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October 16, 2014 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-10-16

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4A -Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

4A -Thursday, October16, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com
MEGAN MCDONALD
PETER SHAHIN and DANIEL WANG KATIE BURKE
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS MANAGING EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Is Ebolapopulation control?

time. Given the time and guid-
ance to work through problems in
an environment less constrained
by the pressures and the threat
of failure imposed by tests, more
students, even the ones who didn't
believe in themselves at first, might
experience success, ultimately giv-
ing them self-confidence and skills
for future study.
In classrooms with a structured
curriculum and limited resources,
that kind of environment and
continual practice isn't always
easy to provide. According to
Kimball, "even for young kids,

school is kind of high pressure."
In an environment outside of or
after school, that pressure might
be limited, allowing more time for
mistakes, and more time to work
through and find the right answer.
As I've noted from the outset,
I'm not a STEM major. Unlike some
of our politicians and business
leaders, I'm not totally convinced
that the fact that so many people
want to major in non-STEM fields
is quite the problem it's been made
it out to be. However, the reason
why some students might avoid
STEM education is a problem. The

idea that people that might not
pursue something - anything -
because of an erroneous belief that
that they can't succeed in that area,
reinforced by their experiences in
school, is something that we've got
to change. In addition to current
solutions, creating an environment
where students believe that they
can succeed will invariably create
more successes. All things equal,
that is something worth pursuing.
- Victoria Noble can be
reached at vjnoble@umich.edu.

4

uring Fall Break I had a bit more time
for leisure activities, so I spent some
time browsing social media sites, Face-
book, Instagram, etc. While
scrolling through Facebook,
a friend shared a link to a
Yahoo article titled, "Chris
Brown Thinks Ebola Is a r
FormofPopulationControl."
Being a fan of the well-3
known R&B singer wasn't
the sole reason for clicking
on the article. "Thinks Ebola SIERRA
Is a Form of Population BROWN
Control" really stuck out
and bothered me. I hoped
Brown's thoughts were misconstrued, because
no one in their right mind could possibly
compare the deaths resulting from Ebola to
population control. Thus, I began reading the
article with the anticipation that its contents
wouldn't be as bad as the title made it sound.
The article disclosed that Chris Brown shared
his thoughts concerning Ebola on Twitter. He
apparently tweeted, "I don't know ... But I think
this Ebola epidemic is a form of population
control. S--t is getting crazy bruh." Wanting
this tweet to be somewhat of a bad joke, I typed
it into Google and found many other sources
restating the claims of the Yahoo article. In a
matter of seconds I received about 2,270,000
results referring to Chris Brown'stweet.
After offering his thoughts on the Ebola
outbreak, many of Brown's 13.7 million Twitter
followers disagreed with his judgment. Minutes
after his first tweet, Brown tweeted, "Let me
shut my black a-- up!" That would probably be
best. The comment seemed very unnecessary
and slightly ignorant. Was Brown hinting that
governments are screwed up enough to target
people through an infectious and fatal disease? If
so, what proofhad he beengiven?Maybe he tried
his luck at saying something intelligent but his

comments backfired. Perhapsahe was regretful of
his Ebola tweet, and tried to retract it by sending
his secondtweetaboutshuttingup.
However, the outrage and angry tweets did
not cease. @TheMichaelMoran tweeted, "You
know what the discussion of the Ebola epidemic
needed? More stupid. Here comes Chris Brown."
@WarrenHolstein stated, "Chris Brown
tweeted that Ebola is 'a form of population
control.' He should try it."
@MyPresidentPK commented, "Chris
Brown's wondering if Ebola is a form of
population control Obviously it isn't. DUH. If it
was, we would have given it to him first."
While some of these tweets may seem a bit
harsh, it's not hard to see why his Twitter follow-
ers were upset. The Ebola outbreak has caused
more than 4,000 deaths, according to the World
Health Organization. While it affected multiple
countries in West Africa, cases were diagnosed
in Spain as well as the United States. Recently, a
U.S. patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, died and the
nurse treating him, Nina Pham, tested positive
for the disease. Thus, the Ebola outbreak is noth-
ing short of dangerous and deadly. For this to be
the case, it seems highly unnecessary to suggest
that these sudden, unfortunate deaths are a form
of population control.
However, not all of Chris Brown's
followers had negative feedback. ABC 7, Los
Angeles, released an article sharing tweets
from supporters of Brown's Ebola theory. @
MaronzioVance tweeted, "Hate to say it. But
I agree with Chris Brown for the first time
ever. Ebola is a form of population control.
Love it or leave it." Since more than a few
people agreed with the popular singer, maybe
he's not as crazy as many write him off as. Is
it possible that he's just brave enough to say
what many people are thinking?

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS
Devin Eggert, David Harris, Rachel John, Jacob Karafa,
Jordyn Kay, Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald, Victoria Noble,
Allison Raeck, Melissa Scholke, Michael Schramm,
Matthew Seligman, Paul Sherman, Linh Vu, Meher Walia,
Mary Kate Winn, Daniel Wang, Derek Wolfe
ANITHA MENON
The unbearable weight of sunlight

i

- Sierra Brown can be reached
at snbrown@umich.edu.

If you really want STEM majors....

So let me start by saying that I'm
not studying science, technology,
engineering or math - otherwise
known as the STEM fields.
So you might be wonder
why, as someone much
more interested in history 0
and politics, I am writing
anything about math and
science.
Let me explain.
For the past couple of
years, there has been a VICTORIA
litany of calls for more NOBLE
STEM majors to fill the
halls of our universities
and to eventually innovate enough to propel
our economy into the future. There have been
economic concerns, notably that "only 5% of
U.S. workers are employed in fields related to
science and engineering, yet they are respon-
sible for more than 50% of our sustained eco-
nomic expansion," as business leader Rodney
C. Adkins wrote in a 2012 Forbes piece. What
is even more worrying from this perspective
is that other countries are educating far more
of STEM majors than the United States. Ever
concerned with the possibility of U.S. decline,
politicians at every level have weighed in with
a variety of solutions to combat the decline of
interest in math and sciences.
This election cycle, we will almost
certainly hear just as many if not more of
these ideas. According to Michigan.gov, Gov.
Rick Snyder called for Michigan to become
a leader providing opportunities for STEM
education. Snyder backed up these words by
spending $3 million and allocating another
$2 million in the 2015 education budget for
FIRST Robotics - a program that tasks
student participants with designing, building
and financing robots. The robots then duke it
out with other teams' robots in competition.
It's clear from his commendable actions that
our governor is incredibly serious about
training more students in the STEM fields.
But, as someone who never seriously
considered majoring in the math or science
fields, I wondered if these programs or any of
the others I've heard discussed in the news
would've done much to sway my interests
growing up. While I'm sure that the new
push to inspire an interest in the STEM fields
is effective for many people, I know that for
me, any intervention would have had to start
much younger.
In school, I was always better at writing
and reading than I was at math and science,
even from a young age. While I was never bad
at math per se, I was never really good at it
either. I grasped other subjects much more
quickly and intuitively, even as I struggled
with basic computational math, and later,

struggled to apply that math to science. I
grew to assume that my talents lay elsewhere,
and proceed to put much more time and
enthusiasm into other subjects.
Consequently, by adopting a hesitant
attitude toward math at a young age, I
probably never learned the building blocks of
the subject thoroughly. When it came time to
learn things like pre-algebra, I was already
somewhat behind on basic concepts, and
learning new ones took much more effort for
me than it seemed to for many of my peers.
I assumed that this just wasn't going to be
something I was good at. Simultaneously, I
experienced success in other academic areas,
and so ruled out a career in engineering or
the sciences before I had even taken my first
chemistry or algebra classes.
Last year, I read an article by Economics
Prof. Miles Kimball and Noah Smith, an
assistant professor at Stony Brook University,
about "the myth of inborn genetic math
ability." To these two (rather credible)
writers, the misconception that some people
just aren't good at math posed a big problem,
because, "for high school math, inborn talent
is just much less important than hard work,
preparation, and self-confidence." Which
makes a lot of sense ... but for 12-year-old me,
this myth was my reality.
Intrigued by the article, I interviewed
Prof. Kimball about what he thought might
be done to improve students' interest in math
(in addition to the suggestions he outlined in
another article). He suggested that what we
might do is give students more opportunities
to do math outside of school, suggesting
having "math clubs as ubiquitous as cub
scout troops," where students could go to
learn and develop their math skills. He added
that "the idea of a math club is for kids who
especially like math. But I'm thinking of it ...
like the Cub scouts." He elaborated by saying,
"parents have their kids their kids go to cub
scouts ... or Girl scouts ... even if they're not
extra interested in camping," implying that
math concepts are, or should be, something
that everyone be encouraged to explore. To
me, creating a space for children to work on
concepts they have (or haven't) struggled
with consistently enough to create progress
seems like something that might really help
students who don't believe in their own
ability to learn math and science.
Working on difficult concepts in a low-
pressure environment, students might feel
more free to make mistakes and try new
things. I can certainly attest to the fact that
everyone approaches math and science dif-
ferently - I was forever the student looking
at problems differently than my teachers
expected or would've liked. I now recognize
that as an asset, but it felt like a failure at the

When I wasyounger,mymother's
resonating mantra was, "Stay out of
the sun." She'd sometimes scold me
for playing outside too long when
she'd come home from work and
comment on how dark my face had
gotten. She would scrub both of our
skin with a homemade concoction
of chickpea flour, turmeric and
olive oil that was supposed to
lighten our complexions.
"You were the fairest baby in the
Maharashtra hospital, Anu. All the
nurses told you were such a pretty
baby. Now? Kanna, you look like a
beggar child."Shewould sayKanna,
in Tamil - my first language - for
"my eyes," with more love than I
can - even now - know.
My mother is one of the most
intelligent people I know. Growing
up in South India, she always made
the highest grades in her classes and
is so gifted at math that she became
the only female calculus professor
at a top college there. She and my
father met at a bus stop and have
what relatives would call, clucking
their tongues, a love marriage. This
ista term that seems redundant
to me, but is shrouded in scandal,
indicating that their marriage is
not arranged and not sanctioned by
their families. My mother is several
shades darker than my father, a
stigma that has followed her across
an ocean to America. In India, fair
is beautiful; dark is irrelevant. Miss
India, year after year, looks more
white than Indian. The most recent
Miss America, Nina Davuluri, is
too "dusky" to ever win an Indian
beauty pageant.
My mother loved that her daugh-
ter was relatively light-skinned for
a South Indian. At Indian parties,
I felt gaudy in the layers of bright
silk and chiffon she'd dressed me
in and overdone under the founda-
tion and powder that she'd caked
onto my skin. "You're glowing," she
would whisper, squeezing my hand.
"You're beautiful." I can't quite
describe the way I felt when she
called me beautiful. I always went
to the bathroom to look in the mir-
ror whenever she did, to touch my
face, and to try to see what exact-
ly had elicited her compliment. I
couldn't stop smiling all night.
We visited India over my winter
break in seventh grade. My dark-
skinned cousins would look at
me in awe, teasing me and saying
that I should act in Bollywood
movies. A stranger on the street
once asked me if he could touch the
underside of my arm. It was so fair.
In America, I'd never even gotten a
second glance. I wasn't allowed to
walk down the streets of Chenna
without my uncle or dad because -
as I'd overheard my mother telling
my aunt one day - the men looked
at me as though they were in a mitai
kada - a candy store. Even with the
distress in her voice, I could still
hear an unmistakable hint of pride.
During the summer, if I spent
my time safely indoors, reading or
studying, I could maintain a light,
high-yellow complexion and my
mother's approval. My life grew
counter to the arc of the sun. Where
it was, I was not. Sunnydays became
a burden: even one hour outside
could significantly darken my
complexion. I hated playing sports,
going to the park, and, especially,
going to the beach because I would
feel sick the whole time I was
there, worrying about how dark I

was undoubtedly getting. Around
this time, my mother showed me
a strange product called Fair and
Lovely. You can only find it on the
dusty shelves of Indian grocery

stores. The label displayed a dark-
skinned model, looking sadly
into the distance and becoming
progressively happier as her skin
became progressively paler, thanks
to this "miracle cream." These
were, after all, the rules: dark =
unhappy; light = happy. The first
time I put the cream on my face,
my skin felt synthetic, cold, and it
stung delicately. I started using it
religiously, believing completely
that I was in need of a miracle.
When I started high school, my
skin naturally became a couple
shades darker, much to everyone's
dismay. I remember that in ninth
grade I won first place at a local
debate tournament. The trophy
was a framed candid photo of me
delivering our team's champion-
ship-winning speech under harsh
fluorescent lighting. The dollar-
store frame somehow felt heavy in
my clenched hands: the words "First
Place Speaker, Okemos Debate Clas-
sic" were printed at the base of the
photo in white Arial font. But all
I could do was stare at my image,
my features nearly imperceptible
against my dark face. Had I really
gotten so dark this summer?
I've forgotten everything else
about that day. All I remember is
that I'd slipped the picture into
my backpack and waited until I
was home to tiptoe to my room
and shove it into the back of my
closet, so I wouldn't have to show
my mother. I'd learned young, this
awful habit of putting up a facade,
of preempting hurt. I lived in the
shadow of my appearance.
Only when I left for Michigan
did the facade begin to crack. The
first time a white boy told me he
thought the color of my tanned
skin was "hot as fuck," I was the
drunkest I've ever been. I ran to the
bathroom to throw up but ended
up sitting there, staring at the floor
in a daze. I'd made straight 'As'
throughout my life, I was eloquent,
and I had friends who loved me. Yet
a stranger who had just wanted to
get into my pants had the power to
do something I couldn't: make me
feel beautiful in my skin. A friend
pushed her way into the bathroom
and freaked out when she saw the
tears on my face, demanding I tell
her what the hell had happened.
I tried to articulate (but ended up
slurring) that it was September and
how much I hated the way my skin
looked in the fall and whatFair and
Lovely was and why I sometimes
used it. She held my hair back and
responded softly, "Now that's some
racist shit."
Even through the Crystal Palace
haze, her words had stung. I'd
never thought of it as racism. I was
18 at the time, a self-proclaimed
humanist, and damn proud of how
open-minded I'd grown to be. I was
certainly no racist.
Well, except for a tendency to
think dark skin was ugly.
It was slow, the transition. It
would take friends who would, in
March, put their arms around my
shoulders and say, "You need some
sun, girl! We're getting pasty!" It
would take friends who would throw
tubes of lightening cream from my
makeup bag into the trash and ask,
"The hell is wrong with you, Anitha?
This shit is gonna give you cancer."
It would take friends who would
drag me to the lake and tell me I
looked hot that day and teach me

how to kayak and make me forget
about howI looked altogether.
Only recently did I finally find
the courage to say no to my mother
when she told me not to spend too

much time in the sun. I was just
leaving our house to play tennis
with a friend, and she was wash-
ing dishes at the sink. I don't know
how I'd expected her to react. Did
I expect her to scream? She'd just
stopped and hesitated. She cocked
her head at me, looking into my eyes
as though she were looking at me for
the first time and responded, "No?"
I stared back, unblinking, 'Amma,
I just want to play tennis right
now, OK? That's all I want to worry
about right now - is that OK?" A
heavy look overcame her face, and a
remorseful apology began to form in
my throat. But I just kept staring at
her. She dropped her gaze and said,
plainly, "OK, Kanna. Be safe." And
she wentback to scrubbing the dish-
es, as though nothing had changed.
When I was younger, I felt
endlessly victimized by my mother's
domineering expectations. But
these days, each time I see her, she
looks less domineering and more
human, more tired. Last August, we
went to the mall and she wanted to
stop by the Clinique counter to pick
up some foundation. She picked up
a shade of foundation the color of
sand, of a Bollywood starlet, but
not of herself, and began to apply
it. The classically white salesgirl,
likely with the best intentions,
practically pulled the bottle from
my mother's hands,
"Ma'am, your skin is much too
dark for that shade of foundation.
Why don't you try something a little
more natural?"
She replaced it with another one,
the color of what I might describe as
milk chocolate. But I could tell from
the pain in my mother's eyes that
she wouldn't have described it that
way. To her, the color was heavy,
one weighted by a culture and a
bias she'd never been able to leave
behind in India. I knew that shewas
too self-conscious of her English
and of her race to tell the salesgirl
to fuck off, that she would buy the
foundation, and that it would sit,
forever unopened, in some drawer
in our house. I immediately took the
bottle from my mother and shoved
it back to the salesgirl, telling her to
have a nice day.
After, I took my mother to the
food court, and we shared a jalapeno
soft pretzel - spicy, our favorite. I
told her, somewhat sheepishly, that
I thought she was beautiful, with or
without any dumb foundation. She
looked startled. I guess that was,
for some reason, the first time I'd
called her "beautiful." She told me
so frequently; how had it taken me
so long to say it back? We were both,
I suppose, victims of a world that we
had allowed to define us.
"Thank you." She touched
my hand, "I always wonder how
I ended up with a daughter as
wonderful as you."
I think (all the time) about the
things I'll someday teach my own
daughter. She will know about
grammar and kindness and about
being patient and being passionate.
She will know what it's like to
break hearts and to have her heart
broken. She will know when to
hold her tongue and when to hold
her own. I'll take her to the beach,
and she will know how to swim
and how to snorkel and canoe and
raft. And maybe we will just sit in
the sand and watch the water for
hours and know what it's like to feel
indomitable and infinite.

But she will never, ever know the
unbearable weight of sunlight.
Anitha Menon is an
Engineering senior.

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