Congratulations to the
18 Public Anthropology Award Winners
at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
in Prof. Andrew Orta's
ANTH 103 (Anthropololgy in a Changing World) Class

AJ Hood, Abhishek Saigal, Mykenna Osborn, Emilie Schramer, Aniya Wilson, Brandon Baran, Jeffrey Hudson, Luke McKenna, Elaine Oliver, Michael Chai, Grace
Cochran, Geetha Palchuri, Chloe Sykora, Julian Trujillo, Karina Valdez,
Tali Joelson, Agilan Gunashankar, and Mason Sotomayo

(To Read Their Letters, Please Use Your Search Function)
____________________

Developing Positve Discussions Despite Disagreements

Directions for Stories:

1. You will be required to write a story that involves how two people of opposing perspectives on the topic of race relations and policing discover a way to work together on the specific problem you decide to address.

2. In writing a story between to people of opposing views on race relations and policing, you should consider the following points.

a. What tools (from the list presented) will you use to soften the polarization between the two opposing sides so they can seek common ground that will act as a basis for addressing the problem together.

b. Since we live in democracies in North America, mobilizing for change means you need to bring together people of diverse interests. How might you frame your story to show how this might be done?

c. Be sure to write your afterword after your story explaining why you decided to write the story as you did.

______________________________________

The Social Media Discourse
by AJ Hood

Nathan woke up this morning same as always. He got out of bed, took a shower, brushed his teeth, put on a sweater and khakis and sat down at his desk to make a new video. Nathan was a 18 year old white male, who grew up in the richer parts on the north shore of Chicago. Nathan had grown up listening to online right-leaning content creators like Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder, and occasionally tuned in on Fox News for Tucker Carlson. He grew up with his dad working as a cop and his mother the CEO of a big law firm, and he was always surrounded by right winged influences in his life, so naturally, as all kids do, he felt as though he also leaned to the right when it came to political discussions. In recent years, we have seen the rise in political polarization which coincides with the increasing use of the internet and content creation. And Nathan having grown up watching these creators that spoke about issues with a right bias, Nathan decided to do the same. Recently, he had created a Tiktok page and spoke about his beliefs about all sorts of issues including those about the recent Black Lives Matters protests. He felt strongly about this issue and believed in the All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements. That morning in October of 2022, he decided to post another Tiktok regarding these issues.

Tina woke up that morning as she always does. She laid in bed before school in her sweatpants and T-Shirt, pulled out her phone, and started scrolling through Tiktok. Tina was a 17 year old black female, and she grew up in the south side of Chicago in a much less rich area than Nathan. Tina had a mother who worked long shifts at the hospital as a nurse and a father who was unfortunately shot and killed during the George Floyd protests of 2020. She grew up living in a neighborhood that was the result of redlining, and because of that the average income was significantly lower and the crime rates higher than others. She and many of her friends had experienced some sort of racism by policemen, some worse than others. Just the past weekend, she was pulled over by an officer for "speeding" even though she was only doing a couple of miles over the speed limit. She received a warning from the police officer after being respectful and honest, and she was lucky to be let go without a ticket as so many of her other black friends had before. When she opened Tiktok and started scrolling, she came across a Tiktok just posted by Nathan about how the protesting in Chicago needs to stop and was getting too violent where some people were worried about their well-being. He also talked a bit about the blue lives matter movement, and tried to explain that not all cops are bad, and there were just a few cops who made bad decisions. She decided to comment on this Tiktok of his, typed out about how the system of cop training needs to be changed, in order to eliminate some racial biases that cops have, and hit send.

Nathan saw Tina's comment after she posted it under his video, and decided to direct message Tina in order to explain how she was wrong about her viewpoint and that the facts supported that more white people are shot by police on a yearly basis (Statista). Tina decided to message him back and bring up some facts of her own, stating that there are a lot more white people in the country than black people, but black people are pulled over and accused of suspicious activities much more than white people are. She also tried to explain a bit about redlining (New York Times) and that due to the racism in the 1930s, neighborhoods that most commonly consisted of black people were deemed more risky investments for home ownership. That caused these areas to have a less average income and become harder to move out of, which caused poorer neighborhoods to be lived in mainly by black people and were eventually over-policed by cops.

After a few minutes of going back and forth about different statistics supporting their viewpoints, Tina became upset and realized that she wasn't getting anywhere with Nathan. She decided to tell Nathan about how her father was participating in a peaceful protest in 2020 and became the victim of police brutality, being shot in the protest although he was just exercising his right to peacefully protest. She explained that her and her peers had experienced racism by a multitude of cops on different occasions and were given tickets when her white friends got off scott-free. Nathan, living in a predominantly white neighborhood never really realized that this was happening in other neighborhoods than his own, and felt sympathetic for her position. He also explained to Tina that his father was a policeman and he did not want to believe that all cops could be bad, because that would mean his father was part of this, and that was why he believed in this viewpoint. Both Tina and Nathan realized the others position and determined that because they were from different areas and backgrounds, they never realized the personal ties that the other side can have for the position that they take. They decided to keep in touch from there on to continue to have political discourse about their difference in opinion, because that was the best way that they could continue to formulate opinions.

Afterword:
I chose to talk about these two young people that are around my age having a talk on social media about their opinions because that is something that could happen to me or any of my peers. I thought it was a different scenario than most would choose that was extremely relatable to our generation, and I could use my background of social media use in order to express how two people would come to work out their differences. We are in a world that we have access to many different radical opinions that we can be exposed to and I have experienced that myself. There are a lot of clips on Tiktok and Youtube from CNN and Fox News or people like Ben Shapiro that can easily influence our opinions, but it is always best to look at both sides of the coin before formulating an opinion. I also thought that including these real life examples that I knew about like the different parts of Chicago and the lifestyle that goes with them, and the real world events like the George Floyd protests. I also thought that political discourse like this happens way more often online than it does in person, at least for myself, so I thought that the most realistic way that I could foster an agreement between two people of different political beliefs would be through online discourse. I also thought that the best way they could come to an agreement is by sharing stories for themselves, because facts do not usually sway someones opinion. It takes pathos and emotion in order to make someone see another person's opinion without their blinders on.

Citations:
Published by Statista Research Department, and Oct 4. “People Shot to Death by U.S. Police, by Race 2022.” Statista, 4 Oct. 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/.

Jackson, Candace. “What Is Redlining?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Aug. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/realestate/what-is-redlining.html.

______________________________________

Overcoming Polarization in Opinions - a Story of Consensus
by Abhishek Saigal

It was a warm summer evening, everything in the town was fairly peaceful, and John had just returned back to his room after picking up his laundry. As he just finished folding his clothes, John heard the door open and his roommate Alex entered. “Did you hear - we had another case of a student getting charged heavily and imprisoned overnight for “rash driving” yesterday night on the main street next to our dorm”, said Alex, adding “apparently, he was quite drunk based on the officer’s initial report”. Intrigued by the matter, John looked it up, and found a recent update, stating that the student’s blood alcohol concentration was well within acceptable boundaries. “Why would the officer include that detail if it wasn’t even true?”, more involved and quite confused at this point, John dug deeper, and soon enough, he found out an important detail which could potentially help explain the surprising policing activity - unsurprisingly, the student was an African-American international student. “Ah yes, of course. Another instance of unnecessary race-driven police brutality. Why don’t we just de-fund them already???”, John, who had witnessed one of best friends Jamal succumb to racially driven police brutality a few years ago, had had it with the police and no longer wanted to cede any ground on the matter. “But come on man, you know that is unreasonable. Who will work for the police if they get defunded, and who will safeguard us citizens if the police force is abolished?”

In the United States, and North America in general, this is a hugely polarizing matter - and although John and Alex are best friends, it is the one topic they just couldn’t seem to agree on. Although they grew up together in the same school, their experiences in the community have been vastly different. John had joined the school on a scholarship, as he was from an impoverished background and had witnessed several friends of color of his like Jamal suffer from police brutality, while Alex had grown up in the posh region of the town, where the worst trouble someone got into was the occasional speeding ticket. “You see, you just don’t get it. Every single time something like this happens it is swept under the rug and no measures are taken to ensure that such racially motivated malpractice does not happen again! Did you know that only in 1 out of 10 such instances, the officers responsible are apprehended? Do you think this is fair??”, John had now had enough, as this incident had triggered all of his built up anger, and he was visibly anguished.

Alex was visually uncomfortable at this point, and retorted “You know, you are attacking me like this is my fault. My father was a police officer, and he was an honest man whose decisions were never racially motivated. Did you know his entire police block even generously donated to causes which supported black youth who were sometimes misguided and helped them through their troubles?” “Oh, I am sorry, I did not know that. But still, I don’t think that I will ever be able to get over my experiences with how the police treated people of color in my neighborhood.” John said; although he could probably understand where Alex was coming from, he could just not agree with him. However, Alex would not give up, and at this point could see that he could perhaps ease John’s anger and speak to his reasonable nature, and said, “Sure, there may be a few bad apples, but that does not mean that you burn down the entire orchard. I agree that there should be reformation in the police force, but please try to reason with me here, it is not possible to just completely defund them. They are, after all, a part of what makes our country relatively safe compared to the rest of the world.” They both left for classes at that point, but Alex had hope that John would eventually come around. That evening, when they had both returned from their classes, John apologized to Alex for shouting at him and they were able to find the middle ground that the police needs to be reformed, but not defunded. This shows us that although the influence of race in policing is a wildly polarizing topic, when approached levelheadedly, there is often some consensus to be found.

Afterword:
My task was to discuss race relations and policing as is seen in the Western world, and primarily in North America. Thus, I decided to write it from the perspective of two individuals who are quite close, but owing to their differing backgrounds, have very different opinions on the matter. As a more specific issue, I chose to discuss the de-funding of the police-force, which is a notion which had gained quite a lot of traction in recent times - especially after the atrocity the Black Lives Matter movement. I completely agree with the movement in its stance that in its present state, the police force needs enormous reformation, and crimes like the one committed against George Floyd cannot be allowed to happen in this country. However, I also believe that de-funding the police is slightly extreme in its nature, and that it is still possible to go for reformation instead. John and Alex were of polar opposite opinions, but by the end they could find common ground. Through this, I want to show that if we take civil approaches to discussion and relate our experiences instead of bombarding others with direct facts and figures, expecting them to instantly convert to our own side, we can find consensus and enable society to progress as a whole. This sentiment is echoed in the article by Stephanie Pappas, who also states “… people doubted political facts presented by their opponents far more than facts presented by someone they agreed with. There was not nearly as large of a gap in doubt, however, between experiences presented by opponents and experiences presented by someone on the participant's side.” (Pappas, 2021)

References:
1. Pappas, Stephanie (2021, January 25). Facts don't convince people in political arguments. here's what does. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html
2. Center for Media Engagement, University of Texas at Austin (2020, July 30). How to Talk to People Who Disagree with You Politically. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://mediaengagement.org/research/divided-communities/
3. American Civil Liberties Union (2022). Racial Profiling: Definition. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.aclu.org/other/racial-profiling-definition#:~:text=%22Racial%20Profiling%22%20refers%20to%20the,ethnicity%2C%20religion%20or%20national%20origin

______________________________________

Polarization Between Roommates
by Mykenna Osborn

The air was warm that day, and with every passing hour, it became thicker and more suffocating. The last several months had been a whirlwind; global pandemic, nationwide lockdown, and finally little excuse for people to ignore the cries for justice. Sam had witnessed the disproportionate violence against people of color like herself her entire life. From the moment she was able to understand, she was taught how to hold herself in the presence of authority, namely the police. She had grown up in a town that made minorities feel more like rarities, so she also quickly came to realize how her white friends differed in their composure when in the presence of police. Sam always hoped for the day people stopped to listen to the concerns of people of color regarding police violence but seeing the repeated brutality throughout the summer as the catalyst was difficult. The latest to spark protest was Jacob Blake. They began Sunday night following the shooting, and chaos only grew in Kenosha, Wisconsin by the day. Riots, vandalism, more violence. Sam sat before the television in her living room, the news of another shooting by a counter-protester displayed on the screen sinking her stomach.

“It’s awful, isn’t it?” Bri, Sam’s roommate, said as she entered the room and took a seat across the couch. Bri, unlike Sam, had lived in the city her entire life. She had many friends that were Black growing up, and her dad was a police captain. She figured she had a pretty decent idea of the proportion of violence around her, and none of it called for riots and destruction. She recalled reading an article yesterday about a local Kenosha car dealership being targeted by Black Lives Matter rioters protesting police. Protests were meant to be peaceful, and if there were people arming themselves in Kenosha in an attempt to defend their homes and businesses, she figured that was as justified as it was sad. “If the police were allowed to do their jobs, there wouldn’t be people going around vandalizing and destroying a town.”

Sam hesitated, shocked. She didn’t agree with the violence, personally, but she knew there were greater issues at play here, primarily being that as a result of another unarmed Black man being a victim of police brutality, protesters were facing the violence of armed counterprotesters as if the moral of the story was simply an eye for an eye rather than people of color facing disproportionate rates of police brutality. They argued for several minutes, spitting facts at each other to support their stances and suddenly questioning each other’s morals. How could Sam think arson is okay, and how could Bri think police brutality was okay?

Feeling their anger growing rapidly, the two young women stopped abruptly and huffed. They’d been living together for a few months now, and deep down knew this arguing would get them nowhere. They agreed on a break and separated. Bri remained on the couch trying to calm down as she heard movement in the kitchen. Following a long pause that gave them both time to compose themselves, Sam reentered the living room with two mugs of tea in each of her hands, passing one to Bri. The ladies sat opposite one another, readjusting to the safety they typically felt with one another as they sipped their tea. Then, Sam spoke up. Calm but still passionate about her story, she explained to Bri the struggles she faced growing up. She explained how she always had to be careful around police, both in her small town and when she visited the city with her friends as teenagers. She explained the day her parents taught her where to place her hands on the dashboard if she were ever pulled over and what to do if the situation escalated beyond her control. She explained the day that knowledge was put to the test as she resided in the passenger seat of her best friend’s car one evening and how the officer asked her and only her to step out of the vehicle as he questioned if she was in possession of anything she shouldn’t be; how her friend stepped out of the car against Sam’s protests, and how she noticed the officer only placed his hand on his holstered weapon when she had exited the vehicle, but not when her friend did. She explained how these areas of her life were fueled with fear, knowing the only target on her back was her skin color.

Acknowledging her bravery and effort, Bri registered her words. She explained to her how her upbringing has changed her perspective, and how she would really make an effort to examine her own biases. The two discussed further on for much longer, both only growing passionate with their own perspectives, but not angry with the other’s. They don’t necessarily always agree, but they feel it is important enough to try to understand.

Afterword

In creating this narrative, I wanted to emphasize the humanity in each perspective. In a Western society like the United States where political polarization is so prominent, it’s easy for people to hear arguments against their beliefs and to reject the idea that those arguments are coming from real people with lived experiences that have shaped their ideals. This separation pushes people further away from learning and growing. As stated in the article Dueling narratives fuel opposing views of Kenosha protest shooting, “‘It’s like a funhouse mirror,’ said Cecelia Klingele, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. ‘People look at the same facts and have wildly different reactions. It is troubling because when people are having such different reactions, I guess tragedies like this shouldn’t be a surprise. People are afraid of each other and that is a situation that creates danger for everyone,’” (Thebault & Armus, 2020). Therefore, I created an environment for the people in my narrative to reduce the feelings of polarization between them. Sitting down and drinking tea aided them in feeling comfortable and safe together (Barth, 2017), and sharing personal experiences on the topic allowed them to move away from facts that just made them argumentative and toward recognizing the other person as human (Pappas, 2021).

References

Barth, F. D. (2017, December 9). Arguing politics with friends? One word makes a difference. Psychology Today. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/201712/arguing-politics-friends-one-word-makes-difference
Pappas, S. (2021, January 25). Facts don't convince people in political arguments. here's what does. LiveScience. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html
Thebault, R., & Armus, T. (2020, August 31). Dueling narratives fuel opposing views of Kenosha protest shooting. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/30/kenosha-shooting-victims-defense/

______________________________________

Polarizing Family Topics: Deconstructing Disagreements
by Emilie Schramer

As her final class on Friday was dismissed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 20 year old Leah breathes a sigh of relief after a long week of work. As a junior in college, Leah majors in African American Studies and works part time as a tutor and mentor at a local elementary school. She checks her phone as she walks out of the academic building and onto the sidewalk, dodging the crowd of college students in her midst. A message from her mom, 54 year old Amy, pops up on Leah’s phone, reading “I’ll be there in 2 mins, be ready to jump in!” That Friday, Leah had made plans to visit her family for the weekend, since they live only a short drive away from the University campus. As Leah waits for her mother Amy to pick her up and give her a ride in their car over to the house, she reflects on the material she learned in her class. During her class session today of a course called Racial and Ethnic Politics, the professor taught about the concepts of equity and reparations, which Leah was quite interested in, and she plans to attend a seminar on those topics next week. Beep Beep! The car horn sounds and startles Leah out of her trance. Leah runs over and hops in the car with her mom.

For some background, Leah’s parents are Amy and Mark, both white individuals in their 50s. Amy works as a dentist and Mark is a software engineer. When Amy and Mark married in their late 20s, they started trying for a family as both wanted to have children. However, it was soon learned that Amy had a reproductive disorder and was infertile. The couple turned to adoption, adopting their only child Leah from an adoption agency in Ghana. Leah always knew she was adopted, but Amy and Mark never focused on her skin color being different from her family as a black individual. Leah was raised in an all-white family, in a predominantly white midwestern town and school district. It was not until college that she began being exposed to different perspectives, and was fascinated by ethnic studies and declared her major of African American Studies.

Amy smiles from the car as Leah gets in the passenger seat. “How was your day, sweetie? What did you learn?” Leah sighs and responds, “It was a long day between work and a few classes, but in one of them we were talking about the historical lack of racial equity in America and how there is racial bias in policing.” Amy furrows her brow, “Wow, that sounds complicated. I hope you aren’t becoming too extreme though, hon.” Leah pauses for a moment as she looks out the window. “Extreme, how?” Her mother stops the car at a red light and turns to look at her daughter. “Well, you know Uncle Bill is a police officer and he is a great guy, the whole department there is nice. Remember, you went on a field trip there? They do so much service for the community. I don’t like the narrative in the news that police are racist, they actually help the black communities by decreasing crime!” Leah listens, feeling irritation arise in her. Remembering some of the strategies she has been taught in her coursework on racial politics and polarization, Leah tries to counter her mom. She takes a deep breath to calm herself instead of responding rashly, and then speaks.

“Mom, I agree that Uncle Bill is a good police officer and that many of them are good people who aren’t racist. But, what we learn in my class is about the general institutional trends of racism, because in a country that has a history of racism the specific institutions within the government or local organizations are going to reflect remnants of that racist past. Does that make sense?” Amy nods, but asks “Sure, but the police protect us and there are violent protestors that want to abolish the police and call them all bad. Are you saying you agree with that?” Leah shakes her head, “No mom, I just want to tell you a story. When I was picking up my friend once to give her a ride, I was sitting in my car in that affluent neighborhood waiting for her. I was parked properly and wasn’t breaking any laws, but a police car pulled up behind me and knocked on my door, asking what I was doing there. He told me I can’t be sitting around here. Before I could explain my situation, he told me to get out while he searched my car. I felt embarrassed and like I was singled out, mom.” Amy shakes her head and comments, “You never told me that before, how awful, you are allowed to be there!” Leah states, “Yeah, that is how black people feel when they are more often stopped by the police and targeted just based on our skin. You know how as women we are looked down on, like how you are always assumed to be the assistant instead of the actual dentist in your job? That’s how I felt as a black person in that situation with the police.”

Amy pulls the car into the driveway of their home. As they exit the car, Amy is quiet a moment. Finally, she speaks. “I guess as a woman, I get upset when men don’t acknowledge our struggles on the basis of gender. I always tried to not focus on race because I didn’t want you to feel different, Leah. Maybe I should have learned more and read more books. I still don’t agree with the protestors and the idea of getting rid of the police, but your story resonated with me and I understand where you’re coming from. Maybe there is some happy medium to fixing some of the racism in the police from within instead of defunding.” Leah internally disagrees, feeling like from her recent courses that policing should have a complete overhaul instead of attempting to add more diversity training.

“Even if we maybe disagree that policing is an institution that upholds that oppression, I think we both can agree that on an individual level there are racist members of the police and that this is bad and something should change. That’s the end goal.” Leah tries to bargain with her mother and not let this conversation negatively affect their family weekend. She knows that her mom watches conservative news because of her upbringing, and knows that the story they tell on that news network is much different from the story she hears in her classes and from personal experience. Even though there is tension whenever this topic comes up at family gatherings, she feels like her story was a breakthrough moment for her mom, and that from hearing her mom’s thoughts she can be better prepared to have this discussion at future family gatherings and share a different viewpoint. Amy grabs Leah’s backpack and helps carry things into their house, dropping them by the front door and going to make the two some tea. “Thanks for talking, sweetie,” she says, “I appreciate when you open up to me.” Leah smiles, and joins her mother for tea.

Afterword: I chose to write this story to reflect a common situation, a child and parent disagreeing on a polarized political topic such as race and policing. In this story, the situation is made even more complex due to the personal identity differences of race between the daughter and her mother. I can personally relate to situations like this, even though I share much in common with my parents, because family gatherings often become derailed due to political conversations that turn into arguments. However, I wanted to illustrate the solution of compromise that could arise from employing some strategies that are proven to be more helpful. For instance, according to Pappas (2021), face-to-face interactions and experience-based arguments were more effective than statistics in garnering respect between opposing views.

What I illustrated here is the strategy used by the daughter of story telling, giving a personal anecdote, reflecting what Pappas (2021) said. This allows for empathy to develop, as occurred between Leah and Amy, even on a relevant level of both being women who experience oppression. This comparison adjacent to the personal anecdote opens Amy’s mind to hearing Leah’s perspective. Amy’s comments soften Leah’s point of view, because she can understand an opposing perspective on the issue of policing and racial bias, even though she is surrounded by one-sided views in her coursework and personal opinions. Besides the story-telling that was shown in my story, I also made the characters come to a conflict resolution through more strategies for approaching people across the political line given by the Center for Media Engagement (2020). For instance, Amy focused on people such as Uncle Bill over politics, and Leah was an advocate rather than an opponent due to her taking a deep breath and a few seconds of composure instead of responding rashly to her mother. This also relates to how both need to pick their battles - people across the political divide with different perspectives are best off opening up dialogue, understanding the others’ stories and viewpoints, but then ending with respectful disagreement if they still hold to their own opinion - it is not worth trying to fight in order to change the other. Here, Amy and Leah had this outcome, where their own view was not drastically altered but rather more understanding of the opposite side occurred due to an expansion of information.

References:

Duchovnay, Marley, Casey Moore, and Gina M. Masullo. 2020. “How to Talk to People Who Disagree with You Politically.” Center for Media Engagement. July 2020. https://mediaengagement.org/research/divided-communities/.

Pappas, Stephanie. 2021. “Facts Don't Convince People in Political Arguments. Here's What Does.” LiveScience. Purch. January 25, 2021. https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html.

______________________________________

The conflicting roommates
by Aniya Wilson

It was the end of a pleasant, enjoyable, and hot summer. As entering freshmen, two boys who had very different lives were going to the college they committed to. They were roommates sharing the same dormitory space. Over the summer through social media, the two had gradually gotten to know one another. They simply discussed the typical qualities they looked for in a roommate, such as if they kept their room tidy, whether they were an early riser or a night owl, what their major was, and more.

After a lengthy car ride, the boys and their family arrived at the university and settled into their dorm rooms. One roommate was African American and his name is Blake. Blake is a 17-year-old basketball player who received a full scholarship. Ethan was the second resident. Ethan is 18 years old and white. Despite this, Ethan was not prejudiced and got along with people of all races because he spent his childhood with children of many ethnicities. Ethan was really fortunate growing up, though, as both of his parents had well-paying jobs.

Blake had to work a little harder than Ethan did to go to college. It was simply the life that was given to them; neither of the boys chose it. Blake was raised in a less affluent area. His mother and grandmother were his sole relatives. In order to pay her bills, Blake's mother worked two jobs. Blake made the decision to work hard in school so he could go to college and one day give his mother what she needed. Blake improved as a basketball player, held down a job, and kept up his academics the entire time he was in high school. Blake was therefore extremely pleased with himself when he was awarded an athletic scholarship from the university. However, Ethan was able to thoroughly enjoy his time in high school. Ethan maintained excellent grades and his parents' success meant that he had all he needed and wanted.

The first week of college was enjoyable for both boys, who also got to know one another a little better. They were developing close friendships. They decided to go together to the weekend welcoming celebration. Ethan drove them both to the welcome celebration on Saturday. People at the party started giving them drinks as soon as they arrived. Blake declined to take the drink, but Ethan did. Blake didn't care that Ethan called him lame because he wasn't trying to drink and had basketball practice the next morning. Blake and Ethan parted ways as the party continued. Blake struck up a conversation with a girl he met in his English class while Ethan was out with some buddies he met  earlier in the week. Ethan was beginning to fire more shots and Blake saw that and continued to keep an eye on him.

Blake questioned Ethan about his well-being after noticing that he was becoming inebriated. Ethan claimed to be well, but his speech was slurred and he appeared to be having trouble staying upright. Blake then led Ethan to the vehicle so they could return to their dorm. Blake made the decision to drive them back since he knew Ethan couldn't. Once they were both in the vehicle, Ethan became irate with Blake for not allowing him to drive them back to their dorm. A furious argument between the two started. Blake outlined to Ethan all the negative outcomes that would occur if he were to drive them home while intoxicated. Blake was so upset with Ethan because he had so much to lose. Blake was aware that if they had crashed while being driven to their room by Ethan, they might have died. They might have been stopped, which would have been considerably riskier for Blake than for Ethan. Because of police brutality, Blake emphasized to him, it is risky for black guys to be pulled over. Ethan came out after Blake finished outlining his side of the story and declared that he doesn't trust anyone with his car and doesn't want anyone else to drive it in general. Additionally, he said he had never seen Blake's point of view and that he now realized how many seemingly meaningless circumstances may, in a split second, pose a serious threat to Blake's life. Ethan went on to remark that he had never understood Blake's perspective and had never personally experienced it, as well as how he had never had to deal with police brutality. As they rode back to their location, the boys continued to discuss their various life experiences. Over 15 separate experiments, they found that, although people think they respect opponents who present facts, they actually have more respect for opponents who share personal stories” (Pappas, 2021).

Afterward
I choose to discuss race relations and policing tactics when it comes to police brutality. After hearing about all the instances of police violence that have been documented in the media and on social media, something swiftly crossed my mind. Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Goerge Floyd, and a great number of others. I worry about this a lot as a young African American woman. My parents, brothers, and boyfriend are all black. Because so much may go wrong in the blink of an eye, I frequently worry about their safety and pray for them. As young adults, my boyfriend and I also consider a lot of issues. Different races make up our group of friends. We are a group of Mexicans, White people, and African Americans. Our friends constantly want us to join them at college parties for alcohol, but we usually decline since we are concerned about all the potential mishaps. Sometimes you and your friends can get into pointless arguments but if you all allow each other to explain each other’s side you can have a better understanding.  We have fights about them occasionally drinking too much and they label us lame. Instead of using boring facts or yelling points at the other side, we must discuss our stories and perspectives on how we feel as it truly brings humans together, and a person with consciousness can feel sympathetic to those who go through unique challenges and can even find common ground that can help foster communication(Peppas, 2021). We also become the babysitters because we want to make sure they make it back home safely. I think that collectively, we all need to watch out for one another and protect one another away from unnecessary issues. It turns out that talking about politics with friends, even if you’re on different sides of the political spectrum, can actually have a beneficial impact. (Barth, 2017).

References
Barth, Diane. 2017. “Arguing Politics with Friends? One Word Makes a Difference.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers. December 9, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/201712/arguing-politics-friends-one-word-makes-difference

Pappas, Stephanie. 2021. “Facts Don't Convince People in Political Arguments. Here's What Does.” LiveScience. Purch. January 25, 2021. https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html

______________________________________

A hard lesson
by Brandon Baran

Jesus Sanchez wept. It was the 3rd straight day over 100 degrees in San Diego, and the heat was getting to everyone. But Jesus' tears were not due to the weather, it was something much worse, a hate crime. His nose bled onto his Doc Martens as he buttoned up his torn shirt and went to face his father, Pascual. Pascual had put a 3 year old Jesus on a 25 mile bus ride from Tijuana to downtown San Diego. He had no choice, the cartels and violence was no place for Pascual to raise a family. He knew dozens of families that had taken the chance and migrated to America. After all, it was a better option than being killed in the streets by gangs, which Pascual and other locals were much too familiar with. Let's take a step further, back to 14 year old Jesus. Jesus and Pascual had been neighbors with the stereotypical American family next door, the Smiths. The father of this family was named Brian, and Brian had known Pascual for many years as they work together on job sites across the county. They became good friends over the years, but one thing was holding them back. Brian's son Andrew was radically racist, and had been growing hate in his heart for years from right wing news shows and radio. Andrew looked around San Diego and blamed all of it's problems, homelessness. unemployment, violence, on Mexican and African immigrants. Of course this was very hard on Brian, who was a simple minded yet educated man who knew better than to fall to the trap of racism. Brian couldn't bring Andrew to the Sanchez' house for dinners or hangouts because Andrew would immediately start the hate speech on Mexicans. All the slurs you could think of, all the problems that could be blamed on immigrants, and all the cliches, Andrew believed and said. And the worst part was, Andrew believed he was right. The boys went to the same high school, but despite their fathers being good friends, they barely spoke. They ran with different crews. On a given day, Andrew could be seen wearing his all black outfits fit with black boots and a silver waist chain, slicked back hair completed the look, he was a scary teenager with hate in his heart, and so were his friends. Other groups were talking about their favorite shows and what was going on in their classes, but Andrew's table was debating whether to legalize illegal immigration from Mexico. " I just don't get it, we let them in, and they murder each other, graffiti all over our streets, and take our goddamn jobs from the white men who created this country!" exclaimed Andrew. His friends cackled as they exchanged dirty looks towards people of color. Andrew locked eyes with Jesus, who was sitting a few tables away with his chess club. Andrew knew his father would beat him senseless if he was caught being racist at school again. The first time was detention for weeks, but the second time would be an expulsion. The hate in Andrews heart was growing, he couldn't hold it back.

The cold fizz from the orange Fanta spilled onto Brians hand. The 9th straight day over 100 degrees. "I simply cannot take this anymore". Pascual chuckled, "boss makes a dollar, we make a dime, that's why we drink soda on company time". The men chuckled as they set their feet up for their first break of the day. "How's Andrew doing in school, is he behaving himself since that fight?" Pascual said. " It wasn't a fight, it was an attack... My son attacked a student and if he does it again, I won't be there to back him up" exclaimed Brian. Pascual was familiar with Andrews behavior. A few weeks prior Brian had taken his son over to the Sanchez house for Sunday dinner. There, an incident occurred where Andrew was consequently banned from the Sanchez house. He made fun of their food, called Mrs. Sanchez' salsa Verde "puke" and pushed it to the trash. "How about since you moved to America and learned our language, you learn how to cook our food too! "This sucks if I wanted Mexican food id go to Taco Bell and pay the hard working white man behind the counter for his trouble!." Brian grabbed his sons collar and dragged him outside. "This is the last straw Andrew! I never want to hear Tucker Carlsons mouth blaring In my house again, I KNOW you have all this hate in your heart my son, but It breaks my heart." The two went home in shame. The next day at the job site the men discussed Andrew's actions. Brian scratched his head as he listened to Pascual words. " I don't blame you". "Your son needs some real life experience, or we will never go anywhere in this day and age." "Pascual, I don't understand how my son can be so hateful, I've known you and your family for years and I have the utmost respect, the courage it takes to come to America with no knowledge of the culture, language, or customs, raise a family and work every day, just to be belittled by my snot nosed child, this will end soon my friend don't worry."

Andrew sat in his dark room, his knuckles were bleeding and his whole body was shaking. He watched his television and saw Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis. He slammed his fist onto the table. "If they don't like it here, why don't they fucking leave!" He screamed. 20 minutes later, he took a walk and spotted Jesus and his friend walking out of a bodega. He felt his heart drop down to his feet, the anger was too much. He ran up to Jesus and struck him in the back of the head. Jesus friend immediately ran back into the store for help while Andrew continued his attack. " I was born here, you weren't I have every right to beat the hell out of you, beaner! Your dad steals jobs from white men every day and you think it's no problem!" "I'm sick of you people!". Right when he clenched his fist for another strike, the bodega door swung open. There stood the owner with a loaded cocked-back shotgun, pointed right at the bloodied, hell-bent Andrew. " GET YOUR HANDS OFF HIM, THE COPS ARE COMING", screamed the owner. Andrew slowly picked his hands of off Jesus' body and placed them on top of his head. As the sirens approached, Jesus Sanchez wept.

Court is a dirty place. Families being broken up, loners being sent away to prison. And children, like Andrew, being tried for their crimes. "I wish they tried him as an adult" Said Brian. "My son needs to get this illness of racism beat out of him, I've put too much blood sweat and tears into my child for him to not learn." Pascual sighed as another tear formed in his eye, "No". "Just no". "Brian, we aren't pressing charges". Brian lifted his head to Pascual as to say "What?". " Andrew is not the type to be put into the system, we've decided as a family, we aren't pressing charges. I value my friendship to you and your family, and I believe Andrew can change, I know what to do". Brian and Pascual shared a tearful hug, but they knew that the hardest part was yet to come.

2 months later

"You work like this every day?", "I haven't even seen you have a drink of water since we started 2 hours ago, its over 100 degrees Mr Sanchez!". Pascual lifted his head, "Its in my blood young man, get back to work". Andrew lifted the sledgehammer back over his head and went back to breaking stones apart, his punishment since the incident. Every day, Andrew, Jesus, and their fathers went to their job site and worked together. The first week or two were rough, the kids didn't know how to communicate with each other because of the obvious horse in the room, but they learned that their job would be easier if they work together. Over the course of the 2 months the teens realized they had more in common than they believed. Comics, soccer, and BB guns were things they shared and bonded over during their summer work with their fathers. It took Andrew 3 months before ever saying sorry. When he did, it was through choking tears and stutters. He'd learned his lesson. He took down his nazi posters and cancelled his subscriptions to his right wing radio shows. He tried Mrs. Sanchez salsa verde, and it was much too spicy for him. But this time around, he laughed about it. "Wow you guys are tough for eating this every day, I'm literally sweating." Jesus and Andrew weren't best friends for the rest of high school, but they were friends, they got along and they could always have a good laugh about their past differences.

Afterword

My task to talk about race issues was something I found intriguing. I chose to do a situation where it was realistic but polarizing at the same time. The issue of Mexican vs White has been a struggle since the founding of America, and racism will always come with it. A lot of the time when you talk to someone with racist beliefs against Mexicans, there's always an argument about immigrants dealing jobs and opportunities from white men who were "there first". People with these beliefs almost never want to listen or have a talk with people of the other side. I think this combined with social media and easily accessible information, can polarize younger generations easily, which has led to young men falling into the right wing pipeline. I've seen this happen to friends of mine, and although they aren't as radical as people like Andrew, it's still scary to hear them talk about their beliefs and ideals about other races in America. The solution to this starts with actions like what happens in my story. People from different sides coming together to understand each other, instead of separating and being angry at each other from a distance.

______________________________________

Power to Change
by Jeffrey Hudson

Grayson takes the first step off the MTA train, relieved that work is finally over for the day. “What is with all this security?” Grayson said under his breath. The truth is many state and local governments are having conflicting ideas about how to handle their law enforcement officers. Grayson hurries out of the station as he heads home. The presence of police officers, especially fully armed “soldiers”, makes Grayson anxious. Being forced to change his personality into someone who can slip through crowds unnoticed. Someone who won’t grab any unwanted police attention. This is the reality for many African Americans in the country. The possible risk of being randomly stopped and questioned by police officers is always in the back of Grayson’s mind every time he leaves the house. “More cops, but still so much crime,” Grayson thought. With the increase of police presence in schools and public transit stations you would think crime rates would decrease. Instead, police brutality has become centerstage in mainstream media. Most people would feel hopeless in this situation, but not Grayson. Considering that he might have a plan in mind to address the police at the train station, Grayson speeds up his walk home.

“Cass, I’m home!” Grayson says as he finally opens the door to his house. His wife Cassidy looks up from her work on the table to hug him. “How was your ride back home?” Cass asks as she closes the door behind Grayson. “Well, there were some pretty well-armed police at the train station today.” Grayson sighed. Grayson already knew how his wife would respond. Since Cass is reaching the end of her political campaign, she tends to avoid additional political conversations outside of her typical media interviews. Grayson knew that Cass supported, even encouraged, increased police presence throughout the city. Cassidy was raised in a moderately conservative household. Without being forced to struggle with police interactions in her community, Cass associated police officers with safety. Now while this is an ideal world, it was not the world Grayson lived in. “That should be good right? We need as much protection from criminals as we can get.” Cass said as she makes her way to the living room. “Well, these officers aren’t protecting anyone, they just keep everyone on edge.” Grayson continued, “You don’t understand how nerve wracking that can be for some people.” Grayson finished. Even though Cass couldn’t relate to this feeling Grayson was describing, she did know the political side of increased policing. “Look at New Orleans Grayson, they are begging citizens to fill their police force. Do you want New York to end up the same way?” Cass said clearly irritated by the conversation. “No, but you’re going to be the governor soon, you will have the power to do something about it.” Grayson said. “Well, then convince me to change stance in my campaign.” Cass said, half-sarcastically. “Fine, then I have to show you something.” Grayson said.

Grayson led Cass to the car and the two disappeared into the night. Grayson, after a very long car ride, walks up to the porch of a house. Ten seconds after the doorbell rang, an old woman answered the door with a smile. “Hi Granny, sorry for the late visit.” Grayson said as he went to hug the woman. “I brought Cass here to discuss something with you. We promise it’ll only take a minute.” Betty, Grayson’s grandma, let the two into her house and closed the door. She led them to her kitchen table, which was already cleaned off after dinner. “What’s this all about? Did something bad happen?” Betty asks after turning on the lights in the kitchen. “No Granny, I just brought Cass here to listen to some old stories of yours.” Grayson said. Cass had met Grayson’s grandma a few times before, but this time she would learn some information about Betty that she would have never imagined. What Cass didn’t know was that Betty was raised during the end of the Jim Crow era, and Betty’s mom lived through the worst of it all. Grayson told his grandma about Cass’s position on increased policing in the city. Considering that Betty lived through major shifts in policing throughout recent history, her experience would be as valuable as anyone’s. Betty explained how the police have always been an antagonist in the Black community for hundreds of years. The idea of “police creating safety and protection” isn’t as upheld in the Black community. So, while Cass might think policing more areas, especially areas with high minority populations, will improve the problem. She understands that it could potentially create more problems. “So, Cass, honey,” Betty continues, “I think you need to take all perspectives in mind when you finally become the governor. You will have the power to create some positive change in this state.”

Cass sat there thinking deeply over Betty’s personal experiences. While Cass having her opinion completely changed would be a fairytale ending, it is not what happened in that moment. Instead, Cass stuck to her original campaign beliefs. But, this time, she believed that trying to gain more perspective was key. “Thanks for this trip honey and thank you for telling me your story Betty.” Cass said looking around the table. “I think the best thing for me to do is hear back from the citizens. Making unilateral decisions without others’ input will only create more problems for me down the line.” Cass said. “Well, we know how stubborn you are, we knew it wouldn’t be that easy.” Grayson started. “But at least we were able to reach some middle ground. Being able to fully understand an issue if the first step to solving it.” Grayson said with a smile on his face. “Well, now that we’re done talking business, let me heat up some dinner for you two.” Betty said as she stood up from the table. “That sounds great Granny” Grayson said, smiling at Cass.

Afterword

I tried to choose two very different people to stand on two sides of this story. Grayson, being a working-class African American man, and Cass, being a white upper-class politician. I also talked about the current situation of racial profiling and policing in New York today. There is a lot of debate surrounding the increase of police presence in MTA terminals throughout New York. Cass, being the future governor in this story, will have a lot of political power to address this issue. Grayson, not having any political power in this situation, finally decides to bring the idea to his wife hoping that she plans to do something about this issue. Grayson has lived through the effects of police brutality and the effect that law enforcement has on the Black community, but Cass was raised very differently. In order to bridge this gap, Grayson brings Cass to his grandmother, who has lived through Jim Crow policing. Since she is a person who has experienced the evolution of policing in American society firsthand, Grayson thinks she will be perfect to explain her experience to Cass. Even after Grayson’s grandma explains how policing is viewed in the Black community, Cass and her opinion aren’t swayed. This is a realistic outcome, especially since you can’t expect someone to instantly change their beliefs after a single conversation. Instead, Cass is set on understanding and listening to more perspectives from varying ideas than her own. While the problem wasn’t solved completely, a middle ground was met and a positive first step was made. If issues in today’s society were approached with more open-mindedness, then I think we will see more positive first steps in the near future.

Sources

Delaney, Matt. “Civilians Being Sought to Help out Diminished New Orleans Police Force.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 26 Sept. 2022, https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2022/sep/26/new-orleans-police-to-hire-civilians-as-city-hemor/.

Meyer, David. “MTA Turns to Turnstile Jumping Crackdown, Hires Private Security Guards as Way to Combat Subway Crime.” New York Post, New York Post, 26 Oct. 2022, https://nypost.com/2022/10/26/mta-turns-to-turnstile-jumping-crackdown-as-way-to-combat-subway-crime/.

______________________________________

The Importance of Insight
by Luke McKenna

High school is where many kids experience their first taste of true, large-scale politics in a way where their own opinion can be formed. It is around this time where it is important to finally understand oneself, and consequently, it is also when one starts to evaluate information more critically, and therefore, it is when these students begin to develop structured, solidified beliefs in many aspects of life. It’s when one finally starts to break away–or sometimes identify closer–from the opinions and beliefs of their parents, and in turn starts to interact with many more people of differentiating cultures, religions, races, sexualities, and subsequently political views. Almost all high schools will give you many chances to surround yourself with the many unique viewpoints of others; however, this dynamic changes a bit with the introduction of this same revelation, except in a private, catholic, all-boys high school.

Max Steadmeier and Brian Clarke are classmates and friends at St. Thomas College Prep in Aurora, Illinois. The two met through mutual friends in their freshman year, and now as juniors, they both consider each other to be very close, trustworthy, and respectful of themselves. However, the two, along with their friend group, often shy away from discussion of politics and controversial current events, mainly out of the prevention of any harsh feelings or the threat of an argument that could jeopardize the bond between the two and the group as a whole, as well as a worry that revealing one’s political affiliation may in turn cause them to be outcasted from the friend group if the views of the others conflict. This is mostly the worry of Max, who identifies his political and diplomatic views as much more liberal than those of his classmates and overall school environment. Max, who is the oldest son of a blue-collar, middle-class family, mostly grew up watching MSNBC with his family during dinner, and feels like his views match up relatively well with the program that he watches, and his family around him. However, he worries that the views of most of his friends, and especially Brian’s, will not align and he might be treated differently than if his views matched theirs. Brian, on the other hand, considers himself to have pretty conservative policies regarding the issues in the world, and ones that he believes can relate to most of his classmates in his school, although he feels that there’s no use discussing politics in a school that he believes shares the same views as he does. His parents, although with well-off jobs and living in an upper-class, conservative neighborhood, are not presently interested in politics or the current state of affairs, however, Brian tends to watch Fox News as well as conservative YouTube channels, since they feel more entertaining and genuine than the liberal outlets that he has watched. Despite this contrast between the two friends, they both interact between each other as if this difference doesn’t exist, but although it doesn’t show itself regularly, it is still unwaveringly present.

One day after school, Max and Brian are watching TV at Brian’s house, and at the moment just mindlessly flipping through TV channels before they stumble on a republican news station that is covering the topic about the many Black Lives Matter protests that have been ongoing for a few months. Interested, Brian watches the program, and begins to criticize the movement after the news station displays some of the purposes and demands that the protests hope to accomplish. Max questions Brian’s statements about the movement and asks why he is against it, and he lists off some opinions that seemed very skewed in favor against the Black Lives Matter agenda, and Max can tell. Although Max is worried about causing tension in their relationship, he is more worried about the effect that misinformation on the subject may cause to Brian in the future, and what it could do to their friendship later on, so he decides to engage and counter with his own opinions on the matter. As expected, and feared by Max, Brian retaliates and begins to talk more aggressive and combative, which then sparks a heated debate between the two. The worst has appeared to occur, before Brian starts to realize that this was the first time that he has disagreed with someone on a political scale, since he was so used to talking with people who he believed had the same opinions on the same matters as he did. With this in mind, he was curious to see how Max was able to develop the unique views that he expressed, and as a way to understand the way that Max thinks and comes to conclusions about different issues. Instead of hastily backing his points and making accusatory statements about Max, he instead begins to ask questions about the motives behind his views and about underlying topics that relate to their respective beliefs. Max now senses the change in mood and tone in the conversation, and begins to talk with more rationality and understanding, instead of defensively and spontaneously. What was once a heated debate about personal politics has quickly shifted into a calm, intellectual discussion on the matters that are close to both of them, because the two came to realize that differing opinions does not mean the other has to disagree and defend their views. After a long and relaxed talk, the two rested their cases and left the conversation on a high note, instead of feeling angry and tired if they continued to bicker at one another. A simple shift in perspective enabled the two to be able to understand each other on a closer level, in a way where they believed to be better friends now, as well as better people to those that they disagree with, from one simple, effortless action that anyone is able to do.

Afterword

I chose to use this scenario to describe the situation at hand because it relates to me on a personal scale. I attended Catholic schools for most of my life, and only around High School was when I realized that there were so many people who had varying beliefs as I did. I was never upset or disappointed that some of my new friends has opinions on important world matters that I disagreed with, but I was a little worried to share my beliefs with the people that I met in my school, because I was worried that if I shared them with the wrong person, I would be treated differently, or that my opinions would not matter as much to some people compared to others. However, it was when I joined a Journalism class my Junior year when I realized that everyone has their own unique beliefs, and that when there is a debate with a group of people that respect your beliefs, regardless of what they think, you can gain so much from a simple conversation from others and yourself. This made me think about how I approach contesting viewpoints, and led me to become more understanding and sympathetic as a whole, and it is important that others realize the importance of understanding others’ viewpoints, such as I did.

______________________________________

Conversations Between Cousins
by Elaine Oliver

It’s a bit past noon when James, finally back in his hometown for the summer family reunion after another year of his undergraduate study, lets himself out onto the patio at the back of the house. Tom, the cousin closest to his age, is already out there, alone, sitting in a cheap plastic chair and nursing a can of soda as he takes in the early-afternoon sun. James takes a moment to look around the small backyard, then drags a matching chair from the corner of the patio over to where Tom is, and sets his own soda on the ground next to his chair as he takes a seat. They sit in easy silence for a while, aside from the occasional burst of laughter from the gathered family inside, simply enjoying the company on a bright, lovely day. The two don’t see each other often, and they’ve never been particularly close (always living five states away from each other will do that), but always nice to be able to just exist around family that one doesn’t get to see often, and it’s a comfortable silence because of it.

After a while, James asks Tom an idle question about how everything’s been for him the last few years; after all, it’s been a long time since they’ve had a chance to really catch up, what with the pandemic throwing everyone’s schedules off for years on end, and college being so busy. Tom talks about his computer science major and how he’s been enjoying that, but he hasn’t had much time to do any of the extracurriculars he’d planned to. He shoots the same question back to James, who talks a bit about his own history major, and how the surprisingly light workload there has given him a good chance to get involved in some student groups, especially a group focused on helping to advocate for political change in the local area. Tom nods along at that, but throws out a comment complaining about his own campus’s student organizations, and how a bunch of them are just packed with crazy liberals yelling about how police are evil, though he does this with the full thought that they’ll just slide right back into that comfortable, mutual silence. James takes issue, though, and calls into question Tom’s understanding of the situation and what the students were even talking about, and Tom can’t help but hear a bit of venom in his voice as he says it. That gets Tom going too, and he starts going on about how police are necessary and just doing their jobs, and in the process mentions studies about higher crime rates in black neighborhoods and “black on black violence,” the same things that always get listed off by his father (the smartest man he knows, ant the whole extended family’s resident “tech guy” because of it) at family dinners, and James jumps in with anger to counter with the statistics and research he’d done for a pamphlet for his student group, and now both of them are getting louder and louder. They sling points back and forth, not a one letting the other finish before responding, and once the words “white privilege” get mentioned even that “discussion” is over and the yelling match is about to start. They both bite back harsher words, though, as a trio of young kids from all around the extended family stumble outside from the back door, heading outside to the yard to play. The two sit in silence again, watching the sun and the kids playing, but it’s a tense silence now, and angry, though the kids don’t seem to notice themselves. It’s only a minute before Tom excuses himself to go get a new drink inside, and he doesn’t come back out.

The argument, though, doesn’t leave James’s head, and he plays it back through his head again and again, on loop, trying to understand how he could’ve done things better, maybe kept things on cooler ground with the family he only gets to see occasionally. He shoots off a text to a friend, another member of his student group, asking for advice, and after some brief talk he nods his head to a text telling him to try and understand why they both thought the things they did, and how their lives affected that, just like they were supposed to when interacting with strangers in the group. James sighs, gives it some thought, and waits for a while on that patio as he does.

It’s a few hours later when the two see each other again, just after the late lunch that’s customary at all the family’s reunions, it’s on the balcony again, where they’ve both gone to get some more silence again. This time, though, it isn’t comfortable, or outright hostile either, but there’s a tension bubbling just beneath the halfway-civil silence. Eventually James speaks up, and talks about how it was his own experiences with his friends in the last few years that’d gotten him interested in joining the political student group he had. When Tom doesn’t reply, but doesn’t just leave either, he continues, talking about the neighborhood his family had moved to was a lot more diverse than how it had been back home, and how he’d made a lot of friends there who’d been through very different things than the other folks he’d been friends with before. And he talked about the day that got him to really take those issues seriously, when a police officer had pulled his Latino friend over while he was giving James, who emphasized his whiteness here, a ride home because his car was in the shop, right on a long stretch of road that James took every day. The cop had claimed his friend was speeding, and to be quite honest James wasn’t sure whether or not he was, but he knew that he sped along that same road every day, and even when he could see there were police watching just off the main road he’d never been pulled over for it. And he also knew that the fear he saw on that friend’s face when the police stood over them, face impassive yet threatening, was genuine. He ends the story, not elaborating further, just letting them sit again, and after a moment Tom pops up with a story of his own. He talks about how he’d grown up in a small town a good ways away from any major cities, and how he’d always known the police and their kids really well, because everyone just knew everyone back there. He talks about how they’d been good people, kind to him whenever they showed up at school or public events out of uniform, and easygoing even when he and his friends had been caught out drinking underage once, and how he just couldn’t believe that people like that were being, as he called it, unjustly demonized. James almost responds there, to try and explain all the ways that that thinking was biased, or irrelevant in the face of data, just like he thought Tom should be able to understand easily because of his computer work, but ultimately he just breathes and lets the moment pass. They return to silence, and it’s not the easy comfort of the earlier day, but it’s something more understanding and less volatile than the anger and tension too. When he waves goodbye to the family and starts heading back to his hotel, James still has the conversation replaying in his head, but for the moment he feels he understands his cousin better than he ever has before.

AFTERWORD

I made the decision to center this story on two white male cousins of around the same age based largely on my own personal experiences in occasionally discussing politics with my extended family, and observing their own discussions among themselves, and because I felt that an intra-family encounter like this does reflect some of the same situations I’ve dealt with myself, and some of the stories I’ve heard from friends as well. The setting of a family reunion ties to that pretty directly as well, as that is a setting that I’ve encountered pretty much constant “political discussion horror stories” about, even from edge acquaintances, and moreover the distant-but-still-connected relationship of geographically removed extended family members, one that I’ve personally dealt with a lot with most of my extended cousins, was one that really facilitated well the ideas of basic preexisting understanding and trust that can help facilitate these kinds of understandings in a really direct and visceral way. As an additional note, the stories I told from each character were direct reflections of stories I’ve either been a direct part of or had related to me by trustworthy friends/family, as I felt like including that sort of story would help keep the feeling of the entire piece more genuine and tied to reality.

This all ties, naturally, into what I was trying to convey about confronting polarization in our political atmosphere. In large part I focused on the ways that personal stories and emotional understandings can facilitate understanding and connection, while facts on either side are often easily and handily dismissed with little thought or interrogation, especially in a setting like this where there’s no actual time for preparation or fact-gathering to present a coherent point, instead just focusing on imperfectly-remembered research, if that, and the core talking points that, ultimately, most parties involved have already heard and which can even be a direct fuel for the divide in our polarized climate. This was based very directly on the research and arguments presented in the LiveScience article “Facts don’t convince people in political arguments. Here’s what does.” (Pappas 2021).

I additionally intentionally touched on the ideas brought up in Dan Kahan’s 2012 Nature article “Why we are poles apart on climate change” in regards to how scientific (and, in this case, political/social statistical views) are formed not by pure research consensus, but by appeals to the figures that we consider authoritative and trustworthy (for Tom, the mention of his father; for James, the student group as a whole through the friend he contacts).

I also incorporated the “Pick Your Battles” advice from Gina M. Masullo et al’s 2020 article for the University of Texas at Austin Center for Media Engagement, “How to Talk to People Who Disagree with You Politically,” where James ultimately chooses not to further force the issue in their current context, where it would likely just be unproductive, especially after they’ve been able to reestablish a peaceful rapport and even come to a mutual understanding of where each other are coming from.

References

Duchovnay, Marley, Casey Moore, and Gina M. Masullo. “How to Talk to People Who Disagree with You Politically.” Center for Media Engagement. July 2020. https://mediaengagement.org/research/divided-communities/

Kahan, Dan. "Why we are poles apart on climate change." Nature 488, 255. 2012. https://doi.org/10.1038/488255a

Pappas, Stephanie. “Facts Don't Convince People in Political Arguments. Here's What Does.” LiveScience. Purch. January 25, 2021. https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html

______________________________________

John and Mary
by Michael Chai

John walks into his introductory finance class 10 minutes early. Armed with his camouflage themed travel mug, he walks down the aisle and sits four rows away from the professor, right next to Mary, whom he had met on the first day of class. "Good morning Jacob" says Mary as John fumbles through his backpack frantically looking for his laptop. "Morning Mary, how was your weekend?" Jacob responded. "Oh it was okay, I didn't get to finish my project yesterday because I was too caught up from watching the news, did you hear about the police brutality incident that occurred yesterday?" asked Mary in a curious tone. "Yes I did, as a matter of fact, I didn't really think too much of it, people commit crimes all the time." Jacob responded, not expecting the conversation to last. "You know, you should really pay more attention to these things, people's lives are in danger and it's truly mind-blowing what American law enforcement has become these days." remarked Mary. "Hey, police officers risk their lives every day to keep everyone safe, just because there is one bad apple doesn't mean all police officers are bad. If you support defunding the police, you really don't know what you're in for." Jacob retorted, as as he takes a sip of coffee from his travel mug. "Oh yeah? History has presented that police departments are known to be oppressive and violent, especially to people of color. Often times, police are armed with a surplus of weapons that can escalate situations quickly and violently!" Mary quickly lowered her tone as she realized that the students around her had gone quiet for a second before normal conversation resumed. "That is just simply not true. In 2020, major blue cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Madison, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C. cut their police funds by more than 1.2 billion dollars. Guess what happened the following year? People started to realize that their public safety was in danger and every single one of those cities began efforts to restore those funds." said John, whose primary source of news was from the Fox app downloaded on his phone. After a few exchanges occurred jabbing at each other's character, the students around them had joined into this conversation. The professor took notice of this commotion and directed John and Mary to take seats at opposite sides of the lecture hall. During class, John would repeated glance at Mary, who displayed a stern look on her face perhaps from her concentration in the class or her way of coping from a heated argument.

"Alright, I think this is a good place to end class today. Make sure to read chapter 5 for Wednesday, there will be a pop quiz! Have a good rest of your week everyone!" the professor exclaimed, quickly raising his voice to talk over the sounds of closing laptops and backpack zippers. John, whose nerves have been calmed during class, quickly runs over to catch up with Mary. "Hey, I'm sorry about what happened earlier, I didn't mean to start off our day with a heated argument." John says in a calming tone. "Thats okay, I guess I shouldn't have escalated the conversation by using personal attacks." Mary retorted. John and Mary continued to talk about their views civilly as they walked to their prospective classrooms. John explained that his father is a police officer that would come home and rarely talk about his job despite his mood reflecting what he dealt with during the day. The rare times that he would open up about what happened during working hours he would be reluctant to speak upon it in detail due to the nature his profession encompasses. Mary was very receptive to this as she was able to walk in John's shoes and realize why he would hold the opinions that he does. Mary shared accounts of her friends having unpleasant experiences with police officers and the reasoning behind her thoughts. After the walk, each student had arrived at their respective classrooms and parted ways, having learned the reasoning and logic behind people's opinions and how they should handle situations like this in the future.

Afterthought:
I think that in modern times, this argument happens way too often. By hinting your political stance or even mentioning certain subjects to strangers can lead to them never talking to you again. I believe that this is an issue of modern society; members belonging to political parties often fail to realize why opposing parties hold their values. This disrupts the natural order of a conversation further delaying our advancement as a country. My current roommate who I met freshman year is my best friend. We share many things in common including career goals. He is very polarized in terms of his political beliefs compared to mine, so naturally we have many arguments on political topics. I have learned that being correct in terms of morality or statistics may be a good approach to winning an argument, but pursuing this approach may be at the expense of personal relationship. The reason why I chose to detail and emphasize that through a heated argument, both parties will become more polarized. In other words, no real information will have been exchanged. The correct way to handle these conversations with a person holding opposing viewpoints is to get to know them more personally. This way, you are able to focus on the person's character instead of just politics. Finding a common ground would also bring opposing viewpoints together, rather than polarizing both sides. According to Stephanie Pappas, "..people doubted political facts presented by their opponents far more than facts presented by someone they agreed with" (Facts don't convince people in political arguments. Here's what does). John and Mary both shared their personal accounts of why they hold their own opinions, creating a sense of empathy between the two students.

References:

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/dems-soft-crime-midterms-give-americans-chance-choose-safety

https://www.procon.org/headlines/defund-the-police-top-3-pros-and-cons/

https://mediaengagement.org/research/divided-communities/

https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html

______________________________________

Friends Coming Together
by Grace Cochran

Carlos and Alex come from similar upbringings and grew up twenty minutes away from each other; they both went to similar public high schools, played sports, and spent a lot of time with friends. Carlos comes from a traditional Hispanic family meanwhile Alex shares a caucasian-American background. Despite living near one another for all of their lives, they did not meet each other until they went to college. The two are now, and have been college roommates who are inseparable and spend every minute together; they live in a house with six other guys who all have the same interests and get along on most things rather well.

It was a brisk and sunny afternoon in October as Halloween is right around the corner. Carlos and Alex swing the door open to their favorite place to eat on Friday after class: Chipotle. The line is out the door, per usual, and it takes forty-five minutes to get their burrito bowls. They take their food back to their house and eat it as they discuss their big plans for the Halloween party they are throwing later that night: every year on October 31st, every square inch of the house is decorated with Halloween decorations. From fake spider webs to skeletons and ghosts, it looks like Spirit Halloween threw up in their house. People usually start arriving around ten-thirty, but the guys in the house start drinking much earlier in the day.

As the clock struck midnight, Carlos put down his sixth and final beer as Alex cracked open his twelfth. Carlos grabbed a trash bag and made rounds around the house, picking up any empty bottles and cans. Alex, on the other hand, is running around the house and tearing down decorations and trashing the entire house. Alex’s actions were upsetting the guys that live in the house because they had spent a lot of time decorating the house and Alex was making a fool of himself in front of the guests. Carlos decided to try and control Alex so he confronted him. Alex, who has been overserved, got upset and started to scream Hispanic slurs at Carlos. This upset Carlos so he decided to stop cleaning up the cans and cups and go to his room. Alex continued to run around the house destroying things and soon after, eventually passed out on the couch. Though he was unaware of his demeaning, anger-filled words and actions, Carlos’s feelings resonated with the hurtfulness that Alex brought upon him.

Alex woke up on the couch the next morning and sprung towards the bathroom. When he started to feel a little better, he went into the kitchen to find something to eat when he found Carlos sitting at the table eating his cereal. Alex tried to talk to him, but Carlos seemed upset and was ignoring him. Alex was not really sure why he was being like that so he decided to ask. Carlos expressed that he was hurt by the hateful speech Alex yelled at him during their party which was supposed to be a joyous time; he uttered his truth that he felt belittled in front of his friends and houseguests after having been verbally harassed by his bigotry. Suddenly, Alex’s face grew red and his eyes fell to the ground. The kitchen was filled with silence as he backtracked himself to last night when he destroyed the house and his best friend’s feelings. Before another minute went by, Alex’s eyes filled with tears as he profusely apologized for his hurtful words towards Carlos. He reiterated that he didn’t mean any of the racist words he called Carlos and that it wasn’t a reflection of who he truly was; in the moment he was belligerently intoxicated and not at all in his right mind. Carlos accepted his sincere apology, but it somehow didn’t really change the fact that he still used a specific slur word. After having brought this up to Alex, Alex promised to educate himself on his best friend’s background and culture, promising to never use such language and disrespect towards his Hispanic friend again.

AFTERWORD:
I was given race relations and policing to discuss so I chose to write about these two friends, one Hispanic and the other Caucasian because anti-Latino slurs and remarks are not as often discussed in today’s society. People will commonly use slurs to offend other people or just because they think it’s cool when it is not right at all. I chose to pick two people that pretty much grew up the same to show how privilege isn’t acquired, its something you’re born with; Alex was the one who used hate speech and though he was apologetic for it, he knew he had to be re-educated to become a better person for his friend. This is a prevalent topic in society because most people do not take the time and effort to educate themselves and adjust their behavior respectfully. Usually, people rely on their peers’ reactions to decide whether they should use the slurs they used around them or not. I portrayed a story that would show someone choosing to maturely become a better person not only for his best friend but for society as well.

______________________________________

Strangers Finding An Understanding
by Geetha Palchuri

John Reynolds, a retired cop, sat down at the dinner table with his two sons, who are also cops for the New York City Police Department. His sons would occasionally come visit him in their hometown, Scarsdale, during the summers and holidays, as they lived in Queens, New York City with their respective families now. John, who recently learned about the widespread Black Lives Matter protests around New York City, tells his sons “I hear the city is turning against the cops, who have been and still continue to protect them for hundreds of years. It was different back in my day, but today’s youth in Scarsdale even hold ‘white savior’ ideology, as they just want to be seen as good and moral”(Goldberg, 2022). “I agree. I don’t think the police should be defunded,” his son replied (Chumley, 2021).

Richard Smith is an African American man from Queens, New York City who attends every Black Lives Matter protest he would hear about. He believed his ancestors were handed so many bad cards, from being kidnapped from their native land to being forced to build this country to what it is, and after all those years, he and his community were continuing to be targeted. After many years of staying quiet on the situation that his community faced, he believed that it was finally time that he protested for his brothers and sisters and believed that to properly protect his community, the police needed to be defunded. Growing up, he noticed that they would often patrol his communities, such as his childhood neighborhood in Jamaica, where every movement he took would be noticed, a stark contrast to his experiences in Manhattan, where he noticed almost no police cars patrolling the streets regularly. Through these experiences, he believed that he and many other African Americans were being racially targeted and being treated horribly for their skin color by the police.

During Reynolds’ sons’ brief visit, he learned about an upcoming protest that will occur in Manhattan and wanted to meet those with opposing views in efforts to understand why they would believe that the police should take all the responsibility for the issue when they are only trying to protect their communities (Chumley, 2021). He decided to buy a large cardboard sign on which he painted “I am a seventy-five year old retired cop, and my sons and I have fought for our communities. I want to understand why you hate us.” After he prepared his sign, his son drove him to Manhattan, where he attended the ongoing protest against racially motivated violence on Black people by cops. He stood at a nearby sidewalk and held up the sign over his head and was immediately cursed at by nearby protesters. But when he asked them if they wanted to discuss the topic with him, they stormed off with no intent of having a conversation (Goldberg, 2022).

Then he was finally met by Smith, who caught sight of his sign and wanted to learn about why Reynolds does not think there is an issue of police racially targeting Blacks. “Sir, I want to ask about your background”, Smith asked Reynolds. ‘Well, both my parents were mathematics professors. I lived a moderately affluent life, but as someone who comes from a long-line of members who worked in the Scarsdale police department, I believe that we have been protecting all Americans, regardless of race or socioeconomic status”, Reynolds replied, confused about the point Smith wanted to make. “Well, sir, I had not come from such a background. My roots in America trace back to a plantation, where my ancestors worked day and night but were not compensated for their efforts. While your ancestors built their empire, my ancestors helped the Whites build their empires through their long and rewardless work. In fact, my mother and father were also not privileged enough to even receive a college education, so they would work around the clock to put food on our plates. To make our situation worse, we would always have the police on our backs. How are we supposed to do good for ourselves when society and the cops think we are inherently bad because of our skin color?” Smith added. Reynolds, who finally felt that he understood the situation on why Smith felt the way he did, replied “I am sorry for the situations you had to endure. Because I had grown up around those who had financial stability and college degrees, I guess I had never thought that others did not have the same opportunities or experiences. I still do believe that the police are necessary. They are needed to protect people and keep our communities safe, but now that I think about it, maybe more of the police funding should be used to train police officers to effectively resolve issues without violence and to not racially profile minorities” (Chumley, 2021). Smith, who understood where he was coming from, replied “I agree. No police would not be a good idea, as we need to protect the community, but necessary training is extremely important so police officers do not racially profile minority communities and respond to issues in an effective way.”

They continued to talk about different issues facing the Black community, and although they both still held a lot of their own beliefs, they understood why the other person may believe what they believe. They understood that experiences shape beliefs, and the best way to understand someone on a human level is to step into their shoes and think about what they would think with the same upbringing, background, and situation. Not only that, but they also learned that the best way to gain a new perspective is to have a respectful discussion with those they don’t agree with, as the world is very diverse and people live through different situations.

Afterword:
I decided to write this story, as I believe that the recent Black Lives Matter protests raised a polarizing question on whether the police needs to be retrained or defunded. Many people on both sides of the spectrum often stay firm with their views, as their views are shaped by their experiences and background, so it is difficult to have conversations (Chumley, 2021). I have also noticed that there are also people who may not want to develop relationships, such as friendships, with those who don’t agree with them, which explains why many regions are majority Republican and some regions are majority Democrats. So I wanted Reynolds and Smith to be from a republican region of New York and a democratic region of New York, respectively. Through my story, I also wanted to show that people can understand each other without agreeing with each other. For example, Smith and Reynolds came to a conclusion on how policing should change after learning about each other's stories. Once Reynolds learned that many other Americans, such as those in minority communities, do not have the same privileges that he was born into, he changed his position on the issue of policing and understood the color of one’s skin could lead to more or less privileges. Additionally, I also wanted to show that despite their differences, they could come to an agreement on how to solve the issue at hand, which is something I have noticed by watching political discussions, where people usually find some common ground through discussion. Additionally, I wanted to portray them as respectful people, who are interested in listening to other views, as I believe that this is the most effective way to come to a conclusion is to see each other as fellow humans who just have different experiences.

Goldberg, Z. (2022, October 8). The very bad reason white Democrats want to defund the police. New York Post. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://nypost.com/2022/10/08/the-very-bad-reason-white-democrats-want-to-defund-the-police/

Chumley, C. K. (2021, April 27). Blacks need to stop resisting police - but they won't. The Washington Times. Retrieved October 28, 2022, from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/apr/27/blacks-need-to-stop-resisting-police-but-they-wont/

______________________________________

Differing Perspectives
by Chloe Sykora

It was an ordinary sunny day in October 2022. Adah was getting ready for another day of work in her hometown, Las Cruces, New Mexico. She put her hair into a curly bun on the top of her head and chose an outfit that would be suitable for her office job. As she checked the time, she realized she still had about 20 minutes until she needed to start her commute. So, she settled down on the couch and decided to turn on the TV. She was greeted with unexpected news. A democratic House candidate had stated that he supported decreasing the police budget. Not only that, he was open to decreasing it by half of what it originally was (Gillespie 2022). This surprised Adah. After nearly two years of unrest since the Black Lives Matter movement, she was starting to think that changes would never be made to the police system in the United States. She was so tired of feeling the watchful eyes of policemen everywhere she went, even if she was just shopping in the grocery store like everyone else. She knew the risks the police posed to herself and to the members of her community. She knew the power that the police force had, and how that power was sometimes wielded in dangerous ways. Finally, something was being done.

Next door, Adah’s neighbor was digesting this same piece of news. Harry Alden was a 76 year old retired policeman who spent the majority of his life in the police force. He did all that he could to support the local police departments, and even spent time volunteering. Based on his years of experience, he took pride in the safety that the police can bring to a community. He believed they were an essential part of everybody’s wellbeing. As he watched the news, he felt confused and frustrated by the ignorant House candidate’s words. He did not understand how somebody could blatantly support the reform of a system that had done no wrong. Everything the police did was done with the intention of keeping the majority of people safe. All that news on the Black Lives Matter movement was silly; the police involved were just doing their jobs and protecting the people. Harry decided to get some fresh air and clear his mind about the information he just heard.

As Harry was walking out the door, he saw Adah on her way to work. “Hi there, Adah. Where are you off to?” said Harry. Adah responded that she was about to head over to work. “Working hard I hope. Did you hear the news?” Harry asked. “Yes, about the defunding of the police?” Adah answered. “Yes. I can’t believe your little movement has planted this silly idea into people’s heads. The police need all the funding they can get to continue to grow stronger and protect our people” Harry said. “Excuse me Mr. Alden, I’m not sure I agree with you. My “little” movement has been built upon decades of mistreatment towards black people. We have finally had enough and are calling upon the nation to change its ways. This is important to me. I personally believe that the police system does need reform” replied Adah with a hurt expression. “Why ever would it need reform?” asked Harry, bewildered. “Because, people like me are being killed every day just because they don’t look like you. Because of our skin tone, we are being targeted and punished for crimes that we never committed. I fear for my life every day because of the influence of the police in our society” Adah responded. Harry remained silent.
Harry knew people were losing their lives, but he had never heard it from the perspective of someone he actually knew personally. He had always heard that Black Lives Matter was fraudulent (Linge 2022). However, hearing Adah’s perspective allowed him to see why this movement was such a big deal. While he did not agree with the defunding of the police, he understood why some people were so passionate about it. As he considered this, he said “Thank you for sharing your point of view with me. I did not realize how much this is affecting people. However, I still think the police need this money. How else will they change and avoid hurting people?” “I see your point,” said Adah, “and I realize that they may need this money to continue educating the police about the treatment of minorities. Perhaps we can talk later and discuss how defunding the police would be a bad thing, or how it can be a good thing. I am happy that you want to hear my perspective, and I am grateful that I heard yours.” With a quick smile, Adah got into her car and pulled away for work.

Afterword

Polarization of thoughts and ideas in our society has led many people to believe that they cannot communicate or agree with those who do not have the same ideals as them. I decided to write about a conversation between a young African American woman and an older white man in order to show that it is possible for people of different backgrounds to have a productive conversation about something they don’t agree on. In anthropology, we study the evolution of human diversity over time, and it is important to consider how diversity continues to influence us today. Everybody’s voices and opinions bring something interesting to the world, and we have to listen to each other in order to learn more about ourselves. I decided to talk about the characters’ different perspectives on the Black Lives Matter movement, because I think there have been misconceptions about why people started protesting, and what message they were trying to get across. News can be skewed to favor different political views, so it is important to communicate with people who are different in order to hear a wider range of perspectives. When we communicate with each other, we can educate each other.

References

Gillespie, Brandon. 2022. “Democrat candidate in key House race vowed ‘full support’ for cutting police budget in half.” Fox News. October 19, 2022. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/democrat-candidate-key-house-race-vowed-full-support-cutting-police-budget-half

Linge, Mary Kay. 2022. “‘Not helping the community’: George Floyd roommates, others slam BLM in new film.” New York Post. October 14, 2022 https://nypost.com/2022/10/14/george-floyd-roommates-others-slam-black-lives-matter-in-film/?utm_source=url_sitebuttons&utm_medium=site%20buttons&utm_campaign=site%20buttons

______________________________________

Police presence and division
by Julian Trujillo

There was a slight March chill in the air as they made the long trek back from Mike’s fraternity house back towards their residence hall for the night. Mike’s shirt was left crumpled up somewhere in the frat basement, and he was majorly regretting the decision to not look for it before he left. Juwan, on the other hand, was texting some other friends about an event that was getting hosted the next afternoon. Juwan and Mike had been randomly assigned as roommates, as both of them were out of state students and knew next to nobody on campus. They had bonded over their love of the school’s football team, movies, and weight lifting. Juwan had come in from the Midwest, raised in the suburbs to a physician and software developer. He was the middle child, and really close with his older brother, a student at their state university. Mike was from the southwest, raised by a restaurant manager and high school teacher with his younger sister, a middle schooler.

“Bro, look over there.” Mike’s statement had taken Juwan out of his text conversation, and looking across the quad, he saw a small group of students, clearly inebriated, fighting. The two roommates pulled to the side, silently placing bets on who’d win with each other. Fights like this were more common on campus during the weekends, but the university had sent out emails before the weekend, saying that there would be an increased police presence on campus the rest of the semester in order to break up fights before they got out of hand. And almost on cue, two officers showed up a few minutes later, and broke up the fight. There were four students involved in the fight, two white, one Latino, and one African American. The officers pulled the two minority students to the side and handcuffed them, the officers then left with the four students.

“Dude, good thing the police showed up, those guys were getting out of hand.” Mike said, rubbing his hands again.

“Sure, but can you believe that? Those officers singled out the two minorities there.” Juwan replied, a bit agitated.

“Well yeah, but those two were the more aggressive there, makes sense they were separated first.” Mike replied.

“Are you serious? They were all equally aggressive there, the cops just gave the white students a pass.” Juwan practically yelled, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“What’s your problem dude? The cops broke up the fight, that’s their job. It doesn’t matter who was arrested first, they all got taken away.” Mike was mad now, feeling put on the spot. The two continued yelling at each other for a while, before Juwan stormed off. Mike was bewildered, how had that argument gotten out of hand so fast? He made his way back to their dorm, and turned it in for the night. The next morning, he woke up, still no sign of Juwan in the dorm. Sighing, he thought back on the encounter with the police. While he hadn’t seen it like that, he could see where Juwan was coming from, it was kind of weird that the police singled out the two minority students first. A knock on the dorm door took Mike out of his thoughts, and before he could react, the door opened up.

“Hey.” Juwan said, plopping down on his side of the dorm.

“Hey?” Mike responded, not expecting Juwan to have returned so fast.

“Look man, my bad, I shouldn’t have yelled at you last night” Juwan started.

“No, it’s my bad too. I made way too many assumptions about what was happening during the fight” Mike replied. The two of them talked about the situation, and what had happened. Juwan explained how his older brother and father had experienced similar situations to the one they had witnessed, and how that has helped shape his opinion on the police as an African American man. How he wanted more transparency with police and their internal review systems because of these experiences. Mike listened, and then explained how he hadn’t considered that perspective. He explained how for him, the police represented safety and security. After a series of crimes in his hometown, it made him feel safer for himself and his little sister that police had an increased presence. The two of them continued to talk and hash the situation out, both realizing what policing means for the other person, and ways they wanted policing to change in the future.

AFTERWARD

While my first thoughts on this prompt were on the BLM protests that happened after the murder of George Floyd, I decided on writing about a similar situation to a smaller instance of policing and race where, when breaking up a fight in a mall, the African American participants in the fight were placed in handcuffs, while the white participants were left alone. To me, this scenario was easier to adapt to this narrative, and also can show how little assumptions can build up and cause division. After witnessing this situation, both the characters make different assumptions and observations about what had happened. Mike, our more conservative coded character, observes that the police did break up the situation, but fails to notice the different standards for the students. Juwan, our more liberal coded character, focuses on the different standard the minority students experience, and is upset about it. These observations cause the two roommates to fight, as Juwan is upset that Mike is justifying what he sees as racial discrimination in policing, while Mike is upset that he’s being put on the spot, and what he initially views as an overreaction. We learn later that the two characters' opinions on the police and how safe they feel around them has influenced their position. This is similar to the ideas expressed that one’s sense of feeling safe can change the views one expresses, with feeling safer associated with more liberal trains of thought (Barth, 2017). This situation is slightly flipped here as the liberal coded character feels unsafe, and this leads him to have a more aggressive outlook on the situation. The two resolve their conflict by talking with each other, and explaining why their position on policing is what it is. The two of them use stories about their experiences on policing, which helps the other understand their unique perspective. This strategy of using stories to bridge political divisions, especially when one feels vulnerable is one of the more effective strategies (Pappas, 2021) One’s racial identity also impacts their perspective, Juwan, a African American, feels more unsafe due to previous incidents with the police in his family, while Mike, whose racial identity isn’t mentioned in the story, but was written as a white person, feels much safer around the police. Ultimately this narrative shows how safe one feels around police can impact their perspective, and how assumptions about a situation change how people view the same situation. The conflict is started by these previous assumptions, but settled when the two characters talk with each other.

References

Barth, Diane. 2017. “Arguing Politics with Friends? One Word Makes a Difference: New study offers insight into political conflict with friends, family & others” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers. December 9, 2017. https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html

Pappas, Stephanie. 2021 “ Facts don’t convince people in political arguments. Here’s what does.” LiveScience. Purch. January 25, 2021 https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html

______________________________________

A Pair of Roommates
by Karina Valdez

With the arrival of the Spring semester 2022 at NYU, Julia, a 19-year-old white female from the suburbs of New York was excited to finally meet and live with her roommate Sarah. Soon after orientation, Julia and Sarah immediately clicked, spending all hours hanging out and introducing one another to their friend groups or simply talking about Harry Styles. On a particular night, both decided on having a movie night, however, before deciding on a movie Julia and Sarah got a Twitter notification about a recent attack that had occurred in Brooklyn involving a Hispanic 15-year-old and a group of white teenagers. Immediately, both began to see what others had tweeted in regard to the attack. Most of them were demanding that the government redirect more funds to help place more safety in low-income neighborhoods like Brooklyn. And Sarah, a Hispanic female who was born and raised in the poorer areas of Brooklyn quickly expressed her support for the redirection of funds. However, Julia appeared bothered. She claimed “ if the government gives them more funds, they will simply continue to ask for more than is deserved,” Sarah angrily replied. “ So are you implying that “my people'' take advantage of what is given to us simply because we don’t want to work for things ourselves,” actually “Let me guess, you probably think I was only able to afford this school because I told FAFSA I had no money, and by taking all YOUR scholarships.” Julia, who could feel the anger filling the room could not help but continue this argument, so she responded. “you are acting like a dumb child who can’t be honest with yourself and the way in which people function” Sarah, who at this point is yelling directly at Julia said, “ you know what, sorry I am not like you who is white and clearly is unaware of the privilege you have simply for being pale!” Julia simply shoved past Sarah, grabbed her phone, and left the room without saying a word.

The next morning, Sarah approached Julia and asked if they could talk about what occurred last night. They sat down, and Sarah began by apologizing for raising her voice at Julia stating, “Look I know that we were both very upset, and I just wanted to sit down and try to understand your opinion on the matter” Julia then began by explaining how growing up in an upper-class neighborhood, and as the daughter of doctors she oftentimes saw how her parents and neighbors complained about the high amount of taxes that they needed to pay. She also addressed how she grew up in a community that offered low-income individuals jobs, however, much of the experiences she gathered resulted in them demanding more money or benefits. Sarah then stated, “Well I can see where you are coming from given your own personal upbringing, and I also have to be aware that what makes you and your personal opinions is not something that I should try and diminish. Your point of view matters, and I should not have gone as far as insulting you.” Julia, now feeling relieved and understood, decided she needed to apologize to Sarah. “For one, I am sorry for not taking into consideration the severity of the attack, and simply assuming that the Hispanic community would take this as an opportunity to get more funding from the government. I know now that I cannot categorize or assume all individuals from a particular race or societal group have the same intentions, like meeting you for example have taught me that we all are different and should not be held accountable for things that we did not do. Despite my beliefs, I should be mindful of what I say and to who, me having disregarded the fact that you yourself have lived in the same area and probably have first-hand experience with the lack of support that is received from the government, so again I am deeply sorry for offending and not having been open-minded.” Both girls then embraced one another in a hug. And while this argument brought a different side of who they are, it has helped them to better understand and appreciate who they are and where they come from.

AFTERWORD

After seeing that I had to write about the polarization that exists in relation to race and policing within North America, one of the first things that came to mind was the disputes that have risen due to income inequality. When addressing income or government funding there always has been two very clear and affirmative points of view, however, in recent years there has been more controversy in regard to who should be receiving what and how much. So I choose to write about two college roommates who have similar interests regarding their personal enjoyment and simply common characteristics, however, once they are faced with disputes regarding one’s income in particular its “inequality ” two clear distinctions are made. That is the reason why I wanted to have them both belong to two different social classes, to help put an emphasis on how individuals that are categorized within low social classes, view things in the sense that the rich are always higher up, and have access to more benefits (Birdsong, 2017). Whereas, others like Julia might see things from a more conservative point of view based on how they were raised, and how they gather their information on things (Mitchell, Gottfried…, 2014). I wanted to get the point across that both girls had their own reasons for viewing income inequality in the way that they did. I also decided to go into detail regarding the verbal dispute that they had, as it helps to visualize the severity of polarization and of the separations that occur within a society. When writing the ending of my story I did want to portray how despite there being various forms of polarization, there also are ways in which people can come to an understanding without having to change their personal beliefs.

References:
ll_sevenpillers. “The Consequences of Economic Inequality.” Seven Pillars Institute, 5 Feb. 2015, https://sevenpillarsinstitute.org/consequences-economic-inequality/. Mitchell, Amy, et al.

“Political Polarization & Media Habits.” Pew Research Center's Journalism Project, Pew Research Center, 28 Aug. 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/2014/10/21/political-polarization-media-habits/.

______________________________________

A Common Goal
by Tali Joelson

The year was 2021 and it was a typical fall day in the suburbs of Chicago; there was a chill in the air and piles of crunchy leaves to stomp on. Most of the people were just beginning to stir but Michael had already slept through his alarm and spilled coffee on his suit. Mind you, he was not used to things going wrong. He was white, worked at a prestigious law firm, and had a beautiful wife and son. Perhaps this is why it particularly irked him when his 10-year-old son, Matthew, finally remembered to tell him he had a field trip in downtown Chicago a mere 15 minutes before he was supposed to be dropped off at his elementary school. Despite his current grumpy mood, most of his coworkers at his law firm would describe him as hardworking, and kind.

Jeremy had a theory. He thought that he was only successful because of his name. when you hear the name, Jeremy Berens, you probably don’t picture a young African American man who grew up with next to nothing. And because of that, Jeremy thought his name is what allowed him to go to college and get a job. This realization came when he was applying to colleges and only got into the colleges that he did not have an in-person interview with. Don’t worry, he knows this could be a coincidence, but as he gets ready to go fight a speeding ticket that a racist cop gave him, he can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the cop only saw his name and not his skin color. Would he have to waste his morning going into the city?

Michael’s mind went blank. Then the adrenaline roared into his ears, putting life into his body. He only had one thought as he sped into the city: find his son. Images of today’s latest protest were first shown on the news in his office, but it was a few minutes later that he received the notification from the school that his “son was missing.” Everything after those three words was a blur. He only let out the smallest of breaths when the school called and said that Matthew was safe at the police station in the city.

Jeremy couldn’t believe his ears. $250 dollars? For a speeding ticket? He didn’t have that kind of money! In his rage, he muttered (not so quietly), “defund the police!” The police had just safely returned Michael’s son and he would not stand for anyone talking badly about them. “You watch your mouth,” he sneered. Jeremy tried to push past Michael, but Michael didn’t budge. “These cops saved my son and we need them; you are so ignorant!” said Michael. “Oh yeah?” argued Jeremy, then “why did the police pull me over when I was going the same speed as everyone else?” and “why did the cops ask me if my car was stolen as soon as he saw I was black?” Michael didn’t have an answer. Jeremy was fed up with this situation and the current racial tensions in the United States so he added, “and, please, Mr. know it all, tell me why the police who killed my friend were acquitted because they just “made a mistake” and thought he was armed?” Michael was taken aback by this young man’s words. He knew that the police made mistakes but hearing about a real victim made him question the training the police had. As Michael paused, he thought about the recent protests that had come after the murder of George Floyd and couldn’t shake the thought that his son may not have been returned safely if he wasn’t white. After a quiet breath, Michael said “I’m sorry about your friend.” Jeremy was slightly touched by this and said, “listen, man, I have the same goal as you, I want to feel safe in this city, but lately, the police have failed to keep me or the protesters safe.” Although Michael didn’t have all the answers, he believed that they ultimately did have a common goal. Maybe it was because of the chilling story he just heard or just because he was so grateful his son was in his arms, but Michael left that precinct with a little bit more empathy in his heart.

 

Afterword

I decided to write about the issue of defunding the police because it is both polarizing and relates to race relations and policing. In my story, Michael has never had a bad experience with a police officer, so he does not think defunding the police is necessary or a good idea. On the other hand, Jeremy, as a black man, has only had negative personal experiences with the police so he believes defunding the police is the right path. I had these two men interact at the police station so that Michael could hear Jeremy’s firsthand experiences which include his struggles with racial profiling and the murder of his best friend. These compelling stories end up making a bigger impact on Michael than statistics from the news ever did. This reflects the article written by Stephanie Pappas because she says that personal experiences are more effective than facts. They might not see exactly eye to eye by the end of their interaction but they both end up leaving with the knowledge that they have a common goal and consequently, have a bit more understanding of the other person’s side of the story.

Pappas, Stephanie. 2021. “Facts Don't Convince People in Political Arguments. Here's What Does.” LiveScience. Purch. January 25, 2021. https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html.

______________________________________

Old Habits Die Hard, but New Perspectives Always Create Change
by Agilan Gunashankar

As the sun rose on the cozy, but slightly derelict, neighborhood of Crestview, California, the doors to Jon’s Automotive Factory, the primary car parts manufacturer in the area, opened. Employees from all around the neighborhood begin to stream in. From engineers to designers to experts in business acumen, Jon’s Automotive Factory employs a wide variety of individuals from numerous backgrounds. The primary focus of the factory is to supply a steady stream of a myriad of car parts, tools, and equipment to the local mechanics, dealerships, and home goods stores located throughout Crestview and the surrounding neighborhoods. With a lot of work on their hands, the factory’s employees always get an early start to their day.

Our story now brings us to Chris, a rather hefty man, who was brought up in a traditional white family a few miles away from Beverly Hills, California. Chris’ father fought in Vietnam, and his service represents a real point of pride for Chris. He grew up wanting to enlist, but eventually decided to pursue a career in football. However, after attending a small D1-level college on scholarship, Chris began to really struggle on the football pitch. Eventually, he dropped out of college after deciding it wasn’t for him. Now, he works a stable blue-collar job on the factory line at Jon’s Automotive Factory; he spends his days at work productively, taking pride in his work, but often enjoys taking time to speak with his manager Dan, whom he considers a good friend. Although Chris never got a chance to enlist, he still holds a huge admiration for those who desire to serve their country. Chris considers himself a conservative individual.

Dan is a rather small African-American man who grew up near South Crenshaw, California. His childhood was a struggle; his family was relatively low-income, and he grew up in what his neighbors called the “bad part of town.” Gangs were relatively common in the area; however, he never really had more than one or two altercations with them, as he generally kept to himself. More often than not, he really only had trouble with the police. As the police had heard about gang violence and activity in the area, they often spent days “scoping it out”; in fact, Dan had been wrongfully arrested on more than one occasion, when police officers mistook him for a member of a local gang. One time, he was simply buying snacks from a local gas station. He refused the bag the station’s clerk offered him, and told him to throw away the receipt. When he walked out of the store, he was immediately arrested under suspicion of theft. Despite immediate support from the station’s clerk, he was still held for two hours while officers completed an official inquiry. Despite his struggles, Dan worked hard in school, and eventually graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from the University of California in San Diego. Now, he works as a senior level manager at Jon’s Automotive Factory, making well over a six-figure salary. He spends his days managing the company’s finances and enjoying conversations with Chris, one of his employees. Yet, Dan still hasn’t forgotten about his childhood, and still harbors animosity towards the injustices he faced at the hands of the police all those years ago. Dan considers himself a liberal individual.

Normally, Dan and Chris spend their days chatting while completing their quotas for work. Chris works on the factory line, but his post is right next to Dan’s office. Sometimes, Dan even pulls out a plastic chair and sits beside Chris as he works on his laptop. This particular morning, however, caused a large argument between the two friends. As Chris walked into the factory, following his morning routine, he noticed a larger-than-normal crowd of employees. He figured that due to the company’s recent success, they were expanding, and paid the change relatively little heed. However, as he turned towards his post, he saw a few familiar faces. In particular, he saw Dan animatedly talking to Rob and Sam, two members of Crestview’s local police force. Confused, Chris went over to the group and asked Dan what was going on. In the same excited manner, Dan clapped Chris on the shoulder and informed him that Rob and Same quit working for the police, and began to talk about the reasoning behind it. Rob and Sam had been forced to bear witness to many unfair incidents initiated by the local police force. In fact, just the night before, Rob and Sam were forced to participate in a “no knock” break-in, where police break into a house where inhabitants are expected to be committing a crime without warning. Such break-ins can often cause irreparable damage to the house and don’t offer victims a chance to peacefully cooperate. Dan had read about Keith Humphrey, the police chief of Little Rock, Arkansas, on the Washington Post, where he was featured in a prominent article titled “Opinion | Facing Union Pushback, Another Black Police Chief Steps Down.” Humphrey, readily opposed to the “no-knock” raids, described how they were a violation of privacy, reducing the number of such raids from 57 per year to 3 per year in Little Rock (Balko 2022). Rob and Sam, who felt especially guilty after the raid was deemed unnecessary (the victim was pronounced innocent), spoke to Dan about their feelings after getting off work. Dan, a staunch believer in the necessity for police reform, told them the rest of the story involving police chief Humphrey. After Humphrey found a white officer who mistreated a black victim, he fired the officer, and immediately received significant backlash from other officers and the internet, which included the Little Rock community (Balko 2022). Although Humphrey only wanted positive change, he was forced out by a seemingly corrupt police system. Clearly, working within the police wasn’t going to create change; any major action would only be met with severe backlash. After discussion, they felt that it was necessary for Rob and Sam, who, as African-American individuals, felt enraged by Humphrey’s story, to quit the police force. Instead, they chose to try and make a difference by joining activist groups related to police reform and community safety, but began working for Jon’s Automotive Factory, courtesy of the recent company expansion, to continue providing for their families.

Hearing this, Chris was extremely enraged. Confused, Dan backed off, not understanding the sudden tension he felt from his friend. Chris immediately began shouting about how they were endangering their community. Rob and Sam were extremely taken aback, and Dan sent them over to their posts before pulling Chris towards his office. He sat Chris down and angrily stood in front of him, demanding an explanation. Chris began yelling about patriotism and how Rob and Sam were betraying their community. Enraged, Dan began shouting back, and a shouting match ensued. After a few minutes, Dan cut Chris off, and he insisted that they talk through their problems, as opposed to just shouting. Chris took a deep breath, and began explaining his side of the story. He described how his father was a Vietnam Veteran, and he was really passionate about serving his country. Chris described his personal pride as an American; he was proud to be a part of this country. To Chris, this wasn’t just about the military, but included the police force as well. After all, they were the ones who kept citizens safe on a daily basis. Chris, as an avid reader of Fox News, also described his viewpoint on the recent so-called police exodus. In an article titled, “Law Enforcement Officials Sound Alarm on Police Exodus Amplifying Crime Crisis: 'We Can't Keep You Safe,” Chris had read about how the police force was facing a shortage after a wave of resignations among active police officers. The article, which described the cause of the problem, indicated that it was because of liberal movements like “Black Lives Matter,” and “Defund the Police,” which insisted that the police force was corrupt due to incidents of unfair police brutality among minority groups (Coggins 2022). Due to the mass “exodus,” the police force was left understaffed, and Chris was shocked by this. As Chris grew up in a relatively well-off neighborhood, he hadn’t really seen any cases of individuals getting arrested, much less police brutality. He inherently assumed that the racially-motivated cases that were being protested were few and far between. He saw them as no reason to assume that the police force itself was corrupt.

Dan, listening to Chris, clearly saw a gap in understanding between both of their experiences. A few weeks prior, Dan had stumbled upon an article titled “Facts Don't Convince People in Political Arguments. Here's What Does.” In the article, Dan read about how a variety of facts might not convince an individual, but a single anecdote, told from personal life experiences, can have a significant impact on an individual's worldview. He realized that Chris didn’t really consider police chief Humphrey’s experience that significant; he viewed it as a chance occurrence. Sighing, Dan began telling his own personal story as an effort to show Chris where he was coming from. He described how he was unfairly arrested for shoplifting. He described how, despite being a hardworking student, he was suspected of gang violence throughout his childhood, just because of his skin color. To add a powerful final touch, he finished with an anecdote. He began by describing his childhood job. To make money to help his family, Dan worked as a newspaper boy during high school, riding his bike and delivering newspapers to everyone around. On a daily basis, he described how he had to ride around the area in fear of police sirens; scared of police brutality, every time a cop car pulled up to him, suspicious of his activity around a gang-ridden area, he had to drop his bike and raise his hands immediately.

Hearing this, Chris was extremely enraged. Confused, Dan backed off, not understanding the sudden tension he felt from his friend. Chris immediately began shouting about how they were endangering their community. Rob and Sam were extremely taken aback, and Dan sent them over to their posts before pulling Chris towards his office. He sat Chris down and angrily stood in front of him, demanding an explanation. Chris began yelling about patriotism and how Rob and Sam were betraying their community. Enraged, Dan began shouting back, and a shouting match ensued. After a few minutes, Dan cut Chris off, and he insisted that they talk through their problems, as opposed to just shouting. Chris took a deep breath, and began explaining his side of the story. He described how his father was a Vietnam Veteran, and he was really passionate about serving his country. Chris described his personal pride as an American; he was proud to be a part of this country. To Chris, this wasn’t just about the military, but included the police force as well. After all, they were the ones who kept citizens safe on a daily basis. Chris, as an avid reader of Fox News, also described his viewpoint on the recent so-called police exodus. In an article titled, “Law Enforcement Officials Sound Alarm on Police Exodus Amplifying Crime Crisis: 'We Can't Keep You Safe,” Chris had read about how the police force was facing a shortage after a wave of resignations among active police officers. The article, which described the cause of the problem, indicated that it was because of liberal movements like “Black Lives Matter,” and “Defund the Police,” which insisted that the police force was corrupt due to incidents of unfair police brutality among minority groups (Coggins 2022). Due to the mass “exodus,” the police force was left understaffed, and Chris was shocked by this. As Chris grew up in a relatively well-off neighborhood, he hadn’t really seen any cases of individuals getting arrested, much less police brutality. He inherently assumed that the racially-motivated cases that were being protested were few and far between. He saw them as no reason to assume that the police force itself was corrupt.

Dan, listening to Chris, clearly saw a gap in understanding between both of their experiences. A few weeks prior, Dan had stumbled upon an article titled “Facts Don't Convince People in Political Arguments. Here's What Does.” In the article, Dan read about how a variety of facts might not convince an individual, but a single anecdote, told from personal life experiences, can have a significant impact on an individual's worldview. He realized that Chris didn’t really consider police chief Humphrey’s experience that significant; he viewed it as a chance occurrence. Sighing, Dan began telling his own personal story as an effort to show Chris where he was coming from. He described how he was unfairly arrested for shoplifting. He described how, despite being a hardworking student, he was suspected of gang violence throughout his childhood, just because of his skin color. To add a powerful final touch, he finished with an anecdote. He began by describing his childhood job. To make money to help his family, Dan worked as a newspaper boy during high school, riding his bike and delivering newspapers to everyone around. On a daily basis, he described how he had to ride around the area in fear of police sirens; scared of police brutality, every time a cop car pulled up to him, suspicious of his activity around a gang-ridden area, he had to drop his bike and raise his hands immediately.

Hearing this, Chris was shocked; what he considered a relatively not prevalent problem was the complete opposite; even his good friend had suffered the consequences. However, Chris wasn’t completely convinced. He used an anecdote of his own, describing how he was afraid to walk home late at night. Crestview was a decently safe neighborhood, but a lack of police officers on patrol encouraged crime. Although Dan still held steadfast to his point, he agreed that completely eliminating police as a defense system wasn’t the best idea. Together, Dan and Chris began to discuss solutions. They brainstormed a variety of ideas, including starting a “Citizen’s Police” service, where average citizens could help patrol the neighborhood at night; starting a petition to the city council, attempting to convince the city to institute stricter police regulations; and even starting a community-wide petition to the police stations for better regulation. Eventually, they decided on a pretty cool idea: to create a program for police training and start an online fund to help sponsor training for free to police stations/officers in the area. After discussing the problem together, and utilizing an important conversation tool, Chris and Dan came together to help resolve their race-related differences and create positive change for the community.

Afterword:

In recent times, police brutality has really made an interesting impact on the United States of America as a whole. It has created a terrifyingly clear natural divide between the political populus of the country. Many people, who are desperate patriots, view defunding the police and blaming them for brutality incidents as illogical and horrible; how can we push back against those so desperately defending us on a daily basis? Other people are tired of the racially-spurred actions of many corrupt cops. They are tired of being taken advantage of, and from experiencing racial bigotry on a daily basis. Some incidents of police brutality are accidents, done out of fear. Others are clearly based on social and racial stereotypes. As put by the Washington Post, “every person of color has experienced some kind of bigotry” (Wu 2022). As a South Asian student myself, I’ve experienced many of these stereotypes in my daily life; for example, some individuals often judge me to be more “nerdy” because of my race as South Indian. On a daily basis, putting up with these stereotypes is often not too hard; although it’s wrong, eventually you begin to get used to it. However, when one’s safety is brought into concern, that is a different story. It’s unbelievably hard to accept the notion that one should be in more danger, from those who are “trying to protect us,” because of race. At the end of the day, change is necessary. However, I chose to write about this topic for a specific related reason. Although some of the police force is corrupt, not all of it is. Removing the police can have devastating consequences on those in relative safety today. Having conversations about possible solutions, like that between Dan and Chris, is necessary to achieve a future where no one has to worry about their safety,.

References:
Coggins, Madeline. “Law Enforcement Officials Sound Alarm on Police Exodus Amplifying Crime Crisis: 'We Can't Keep You Safe'.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 28 Oct. 2022, https://www.foxnews.com/media/law-enforcement-officials-sound-alarm-police-exodus-amplifying-crime-crisis-safe.
Balko, Radley. “Opinion | Facing Union Pushback, Another Black Police Chief Steps Down.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 May 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/13/little-rock-humphrey-black-police-chief-retirement-union/.
Pappas, Stephanie. “Facts Don't Convince People in Political Arguments. Here's What Does.” LiveScience, Purch, 25 Jan. 2021, https://www.livescience.com/facts-dont-win-political-arguments.html.
Wu, Jason. “Advice | How to Cope with Racism-Induced Stress.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Oct. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/wellness/2022/10/06/tips-to-cope-racism-stress/.

______________________________________

Long Time Friends
by Mason Sotomayor

Joshua and Chris were two friends who had grown up together. They would spend nearly every day together, hanging out over weekends and going to the same middle school together. They would go over to each other’s houses and play their favorite games, and when they went home they would email each other. They were like brothers, and entirely inseparable.

One day, one of Joshua’s parents had received a big job offer in a large city, so he and his family had to move away. Joshua and Chris told each other that they would stay in touch and be friends no matter what. The next year, highschool came around. Slowly, Joshua and Chris would fall out of touch with each other.

With the new job that his mother had, Joshua was able to live comfortably without worrying about money. However, he had met people with a variety of different backgrounds while he was in highschool. There were people from poor and affluent backgrounds, as well as people of different ethnicities. He made friends who had struggled to make ends meet in their households and friends who were discriminated against. Some of his friends could pay for college because their parents had difficulty finding high paying jobs as immigrants. Outside of school, his friends would often talk about how much they had disliked what the mayor was doing to neighborhoods with mainly minority populations. Minorities were constantly pushed out of neighborhoods to make way for gentrification. He met people who needed to survive off of tax benefits. He grew up listening to his parents talk about the mistreatment of minorities in his city by the police force and the oppression they had imposed on the less fortunate, and he had witnessed it first hand as well. Joshua had grown to dislike the current police force, and he wanted something to change for minorities he believed were in need of equal opportunities.

Chris, on the other hand, had a very different time in high school. At his highschool, most parents of students were police officers, Chris’s parents included. Still, he had a diverse group of friends as well. Some of his friends had only one parent, and had lost the other on duty. His friends had families who had grown up poor, but had worked very hard and were very fortunate to get to where they are today. He had grown up with an understanding that he and his classmates had what they did have because they had earned it and worked their whole lives for it. He had grown up listening to his parents talk about the misrepresentation of police in the media, and how they are disrespected by the public. Chris himself had black and asian friends, and he never held any racist views. He knew his parents were not racist, and was proud of his family. He had grown to respect the police force, and disliked the intrusion of the government on the rights and possessions he believed that his family had earned. Chris believed that while minorities should have equal rights, they should also earn those things through hard work rather than asking for an advantage.

Chris and Joshua had eventually gone to university, and by coincidence they had gone to the same place. On the way to their classes on the first week, they happen to run into each other. They are excited to meet each other and plan to grab a coffee during the weekend. The weekend comes around, and they talk about everything they had missed.

They sit quietly for a minute, checking messages on their phone and taking in the moment. Chris gets a notification on his phone. “Black Lives Matter protest currently taking place on campus…”
“It’s awful, isn’t it?” says Chris. “I really wish that these kinds of protests could be peaceful. Have you said what they did downtown?” Joshua sits uncomfortably in his chair, “Uh, what do you mean?”

“I mean, it’s just disappointing to see what they did at the last protest downtown. Those protests could have sent their message in any other way, and instead so many people were hurt.”

“Chris, I really don’t think that’s what the point of the protests were. Other ways were tried, and now people are tired of not being heard. These are high tension times, and people are angry that minorities are not treated as well as white people by the authorities.”

“Josh, you don’t think that all police officers are bad people, do you? They are hard working people, and they protect us. What do you think we would do without them? I think if anyone just cooperated with the police, then no one should get hurt.”

“Not every dark skinned person is bad either, and yet when the police are involved it seems that it’s only ever minorities who suffer the most. The common denominator is oppression by those who deem themselves in power.”

They had begun raising their voice at each other. Joshua was angry that Chris just could not see what he was seeing, that people of color do not have access to the same treatment that they should have. Chris was angry that Joshua seemed to assume that it was people in power, predominantly white people, who cause unequal rights in this country. They had begun listing facts and numbers at each other, trying to prove the other wrong while refusing to budge on their own position. Eventually the manager of the cafe approached them and asked them to quiet down or leave. Embarrassed, Chris and Joshua had gotten up and left.

They stood outside, and stood in silence. They were ashamed in themselves that they had exploded on each other like that. After some time, Chris let out a joke. Joshua chuckled and the tension seemed to subside. Joshua brings a story from their childhood, and reminisces about how things were back then. Things were so much easier then. They were too young to care about race back then. All they cared about was going to school and having fun. Eventually they start talking about what happened while they were in highschool again, but this the stories were more personal. Chris had talked about how when the protests had begun, his family had a lower income due to police defunding. He felt that they were being punished for something they did not do. Joshua talked about how one of his friends had gotten illegally searched by a cop, even though he had not done anything to warrant a search. Chris talked about when he knew good people in the force who truly believed they were doing a good thing. Joshua about how he knew good people suffered because they were unable to obtain the same things that nonmorities had access to. They started to laugh together. It was unreal how they had once come to hate the other side so much that they had forgotten that they were humans just like them. They never would have thought that someone on the other side would be a close friend. Although they had different opinions, they agreed to stay friends. They knew they had more to learn than what they were taught in class.

Afterword

University is where I had gained most of my sense of where I stood politically. Prior to university, I didn’t think about politics much. Once I had gone to University, though, I had the opportunity to hear all sorts of opinions from across the political spectrum. This was particularly apparent in the fraternity I had joined. My fraternity does not discriminate against race. Rather, as long as you are an upstanding person and had no prejudices, you were invited to be a brother. This meant that people of many different political backgrounds were forced to interact with each other. It was interesting to see people from such different backgrounds coming to an understanding. Members understood that everyone was to be treated like family, and that could not happen if we did not understand each other like a family.

I decided not to make the ethnicities of the main characters obvious because I thought it would be more interesting if the reader were to make inferences on their own. I wanted the main characters to have differing opinions not because of their race, but because of the races of the people around them. This way, the reader would be able to put themselves in the positions of either character they had more in common with rather than the character they looked most like.

Chris and Joshua are based off of the many people I have met in real life. My parents come into contact with many police officers in their lines of work, and they would often come into conflict with many of them over differences in opinion. They were also friends with some of them, regardless of their job. Growing up, I also had a lot of black and latino friends who would struggle because they did not grow up with the generational wealth that others had.