What’s Your Box?

I have a question for you to ponder. What on earth is “ethnicity” and why on earth does it matter in the United States?

Have you ever had to fill out one of those pieces of paper, whether it’s a medical form or job application, that asks you to state your “ethnicity?” Honestly, this whole concept of ethnicity doesn’t make much sense in the United States or pretty much anywhere else in today’s world. If you live in the U.S. you can be pretty sure that the term ethnicity doesn’t matter all that much.

Take me for example. For those questions, I have fill in the bubble next to “Caucasian.” I’m not entirely sure when my family came to the U.S., but we’ve been here way too long for that bubble to matter. In my family alone, I’m pretty sure I have ancestors from every country in Europe. I also have three or so tribes of American Indians in my past, and we can’t rule out any African ancestors. So why do I have to check the bubble for Caucasian?

Another example could be a white guy from South Africa. Until last year, when I met two Kenyans, the only “African Americans” I ever knew were white kids from South Africa. So how does a person in that situation fill out one of those forms?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of “ethnic” is: “of or relating to large groups of people classed according to common racial, national, tribal, religious, linguistic, or cultural origin or background.”

By that definition, I’m better off labeling myself “homeschooler.”

But seriously, everyone in the U.S. could be considered a large ethnic group made up of smaller ethnic groups. Heck, each state has its own subculture. You can’t just lump in every person that could be considered Caucasian together in one big group. You can’t do that with any of those categories. There are too many other variables that matter.

Eventually, we are forced to realize that those forms are only asking about one thing. They are asking about our skin color.


I thought we were done with this. This is the year 2014. Why on earth do we care about skin color? Haven’t we realized by now that what color any part of our body is (whether that is skin, or hair, or eyes) doesn’t have anything to do with who we are as a person. In fact, it seems that where we live, who our parents are, what culture we are part of, and what our religion is has much more to do with who we are.

Wait a second. Let’s look back up at that definition. All of these things are part of what makes up a person’s ethnicity. Race, religion, culture, language. So it seems that those forms are asking the right question, but they’re giving us the wrong answers to choose from.

The big point I’m trying to make is that these forms are intrinsically flawed because they seek to put human beings into boxes. They are made to try to help people to understand who you are by analyzing your little box. The problem is that humans don’t fit into boxes. The people that fit into the category, Caucasian, are a very large group. If you meet a Caucasian person on the street, what does their Caucasian-ness tell you about them other than the fact that they have pinkish-tannish skin?

Any system that attempts to understand a large amount of people by putting them in little boxes is not going to work. It doesn’t matter if that box is their “ethnicity,” or their religion, or their political affiliations. People just don’t belong in a box.

I made this whole argument just to get to the central point of “people don’t belong in a box.” Now everyone say it with me: “Duh!”



More like this:

Matt Walsh Blog: Affirmative action: defeating perceived discrimination with actual bigotry!

Guest post: What if I Can’t Write What I Know? by Susannah Ailene Martin

Susannah Ailene Martin:

I recently got the chance to write a guest post for the wonderful Shannon A Thompson (the inspiration for my post two weeks ago). She’s a writer with lots of writer fans, so I decided to do an advice post on what to do when you can’t write what you know. Check out the guest post, and then take a look at the rest of Shannon’s website. She did a great post recently on using Barbies to write. Check it out!

Originally posted on Shannon A Thompson:

Shannon, here, with two announcements and an introduction before the lovely Susannah Ailene Martin takes over.

Return Novel reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, stating, “Who will stay up after dark? Readers who value solid character development and realistic motivations in their supernatural romance series.” Read the full thing here or check out the novel by clicking here.

If you want to see what readers think of the sequel, you’re in luck. Endless Reading reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 of the The Timely Death Trilogy this week. She stated, “Thompson did an awesome job of creating scenes that left the reader breathless and heart pounding as though they were at the forefront and head of battle.” Click here to read the entire review or click here to go to Amazon.

Susannah Ailene Martin is writing for ShannonAThompson.com today

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My Future Laptop Withdrawal

I work for one of the most amazing summer camps ever. They do an amazing job of showing kids a fun time while teaching them the love of Christ. I’ve met some of my best friends there and have had many of my own adventures. But every place has its drawbacks, and unfortunately, I will not be able to bring my computer along for the ride this year. I’m sorry, faithful readers, but come June, you’re going to have to get used to not seeing posts from me very often. Don’t worry. I will be returning to the usual semi-regular posting schedule as soon as the summer is over.

To combat my laptop (and writing) withdrawal, I’m going to be working on a comic that I’ve been planning. Right now, I’m trying to up my usual cartooning skills. I’ve drawn this little guy for practice.

His name is Jay.

His name is Jay.

What do you think?

Author Confessions

Today I was watching a YouTube video by one of my favorite bloggers, Shannon A Thompson. She decided to tackle the subject of author confessions. In the spirit of that video, I’ve decided to reveal my top ten author confessions.

1. I can’t sleep at night because I’m talking to myself. Well, not exactly. It’s more that my characters are talking to each other, but they only exist in my head, so yeah.

2. I don’t really like writing things by hand. Two words: hand cramps. Those SAT essays were murder.

3. I don’t like coffee. I know it seems blasphemous, especially considering the lack of any real sleep that I get, but sorry, it’s just not my thing. Too bitter for me. No amount of chocolate or cream or whatever can mask the taste. I do, however, like the smell of gourmet coffee. I know. I’m a walking contradiction.

4. I actually think I’m addicted to writing. I crave it like a drug. I. Have. To. Write.

5. Before I decided to become a novelist, I actually wanted to be a cartoonist when I was younger. I still have a whole binder filled with over a hundred unique characters. My drawing style for those is essentially the same as the characters on my Super Star cover. I would still like to learn to draw better.

6. I just now invested in a little pocket notebook that I can carry around with me. I cringe to think of all of the ideas that I let go to waste because I didn’t write them down.

7. I get really nervous when I let people read my stuff. I’m so sure they’re going to hate it and I don’t know what I’d do with myself.

8. On a similar note, when I do let someone read my stuff, I stare at them intensely until they’re done, watching for any change in expression that might give me insight into what they’re thinking. I imagine that if they weren’t so engrossed in my story, I might be a little creepy.

9. Music is a double edged sword for me when I’m writing. Sometimes I can use it to block out the outside noises and provide some background noise to help me. Then, other times, I get so into the music that I get distracted from the writing. It’s hard to find just the right balance.

10. My brain doesn’t work properly at times when normal humans function. My brain tends to turn on at about 11pm. For instance, I just glanced at the clock right now and it reads 12:13am. I’m wide awake and full of ideas. It would be really helpful if these ideas would come at around 7 pm after I’ve eaten dinner, so that I have plenty of time, but noooo. That’s not how my brain works.

There you go.

That’s my top ten author confessions. What about you? Do you have any author confessions (or blogger confessions as the case may be) to share?

Silly Word Series: #4 Homophobia

I’ve been debating with myself a while whether or not to do this post. However, with the recent events in Arizona and with the Mozilla CEO “resigning,” I’ve decided that it’s time. I believe the veto of the religious freedom bill by Jan Brewer and the forced resignation of Brendan Eich provides the backdrop needed for this post’s subject. Without further ado…

What it supposedly means:
The hatred of gays just because they’re gay.

Why it’s silly:
With this word, the problem is, in part, how it is used. You see, the only time I’ve ever seen or heard this word used, it is as an insult to people who may or may not disagree with something a gay person has said or done. This word is used to demean anyone who has anything to say that might be contrary to what society says about homosexuals. This word is never used in the way that people might expect: denoting a fear of gays.

Let’s take a look at the second half of the word. Phobia, or an irrational fear of something. Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, irrational. Of course homophobia is not rational.” However, I’m afraid more than a few may have missed the fear part. Usually, when a word ends in “phobia” that means that the word is a fear of something. For instance, we’ve all heard of arachnophobia, or the fear of arachnids, like spiders. There’s also the irrational fear of long words (which, ironically enough, is an incredibly long word), and that also ends in phobia. The problem with the term homophobia can be explained with a question. I want you to think really hard about this. Have you ever known of a person who has been called homophobic that is actually irrationally afraid of homosexuals?

Because I haven’t. In fact, even if you know such a person, they are probably less than .00001 percent of the population. In fact, I’ve been accused of being homophobic because I oppose gay marriage*. I do not in the least fear homosexuals, rationally or irrational. I don’t know anyone who does. If anything, I’m jealous of them. They are literally the most protected class in the United States.

Consider the case that prompted the religious freedom bill in Arizona. A Christian photographer declined to photograph a gay wedding, and then the courts forced him to go against his own beliefs to cater to the gays’. This is the kind of thing that could happen in almost no other circumstance in this country. If you are a Christian, you cannot force a Jewish bookstore to sell you the New Testament. If you are Jewish, you cannot force an atheist deli to sell you kosher meat. If you are atheist, you cannot (probably) force a Christian sign company to print “God is dead” signs. And yet, somehow, if you are gay, you can force a Christian to bake you a wedding cake, or photograph your wedding, or print you gay pride t-shirts. If I’m being honest, I would tell you that I would love that kind of special protection. However, I’m a lover of the Constitution, and I firmly believe that we all have a right to associate with whoever we feel like.

To recap, “homophobia” is a silly word, because it is used as an insult against people who do not actually irrationally or rationally fear gay people.
         So what do you think? Is homophobia the wrong word here?

*Understand, I don’t oppose equal rights as human beings for gay people. I only oppose gay marriage, and then only for religious reasons. I don’t think the government should be in the marriage business at all. Marriage is a holy ceremony, not a government authorized contract. If you’re interested in learning more about my views, click here. I, along with most Christians, also do not hate gay people. “Hate the sin; love the sinner,” as the saying goes. #TheMoreYouKnow.

A Question for Your Consideration

Let me ask you something. Do the ends justify the means? To understand this question, consider this scenario. You are going to do something amazing, something that will revolutionize life for the better. However, to do that thing, you have to do things that are truly awful. But the end result will be something very good. The question is, do you do the awful things to get to the good one? Do the ends justify the means?
Well if you answered yes, congratulations, you are in the company of great men like Abraham Lincoln.
And Hitler.
And Stalin.
And Mao.
At first glance, you wouldn’t believe that these people have anything in common, but you’d be wrong. They all had a great plan. For Lincoln, it was to preserve the Union and create a county where everyone was free to go about their lives as they would. For Hitler, it was to bring the whole world under Aryan control. For Stalin and Mao, it was freedom through communism. Obviously, you can’t compare the end goals of Abe Lincoln and Hitler, but the fact remains that they shared (at least in part) a common philosophy. They all believed that the ends justified the means.
This is one of the most dangerous and backward philosophies of all time. Even with an end goal as worthy as preserving the Union, the idea that the ends justify the means leads to disaster. Consider pre-War Between the States America. The country was divided between those who owned slaves and those who didn’t. Secession had been threatened by the Southern states for a long time. Finally, a man was elected who the Southerners saw as a threat to their livelihood, and most seceded. What happened next could have gone three (probably) different ways. (1) Politicians could have worked together from both sides and brought the country back together. (2) The North could have waited until the South inevitably broke with slavery on its own, and then welcomed back their wayward brothers. (3) War. Every student of history knows what actually happened. Well, sort of.
You see, what most people don’t realize is that the War never had to happen. They also don’t know that Lincoln started it. He believed that the Union should be preserved so completely, that he sent warships down south, knowing full well that the South would have to retaliate. That way, it would look as if they fired the first shots. We know from letters that he sent at the time that he knew what was going to happen. I would love to go back in history and ask Lincoln if it was really worth it, if the ends really did justify the means.
And that’s just when the ends are a good thing. For Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, the end goal wasn’t nearly so noble, and we see what happens. Millions of people died from war, disease, and famine. An entire group of people was nearly obliterated. A whole country (Ukraine) was purposefully starved. All this happened because certain men thought that they knew best and were willing to do anything to bring about their vision.
So what about now? Do you still think the ends justify the means?

Help! I Keep Getting in Trouble with my Parents!

I’ve noticed that I have a good amount of teenage followers on my blog. I’ve decided to write an advice post for any that might find themselves on the wrong side of their parents. (And it’s good advice for everyone to follow, not just teens.)

Are you are a teen wishing for a way to avoid getting in trouble with your parents? Would you like to stop losing your privileges? Would you like to not get grounded “for the rest of your life” every few weeks? Then boy do I have a few tips for you! Just follow these simple tips and you are guaranteed* to not get in trouble anymore.

1.    Control your tone of voice.

Seriously, this is the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is make sure that you do not use sarcasm when addressing your folks. Sarcasm may be fine around your friends, but your elders might not appreciate it. I don’t know about you, but this first rule is the cause of most of the issues in my house. I’ve seen punishments extended for months just because of a bad tone of voice. Just learn to talk to your parents with a pleasant tone.

2.    Come home on time.

No matter how much you want to stay out late, if you have a curfew, you need to stick to it. If you really need to be out late, ask your parents. If they say no, abide by their wishes.

3.    Do your schoolwork.

One way to really tick off your parents is to not do your schoolwork. If you want to be successful at life (and your parents do want that for you), you need to be educated. I’ll be the first to admit that our current system of public schools in the U.S. leave much to be desired, but you still need to do your homework. If you don’t do your homework, people will think you are lazy, and employers don’t hire lazy people.

4.    Say you’re sorry.

This is a big one. Apologizing can be one of the most painful things in the world. But it’s worth it. When you’re wrong (and you are a teen, so you can assume that you will be often), you always need to say sorry.

5.    Do not argue with your parents.

Even if you think your parents are wrong, don’t argue with them. Chances are that they are probably right. Even if they aren’t, arguing is still a surefire way to get you in trouble. And whatever you do, do not say that you are “debating” and not “arguing.” This will just make your parents (and others) mad.

6.    Obey.

Really? You don’t want to get in trouble and yet you constantly disobey your parents. That’s not going to work. Your parents have reasons for telling you to do the things they tell you to do. Just try to remember that they have lived long enough to accumulate a bag full of regrets and lessons learned. All they want to do is make sure that you do not end up making the same mistakes they did as a reckless and know-it-all teenager.

7.    Do not scream at your parents.

I know that the impulse to raise your voice when you feel angry or wronged is very seductive, but don’t do it. It is a bad idea in almost every instance. Even if your parents yell at you, that does not give you free reign to yell back. Parents dislike being yelled at in general, and they definitely don’t enjoy it when their own offspring is doing the yelling.

8.    Do not lie to your parents.

Your parents have known you since the moment of your birth. If you are in your teens, they have been watching you very closely for at least thirteen years now. They know when you are bull-crapping them. Really! So don’t try to get away with it, because they will always find out. There is almost nothing that parents hate worse than their children lying. If you mess up, don’t hide it. Lying about it will only make it worse for you.

            Of course there are other rules that you should know to avoid trouble with the parental units, but most of those are common sense. Come to think of it, most of these are common sense too. So, use these eight rules in every interaction with your parents and you should definitely see a decrease in the amount of punishments you receive. Easy right?


*Well, not really guaranteed per se…