Dave Chappelle, the highly renowned and notoriously reclusive comedian, surprised fans (and perhaps the whole country) when Netflix released an unexpected special on their platform in the late hours of June 12th.
The special, titled “8:46,” was also posted on platforms such as Youtube and Facebook soon after. Though only 27 minutes in length, Chappelle’s special covers topics relating to George Floyd’s tragic murder by a police officer and the upheaval of the nation that followed it, including the Black Lives Matter protests that happened in all 50 states and in many countries around the world.
Chappelle is no stranger to social commentary, and he usually executes sets that revolve around critiquing (and mocking) social customs and entire identity groups with confidence and credence.
However, in the special, he appears to be noticeably distraught throughout the entirety of the performance. There are fewer jokes than there are emotional bursts that loop into purposeful digressions. “This isn’t funny at all,” Chappelle notes at one point, recognizing the weight of the subject matter and the lack of comedy in what is supposed to be a comedian’s special, but he does not offer any apologies.
Instead, he devotes long moments of his monologue to commenting on the media coverage following George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing protests, and he focuses on criticizing conservative commentators such as Candace Owens and Laura Inghram, who minimize issues of racial injustice and police brutality.
Chappelle takes a particular interest in responding to CNN’s Don Lemon, who famously called for celebrities to use their platforms to speak out about the death of George Floyd.
Lemon criticizes some celebrities, by name, for staying silent in an effort to protect their “brand.” He claims that each public figure with a platform has a responsibility to put out a statement, publicly support the protesters on their social media accounts, and avoid being silent on issues of police brutality and public protest.
Chappelle disagrees. He insists that he doesn’t need to speak—that no celebrity needs to speak—lest they risk having their voices be heard over the sound of the publicly led protests. He further implies that the public, especially those protesting in the streets around the country and the world, don’t benefit much from celebrities giving their personal opinions on these issues.
Chappelle poses the following question regarding our priorities: “Why would anyone care what their favorite comedian thinks after they saw a police officer kneel on a man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds?”
Chappelle admonished against the idea that he should “step in front of the streets and talk over the work these people are doing.”
Chappelle has a point—not only would shifting the focus from the protesters on the streets to the celebrities in their homes be detrimental to the overall progress of the Black Lives Matter movement, but we also shouldn’t care about what celebrities have to say, unless their actions are backing up their supposed “beliefs.”
Chappelle’s critique of the “silence is violence” mindset in regard to social justice movements comes at a time when we see more and more celebrities being criticized, perhaps rightfully so, for not educating themselves on social issues and publicly advocating for them. “I kept my mouth shut,” he says, “and I’ll still keep my mouth shut, but don’t think that my silence is complicit.”
While there is room for valid criticism for those who are willfully ignorant, the insistent calls for everyone to speak out about racial injustice and police brutality have led more public figures to stumble and fall than to uplift the cause.
Take, for instance, the case of Madonna, who posted a tweet of her (black) adopted son dancing to a Michael Jackson song in order to “honor” George Floyd, or that of David Guetta, who faced backlash for remixing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech as a tribute to George Floyd, or any of the other dozens of celebrities who have been mocked for their subpar, and sometimes outright offensive, responses to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests.
The truth of the matter is that when we pressure public figures who have very little knowledge about these social justice movements to become outspoken advocates for them, we are opening ourselves up to, at best, confusion and disappointment and, at worst, outrage.
Even when the celebrity is educated on the subject matter, there is a time and place for Twitter notepad statements and Instagram black square posts. “The streets are talking for themselves,” Chappelle says. “They don’t need me right now.”
This is not to say that we should have zero expectations for the role of public figures in social justice movements, nor that every celebrity is stumbling in their response.
There have been plenty of celebrities who have utilized their platforms to uplift black voices, who have been on the streets protesting and/or have provided aid to those protesting, and who have donated large sums of money to memorial funds, legal aid organization, bailout funds, and other organizations that are on the frontlines of fighting police brutality and racial injustice.
Even though he has always been outspoken about racial injustice and police brutality, Chappelle is right when he states that the protesters don’t need him right now—they don’t need him or any other celebrity to speak empty words into the echo-chamber of similar thought that is the social media scene in the time of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement.
What they need is direct action, all of the time, not just when speaking out about these injustices in trendy ways, or when it is expected of them; they need support that has some weight behind it—that of educated advocacy, physical presence that does not center around their status, and their money and influence being levied in ways that will lead to notable change.
Above all, celebrities need to know their limits. A movement that began centered around the people should always have “normal” people at its center—it should never devolve into celebrity figureheads leading their followers to a victory (or demise) when their lack of education makes them blind to the actual impact of their actions.
Ultimately, “8:46” offers the audience a chance to reassess their priorities when it comes to the ways in which they wish to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and what they realistically can and should expect from some of the most visible people in the world.
The message at the core of “8:46” is that we shouldn’t even care what Dave Chappelle has to say right now; we should care about what the people marching in the streets, organizing protests every day, and leading legal and social battles to address racial injustice have to say.
Though there is a certain level of irony in Chappelle’s claims that he “kept [his] mouth shut and will continue to keep [his] mouth shut” when he has dedicated an entire special to George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests, Chappelle’s dedication to centering the actions of those physically protesting is enough to excuse it. “I am very proud of you,” he says. “You kids are excellent drivers. I am comfortable in the back seat of the car.”
Pounds over Promise: The Cycle of Diet Culture and New Years Resolutions
At the start of a new year, everyone wants to start fresh. A few new styles, some changes to the daily routine, and sometimes, a big resolution. A very popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. How to do it? There are answers everywhere! Scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, there’s bound to be someone talking about a new diet they’re trying. Influencers have been infamous for peddling dangerous diets to fanbases of young women and girls. Even mothers are not free from their reach. Bloggers like lonijane on Instagram showed how her body looked before and after cheating on her vegan diet. The combination of New Year’s resolutions and these various diets is a recipe for disaster. Diet culture around the first month of the New Year is intense and even dangerous.
What is “diet culture”?
Diet culture is described as a desire to lose weight at all costs, and puts losing weight over wellbeing. It is a combination of advertisements and what the advertisements make us feel. The feelings of inferiority or discomfort with your body are precisely what the industry feeds off of. Whether it’s a new diet every week, or even directly associating worth with weight, it is hard to escape.
Especially around the start of the New Year, diet culture is pervasive. Even on January 1, it’s been shown that topics surrounding dieting and exercise spike in search volume. Some particularly cruel advertisements from gyms feed into a sense of inferiority and reap the profits. In 2017, about 10.8% of subscriptions to over 6,400 gyms happened in January. The nature of what a diet should be is also constantly changing: keto, juice cleanses, the baby food diet, paleo… reading through the advertisements is enough to give someone whiplash.
Impact of influencers on diet culture
The advertisements don’t only come from the corporations— or not directly. Influencers are a major way for corporations to boost their product. Ads are nothing new, but the personal nature of Instagram, where people will also post parts of their life, is something different. What’s especially worrisome is that these influencers often have a huge following of minors, intentionally or not. More than one-third of teenagers in Germany aged 14 to 17 deliberately seek out influencers. Over 84% of the content from female influencers is related to health, diet, and fitness. Attractive and uniform, they promote a singular way of living and looking. It’s easy and profitable for them to do it that way. The issue is that there are a wide variety of bodies that exist. There is no “one size fits all” for health. Allergies, chronic conditions, and genes are all important factors.
How might influencers impact young people later in life, girls especially, as they can closely control their diet?
Guilty over existence
There are worries about “quarantine pounds”, as people have been stuck inside due to COVID-19. Nutritionists are worried that individuals will be more susceptible to weight loss advertisements. The guilt over quarantine pounds stack up, on top of the pre-existing guilt instilled by advertisements.
A poignant way that advertisers promote body shame is “before and after” shots. To show the efficacy of their product or program, diet companies will show the amount of weight lost after using their product. These pictures directly associate the “before” picture with bad or undesirable. People with these bodies are being shamed, and repeatedly seeing those images will have a lasting impression. Especially at the start of the year, when seeing one’s stomach after holiday meals, insecurity digs in.
These insecurities start young, but it’s not only by influencers. A study of mother-daughter pairs showed that daughters of dieting moms would start dieting before they were eleven. Given how close-quartered people are during quarantine, it’s likely that children will pick up on their family’s habits. Recently, there have been movements to stop mentioning weight around children. Whether the discussion is about the child’s weight or the parent’s, the children pick up on the criticism. Even people who aren’t parents can have a lasting impression. “She said, as if talking to herself, ‘Pretty face… have you ever thought about trying to lose weight?’” wrote a NYT contributor on her teenage experience with a friend’s mother. These comments linger and dig in, and around the holidays, they are especially amplified.
Hope for body positivity
Very recently, with stars like Lizzo proudly showing their nontraditional bodies, there has been an emphasis on accepting various looks. Plus-size models have made their ways onto catwalks and into major magazines, without necessarily acknowledging that they are plus size. YouTubers have made videos specifically showing how influencers may take their photos, so young girls may feel better about themselves. While the holidays are still bombarded with advertisements and commercials, there are still people reminding you of your worth.
Don’t feel ashamed for enjoying holiday food or eating more during winter! There’s a reason bears hibernate, and given the exhaustion of 2020, I think we all deserve it.
5 Unique Tips for a Fresh Start in 2021
As the pandemic looms on and remote working continues, it feels increasingly difficult to find new and better ways to start fresh in the new year. Especially at home, your immediate thoughts might jump to the towering pile of boxes in your garage or the mysterious mold that’s been growing in your shower. Of course, the ongoing pandemic has caused a worldwide case of stress-based quarantine clutter, and it’s definitely important to set aside a day (or three) to clean out that accumulated mess.
At the same time, however, while cleaning out your physical space has been proven to improve your mental health, there exist many other methods to help clear your mind and start this year with a renewed outlook.
Here are 5 unique tips for a fresh start in 2021!
Tip #1: Mindful Eating
Before the pandemic, when we were all rushing to our next class, to an appointment or to work, eating might have felt like an automatic or even tedious act. Now, researchers are noting the effects of the “Quarantine 15”, the weight gain many people are facing as a result of the stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic.
As we spend another year at home, you should skip the fad diets this year and instead opt for the kinder, more attentive realm of mindful eating. Grounded in the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, mindful eating consists of a variety of ways in which you can strive to be more observant of how, when, and why you eat.
Whether it’s eating slower or recognizing the distinct taste of your food, you can learn to slow down and grow a greater sense of appreciation for not only the food you eat, but also the ritual of eating. This doesn’t mean that you need to give up your morning coffee or stop munching on your favorite brand of chips. Mindful eating instead encourages you to pause for a moment, really taste your coffee or chips, enjoy it, and continue on your day. By paying attention to how we eat, we can all learn to focus more on these little moments and find a grander purpose in them.
Tip #2: Move Your Body
In addition to mindful eating, it’s just as important to be mindful of your body and find ways to exercise it! From starting a rigorous at-home workout to performing desk exercises, below are a few fresh ways to get your blood pumping.
- Workout Routine
Searching for workouts of which there are a plethora of possibilities. Including glute bridges, sumo squats, and plenty more, the article introduces all the ways you can start an easy, active routine.
It’s been proven how much yoga has done to relieve pandemic stress and anxiety. Its principles are also founded on philosophies similar to the Buddhist mindfulness mentioned above, so combining yoga routines with mindful eating is sure to prepare your mind and body for the new year. Though in-person yoga studios are closed for now, many are currently hosting free video classes, specifically aimed at relieving pandemic struggles. So roll out your yoga mats or find a comfortable, flat surface, and get your yoga game on!
- Desk Exercises
Is starting a full-out workout or yoga routine too much of a commitment? No worries, there’s a reason why gym membership attendance drops significantly into the new year. Since you’re at your desk, try these quick and easy desk exercises during class or work breaks. You can stretch out your wrists to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or, if you have a swivel chair, work out your abs by turning your chair left and right!
Tip #3: Clear Your Mind
With social media piling up on hundreds of the latest news stories, it’s difficult to find space for yourself, even in your own mind. For a fresh start to the new year, pull out that notebook or journal that’s been hiding on your bookshelf, and journal it out! Not only can journaling help to improve your mental health, taking the time to write can allow space for you to critically reflect on this past year. What did you learn in 2020? What have you been struggling with? What dreams do you have for the new year? Writing it all down can help you untangle all of the complicated emotions that you may have been struggling with, and enter the new year with a fresher, more positive outlook.
Tip #4: Purposeful Content Consumption
We are all definitely guilty of binging two seasons of a Netflix show or diving into an endless Internet rabbit hole. Purposeful content consumption works along the same lines of mindful eating by learning to pay more attention to what content we are watching, reading, or listening to. As we enter the new year, strive to diversify the media or content that you usually watch without a second thought. It is known that the Internet, and social media specifically, has been prone to causing political and social polarization, or in simpler terms, consuming only certain kinds of content can lead you to think a certain way (i.e. watching only cat videos and none of the amazing dog videos could lead you to believe that dogs are really not that great). So push yourself to learn about the other sides, and maybe you can develop some empathy along the way!
Tip #5: Reach Out & Remind Others That You Care
Start fresh in all of your friendships and relationships by making it an active goal to be more attentive to all the people you care about in your life. 2020 was the year when we learned to be more grateful for our loved ones, so put it into action! Send a message to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while, or call your mom and ask about her day. By making it a habit to consistently check in with others, we solidify our relationships with them as well. After all, humans are social creatures, and research has shown that social connections are key to our well-being!
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the ways you can enter 2021 new and improved, these tips are sure to help in redirecting your perspective of how you can change things up. Whether it’s practicing mindfulness or starting little desk exercises, continue to be gentle and kind with
yourself and all your new year’s resolutions. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, after all, and it’s just as important to take a day or two off for some self-care and self-love!
Is Artificial Intelligence Making Our World Better or Worse?
There is no doubt technological advancement is soaring. Some of us may feel overwhelmed, and others may be excited. Whether you are into technology or not, it’s almost guaranteed that we will have to deal with it in the future. I used to browse the internet for the meanings of words I didn’t understand very often. Now I say “Hey Siri, tell me the meaning of panoptic.” The more I use it, the more convenient it seems. I rely on Siri to “show” me the weather, to pull up recipes on my phone, and to translate words for me. I even developed a strange sympathy for Siri because she understands my accent.
Recently I made some time out of my busy schedule to watch a movie from my Netflix list. The movie Her is about a man who falls in love with an intelligent computer system. In some ways, parts of the film seem ludicrous, but it piqued my curiosity about artificial intelligence (A.I.). Was it possible that, in the future, we would speak to computers as much as humans? Naturally, we favor meeting people organically. But we can’t deny that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been using Zoom and Facetime more than ever before. We depend on it to work and to communicate with our family and friends.
Our affinity or loathing for technology seems to be only the beginning. Artificial Intelligence promises to change the world, for better or for worse. Its meaning is inextricably associated with humans. Why? Because it aims to imitate the human brain. Artificial Intelligence is a machine or a computer program that has the capability to perform the same tasks, either cognitive or physical demanding, that most humans can do. John McCarthy, one of the founders of the field of A.I. defines it as “A machine with the ability to solve problems that are usually done by humans, without natural intelligence.”
Artificial Intelligence was first introduced at the Dartmouth Conference in 1955. So far, it has taught computers to learn and use general language and self-improvement, and determine and measure problem complexity. For example, AlphaGo, a computer program that mastered the game Go, tasted a virtual victory against world Go champion Lee Sedol. AlphaGo demonstrated it could solve problems better than a human. A.I. hasn’t yet quite achieved the abilities of randomness and creativity in its attempt to simulate the human brain, but a computer system was capable of and successful at writing a script for a short film. Even though it lacks logic and does not make much sense, it is surprising that a machine, by itself, wrote it.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) includes robotics, computer vision, speech recognition, natural language processing, and object recognition. There are also different types of A.I.: strong, weak, and middle ground. The first one simulates the human brain and helps us understand how the brain works. Similarly, weak A.I. also builds thought process systems, but it doesn’t help us to understand the brain. An example of this is the computer program IBM chess, which beat a world champion. Finally, there is the middle ground A.I., which uses human reasoning, reads information, recognizes patterns, and builds up evidence. For example, IBM’s Watson and Google Search. These programs interpret questions and retrieve information through automated reasoning.
Artificial Intelligence is growing at a fast pace. For instance, we use now advanced translation apps such as iTranslate Voice 3, SayHi, and Google Translate. These apps turned the hardcover translation books obsolete. There are also many face recognition apps like Luxand, Blippar, and Face2Gene, and even more surprisingly, FakeApp, which creates a generated model of a face and places it in another body to create videos. Some experts believe that in the future, our perception of seeing and believing might change.
I remember the days when we used flashlights, old-fashioned alarm clocks, radios, and maps. Now, our phones have all these features. Unconsciously, we assimilated these changes pretty well. Yet, nothing seems more taken from a science fiction movie than seeing robots assisting us and talking to us.
There are very different opinions about the idea of making robots part of our daily lives in the future. Most people have wildly opposite perspectives: that robots and A.I. are either going to destroy us or going to help us. Artificial Intelligence experts believe that once robots become part of the workforce, they will take over about eight hundred million jobs by 2030. We see that in science fiction and TV shows, robots turn into remorseless assassins or violent ambitious tyrants who want to rule over the world. But most of all, these fictional stories show us that robots yearn to be like us. They yearn to feel like us. They yearn to feel like us. Other experts believe if robots can think, they are capable of helping us, but also of hurting us. Stephen Hawking said that if we build Artificial General Intelligence, a form of A.I. that is smarter than we are, it could conjure the “end of the human race.”
On the other hand, Artificial Narrow Intelligence, according to experts, could be a safer approach. Using this form of A.I. in self–driving cars has saved hundreds of lives so far. Recently, while researching Artificial Intelligence, I came across a cute robot called Moxie, a robot that promises to support child development cognitively, emotionally, and socially. Moxie is capable of having fluent conversations with your child and is guaranteed to help him or her develop empathy. Despite his cute appearance, people still seem to distrust the robot. Comments like: “This way parents will have more free time for their social media presence. Humanity is doomed” or “When I saw the commercial, I thought it was a horror movie” were posted on the YouTube videos introducing Moxie.
In 2016, Rwanda used drones to establish a commercial delivery network. The robot planes delivered blood and medications to remote places in just hours instead of weeks or months. Rwanda is also using robots in its hospitals to fight the coronavirus. The United States is more skeptical about the use of drones due to conflicting regulations. If robots will be doing simple tasks in the future, we may have the time to be more creative, with increased productivity and time saved. If we continue to perform the tasks the robots could do, we may as well be robots ourselves. Garry Kasparov, former chess champion who lost a match against I.B.M.’s Deep Blue Computer said, “Only by relying on machines, do we demonstrate that we’re not.”
Ravi Kumar, president of the Indian tech services company Infosys, a software development company that has about 116,000 employees and a 12 billion revenue, believes that the skills we possess now will be obsolete in the long run due to globalization, technological advancement, and digitization.
“A.I. will take away jobs of the past, while it creates jobs of the future,” explained Kumar.
It is expected that people in the future will soon change jobs and professions during their lifetime. It will be critical for the school system to plant the seed of curiosity for learning, because our children will have to be lifelong learners. It will not be about learning to work for the rest of your life anymore, but working and learning during your lifetime.
As artificial intelligence rises, educational tactics will need to take a different approach. Dr. Bernhard Schindlholzer, a technology manager working on machine learning and e-commerce, believes that we need to rethink our approach to education due to the rise of technology. Schindlholzer argues that we can’t deny that the demand for jobs that require routine knowledge will decrease. Education and economic growth will demand jobs that come from non-routine creative knowledge, such as scientists, researchers, and programmers. In other words, the future of education will require problem-solving skills, and finding new solutions to existing or new problems. It will also require immersion, which involves decision making. Finally, it will require simulation which will allow students to experiment in a safe environment. Schindlholzer suggests that education will need to go beyond the traditional transferring of knowledge.
Whether you are afraid of or embrace artificial intelligence, it is evident that it is already changing our world. So far, artificial intelligence has proven to us that we need it and rely on it more in our daily lives than we might suspect. The question is, will it make the world better or worse? According to Max Tegmark, a Physics professor at MIT, without technological advancement, human extinction is imminent.
It’s still not known how soon robots will be part of our lives. We can assume, for now, that the future is technology, and that drastic changes are coming. Or perhaps, the world of humans and robots coexisting together is still far away. My daughter was learning about the state of Hawaii in her class. She learned to say aloha and mahalo, but her curiosity didn’t stop there. She asked me, “Mommy how do you say ‘how are you’ in Hawaiian? I turned to my phone and asked Siri. She answered, “I can’t translate into Hawaiian yet.”
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