Reparations Revisited — Policy Our Nation Needs

On Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee hosted the first-ever hearing on the idea of reparations for slavery and the perpetual injustices caused by the federal government through Jim Crow. The room was packed with activists, tensions were high, and a significant chunk of the conservative representatives was absent.

The topic of reparations has remained an active topic in the American political sphere recently since the 2014 essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates “The Case for Reparations.” During one of my first ever blog posts over a year and a half ago, I wrote about a few brief arguments that have been shared about why reparations must happen, linked here. Coates’ essay was and is still one of the most important pieces in my own growth as a writer and learner. Yesterday, he, along with several others, testified to the merits of this discussion. He went after the recent comments Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the day prior, saying:

“He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of their plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they would love a word with the majority leader.”

The hearing was on the famed piece of legislation known as HR40, which began with former representative John Conyers asking for the federal government to create an initiative to investigate the merits of paying reparations. At this point, the argument isn’t even whether reparations should be given, but whether the federal government should start a commission to look into the issue. Throughout the hearing, advocates for both sides of the argument took the time to make their own short case for reparations before the committee asked questions.

The challenge when it comes to getting this bill through is the prevalent argument held by conservatives, black conservatives most vocally, that it happened too long ago, that the true victims of slavery are long gone. Furthermore, they criticize the practicality and invalidity of paying checks which they claim would only increase racial tensions. Another argument that is also presented is the idea black people don’t need a handout, that anyone who wants anything bad enough, they can.

Yet, every single argument when it comes to the framing of this argument against reparations fails to focus on the key facts. There are countless accounts following slavery of state-sponsored segregation and unconstitutional legislation that prevented black people from being able to climb up to the middle class after being freed. From the GI bill to redlining, loan denial, and plainly not being allowed to buy property, the government is responsible for the majority of the wealth gap that exists between black people and white people in America. That does not even begin to go into the lack of voting rights or even the fundamental case that those enslaved never reaped the benefits for helping build this nation literally into the most powerful nation in the world.

Reparations aren’t about just money; it is about this nation truly coming to terms with the sin that is responsible for what we are today.

Cash checks are not just the only way in which reparations can be granted. From interest-free loans, free college, or investments into community centers in black neighborhoods, there are many methods in which funds could be devoted to positively impact black people in ways the government failed them throughout our nation’s history.

To have this hearing on Juneteenth, the anniversary of the end of slavery, the year that marks the 400 year anniversary since the first Africans arrived in America, speaks volumes to how long we’ve continued to push off discussing this issue. Aside from the ideas I’ve been gathering to push for Black History Month to move to June, the one frustrating part about all of this is that the argument for, at minimum, a reparations commission, if heard objectively, is sound. However, public opinion on the issue is terrible.

Across several national polls, only about 25% of Americans are in favor of paying for reparations. In a time where the issue is unfortunately so misunderstood and mischaracterized, when partisanship is at an all-time high, for a presidential candidate to truly back the issue would be committing political suicide. And indeed, you see that the candidates who back reparations as one of their tenants in their campaigns are trailing in polls, with Julian Castro and Senator Cory Booker not yet cracking 3% with near unanimous national name recognition.

But, here’s my question: when has public opinion polling ever stopped a movement to advocate for what is right?

Gay rights, women’s rights, and of course the rights of black people all had national polling numbers that suggested this country wasn’t ready to adopt these policies. But has that ever stopped activists, stopped our nation from moving forward for true justice? No.

HR40 must pass. The conversation on a national level is one that with this bill could lead to a true education nationally on the effects of slavery and Jim Crow had on America. I urge you to go out and learn more about the bill, it’s merited, and why the argument for reparations is clear. Let this week’s hearing just be the first of many.


Being Noah Tesfaye #86: Reparations Revisited — Policy Our Nation Needs

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

The iPad Pro is Close to Replacing My Laptop as a Student

The first day the iPad came out, I went to the original Apple store in downtown Palo Alto. I sprinted through the front door and snuck my small head through the crowds of bodies to hold this bowed, aluminum-backed, massive canvas of a device. It was the first truly new Apple product that I watched the keynote for as it launched, and I was beyond ecstatic to make the argument to my dad why we(well really he) had to buy it.

But, in the near ten years of iPads being released annually, I hadn’t really jumped into getting one. It wasn’t just that it isn’t cheap, but I felt like it was a device that I could accomplish the same tasks I could on my phone or laptop. I thought a 9.7-inch media streaming device would be great, but I just saw it as that.

However, I think that’s changed.

A few months ago, I picked up the new iPad Pro 11” as a birthday gift on a significant Amazon discount and it’s accompanying keyboard, with my friends chipping in to get me the pencil.

For about two months straight, I did not take my laptop to school (for reference, I use a mid-2015 Retina MacBook Pro 15”, the last generation before the Thunderbolt 3 refresh). My high school relies heavily on tech, but every single thing we did in class was feasible on an iPad. Google Classroom, Drive, emails, and note-taking are all I really did on a daily basis. This machine blazed through every single task without any issues. While I run many windows and tabs on Chrome on my Mac and it chugs through everything, I haven’t had a single slow down or freeze.

The biggest thing I really appreciated with the iPad Pro though was the weight reduction. Going from a 5 lb laptop with a pound charger down to a pound overall with the iPad and accessories and charger is game-changing. I’d sometimes just check my backpack at school and worry I left something at home because of how much lighter my backpack got using this device. With it taking less space and weighing significantly less, I got to take my camera around more often since it wasn’t as much of an inconvenience.

Another factor in this equation that I didn’t anticipate was how much I enjoy typing and writing with the iPad Pro. I am always for more travel on keys (why I’ll be keeping my current laptop until there’s a better Mac keyboard). But this Keyboard Folio, however overpriced it is, is a solid typing experience. I wrote a significant chunk of my final paper for AP Literature with this, written a few blog posts (including this one), and gone through numerous article drafts without any complaints. On the pencil side of things, I’ll say that although it hasn’t replaced my Muji notebook and pens for daily jot-downs, the organization for classes like AP Stats was infinitely better having digital handwritten notes. Usually, I hand write all my notes, so having digital organization on top of a solid writing experience has been a nice upgrade.

Every single significant critique I had about the iPad Pro were almost singlehandedly corrected last week at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). They announced iPadOS, built on iOS 13, which establishes the iPad as its own true platform. Widgets, external storage support, possible mouse support (via accessibility), desktop-esque browsing with download management, split screen with the same app, sidecar multitasking. I could go on and on about all the further changes that I am so glad to have arrived, but those are the ones that I was looking for the most. If Apple is able to further continue to flesh out the platform, who knows where this will take the iPad Pro with consumers.

Yes, I still edit videos on my Mac, and yes for extended writing, I may go to my Mac. But, that isn’t a regular part of my schedule. For everyday use, for the tasks I need to work through, the iPad Pro does all of these things incredibly well. For the majority of people, when iPadOS releases in the fall, an iPad could replace your laptop completely. Aside from the high upfront cost, this new iPad Pro is truly the best refresh to an Apple device in years. I’ll be bringing my laptop to college, but I imagine it will be spending a lot of time sitting on my desk next year because of this incredible piece of tech.


Being Noah Tesfaye #85: The iPad Pro is Close to Replacing My Laptop as a Student

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

I Graduated High School.

Yesterday, I graduated from high school.

If you told me I would be where I am on the day I started high school, I would never believe you.

Four years ago, I stepped onto a high school campus of 2,000 students not knowing a single soul. I had no genuine connections with anyone in my freshman year, no true friends, and no one I believed would support me. I was that one kid in the cafeteria that no one ate at, eating my mediocre school lunch alone watching youtube to pass the time. I had people who would backstab me, a “friend” who tried to convert me to his religion vigorously, and a miserable relationship with mathematics and a teacher who purposefully made me feel like I could never succeed in the subject. At the end of that first year of high school, I did not believe that this community I was a part of would ever have a place for me. That year, after pouring my soul into my journalism class (the newspaper), I got rejected. And I was devastated. It, along with everything else happening in my home life, had me contemplating a lot of terrible things. I didn’t know how I could go anywhere in my life.

Sophomore year was in some ways a step in the right direction. I did meet more interesting people and did for a bit have a group of friends. But I just drifted away because I just couldn’t agree on the fundamental beliefs of some people. It was never about bad intentions (at least I think?), but I just did not know what I wanted in my world.

But then, a string of events coincided with the moments and friendships that literally changed my life.

After a google search of things to do my summer heading into my junior year in January 2017, I discovered the Columbia summer program for constitutional law. I applied, got accepted, and won a full scholarship for the ludicrous $11,000 price tag. For three weeks in New York City, I met the six friends that gave me hope of what life could become. They taught me what true friendship could be in daily life, that your work and learning could be so empowering and fun. RBGANG taught me what it meant to truly find the joy in living, something I took strongly into my junior year.

At the end of my sophomore year, the journalism advisor walked into my media literacy class asking for videographers to join their staff. Rather than a full application, he asked us to send a link to our work that year. Although still bitter from that rejection a year ago, I reluctantly sent in my links in hopes of maybe a new start. Within five days, I got an email notifying me of my acceptance to the newspaper. I nearly started crying, but I knew that I had to take advantage of everything I could.

After Columbia, my peers I knew, teachers, friends, and family said I changed. I don’t remember who I really was. Heading into my junior year, with a chip on my shoulder in the journalism program and a blueprint for the relationships I wanted to forge, I wanted to make the most of high school. I wanted to do it because I realized no one would be willing to help me if I didn’t have the dedication to believe in myself.

And these last two years changed everything.

In journalism, I strived to work harder and smarter than anyone. Beginning as a videographer, I worked to learn how to construct angles, drafting nifty ledes, and searching for scoops no one else was interested in finding. After just a year on staff, I ran and won web managing editor after campaigning all year and proving to myself I could be the hardworking person I knew I could be. This past year on staff, I still continued as the admin beat, reporting on first amendment violations, and shared my connection with Nipsey Hussle. The newspaper gave me the courage to share my voice and be proud of being myself.

With the support of my friends from Columbia, I sought to be more outgoing. I reached out actively to eat lunch with new people, text about different classes, and go out of the house. I’ve had countless coffee shop work sessions, weekend dinners, and just driving time with people I never thought I could admire so much. From people in journalism to friends I met through my classes, I cannot thank you all enough for just accepting me for who I am. These two years, I’ve been able to forge friendships that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life, something a fourteen-year-old Noah never thought was possible walking into high school in August of 2015.

In September, I’m heading to a new city and a school I never could believe would take me for myself. When I started high school, I hated myself. But now, through the relationships I’m grateful for now, through writing with this blog, I think I’ve gotten a hell of a lot closer to knowing who Noah Tesfaye is.

UChicago may be my next chapter, and although I am eager to head off in the fall, I am walking away from high school more satisfied and thankful than I ever could believe. I’ll miss the late nights laying out the newspaper and the hole-in-the-wall food trips, but I’ll miss the people most of all.

But, I know that and I believe that I am now able to truly continue to have meaningful relationships with the people I care about beyond high school. This is not goodbye by any stretch of my imagination; it’s really just the start of relationships not bogged down by homework and teacher drama.

Yesterday, I graduated amongst people I care about, surrounded by people I love. Thank you to my mom, dad, brother, friends and family, teachers, and mentors for giving me the courage to never give up. Without you all, I could have never completed this journey. I leave high school feeling more alive, passionate, and empathetic than I ever have in my life. That is all I could have ever asked for in this experience.

Onward.


Being Noah Tesfaye #84: I Graduated High School.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

“When They See Us,” They Will Try to Destroy Us

This morning, I sat for about five hours from 7 AM to 12 PM and watched a horrifying mini-series based on the true story of five young black boys who were wrongly accused and convicted of raping and assaulting a white female jogger on April 18th, 1989.

“When They See Us” is the story of how the childhoods of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise were stripped away. These now men may be known as the “Central Park Five,” but as director of the show Ava DuVernay has said throughout the show’s production, they should be remembered as the “Exonerated Five,” because they should be remembered for their innocence.

For those who do not know the story, these five children in 1989 were charged and convicted of an egregious crime they did not commit. They were coerced to confessions by NYPD with false promises, verbal, and physical abuse. Furthermore, even as minors, they were questioned for hours without their parents and were not given water or were fed. Ultimately, the five put into holding for charges that were based solely on these forced confessions, without having any physical evidence and an illogical timeline. They were all then convicted in the court of law and served varying times incarcerated. In 2002, the true perpetrator of the crime Matias Reyes confessed to the crime that the five boys were convicted for over a decade earlier. The year prior, it is said that Reyes met Korey while he was incarcerated. After the confession was confirmed with DNA evidence and further confirmed details, all the charges were dropped for all five men.

Through their respective times in juvenile detention and prison, they maintained their innocence, even when offered parole if they confessed they did the crimes they were convicted for.

Since 2002, the five exonerated men went on to sue the city of New York. In 2014, they were awarded a $41 million settlement. It was a tweet Raymond sent in 2015 to DuVernay about a possible CP5 project that spiked her interest in pursuing the project. Now, four years later, we are now seeing the culmination of this story.

Through watching this show, I kept going between two different mindsets. The first was the very fact that I am a young black man in America. The nightmare to have your whole life taken away from you by law enforcement who wants you to go to prison at any cost is beyond terrifying. I kept thinking as I made it through the four parts back to back to back to back, “Imagine if that was me. What if that was me?” Every single time the despicable human being Linda Fairstein (head of the sex crimes for the Manhattan DA’s office at the time) spoke, she treated these boys like animals, that they were guilty before any context at all in the case was given. Even after the prosecution kept hitting dead ends, she continued to never doubt the fact they were guilty, even when they were exonerated completely (Felicity Huffman also played her, which could be a whole other discussion entirely given the situation of her own trial). Just because I knew how the story ended, it didn’t mean that I was continuously petrified for almost the entire show.

The second mindset I watched the show through was as a student who wants to one day defend the wrongfully convicted. Time and time again, the NYPD and Manhattan DA’s office ignored every possible rule or rights protections for these young black boys. Furthermore, because the boys did not know about their rights, the authorities played into their fears, again and again, false promising they would end up home in hopes of getting confessions. $41 million is nowhere near enough, and ultimately, there cannot ever be enough money to ever make what they did to Antron, Kevin, Raymond, Yusef, and Korey acceptable or justifiable.

However disturbing the story of these men is, they still only represent the very best outcome for these circumstances. Thousands of citizens, predominately people of color, plea guilty and lack the proper defense for crimes they did not commit. That is the horrible state of the justice system, a system that does not actually seek out justice for those in it. It functions as it was designed, and ultimately, without tearing it down and rebuilding it from the ground up, there will be more stories like those of the Central Park Five.

This has been by far the most impactful show or film I’ve watched in a long time. I urge everyone who wants to at least understand the trauma that this system causes to watch this. We all know someone who may have gone through this system, so however you can, use your Netflix account, your sister’s, your parents’, watch this for them.

Watch “When They See Us,” because when you do, at least you will be able to see at least a fraction of what it’s like when this system tries to destroy everything you have and everyone you love.


Being Noah Tesfaye #83: “When They See Us,” They Will Try to Destroy Us

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

A Member of Generation Z Turning Towards Bernie Sanders

I never wanted to like Bernie Sanders.

That’s the honest truth. As a freshman in high school, watching his 2016 campaign, I didn’t know as much about policy as I do now. But at that time, I saw Hillary as the safe choice. I thought Americans wouldn’t be ready for “radical” policy positions. They would want the candidate who had a worldwide brand. Ignoring the tidbits of info I already had about the Clintons at the time, I wanted to just see Hillary win. Take the race slow and measured; that’s how Dems would win.

But as election day arrived and I saw exit polls and trackers indicating Trump had crept into the 30% range for odds to win, I knew something was wrong. The next day, walking around school, I realized that maybe this wasn’t the right candidate. I told myself I would try to figure out what happened and how a seeming lunatic could have won against an establishment candidate. I read about SuperPACs, super delegates, the DNC, and finally came to the conclusion that many have made: as Bernie gained momentum, the DNC took as many measures as they could to ensure Hillary a victory.

Two and a half years later, I am here writing to you, taking time to reinvestigate the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, the person who I didn’t want to win in 2016.

In that time, I’ve become more progressive on policy stances. I support much of the core policies that Bernie has based much of his career on, such as Medicare-for-all, as well as on a stricter tax code that increase rates against higher income earners and large corporations. I also commend his stance to allow incarcerated people to be able to vote. That is a position that should be a prerequisite to be president and earn my vote. In many ways, I just support and understand all of these tenants of the Sanders campaigns. I will say this however that these policies, while supported by a majority of Democrats, are no longer unique to his campaign. I do admire his commitment to many of his positions that he was thought as extreme for throughout his career.

However, as I’ve stated before, for myself, the 2020 democratic primaries are really about voting for the candidate I dislike the least more than voting for a candidate I completely support.

Bernie Sanders comes with a few personal gripes for me. First and foremost is his firm stance against reparations. I do believe that most candidates, especially those who back the idea, fail to really understand the legal justifications for why it must be studied and applied. What I dislike about Sanders is that he fails to treat black people as their own unique marginalized group in American society for their own respective past. His corrections on society as a whole are very helpful in aiding black people to continue to move up. But the sin of slavery, the perpetual state-sponsored segregation that existed and continues to exist in police enforcement and school segregation won’t go away. That is what reparations are against(also check “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the most important piece on the subject this decade). It is not against those who once owned slaves; it is against this nation’s government for violating the rights of people since slavery from granting equal protection under the eyes of the law. I’m not saying checks will just solely solve that, but commissioning an initiative to study how possible reparations could take place must be considered.

Also, something to consider at this time is that he suffers from a lack of support from minorities. His polling with black and Hispanic voters, if it stands as it does right now, could lead to him not being elected. That being said, it isn’t necessarily from a disliking of his candidacy, but rather of their support for other candidates, like Biden and Harris. The issue comes more from the fact that the majority of minority voters are older and are voters that have more conservative positions.

To elaborate on that further, I will say that Bernie suffers from a branding error in labeling himself as Democratic Socialist. It isn’t that I don’t agree with many of those ideas for that movement; my concern is the perception of not being electable. A social democrat, a human dignity-centered campaign. Literally, any phrase aside from DS would have eased any sort of concerns older, more moderate voters have of him. After all, his candidacy really is contingent on whether Americans believe that electability is second to policy, that Biden, however seemingly the best candidate against Trump he may appear, is not progressive enough. Do we know if his electability is a perception problem? Sure. But that is something to consider.

However, with all of this said, however little I do have to say consequentially, I do think he is one of my least disliked candidates so far. The perception of his policies and ideas do not work in the rust belt just is not true. Bernie in the 2016 primaries won the swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan that fell to Trump in the general. Furthermore, as a candidate who also has been against NAFTA and the TPP since the beginning, he could appeal to rust belt voters who have seen Trump hurting their economic security by imposing tariffs that hurt their industries. Working with AOC on capping credit card interest rates also intrigues me as well.

Bernie is right near the top of candidates I’ll vote for in the primaries.

With Biden polling numbers continuously dropping every single time he says something stupid, I envision this race becoming more contested than we even see it now when we get to January. Furthermore, with the debates starting next month, I look to seeing how Bernie goes head to head with his opponents in pushing his policies. He is the one candidate that the more I’ve researched, I actually have become more invested in. After all, this was the same person who led the crusade at my school next year, the University of Chicago, in protesting the institution’s ownership of segregated housing while he was a student.

As a generation z member to have only begun to realize my possible support and backing for Bernie, I just appreciate that he takes young voters about as seriously as anyone else running for office. Now, whether he will follow through with backing our generation in office has yet to be seen. But, if he can continue his campaign smoothly and perform well in the debates, he has a chance at defeating Biden, and eventually, Trump.


Being Noah Tesfaye #82: A Member of Generation Z Turning Towards Bernie Sanders

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

The New SAT “Adversity Score” Is Useless

It’s like my in interests of politics/race relations and recent experiences in the college admissions process just continue to clash. First,it was the recent Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) case against Harvard. Then, it was the recent scandal where rich parents paid bribes into elite schools. But if there’s anything that truly aligns directly with my concerns about college admissions, it is this latest news.

Two days ago, the College Board announced the addition of a new “adversity score” that would go in conjunction with the SAT. It would take into consideration three factors into a scale from 0–100 (o being least disadvantaged, 100 being most disadvantaged):

  1. Neighborhood Environment (crime rates, poverty, housing values)
  2. Family Environment (income level, different first languages, parent education, and marriage status)
  3. High School Environment (free and reduced lunch rate, course rigor)

This number is only calculated and seen by the College Board and the schools which a student chooses to send their scores. In adding this metric, the company believes that they can contextualize the data points from their test scores that schools receive like taking into account how their surroundings impacted their ability to study and do well on standardized testing. They tested the metric this year with 50 institutions and plan on adding another 100 schools for the next admissions cycle.

But this metric is useless; it completely unnecessary to aiding in any application decision.

The first problem this new metric raises is that it fails to take into consideration race. Where do they at all take into account the fact that many students, whether black, Hispanic, Asian or any other, have to deal with subvert and overt racism in their academic pursuits. This metric not only fails to take into this very important aspect in the “adversity” students face academically.

Second, this metric does not take into consideration the fact that many families of less means often go into severe debt just to send their children to adequate schools that give them a chance at a better education. School environment and neighborhood environment factors will negate any of this actual data, hurting many middle-class families only further than just when it comes to negotiating for financial aid if they get accepted. This number further complicates this situation for this significant proportion of top tier college applicants.

What is most surprising though about this new metric is that it is the first time the College Board is actually acknowledging that their tests are flawed. Year after year, more and more studies are being released that show that test scores do not really measure aptitude but privilege and access to resources to do well on the exams. And that is ultimately what it will always be. A single number on a single test (or multiple if a school super-scores) cannot already measure academic intelligence. Why would another singular number of recognizing disadvantage solve that problem too?

Schools already are taking into consideration the factors that go into this new SAT data point, along with race and the broader scope of how a student is able to do in the context of their own personal challenges to achieving the way they can. Many of my own peers here in Silicon Valley, who are only able to attend our school because they inherited property from a grandparent or moved when housing was less expensive two or three decades ago, would be burdened because the means of those around them are so extensive.

There is one clear, undeniable reason as to why the College Board created this metric: money. As test scores are being emphasized less and less in the admissions process, fewer people will pay to take their exams (SAT, SAT Subject Tests, APs) as many times, or even at all, if they know it won’t be weighted as much in their applications. With schools recognizing this fact after many studies, many institutions are becoming test-optional, where students can choose to or not send any test scores they want. If they do not send them, schools claim this does not disadvantage their application, particularly if a student does not have the means to take these exams many times or cannot afford to pay to send the scores to multiple universities. If more and more places take this strategy, the College Board (an institution with a drastic monopoly on the college admissions testing system which needs to be expanded upon for another blog post) will be out of a reason to exist. They don’t care so much about measuring or helping those students who are disadvantaged as much as they care about protecting their livelihood which is protecting their standardized testing programs.

My future school, the University of Chicago, is the first top 5 school to implement this policy. Whether it is because they want to raise their test average scores (a definite possibility), the fact that these exams are not holding as much weight as they once did only further aids students who are disadvantaged by their lack of means in being able to afford private tutoring or take the exams multiple times.

In my eyes, this metric is redundant and an ultimate acknowledgment that test scores are severely ineffective in measuring how qualified someone is for college. Making numbers so crucial to an application may be convenient, but it undermines the very humanity of students themselves. As schools choose to regard these tests less and less than presently designed, as they should, my only hope is that schools emphasize essays and recommendations even more than they do, along with grades in truly focusing on how well someone can master subjects and make the most of their circumstances they are dealt in life. That’s my only hope.


Being Noah Tesfaye #81: The New SAT “Adversity Score” Is Useless

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Growing Up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe — “Avengers: Endgame”

*This blog post contains spoilers (although don’t know why I’m warning you when you should’ve seen it by now)

In 2008, as a measly elementary school student, my mom thought it would be a fantastic idea to take my younger brother and I to watch a new Marvel movie. Fast forward two hours of blood, action, and occasional light-hearted cursing later, my mom walked out the film upset while my brother and I were smiling and behaving as though we were teenagers.

The film I’m talking about of course is Iron Man, starring a Robert Downey Jr. who was plagued by scandals and a downward spiral at this time in his career. For me, being truly introduced to Marvel through this first film was nothing less than life-changing. As a member of Generation Z, I grew up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). These films have gone with me from elementary school to high school, been a part of my memories every single year. From The Avengers (the first film I’d ever seen on my own) to Captain America: Civil War (when school discussions/arguments were incessant about what side we were on), no films were staples and parts of my life quite like those from the MCU.

Every single year, I went back to the theatre looking forward to watching another element of this journey. One film a year became two and three films a year. Following Iron Man grew into my fascination with Rocket and my admiration for T’Challa. Having never grown up when the comics were common to find, it was through research after the fact that I learned the stories of all the different Avengers.

A year ago, I was sitting amongst friends, stunned at the conclusion to Avengers: Infinity War. It wasn’t that I didn’t know they’d find some way to fix everything. Everyone knew that they’d eventually accomplish it. The real concern I had was that I had a feeling my favorite MCU character, Tony Stark, would be the one that would be killed trying to win. Granted, he wanted out years ago so it made sense contractually, but still. You don’t ever want to see a character you’re so attached to be killed off. Furthermore, I was also concerned about how they’re expecting to just weave in ten years worth of content and dozens of characters together into a fitting conclusion.

But, after two watches, one on opening Thursday night and the other this morning, I can confidently say that the Russo Brothers addressed both of my overarching fears for this film.

Avengers: Endgame is truly a masterpiece, not because of it’s script or cinematography, but for its ability to so emphatically conclude a decade-long saga.

As a stand-alone film, Infinity War is the superior of the two. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this movies might just sneak into my top five in the MCU, after Black Panther, Civil War, Iron Man, and Infinity War (in no particular order). There is a lot of misplaced humor that, although this being a MCU project, does not make sense considering the gravity of this movie. Compared to the films mentioned above, the character development is more thorough.

But none of that really matters because those downsides were never the objectives of the film. The Russo Brothers knew the goals they needed to achieve in making two movies back to back to end the infinity era: 1) weave the nearly two dozen films together, and 2) serve the fans with moments they will forever cherish.

They fulfilled both of those tasks.

Utilizing the quantum realm as the way to get the infinity stones back set up interactions that will go down as some of the most heartfelt in the MCU’s history. Howard Stark running into Tony, Cap vs Cap in New York, especially the last shot of the film with Peggy and Steve; all of these moments were resonating for everyone reacting in awe or sadness in the theatre, myself included. Fan service is also definitely observed during the battle itself with the female hero assemble sequence (which, while after the first watch I thought it was a bit tacky for the Avengers to just be all about inclusion when only one woman has led an MCU film so far, was satisfying in hindsight and during a second watch).

The two moments that stood out the most to me the most, however, were the most important during the film. The first was, of course, Cap saying “Avengers: assemble.” I got even more goosebumps watching that the second time knowing that it would be coming. As every single team brought their army to fight against Thanos, I was almost brought to tears the first time I saw it that this was about to be it, that this journey we were all on would soon end. The one tracking running shot where every Avenger was in the frame was just like the comic graphics (which I looked up ahead of time) I dreamed of seeing. It was all so fitting, especially with Alan Silvestri returning to score this film (I highly, highly recommended to listen to the soundtrack on its own).

The second moment that truly brought me to tears was the final Iron Man sequence with Thanos with his most iconic phrase, the phrase that set up this whole storyline: “I am Iron Man.” Tony ending it all ultimately was the way this journey was meant to end. And when he finally was lay to rest, with the shot of his original core on the lack outside his home, with everyone watching it float away, I finally came to terms with this being how it would be. Cheeseburgers, 3000, it all was a triumphant, albeit somber conclusion.

The Russo Brothers, Kevin Feige, and Marvel Studios accomplished a feat no one has ever come close to achieving: creating worlds of characters and narratives that could be tied together into one set of motivations.

21 films, eleven years, and dozens of memorable moments after my first interaction with Iron Man, I am grateful I grew up in a time where the MCU was my childhood. When the digital or 4k Blu Ray mega compilation goes on sale of all the films, best believe I will be there to buy it and watch these films all again (except for Hulk and Dark World and Iron Man 3). The MCU may seemingly be ending its first saga, but best believe there will be dozens of more stories to tell. And I will be there for them all.


Being Noah Tesfaye #80: Growing Up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe — “Avengers: Endgame”

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

The Ridiculous State of Joe Biden

there is one candidate (aside from Donald Trump) that I would tell you that I would never vote for in 2020, it would be Joe Biden.

As mentioned probably in a prior blog post, the first time I ever saw Joe Biden was during the 2008 primaries, where I was a first grader enamored by this politician that had a similar heritage as me (Barack Obama). He didn’t particularly catch my eye, especially since I was following the back and forth between Clinton and Obama at the time. Nonetheless, when I saw him picked as Obama’s running mate, I didn’t think too much of it.

Fast forward ten years later to right now, where Joe Biden is currently polling above 35%, and (assuming nothing ludicrous happens), Biden is poised to become the 2020 Democratic Nominee for POTUS.

And I hate that.

Before anything else, his campaign launch video was about as fake of a virtue signaling exercise as I’ve ever seen. Really? You’re using your intro to this race to proclaim that white supremacy is bad and that Trump is bad. That was it. He had no policy and no substantial justification or why anyone should vote for him, let alone anything to say for why at least he is better suited for the job than his opponents.

What I see Biden doing is attempting to take advantage of the gullible, anti-Trump-at-whatever-cost coalition in the Democratic Party. The pizazz appears to enamor more mainstream media is the fact he seems to be appealing to middle America. They see his race, age, and gender, combined with his conventional, dated positions as the way to drive a coalition against Trump. I’ve written about how I fear that much of America is uneducated in policy and we have for generations often voted for candidates that go directly against our own interests. Going with Biden in the primaries is running towards that inevitable fate that I believe will result in yet another four years of Trump.

Policy-wise, Joe Biden is more conservative than any other candidate running on the left side of the ticket. He still is against the legalization of marijuana on the federal level. He does not support a single payer, Medicare for all health care reform policy that is supported by 70% of Americans. I went through his whole campaign website and there is NOT ONE CONCRETE POLICY on an issue. NOT ONE! The whole page is filled with buzzwords dedicated to exciting people who have not as strong of a policy background and plays on their lack of knowledge. If this isn’t about as direct of a play out of the Republican campaign playbook, I don’t know what anything else is.

As a black person living in America, no Democrat has been more terrible in issuing policy and advocating for policy against black people like Joe Biden. Comparing Kamala Harris’s ludicrous record as a DA and state AG to Biden’s is like comparing a little league baseball player to Babe Ruth; there is no comparison in whose record is more atrocious. He referred to the Crime Bill of 1994 as the “Biden Crime Bill” as recently as 2015, taking pride for over two decades in a piece of legislation that drastically increased over-sentencing and police militarization for black people. He was an advocate for mandatory minimums and played a significant role for Democrats where the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine magnified during the late 80s. Jamelle Bouie, a New York Times Opinion Columnist, wrote a more comprehensive article about his record back in 2015 when rumors stirred about Biden running then, but you can just get the gist of how racist the policies he supported were and still are.

Yet, as much as I think four years of Biden will be worse for black people than any other Democrat candidate, many black voters are moderates. Furthermore, the single fact that he was Obama’s running mate could only further pull more black people to go and vote for Biden. And I don’t know if that will change in any way. Our constituency will back Biden, no matter how much Warren or Sanders or literally any other true progressive is advocating for policies that will help us more.

Speaking of the Obama-Biden relationship, I will say that their interactions, for how jolly and bromance-y they were, that should not be any indication of Biden being any similar to Obama. Yes, although their policy positions are relatively similar, I have no idea how Biden will truly run his presidency if he were to be elected. This is in large part due to the fact he still has remained extremely vague on his own plans for office both at speaking engagements, as well as on his website and social media.

I won’t go into the handsy-ness or his ignorance about China or about his disregard for millennial and Gen Z voters, but the real question and everyone has right now is this: does Biden have the best electability and stand the best chance of defeating Trump? And my answer to that?

No.

Because if America wanted a moderate Democrat in office, someone who would truly take Trump’s policy seriously (and not always focus on his erratic mouth and ideas), Hilary Clinton would have been our 45th president of these United States. Biden never wants to take any risks on anything in this campaign. And, knowing what we do in 2016, taking things for granted and playing elections safe instead of diligently campaigning will lose you an election, even against someone who seemingly should have never had a chance.


Being Noah Tesfaye #79: The Ridiculous State of Joe Biden

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Blexit Confuses Me

I tried. I really, really tried to take and understand a new perspective. But this is just ludicrous.

What am I talking about this week? My hours wasted attempting to put justification behind the movement that is known as Blexit, led by Candace Owens.

For those who may not know Owens, she is a digital pundit who has awoken herself to the facts that she is a black conservative just a few years ago. Last year, Kanye West tweeted about how he liked the way she thinks, resulting in a significant increase in coverage from major news networks. Over the past few years, she spent her time going on digital shows like Info Wars, speaking as a part of the organization Turning Point USA and has recently started a movement known as “Blexit,” or the black exit from the Democratic Party.

Initially, I didn’t really think too much about her work and kind of pushed it aside. But when clips of her recent Blexit event were starting to pop up in my YouTube feed, I just decided to finally hear what this whole movement is really about.

And it honestly just confuses me.

As someone who is registered independent but has very strong left-leaning views, I am all for hearing out conservative opinions. I am all here for hearing different perspectives from black people, especially since as a first generation black student. But the logic, the very factual basis for this exit from the Democratic Party is so flawed that I genuinely do not understand how it could ever truly accomplish its own goal. Owens is primarily responsible for this, whether making blatantly fake claims like the southern strategy is not true or that the party switch of ideologies did not actually happen. She also apparently does not believe in global warming and also cannot seem to find any issue with Hitler if he just decided to stay in Germany. Either way, you look, if you’re looking for clear arguments backed by facts, you won’t get them with Owens.

I will be the first to say that the Democratic Party has done very horrible things that have resulted in the harsher treatment of black people. Whether it was the Crime Bill of 1994 to continue to pander to our votes in every single election, I get the resentment that some black people have about the Democratic Party. That is why I choose to not register or align myself with any particular party but with policy and candidates and representatives that align with my values. Much of the world I grew up in here in Silicon Valley is liberal to such an extreme, yet ultimately is quite regressive when it comes to race relations. I’ve been told I’m not smart enough, been stared at whenever I do anything in public, even just flat out having the n-word being called out at and around me. This hypocritical liberal bubble that I live in many ways is more frustrating than if someone would have just directly faced told me that they didn’t like people like me.

My issue, however, with Blexit as a concept is this victim mentality that it proclaims that we as black people have by virtue of being left-leaning, that somehow it is the Democrats who are instilling in us that we are always less than and that we deserve better. The biggest flaw in that is that many of us, myself included, have concluded that the left-leaning policies are the lesser of two evils that inherently will not allow us to truly be able to circumvent the systems of hierarchy in this country. The way Blexit is framed is that we as black people have been conditioned to believe that the Democrats are the ones who will always make life better for us is ironic considering they fail to consider the perpetual disadvantaging and conditioning of black people that they will be treated as less than due to severe redlining and school segregation. I would like to think that most of us are well aware that we don’t want to align ourselves with a right-leaning movement that props up a racist as the executive.

That being said, the merits of the Blexit movement are with the ideas that we as black people should be able to think for ourselves, to not be beholden to any set of values and be open to learning new things. This is a universally agreed upon mentality. However, I still struggle to understand how Blexit could ever be a movement that becomes successful if it demeans black people for being liberal or for unofficially claiming only one side of the aisle. There can’t really be an exit if black people are conscious, as I truly believe we are when we vote blue. Most black people, based on voting records, think that the left provides policies that are going to benefit them then the right. If that is an issue, then explain why, in a non-derogatory way, in a way backed up by facts, then this movement could get off the ground.

If you’re black and conservative, more power to you. Having those beliefs should never force you to be treated as less than by your family or friends solely for your political identity. Our ideas as citizens in this country, politically, should always be based on the merits of our arguments, of the facts that we bring to explaining why we think the way we do. Shutting down any discussion that isn’t designed for genuine understanding of one another is destructive. Let’s just make sure to always work to that, and ultimately, we’ll be onto a more productive democracy.


Being Noah Tesfaye #78: Blexit Confuses Me

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

I’m Off to the University of Chicago.

When I started writing the blog, I knew that at some point I’d write about where I’m off to for college. I’ve reflected on this blog for nearly a year and a half, if not exactly that, and I just wanted to share the first chapter of my adventures at the University of Chicago.

As most of my other monumental life alterations, I got to know about UChicago from a close friend I met at the Columbia summer program I attended almost two years ago. She talked a lot about it, and seeing as we had relatively similar interests, I looked into it. On the surface, it seemed like a place I was afraid of just because of the expectations of difficulty. When I found out that people called it the school “where fun comes to die,” I almost didn’t want that kind of a challenge. But I just kept digging.

At the start of junior year, I went to one of those info sessions in San Francisco to learn about the school. In short, I was even more excited about it. Coming out of the hour and a half brief overview, I was convinced that this could be a place that could work. That being said, I also learned that day that they had accepted around 8% of their applicants for the class of 2021, so however hopeful I was, I was definitely freaked out about my own prospects, as anyone applying to any top tier institution.

Over the course of junior year, I got to pick and learn more about the programs. My good friend from New York ended up getting in and that only further peaked my own interest. I connected with others I knew who went there and reached out to hear if the stereotypes of rigor were true (they definitely are). By the end, I knew for sure I would at least try my best shot at applying, knowing ultimately I would regret for the rest of my life passing up that opportunity.

But unlike nearly every school I ended up applying to, I never visited. In fact, I hadn’t ever been to Chicago in my life. I watched YouTube videos and talked to friends, but I really did not know what the school I was applying to was all about. All I knew was that, on paper, it seemed like it gave me the challenge, opportunities, and people that I wanted from a school. I felt like I could really make this place mine.

And it worked.

This past week, I finally got the chance to visit Hyde Park and UChicago, as an admitted student.

Within about 10 minutes, I knew this was it. This weird feeling of nervousness, fear, joy, and awe all came colliding together as I walked into the main quad for the first time. Granted, this was 70 degrees in Chicago in April, but still. The student interactions, the massive late 1800s buildings, and my friend to guide me through it all felt right.

Yet, this week was more than just my first time on campus; it was the first time I got to really interact with so many of my future peers. I got to meet a friend who is now going to be my future roommate. I met fellow political nerds, black students, people who were so fiercely passionate about what they loved to learn. But what that meant the most to me was that the people I saw all around me were just so comfortable and confident in being themselves. They felt they were in an environment that really had a place for people like them to be their authentic selfs.

In a core class called “Power,” I got to participate in real class discussions on Alexis de Tocqueville and his interpretation of true democracy in America. I walked at night across campus with people from all walks of life talking about our journeys to get here. I drank coffee at five different cafés and had a Mexicana shake at Medici. I visited dorms in on the north and south side of campus, went to libraries from different centuries. I had philosophical discussions about politics

I spent nearly every hour of the day for three days roaming the school, from finding all the coffee shops I could go to, reconnecting with older friends that were there, and talking to people I have the pleasure of calling my peers for the next four years. And although my feet are ridiculously sore from walking some 30 miles the three days (note to self: never spend extended time walking in Vans in the rain), I would do it again and again.

I haven’t really gotten this itch, this feeling of such enthusiasm to be happy on this consistent level since I was at Columbia in the summer of 2017. And to know that I can be able to go somewhere that gives me that is something I am so thankful to have.

When I was applying to college, I was told both directly and indirectly by some that I would be wasting my time, my parent’s money, or that I just was not qualified to apply to places like UChicago. And I would have listened to those ludicrous statements if not for the tremendous support I received along this journey.

My mom spent so much time planning out our visits, and stuck by me through my range of emotions that I went through the past two years. My dad asked questions that helped me guide my search and put the grand scheme of life into perspective. My brother gave me the space and support in me spending hours inside to be the best student I could be. My advisor helped me learn about this process and let me flourish in expressing myself in my writing. My two older cousins pushed me to critically think about who I wanted to be and were the harshest critics of my essays that got me to find my voice. My school guidance counselor and teacher mentors at school continued to believe in me and support me when no one else on campus believed in me the first two years of high school. My close friends helped me learn to enjoy life, to have fun, to just remind me of the person I can be without being stressed.

There were moments like those instances with doubters that really shot my own confidence in my own worth, but they shouldn’t have. Meek Mill’s song Dreams and Nightmares kept me in this fight. These words sum up this whole journey:

I used to pray for times like this, to rhyme like this,

So I had to grind like that to shine like this

I may not rhyme, but I did dream of the moment where I would be at the end of high school. And to say that this dream of heading off somewhere I could be so proud to call my school is now a reality is gratifying.

Thank you the University of Chicago for this once in a lifetime opportunity. The class of 2023 is filled with amazing, hardworking, sincere people, and I am excited to be a part of this community. I won’t take it for granted.


Being Noah Tesfaye #77: I’m Off to the University of Chicago.

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/