Oct 202017
 
 October 20, 2017  Posted by

I’d like to consider myself a typical Duke student. I do all of the typical Duke things – absolutely refuse to refer to things by their proper names when there’s an available acronym, spend more time complaining about how much my life sucks than actually taking steps to change that, and compulsively checking my Google Calendar. And on Friday nights, I do all of the typical Duke things – carefully observe interactions between two adults of different genders.

To clarify: I study audio and visual recordings of mice.

I’ve been working in a lab for around a month now to help develop a quantitative model of autism in mice, so that we can look at their brain patterns and generally understand the reasons for the behavioral differences we observe. We have a couple of different types of mice – ‘normal’ mice, and mice we’re praying display the behaviors we want to study. So we put one of these mice into a cage with a female mouse and we (namely, I) watch and analyze the interactions.

Which is all well and good, if excruciatingly boring, except for one interesting detail. All of the mice we’re testing are male.

And on the one hand, this makes sense. We want to keep things as consistent as possible, and obviously male mice interact differently with females, on average, than other females. We need to know what caused the difference, and to start over with the opposite paradigm would be time consuming and expensive. And honestly, the differences here are pretty darn obvious. We know it works. Why not stick with it?

But at the same time, there’s a lot of data we’re just missing. Say that our experiment works wonderfully. There’s a huge difference between groups. I write a paper, I get published, we expand to humans, and we figure out some of the electrophysiological differences between neurotypical humans and those of us who demonstrate signs of autism. We figure out how to alleviate these symptoms. A lot of people gain the opportunity to mitigate the anxiety and compulsive behaviors that might make their life difficult. It’d be a dream come true. But it wouldn’t be complete. We’d be missing half the data. We wouldn’t know how it affects the other gender, and while we could potentially extrapolate and say that the same patterns are seen in both genders, we really would have no idea if that’s true.

And that could be a huge problem. Already, there’s a huge disparity in rates of diagnosis for autism spectrum conditions, with men being diagnosed at a ratio of as high as 15:1, compared to women. Potentially, that’s because men are more likely to develop autism. Maybe there are social factors that lead to a biased diagnosis, due to the pressure to conform that women face from an earlier age. Or maybe we don’t know what these conditions look like in women, because we’ve never really bothered to check.

And this is a huge problem, not just in autism, but in a host of related conditions. For the same reasons as my mice, to eliminate confounding variables and keep uniformity, women are generally ignored in clinical studies for the vast majority of testing. This can lead to disparities in diagnosis because while we know how the condition presents itself in men, we don’t know what it looks like in women. And so there’s a risk of missed cases, incorrect prescriptions, and a host of other problems.

To be fair, we’re trying to combat this. I’m fairly sure that the NIH is now requiring that funding must be used equally across genders when doing medical research, and so that should help us gather more data. But it will require a huge shift in the way we do research, the way we set our experiments and paradigms, and the way we think about diagnostics.

If this all works out, I may have even more mind-numbing mouse videos to analyze. But it’ll be worth it to truly understand what autism means – for all of us, not just some.

Oct 182017
 
 October 18, 2017  Posted by

 

As Duke students, failure is not something we like to share. When we get a bad grade on a test or get rejected from an organization, we tend to keep these losses to ourselves. At the same time, we have the bad habit of minimizing our successes. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for how far we have come and what we have already accomplished.

At it’s core, Duke culture convinces us to hide our failures and bury the associated feelings, and simultaneously tells us that our successes are mere drops in the bucket. Both of these tendencies reinforce each other and lead us into a death spiral. With midterm season in full swing, we can all agree that the first adjective we would use to describe ourselves is stressed. At this point, stress has become part of our personalities and we don’t know how to function if we are not constantly occupying ourselves. Stress in and of itself may not be a bad thing, since it drives us to meet goals and work with intention, but the effects of stress can be very damaging.

Depression and anxiety, notably psychological effects of extreme stress, have been on the rise among college students for years and Duke is no exception. But a recent survey found that Duke students’ stress levels are higher than the national average. This may be in part due to the “academic rigor” of an institution like Duke, but it may also result from the expectations we place upon ourselves to succeed.

We may be humble enough to avoid bragging about grades and acceptance letters, but as Duke students, we love to brag about how much stress we put ourselves through. It is common to hear peers exclaim that that they haven’t slept in 3 days, or they spent the past 45.5 hours nonstop-studying for their physics midterm. We’ve normalized and even begun to praise these behaviors while simultaneously stigmatizing failure. If your friend Chris didn’t score as well on a test as he had wanted, surely it was because he didn’t spend enough time studying. But maybe Chris was having a tough week and found it hard to concentrate, so instead he spent a day off campus, putting him behind in his work. As Chris’s friend, you may think to yourself, well we’ve all been stressed recently and I just powered through the last 2 days in Perkins, he should’ve done the same. With this mindset, we stigmatize and ignore the importance of self-care, which is a catchall term for just simply taking care of yourself.

When did getting an A on a midterm become more important than sleeping, eating, exercising, and being happy? A good grade may make you happy in the short term, but as soon as that feeling of ecstasy wears off, you’re striving for your next A. Before you know it, you’ve spent 3 years in college memorizing facts and figures, living your life in the library, but without having learned anything about yourself or your passions. You’ve spent 3 years pushing yourself harder and harder until you realize you haven’t fully lived and your mental and physical health has been in constant decline.

Ok so maybe that’s the worst case scenario. But it isn’t unheard of to fall down this very narrow and deep rabbit hole for at least part of your time at Duke. Many of us have every activity nailed to the minute in our schedule, myself included. I even have social events and meetings with friends penciled in. Before I know it, I have no free time to do things that I enjoy. I never schedule in time to meditate, read a book, eat off campus, or watch Netflix. At the end of the week, I’m mentally and physically exhausted to the point at which I spend all weekend catching up on sleep and completely unproductive.

But what can we do to avoid falling into this trap? Well first, we can prioritize self care. We can engage in activities that fulfill and calm us, and put grades and job applications second (that’s right, second!). We can encourage our overwhelmed peers to do the same and stop glorifying the stress we put ourselves through. And thirdly, we can be open and honest about our failures and shortcomings with our friends. There are also a variety of on-campus resources available to students like CAPS, the Women’s Center, and Peer for You. By doing this, we can create a campus environment where we are not afraid to share our imperfections and build a community that cares just as much about each other as it does success. Just imagine what that Duke campus would look like.

Oct 042017
 
 October 4, 2017  Posted by  Tagged with:

My First LoveI remember the first time my eyes I ever laid eyes on him, and something in me paused. He sat gleaming on the wall, with defined features and dark bronze tones that made me giddy with excitement. I’m not someone to believe in divine intervention, or really to believe much in ‘soulmates,’ but something in my mind whispered “wow, this is going to change my life.” He just caught me completely off-guard in a way no one ever had. I remember waltzing over where he was, and then after an awkward interaction (mainly just because I am one of the MOST awkward people EVER), getting his digits—thus starting the most passionate, transformative love I have ever known. His name fit perfectly with mine—the Clyde to my Bonnie, and yes, we had our heyday making shots and taking names. Well, actually, just taking shots.

Clyde, my Beretta Xplor Shotgun finished with a 28’ barrel and slightly pitched stock to fit my petite, curvy body type (for those of you who know things about guns, click here, mainly because I could talk about the mechanisms for the next 500 words, but that isn’t the point of this) , was my first love.

Throughout my life, packed with the wisdom of twenty years of existence, I have come to define love as a connectivity between two things, a powerful force that pushes you to be the best version of yourself, and through the experience of loving something or someone teaches you things about yourself that you never knew. Clyde opened the world of competitive shotgun shooting (yes, that is a thing, but what is it actually???), and both the game and community surrounding it shaped me more than anything else I have ever been a part of. Basically outlined, the nature of the sport is to hit a 110 mm in diameter clay pigeon throughout countless different patterns of flight. It has long been considered “golf with a shotgun,” in which you go to around fifteen different stations in order to show your technical skills in shooting.

I stumbled into Clyde at one of the most crucial moments in my own development–in that awkward stage between middle school angst and high school confusion when I was still trying to figure out what hormones, and purpose, and God, and BOYS were. (Although, it should be noted that I still don’t know what exactly boys are). I was a blank canvas, searching for the I in Bonnie, and something in me settled on this sport.

And today, as I sit on my bed reflecting on why I am okay after my first breakup, I have found myself revisiting my first love. Over our many years, Clyde taught me to believe in myself; that in order to hit the clay, first you have to put yourself out there and then go with your gut. Clyde taught me that failing is good for the soul (in the first two months of shooting, I was HORRIBLE), and the only thing you should learn from that is the value of putting yourself out there and trying again.

Shooting gave me the space to understand that absolute perfection is not attainable, but with raw stubbornness and determination anything is possible. Clyde taught me to handle my temper, to stay composed, to keep moving forward, because the moment you let self-doubt enter your mind is the same moment you stop believing in yourself. Yet, the instance the course is over, it is okay to not be okay, and there is a space to cry and be upset with yourself, always. Clyde taught me that I am powerful, despite my 5’4” frame that has been described as “cute”, and that I can always take care of myself.

Clyde also thrust me into a new world with some of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. It surrounded me with healthy relationships, such as a couple that found something after one of our shooting events and emailed the entire team about this cooler or chair, in which their spouse responded to the email that it was theirs. And in talking to them the next week, they simply giggled together–teaching me the importance of laughter. In these relationships, I saw the way I should be treated–with absolute love, patience, and laughter. These people also taught me that diversity should be celebrated; that yes, I have boobs, but that does not determine anything about me. They taught me that being the odd woman shooter, lawyer, or CEO does not make you lesser, just the more interesting.

In leaving for college, I made the hard decision to leave Clyde and this world behind. I found a new love, but like Clyde, that does not always end up the way we would have wanted it. And that’s okay. In the mess that is the end of a relationship, I must admit that I, myself, don’t quite know the ethics of a breakup. But after everything, I have decided to make the conscious decision to remember and cherish the memories, because love is really just a shot in the dark. Sometimes you miss, and Clyde taught me that.

This piece was written before the horrific Las Vegas Massacre that occurred on Sunday, October 1st. My heart goes out to those affected by this tragic event. In writing this, I am not making a political statement for or against firearm control; I am simply addressing the confines of love within my background.

 

Apr 252017
 
 April 25, 2017  Posted by

“But what are you REALLY going to do with your life?”

“But, like, why would you come to Duke if you want to go into music? Why wouldn’t you have gone to NYU or something?”

I get these types of questions on a pretty regular basis from other students, family members, prospective students and their families, etc. Don’t get me wrong: I understand them. It is a little out of the ordinary that I chose to come to Duke–a research university generally known for things like science, public policy, and economics–to study music. And no, I’m not a music major and pre-med or pre-law or pre-anything else. In fact, I don’t have a career path more defined than a vague the arts just yet. As of right now, I am a music major, and I intend to pursue the arts professionally. I’m going to have a degree in music from Duke, not from a conservancy or an ‘artsier’ school, on my resumé–but I have a feeling I’m going to be just fine.

I began the college search process unsure about what I would want study but thinking about chemistry, Spanish, pre-med, and music. I started off my college search Georgia Tech, a university close to home known for engineering, science, and technology. Although I thought the campus was beautiful and the location was great, I decided that even if I did end up going down a science path, I didn’t want to go to a school with a bunch of people studying the same types of things. I wanted to be in an environment where I could be stimulated and challenged by those with different skills, areas of interest, and perspectives – and that’s exactly what I found at Duke. I believe that Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning is as true as the beautiful admissions flyers say it is. The student body, full of students majoring, minoring, and earning certificates in all sorts of nontraditional combinations, reflects this sentiment.

And what about after I graduate? Get this–people do actually go into the arts and have “legitimate” careers! Crazy, right? Being a music major doesn’t mean I’m going to go be a professional concert pianist, a path that could be quite difficult to ‘make it’ in (and one that I don’t have any interest in). But a plethora of jobs in the arts exist. According to arts.gov, the website of the National Endowment for the Arts (which is terrifyingly in danger of being eliminated by the Trump administration), the Arts & Culture sector of the US economy accounts for $742 billion (4.2%) of our GDP and “adds millions of jobs to our workforce (more than two million full-time artists and nearly five million arts-related jobs).” Almost all of us at Duke engage with the arts in some form – attending concerts, taking music lessons, seeing theatre productions, listening to the radio, watching movies, playing the beautiful Steinway in the new Student Wellness Building – and there are, in fact, millions of jobs that go into making those things possible.

Even though there may be 10x as many Economics or Public Policy majors as arts majors at Duke, and although it may seem a little out of the ordinary for me to be studying what I am, I think Duke truly is a great place to be an arts major. It allows me to take classes like The Arts and Human Rights, or Arts, Theater and Film Arts Entrepreneurship and Social Policy. It gives me greater freedom in thinking about what lies ahead of me and how I can do what I love while making a positive difference in the world. I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.

Apr 242017
 
 April 24, 2017  Posted by

The author wrote this piece shortly before course registration season.

 

Course registration for the next semester opens in two weeks, and I’m still just as lost as I was when I arrived at Duke. Each time I go home, my parents ask me the dreaded question: “So, what are you studying?”

People often say that your major doesn’t have to determine your job – that you can do anything you want regardless of what words appear on your degree. So why, then, do people care so much about your major and what you study?

I enrolled in Duke as a student in the Pratt School of Engineering. I was always ironically proud of the designation of my status, by merit of having chosen a “hard” major. Yet, over the course of one semester, I gained a better appreciation for my interests and am, in all likelihood, transferring to Trinity. The reactions I get when I break the news—of mild surprise, subliminal consolation (usually in the form of self-relation), and/or assurance that I made the right decision—make me feel as if I must somehow regret abandoning a “better” course of study.

There is an idea that some majors, and thereby some professions, are more valuable, noble, honorable, productive, etc. than others; yet, with the idolization of one major or profession comes the belittling of another. We judge people based on our own experiences; that much is understandable. Yet, that leads to misconceptions of intrinsic versus societally-defined worth. Is a scientist or academic more respectable than a non-college degree holder, or even an artist or musician?

Take minimum wage as an example: people often argue that workers don’t deserve a raise because the work they are doing doesn’t merit higher pay; certainly, they don’t deserve equal pay to a skilled professional with a college degree, or a scientist that feeds his family on the merits of curiosity and intellectual breakthroughs.

We often define people not as people first, but as an external component of their being, whether that is profession, race, gender, or something else. We see people not as who they are, but what they do. Such an argument perhaps has deeply utilitarian roots; after all, people are only worth what they contribute to society. But that line of thinking can be deeply problematic. How do we measure the worth of one individual’s contributions to society? Can that be balanced and weighed against his/her contributions to friends and family?

Yet, at the same time, such distinctions over the merits of certain majors do follow a logic of their own. How could we rationalize a lifetime of debt in exchange for a job that barely sustains your living? And could all the extra work that seems to befall STEM majors really not confer some degree of higher intellect?

So then, where does the nuance lie? Should we distinguish major and profession? Or are the roots of the issue ingrained in societal roles of certain professions themselves? And what effects do student pursuit of success play in affecting this dynamic? Good thing I’m not an ethics major.

Apr 202017
 
 April 20, 2017  Posted by

A friend of mine is an American History buff. He’s the guy who would actually read Rob Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton but wouldn’t recognize Lin Manuel Miranda on the street. Whereas I will get the cliff-notes of the biography from him and will repeatedly listen to both Hamilton and the Hamilton Mixtape. The intersection of our knowledge is essentially “Cabinet Battle 3” on the Hamilton Mixtape.

Lin Manuel Miranda wrote “Cabinet Battle 3” but ultimately had to exclude it from the final Broadway musical. The song is a debate within President George Washington’s Cabinet about whether to abolish slavery. Hamilton argues that slavery will only cause more problems for the new nation and that it is hypocrisy for the nation founded on freedom to permit slavery. Jefferson reminds Hamilton that the Constitution prevents the government from addressing slavery until 1808, that emancipation will lead the South to secede, and that even if the government bans slavery it cannot undo the prejudice and hatred of the Southern slave owners. He says, “It’s a sin. It’s growing like a cancer/ But we can’t address the question if we do not have an answer. ”

We know Jefferson won that battle, but who had the moral high ground? Hamilton for not tolerating the hypocrisy or Jefferson for preserving the Union?

Consider the endless debates between President Abraham Lincoln and Congressman Thaddeus Stevens. The two frequently argued about the best way to end slavery. Lincoln wanted to end slavery, but he wanted to preserve the Union more. Stevens was one of the, if not the, staunchest proponent of abolition in Congress at the time. What came of their debates was the Emancipation Proclamation: the end of slavery…in the South but not in the Union or in the Border States where Lincoln actually had the authority to end slavery.

Yet we celebrate Lincoln and Jefferson, and not Stevens and Hamilton*. We praise Lincoln and Jefferson for getting shit done.

However, there’s a trend among liberal college students to criticize Lincoln and Jefferson for their hypocrisy. The criticism, particularly against the Founding Fathers, is that they created a system that called for equality but only benefited white, property owning men. (Lincoln isn’t as frequently criticized in this manner, but one could argue Lincoln was wrong to prioritize the Union and not abolition.) These students argue that because the Founding Fathers ignored everyone except white, property-owning men, their ideas are invalid.

My history-obsessed friend hates this. As an ardent reader of historical figures biographies, he knows that Jefferson was a unique individual who held and struggled with many contradictory opinions. Jefferson advocated for a liberal democracy and equal society, and still recognized that slavery was wrong and eventually must end. For Jefferson, slavery was an unfortunate and unavoidable cost of creating a new liberal democracy. James Madison, the author of the Constitution, was acutely aware of the hypocrisy of permitting slavery, but also saw slavery as an unavoidable cost of creating his new Constitution. The liberal democracy Madison, Jefferson and the Founding Fathers created allowed Congressman Stevens to debate President Lincoln about whether to prioritize the preservation of the Union or abolition of slavery. Moreover, historians argue that Lincoln’s decision to preserve the Union ensure the Union would win the Civil War and abolition of slavery.

It scares me that a simplistic view of history is being used to criticize the foundations of our liberal democracy; it is what allows us to debate, argue, hold our representatives accountable, tolerate cultural and ideological differences, essentially everything that we claim America to be. While democracies are far from perfect, in the words of Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government … except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” If the ideas of our democracy are wrong because the Founding Fathers were hypocrites, where does that leave us? A form of government that is worse than democracy?

It scares me that we treat the Founding Fathers as one-dimensional characters that were either perfect or hypocritical white-supremacists. In doing so, we are ignoring their humanity. We refuse to allow them to have made mistakes or to have struggled with these massively consequential, controversial decisions. There’s no room for any nuance regarding these ideas that we now take for granted.

Finally, it scares me most that the argument that the Founding Fathers were hypocritical white-supremacists because it’s simply wrong. Historians have shown repeatedly that the Founding Fathers struggled with the hypocrisy of what they were doing. It scares me because I see a lack of critical reasoning that is necessary to engage in public discourse of a liberal democracy.

For those who just consume Hamilton: The Musical, it’s easy to see Hamilton as a hero simply because he’s the titular character. It’s so easy to get swept away during the musical if you only listen to Hamilton’s side of the story. But if you listen closely, Hamilton is an obnoxious, arrogant ass (see: “Here’s an itemize list of thirty years of disagreements”). And if you do further research and read more about Hamilton, you learn that he was an elitist who believed only the wealthy and educated should vote and might have tried to militarize the United States. I don’t say this to diminish that Hamilton’s central bank plan was decades before his time, nor his work defending the Constitution in the Federalist Papers.

Simply, it’s complicated and we should embrace the complications.

 

 

*Yes, there’s a great musical about Hamilton and people are literally singing his praises. But before Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton was just Washington’s Treasury Secretary who was shot and killed by Vice President Aaron Burr.

Apr 172017
 
 April 17, 2017  Posted by

As a disclaimer, this isn’t a blog post functioning as a potential authority on the subject, but rather a coherent string of thoughts on the two subjects.

In the breathless whisper of autumn leaves, in the silent crash of waves against the sand, in the babbling of brooks and rivers, in the velvet petals and ripe fruits of stems and tree branches. In faded polaroid frames, in rough tree carvings, in exchanged or discarded clothing items. In songs, in movies, in poems, in artworks.

Yes, the L word is Love. It seems almost impossible to escape its manifestations and influence. There is love everywhere, eternally embodied to stand the test of time. Some people posit love as the most powerful force to construct human relationships and open pathways for empathy, compassion, and benevolence. I don’t know if I would hold love in such high esteem (mainly because I’m not familiar or overly comfortable with how to express it in my personal life), but I do see traces and multiplicities of love in almost all of my personal relationships with people, whether I’m close with them or not: family, friends, classmates, teachers, singers, artists, writers, home, birthplace, cities, streets, food, animals. In the depths of my complex human (dis)connections, every string is unique, crafted with different foundational materials and worn down at different knots and lengths due to the different experience they have weathered.

Considering this, questions that force you to absolutely compare multiple relationships confuse me. For children with parents of the opposite sex, who do you love more? Your mother or your father? Do you love your brother/sister/sibling or your cousin more? If your significant other or your best friend since elementary school were drowning and you could only save one person, who would you save? In elementary even middle school, there would be petty, naive bickering about who your best (implying singularity) friend was, or even a ranking of, for example, your top three best friends. Reflecting back on this, how are you supposed to place comparative values on such sensitive, distinctive, fundamentally different emotional compositions?

I know of people who have been in long-term relationships for over five years. I know a high school junior and high school senior couple who will probably end up getting married, as the junior’s parents were high school sweethearts themselves, going to colleges in the same area and giving up better educational opportunities for each other. I have friends that are at Duke specifically to look for their lifelong significant other (yikes). As someone who tries not to think too much about their future (a sad impossibility at such an intense, overwhelmingly pre-professional school), the institution called marriage is a mystery to me. I don’t know how the conversation came up, but I was in a car with some friends driving to H-Mart and we ended up talking about marriage and monogamy. I’ve never seriously thought about polyamorous relationships until that car ride. What is it about dividing our love, energy, and time to multiple people in a romantic context that’s forbidden and hated? Is it human selfishness? Jealousy? Or is that the natural order of things? I don’t have a definite answer to this, but it’s something that merits further reading and thinking on my part.

Apr 052017
 
 April 5, 2017  Posted by

Her: “Oh my goodness. I love your ring, where did you get it?! Urban Outfi-”

Me: *furrowed eyebrows and a blunt eye-roll*

I started my shift last week, with a very interesting interaction.

Me: “Hi! What can I get for –““NO. This is from my Grandmother, she got it from a Navajo Jeweler on the Navajo reservation. This is authentic, not that commercialized stuff”

Her: *Confused and annoyed*

“Oh… that’s cool… I’ll have a tea.”

My main concern was that this girl didn’t know what authentic jewelry was and that she couldn’t grasp why I would be offended.

I understand that people may not know what authentic Native jewelry may look like. Although she annoyed me with her ignorance , she was not completely at fault. It is a part of a larger battle.

Mainstream media has produced a stereotypical image of a Native American person. We have Western films to thank for streamlining this image. When most people think of Native people they often invision a  free-spirited, teepee-living, buckskin-wearing, pipe-smoking, long-haired, red-skinned Native person. Many people take this image as true because they have only been fed misrepresentations and appropriation their entire lives.

By now one would think our society would have learned these stereotypes are offensive – but we haven’t. This is why we still have the term name redsk*ns, headdresses at music festivals, appropriated fashion, and Native princess Halloween costumes. People still believe in these stereotypes today.

However, this does not excuse appropriation as acceptable. It’s not. Appropriation will never be justifiable because you are taking what belonged to Native people… for your own benefit.

Appropriation is a modern day form of colonization. My friend, Amber Hall, of the Cherokee Nation, says: “being able to manipulate the imagery of the indigeneity is part of the colonialism that still haunts native people today.” When you wear tribal pattern or print and don’t personally identify as Native you are really misrepresenting a whole population and their history. That is why your feathers and fringe are insulting to my people.

People who wear Native print are manipulating patterns from our sacred baskets to put on your underwear. You are making our ceremonial blankets into skater shoes. You are desecrating a symbol of honor to wear as your festival attire. These patterns have significant meaning to our people.  Our culture should not be someone else’s fashion.

People buying into the fashion do not know how damaging this is for Native people. One major  detriment to the Native designs one can see in Urban Outfitters is that it is that it’s not made by Native people. These appropriated products you see are designed by non-natives and sold for profit by non-natives. Then you are paying non-Natives for Native designs, which does not make sense. This puts many real Native designers out of their jobs.

Many do not see appropriation as a big problem because they do not see the direct impact, but the impact on Native people is  . The obsession that the fashion industry has with Native culture needs to end. You can play a major role in halting the misrepresentation. Now that you are informed, inform others.

Stop buying fashion that looks Native, if you question it – don’t buy it. Just remember appropriated Native designs always have an excessive amount of neon, beading, and fringe – always the fringe. If you have a genuine appreciation for Native jewelry and clothing then buy things from people who are Native.

There are many sites in which you can do that, so the money you spend goes directly to Native people. Websites such as NotAbove Jewlery made by my personal friend Nanibaa Beck https://notabove.com/, B.Yellowtail who created the “Indigenous Woman Rise” movement http://www.byellowtail.com/, Urban Native Era Movement http://www.urbannativeera.com/,  and Saba T-shirt designs https://sabahut.com/graphic-design/t-shirts/. I wouldn’t be upset if I saw someone walking around campus with these. I’d love to see more people supporting local artists.

That’s the only way to stop fashion designers from taking from our culture. Give respect back to our people and stop perpetuating the stereotypes.

Mar 302017
 
 March 30, 2017  Posted by

Suddenly it happened.

Two in the morning, on February 5th 2017.

Wearing an old t-shirt and jeans.

Just hanging out.

The blonde-haired and extremely ridiculous boy quietly analyzed me, watching my facial expression while I was working. He looked at me hopefully, as he whispered, “What is this?” I had never seen him act anything even remotely near coy, but something about that moment was so innocent.

The seriousness hung in the hair, and as a self-proclaimed commitment-phobe, I might have freaked out. Well, if we are being honest, I completely freaked out. “Ummmmm……we are a thing. Like you know like two people ‘just chillin’,” I blabbered to him.

Because I had been promised in coming to Duke, that our culture was one of hooking-up—that we all have so much to do, we don’t take the time to actually get to know the other beyond friendship. We want it all: close friends, amazing grades, great resumes, so where is the room for an emotional commitment with a significant other? We fill this void with physical actions, whether that is dancing at Shooters, one-night stands, hookup buddies, or whatever else fulfills the role of connecting without fully tying ourselves to another person.

Sure, I know people who have dated at Duke. Those people who spend nights with one other person–complete with the candle lit dinner dates, kisses from the west bus stop, and slow walks through the Duke Gardens holding hands–that characterizes actual dating.

 

Yet, I had never been able to see myself as a part of this ‘dating’ culture. Why? Because I had been hurt in the past, and I genuinely did not want anything to add to my responsibilities on top of being a student. Because I’m just a freshman, trying to find my own place in this university—desperately needing this identity to not be connected to another person. Because being ‘a thing’ seems less public and more ambiguous. Because not dating seems so much easier.

And it is. It is so much easier to never define things, never let another person know how much they mean to you, to never let someone else see the idiosyncrasies that make you tick. It is so much easier to break off things that never actually were, limiting your attachment to a group of people you once were a ‘thing’ with.

As a population, we Duke students are so afraid of committing, of labels, that we hide behind the uncertainty of being undefined. We are afraid of the time commitment and of being rejected, so we never allow ourselves to date–to sit down and have a simple meal and just enjoy someone else’s company. But in doing this we lose the true connectivity of a dating type of relationship, where everyone else in this kinda-dating, kinda-hooking up culture seems afraid to announce what exactly they want. It seems like everyone here is in the middle of a ‘thing,’ whether you are swiping right, hanging out with someone, or inviting each other to date-functions (WOW, y’all are basically getting married). Yet, this relationship hits a stalemate when people fail to communicate their expectations of what these interactions are, leaving both parties unfulfilled.

 

So what happens to the young couple at the beginning of this story? Well, after he outsmarted me with flowers on Valentine’s Day and I memed him, I realized that a lot of ‘dating’ is just enjoying spending time that special other person. I came to terms with the fact that I had feelings for the blue-eyed, foolish, passionate boy who never shuts up; but just being a ‘thing’ systematically invalidated any ‘right’ I had to these feelings. So I sent him a text, and I was honest with him. I asked him where he saw this thing going, knowing that sustaining this middle ground would be emotionally unfulfilling for me. He told me that he thought we could build a relationship, and soon after we started dating.

 

Now, I am not telling the entire Duke population to get ‘cuffed’ (especially if you aren’t ready for a relationship), or for each of you to start scoping out ‘the one.’ Life doesn’t work like that. I am asking for each of you to be straightforward and honest in what you want in a relationship, whether that involved dating, sex, or just a good time. It minimizes the grey area, and makes sure everyone is getting what they want–making things clearer and easier for everyone involved.

 

Mar 292017
 
 March 29, 2017  Posted by

A typical Sunday morning as a Duke freshman: I wake up around 10am and text my friends to see who’s ready to go to Marketplace brunch. I head to the bathroom to wash up, where the trash cans are indubitably overflowing onto the counters and floor. I go downstairs to find our common rooms in a truly disgusting state. Trash– food wrappers, empty pizza boxes, papers– litter the floor. Random belongings, perhaps a calculator or a computer charger, lie strewn throughout the room. Maybe some tables or chairs are overturned or in the wrong place.

Duke students are so aware of and engaged with the world around us. We volunteer in Durham. We major in public policy, planning to go out and change the world when we graduate. We choose professions where we hope to be able to have an impact on others’ lives. We are so engaged in a global, big-picture sense. Yet why are we so incapable of thinking about how we can support those within Duke’s community? We skip over the small, simple things we can do to make our housekeepers’ jobs easier – throwing away our trash, pushing in our chairs, putting paper towels in the trash can – assuming that ‘someone else’ will just take care of it later. We implicitly decide that we have better things to do than to worry about our garbage; someone else, someone ‘inferior,’ can deal with that.

I am implicated in this too. I’ve let many a paper towel fall onto the floor in the bathroom; although I see them every day, I have never introduced myself to the housekeepers in my dorm; I criticize the food that the Marketplace employees spend hours each day preparing; I complain about the construction going on outside my dorm. In an environment with so many incredible opportunities, it can certainly be easy to lose perspective, to take all of the great things about Duke for granted and become stuck in the minor inconveniences.

As Duke students, we care deeply about macro-level problems facing Duke workers. I remember visiting campus for Blue Devil Days last April and being struck by the tents I saw set up in front of the Allen Building – it wasn’t basketball season, after all. The students protesting, part of an organization called Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity, had quite a few demands, including a raise of campus minimum wage and the firing of Executive Vice President Tallman Trask for allegedly using a racial slur toward a Duke employee after hitting her with his car in 2014. The group’s actions on university-employee relationships are quite important and have an impact: for example, the university agreed in response to the protests to gradually raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour by July 2019. But I wonder if the organization could also encourage some action on the relationships between students and Duke employees. Perhaps fostering better connections would lead to even greater solidarity between these two groups and, in turn, increased influence of Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity as an organization.

So next time we are tempted to leave that pizza box in the common room after a late night out, let’s take a moment to remember the real people who will have to clean it up the next day. Rather than always being so tied up in broader issues of social justice, let’s all take that extra minute to look at our own lives and interactions – to treat the university employees who play such an integral, yet unrecognized role in our lives at Duke with a little more respect.