24 January 2010

Misguided compliment or positive stereotype?

Misguided compliment or positive stereotype?

By Nicole E. Avery

GVL Columnist

In Monday's edition of the Lanthorn you can find printed responses from students who were asked the question, "How have you been stereotyped?" in the "Your Insights" section on the Opinion page.

Of course there are obvious responses that jump to the forefront of my mind when I see/read the word stereotyped -- skin color, race, hairstyles, clothing, accents -- but being too smart?

Being stereotyped as someone who is good at math apparently upset one Grand Valley State University student -- "I always get people that think I'm really good at math. Honestly, I'm not bad, but they shouldn't assume that."

Was this student really complaining about people thinking she was too smart? I'm glad the student took the time to clarify she is somewhat smart or good at math but is not a genius and does not appreciate being stereotyped as such.

I have never in my life heard someone of a certain ethnic heritage complain about being stereotyped "smart." Maybe it's just because there are loads of negative stereotypes on which people mainly focus.

I'll apologize in advance for singling this particular student out for her quote, but reading her response raised the question in my mind whether all stereotyping is really negative. Can people benefit from positive stereotypes, or because the fact is still untrue, would assuming something about another person ultimately have a negative affect?

If it's not meant in an oppressive, negative way, why even waste your time complaining about it? If someone looked at me and said, "Wow, Nicole is biracial, I bet she is fantastic at bingo," I would smile because that is a silly correlation and because I think of old people when I think of bingo -- which is technically a stereotype.

It's a free country, so it is everyone's inherent, American right to complain about whatever they like, but it's a proven, scientific fact you exert less energy and use less muscles when smiling as opposed to frowning.

My point is there are enough negative things to be upset about and I am not going to sit around and be offended by things that don't really matter -- it's hard enough dealing with real racial or other types of offensive comments.

If someone thinks I have a certain skill, I'll just accept his or her assumptions of my talents whether it's entirely true or only "mostly" true and I'll accept them as a compliment.


Haiti—When to give when to not

Haiti—When to give when to not
By Nicole E. Avery
GVL Columnist

The roar from the rumbling earthquake in Haiti has been echoing in the news and across Grand Valley State campuses all week and has reminded me of the resounding amount of pressure felt by the American people to come to the aid of any country in substantial need of assistance.

An article online from Associated Press writer “Haiti: Where will all the money go?” an article
Sharon Theimer states that, “President Barack Obama promised at least $100 million in earthquake aid. That comes on top of substantial spending by the United States in Haiti in recent years for economic development, such as the country's textile industry, humanitarian assistance, environmental programs, and law enforcement.”

How can we send $100 million dollars in aid to Haiti but force students to pay back the Michigan Promise scholarship?

Why are senators suggesting an annual foreign assistance budget specifically for Haiti and ignore the problems and frustrations of our own people?

It isn’t right and it’s not acceptable.

How is it possible that the U.S. has sent over $800 million to the government of Haiti since 2004 and yet the quality of living for the Haitian people has not improved?

Treating others how you would like to be treated is a basic universal principle instilled in all races, creeds, and religions and the ability to care about people that you’ve never met is one of the most amendable aspects of humanity.

Guilt is another universal part of the human existence that will be at some point or another in your life and is unavoidable. Some people feel guilty about not being able to sending money to aid impoverished countries like Haiti while others feel guilty about—for whatever reason—not wanting to send money at all.

The people who are hesitant to send aid to Haiti are so for two reasons: They’re afraid their money is going to be sucked up by the government and never reach the people of Haiti, and because they’re angry that the American government can take care of everyone else but their own.

There are three things that haven’t changed in the past decade at least—Haiti was a poor country before the earthquake, the will remain as such until their government begins to function in a way that directly benefits the people of Haiti and the U.S. and other countries are still sending money to Haiti that is not being even remotely used as it should be.

Governments have a responsibility to take care of the needs of their own people first.

The people of Haiti do need outside help, but Haiti should be receiving really help and support from their own government. The Haitian government needs to make a real effort and use some of the millions of dollars sent to them to actually rebuild their country.

I’m not against aiding anyone in need but I am against my government ignoring the needs of my own people to help someone else. I believe we can have both but it will take the Haitian government meeting us more than half way and more help from other wealthy countries.


10 January 2010

Game of 'Life' is no game

Game of 'Life' is no game

By Nicole E. Avery GVL Columnist

Remember the board game called The Game of Life?

It was originally created in 1860 as a checker board game by Milton Bradley and called simply The Checkered Game of Life. I didn't realize the game was that old or that possibly Charles Dickens or Nathaniel Hawthorn could have played it. As time went on the game evolved and ironically the latest edition, done in 2005, includes a "lawsuit" feature at which I can't help but smile.

I played it recently with some close friends. The idea of playing came up as a joke started after my friend mentioned earlier he had been sent home as a disciplinary action from his Meijer job with the advice from his manager to "take the time to consider his future."

We set up the board and I was allowed to pick my little plastic sedan first and place it at the start.

From the very beginning of the game you're accosted with decision making. The first choice was deciding whether to take out $100,000 in tuition loans or go straight to a career -- of course I picked the most realistic to my own life and chose the debt.

Since none of the people playing were under the age of 12, it went relatively fast. I'll admit it was fun. I became a wealthy accountant, while my friend who got sent home from his job went through three careers, filled up his plastic minivan with children and with every other turn was either fined, taxed, sued or in some sort of accident resulting in medical fees.

In the end, my friend managed to pay off his massive debt just in the nick of time before entering retirement.

I -- of course -- won the game, but when I found myself gloating over my successful fictitious life I started to wonder what was the point of this game.

The game has obvious undertones that suggest every choice leads to another choice, and if you make a well-thought-out choice you'll eventually come out on top.

Of course I'm not going to let a board game give me a false sense of achievement or confidence because it is only a simulation of life, but it was nice to be successful at something, and the idea that making smarter choices in the present will pay off in the future isn't that far stretched of a concept.

Life isn't as cut and dry as a board game but every action does have a reaction. The wrong choices seem to spiral out of control similar to a horrifying domino effect.

If I could save myself some grief by making a more conscious effort to be aware of my own actions and choices, I think the benefit would be well worth my time.