Another Liebster Award!

Liebster Award Image

So, today I have more big news! Dear Kitty. Some blog recently nominated me for the Liebster Award!

I want to give a special thank you to Dear Kitty. Some blog for the nomination. I followed the blog originally because of its insights on civil liberties/social justice issues, but I definitely recommend this blog for animal lovers as well!

In order to accept this award, I need to:

  1. Acknowledge the blog which nominated me.
  2. Answer the 11 questions my nominator asked.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers.
  4. Ask them 11 questions.
  5. Let them know I have nominated them.

Simple enough, right?

Here are the questions I got, with the answers in bold:

  1. What was your first job? I worked in the dish room of my college’s dining hall.
  2. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? One of the priests who taught me in high school frequently said, “God is God, we’re not God, and thank God for that.” To this day, that quote helps me keep perspective.
  3. Favorite season and why? Spring! The weather gets warmer, the days get longer, the flowers blossom, and the trees bud. It’s a season of warmth, light, and life for me.
  4. Favorite TV show? I don’t really have a favorite. Most of what I watch is either news or sports, not TV shows.
  5. When did you first travel alone and where did you go? Honestly, I don’t remember.
  6. Why did you start to blog? I wanted to eliminate the blindness many of us had/have to various injustices. For more details on how I started, please read my introductory post.
  7. What did you want to be when you were a kid? A meteorologist. And funny enough, I say in my blog biography that I like to track hurricanes and snowstorms during my spare time.
  8. Would you rather travel into the future or the past? I’d rather go back to the past and hopefully avoid any mistakes I made in the past.
  9. Do you have any siblings? Yes. I have one younger brother, and I love him very dearly.
  10. Can you cook well? I never made myself sick when I cooked for myself while I was studying abroad. I guess that makes me an adequate cook.
  11. What is the next thing you plan to learn? I plan to learn more about other neighborhoods close to my home in Queens! There’s so much to explore here.

I actually enjoyed sharing parts of me that my readers didn’t know before! I will therefore keep my questions the same for my nominees.

Okay…now for the blogs I nominate! Here are the blogs, with brief descriptions of what I like about them:

  1. Invincible Woman on Wheels. Emma exposed me to disability justice issues that I was blind to…on multiple occasions. Also, if you’re a disabled person hoping to visit London landmarks, you might want to check out some of her accessibility reviews.
  2. The Life Quadriplegic. This blog also exposes me to disability issues that I was/am blind to. Also, just as a random aside, Alex and I both LOVE York, England.
  3. Body Positivity. Sharing this blog is personal for me. I have not always been happy with my (slightly overweight) body, so it is a joy to share a blog that encourages people to love their bodies for what they are.
  4. Justice Network. To continue on the theme of being personal, the first social justice issue I worked on was anti-human trafficking work. I appreciate Justice Network’s commitment to this issue.
  5. Sport in American History. This blog combines two of the things I love the most (other than Jesus): sports and history. I also appreciate how this blog often talks about the intersection of sports and contemporary issues.
  6. Called to Watch. This blog gives amazing perspective on being in a position many of us may find ourselves in one day: being a family member of someone who has chronic illnesses.
  7. A Striving Parent. As a potential future parent who hopes to raise socially-conscious kids one day, it’s very useful to have a blog for…potential future parents like me who hope to raise socially-conscious kids! Thank you, Shannon.
  8. Age Discrimination in Employment. Since anti-ageism is a major part of my advocacy (See here: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/about/), I wanted to nominate at least one anti-ageism blog. This blog is one of the best (if not the best) I’ve found on issues related to ageism (particularly in employment).
  9. The Immigration Project. The blog talks about supporting immigrants from a Christian faith perspective. I find this voice refreshing as there are (sadly) many other believers who reject whole groups of immigrants.
  10. Queerly Texan. Alyssa’s blog was one of the first I discovered, and I’m glad I discovered it! She offers insightful perspective on living with chronic illnesses. Also, she’ll have LGBTQ+-themed posts throughout the rest of June, so it’s definitely worth reading her for that too.
  11. In a Crowded Theater. With the modern-day debates on free speech issues, I think people should check out the academic perspective on this topic from Professor Goldberg!

Human Rights Violations at the World Cup: An Ugly Side to the Beautiful Game

I am a big fan of soccer/football, also known by some who love the sport as “the beautiful game.” It’s to the point that my own Twitter feed notes my support of a long-suffering team in the second tier of the English footballing system.

Given my fandom of soccer/football, what I am about to say breaks my heart: the World Cup, on every occasion in recent memory, is not just a soccer/footballing spectacle, but also a spectacle in human rights violations.

For example, various forms of slavery often have a presence at the World Cup. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is already gaining notoriety for using forced labor, even though that World Cup is four years away (if it even still happens in Qatar, which is no guarantee). Sadly, the problem is not limited to Qatar—in each of the three World Cups previous to 2018, issues with sex trafficking were widespread. World Cup hosts such as Germany (2006) and South Africa (2010) had major issues with this,[1] and a World Cup child trafficking bid was foiled just yesterday.

Furthermore, labor abuses are commonplace while these nations prepare for the World Cup. Much of the attention is on Russia right now since they’re hosting, and rightfully. As of the middle of 2017, it was reported that as many as 17 people have died in preparations for the World Cup as a result of labor abuses.[2] However, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar also deserves attention for all the people who died as a result of labor abuses while preparing for their World Cup.[3] Lamentably, labor abuses are frequently an issue while nations prepare for the World Cup.

And then there’s the mass displacement of people as a result of preparing for the World Cup. Jacob Zuma, who was the President of South Africa when his country hosted the World Cup in 2010, drew criticism because of the mass evictions of people in the run-up to the tournament. Brazil’s mass displacement of people while preparing for their World Cup in 2014 gained international press attention. Sadly, the World Cup often seems to displace people.

For all that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has drawn criticism for its human rights violations (and rightfully so), human rights violations sadly seem to exist at every World Cup, no matter where it is held. Qatar is bad with its human rights violations, but this doesn’t mean that we should hold the current World Cup hosts or the previous ones as beacons for justice in the midst of their preparing for their World Cups.

All of the injustice that is tied to these World Cups begs the following question: How do we respond? Some of us have responded or will respond by not watching the World Cup at all, in protest of these human rights abuses. Others of us will turn a blind eye and watch the World Cup, for one reason or another. But then there are people like me, people who are torn between a game they love and human rights violations they hate.

I personally haven’t been able to reconcile these two tensions, the tension between the soccer/football I love and the hatred of human rights violations that play out at every World Cup. However, I think a good start is to at least inform ourselves of the various human rights violations that happen at every World Cup. That’s the least we can do.


[1] A group of nuns who were backed by Pope Francis noted that “sexual exploitation rose 30 percent in connection with the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and 40 percent at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.” Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-soccer-world-trafficking/nuns-backed-by-pope-warn-of-human-trafficking-at-world-cup-idUSBREA4J0IS20140520

[2] https://www.cbssports.com/soccer/news/world-cup-2018-fifa-blamed-for-deaths-and-widespread-abuse-of-stadium-workers/

[3] http://fortune.com/2016/03/31/qatar-world-cup-workers/

Soccer Ball for World Cup Post
This is an image of “Telstar 18,” the official match ball of the 2018 World Cup. Source: Wikimedia Commons Contributors, “File:Rus-Arg 2017 (11).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the Free Media Repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Rus-Arg_2017_(11).jpg&oldid=272527602 (accessed June 10, 2018).

On Starbucks, Other Employers, and Racial Bias

While I took my break from the blogging world on the week of Memorial Day, Starbucks had racial bias training for its employees.

The reviews of the racial bias training from the general public were about as mixed as the reviews are for their lattes and cappuccinos. Some thought of this as a necessary step, while others were skeptical as to whether one afternoon of racial bias training would have any impact on individuals.

I will not use this post to review their racial bias training or racial bias training in general, because there are probably hundreds of other sites doing the same. Instead, I’m here to suggest that Starbucks and other employers should not just look at the racial biases of their rank-and-file employees but also at their own leadership’s racial biases. Likewise, we as consumers should look at the biases of not just rank-and-file employees but also at the leadership of companies.

Without looking both outward at employees and inward at the employer’s leadership, one ends up with a company like Starbucks, a company that outwardly gives the façade of attempting to be just but inwardly has its own biases. Those biases are demonstrated through the company’s stunning refusal to open up stores in neighborhoods dominated by people of color (even neighborhoods dominated by people of color that are middle class, such as my neighborhood in Queens). If you doubt me, look at how many Starbucks are in Harlem (in New York City), Chicago’s South Side, Baltimore excluding the parts around the Inner Harbor or Johns Hopkins University, or Philadelphia outside of Center City and the area near the 30th Street Station. Indeed, Starbucks’ bias training feels like a façade for its own biases.

However, I am not here just to pick on Starbucks, because the fact is that Starbucks is not the only large organization guilty of having bias training while having its own biases. For example, Google’s bias training has existed much longer than Starbucks’, yet their demographics demonstrate that there is bias somewhere along the way: their workforce is severely lacking in black and Latino employees, for example. The New York City Public Schools will spend millions in racial bias training for its educators while allowing a school system that is severely segregated. They are just two of numerous employers that have training to try preventing racial bias while continuing to have their own unconscious biases as an organization.

This is not to suggest that the racial bias training should end at these organizations—I am not enough of an expert (yet) on them to give an answer on that. What I am suggesting, however, is that we can’t just look at the racial biases of a barista at Starbucks or a public school teacher in New York City, but also the racial biases of those who decide where to open up Starbucks or those who decide on policies that segregate schools further in New York City. After all, if we fail to look at organizations’ racial biases, from top to bottom, we will find ourselves blind to a significant amount of racial injustice.

IMAG1017
Southeast DC is predominantly black. It is also almost completely lacking in Starbucks, just like many other American neighborhoods where people of color are in the majority. This picture taken by me.

Celebrating One Year of the Blog!

One year ago as of last Wednesday, I made my first blog post. It was also the post I was probably the most nervous about making, as I have a major fear of failure and that fear crept in once I made my first post.

One year later, that fear is gone!

Of course, I’m helped by the fact that my blog is not a failure. Quite the opposite—after over 50 posts, over 225 followers between the three networks I’m connected to (WordPress followers, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers), and my first blog award, I’d say that I’ve had a successful first year!

What’s more important than the basic statistics, though, is that people have told me, on many occasions, that these posts have helped expose them to injustices they didn’t even know about before. The purpose of my blog was, is, and will be to do exactly that: expose us to injustices that we’ve been blind to or have blindly committed.

So, with one year down, happy birthday to my blog!

P.S. Please note that there are a few times this spring/summer when I will not make my scheduled Tuesday post: May 29 (day after Memorial Day), July 3 (day before Independence Day), and September 4 (day after Labor Day).

Institutional Racism Series: How it Affected Where I Went to School

I went to a great elementary school from 5th to 8th grade, a high school I loved, and a great college. While I sometimes had small complaints, such as having too much homework or dealing with the stress of end-of-year exams, I was extremely lucky to get the education I received.

However, for several months in 2004, the educational system in New York viewed my family as a family of color (even though we’re white), and the results for a time cast uncertainty over where my younger brother would go to kindergarten.

This uncertainty was the result of institutional racism, or racism that is practiced and sometimes even normalized by social, economic, governmental, and other institutions.

The beginning of this story was during the 2003-04 school year, when my family was trying to get my younger brother into the kindergarten program at the public magnet school I went to at the time (which drew students from districts throughout New York City’s borough of Queens). What happened was that the school changed its “sibling policy”—the school previously had automatically admitted siblings of students already attending the school, but the policy changed so that siblings of students were limited to being somewhere between 10% to 20% of new student admissions.

The justification for this policy was to diversify the school—administrators viewed the school as drawing “too many” students from certain districts throughout Queens and “too few” students from other districts; the “too many” were usually from districts that predominantly had students of color, while the “too few” were usually from districts that predominantly had white students. In order to diversify the school, the sibling policy was changed so that the school didn’t get many more kids from districts drawing “too many” kids (mostly districts of color, as I said earlier). Indeed, as someone at the New York City Department of Education told my parents, administrators wanted more kids from places like Bayside and Douglaston (neighborhoods in Queens that were extremely white). In other words, they wanted more white kids at the school and fewer people of color.

At this point, you’re probably reading this and saying the following: “Now, wait a minute, Brendan…you’re white! You’re not a person of color! So what do you or your family have to do with all this commotion?”

Where we came into the commotion was that the school system viewed my entire family, including my brother, as people of color. Since I lived in a Queens neighborhood dominated by people of color, the system viewed my brother as a person of color and therefore as a person who would not achieve the goal of giving my school a more “diverse” student body (more white people). Basically, the educational institution in New York viewed my family as people of color for several months in 2004, and as a result my brother couldn’t get into the kindergarten program we wanted to get him into. My parents said nothing to argue with this misperception because they didn’t want to use our race to give my brother an advantage on the sole basis of the color of his skin.

Then things changed.… Once the educational powers that be saw me mark myself as “white” on a standardized test, they realized that my brother was probably also white and they suddenly offered him a seat at the school. It was too late, though, because my brother started kindergarten at a Catholic school he loved, and I transferred to that school.

The story ended on a positive note for my entire family because we had the money to pay for Catholic elementary school for my brother and me and avoid the public school system entirely after transferring.

However, as I’ve shared this particular story in talks with friends, I have found out about people who had similar issues in their own school systems, but were not so lucky because they were people of color who came from families without many economic resources. Indeed, institutional racism in education prevents some great kids from having the educational opportunities they deserve.


Note: If you missed my previous two posts in my series on institutional racism, please refer to my introductory post for the series and the post on how institutional racism affected where I (and others) live.