as Zimmerman did.

We focus on the fact the she’s muslim, he voted for Trump, and he’s black, etc, deepening the ignorant hate felt by all sides.

The takeaway from this is not that all people are hopelessly hateful, although we do all have hateful tendencies. I have come to learn there is hope in this message.

I found hope in something that a girl in Spanish class said to me, “It’s ok if you do [support Trump], I just wanna know why.”

She was asking me if I really supported Donald Trump, but I could see that her perception of who I was as a person hadn’t changed. She remembered that I too struggled in the same ways we all do and love the same ways we all do.

This is what I offer you as a solution: in order to save ourselves from the fight, we must consciously evaluate people. Perhaps if Zimmerman had consciously evaluated Trayvon he would’ve realized that the boy in front of him was so much more than the color of his skin.

If we start to consciously evaluate people, we may be able to find common ground necessary to reach across party lines, religious lines and racial lines to bridge the gap between us and them, ending the the ever-so illusive war caused by one-dimensionalizing real people.

 

Teachers outside the class: the arts

Here at the JagWire, we focus on the student arts a lot, but for this issue we decided it was time that we shed light on the artistic talents and hobbies of some of CHS’ favorite teachers.

Ms. Rubenstein, craftmaking

What marked the beginning of your hobby? And why did you decide on this particular hobby?

When I was little, I used to do origami. I had books on origami, and I could figure out how to make things out of origami without being able to read the instructions. So, as I got older, I was always making things with my hands. It’s what I like to do, and it’s very easy for me to do. I’ve made all kinds of jewelry, but this kind in particular I learned online.

Do you take requests? What’s the weirdest request you’ve received?

People would describe certain colors, or come look at my beads, then pick the colors they liked. Then I would make what they wanted. I don’t have a weird request, but the weirdest behavior was someone who needed to come and touch the beads to figure out which beads she wanted me to use. She sat for about an hour and a half with all of my beads until she knew which beads she wanted me to use.

Between teaching and your hobby – if you had the opportunity to invest in your hobby full time, would you? Why or why not?

No, because teaching is my profession, and teaching is the only thing I want to do; jewelry is what I want to do when I’m not teaching. When I’m no longer teaching, I would definitely continue making jewelry. attend craft fairs.

If your students asked you to make something for them, would you be willing to?

It depends on how much money they offered me. I make earrings and I make bracelets—earrings cost about $25 to $35, bracelets cost about $50, and then necklaces cost about $70. These beads all came from Europe, because I was living in Europe at the time. I order them from Rome and Paris. I use Czechoslovakian crystals and Swarovski crystals, and then the beads come from Japan.

Ms. Moorehead, Paperhand Puppet

What marked the beginning of your hobby? And why did you decide on this particular hobby?

I grew up in a very artistic family. My mom and dad are both performers; they met in orchestra and my dad still plays as a brass musician, in pits for a lot for shows. My mom is really into sewing, so she started costuming. My brother is an engineer, and he was really interested in lights, so he started doing lights. I am ten years younger than my eldest sibling, so as the youngest sibling I was dragged along to everything, and I became everybody’s assistant for everything. I think I was dragged around so much that I started picking up bits of skills here and there, and a little bit of everybody, and found my own little niche.

Do you take requests? What’s the weirdest request you’ve received?

Paperhand does really quirky things and that’s why I really liked them. Paperhand is different from any other creative program you’ll ever work with because it doesn’t come with a script. It comes with Donovan and Jan’s crazy ideas, and we sit down and have coffee and they start talking about creatures that they see in their heads. One of my favorites is the bag beast, where we took hundreds and hundreds of plastic bags and hand sewed them pants and a tunic, and made this head piece where when you moved its arms it would move and below. It was crazy. It was one of the most bizarre things I’ve spent a day doing, sorting plastic bags and making a giant slime creature out of felt.

Between teaching and your hobby – if you had the opportunity to invest in your hobby full time, would you? Why or why not?

I don’t know because I enjoy the act of sparking other people’s imaginations. There are a lot of times where we’re working on shows where I have an idea, but I like to give a little wiggle room to see where other people’s imaginations goes. That’s the most fun for me, when you’re working with someone and you can collaborate, then something starts out as this little idea and it’s grown into all these images drawn out into these sketches. Then, you’re all excited about it coming to life. I love being part of a collaborative build crew, whether it’s peer to peer, or peer to student, or teacher to student. That the joy of dreaming something up and making it come to life is just awesome.