My Mixed Thoughts on Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren is the single major presidential candidate I didn’t completely know where I stood with.

When she launched her campaign for president, I hadn’t anticipated the race starting so early, December of 2018 (exploratory committee, but nonetheless still, two years before inauguration)! The first things I read or knew about Warren before the campaign was her populist, left-leaning CFPB history.

As I started my preliminary research into Warren’s candidacy, I stumbled across her controversial Native American heritage story. For decades, she claimed she was Native American. In 1986, on her Texas state bar registration card, she identified herself as Native American. She never participated in cultural activities or did much more to acknowledge her heritage except when just stating herself as native. When people began reinvestigating and learning about this situation over the past year and when she launched her campaign, she took a DNA test, which proved a tiny sliver of heritage she had in her bloodline at some point well over a century ago. This only further sparked more debate, and she later apologized privately to the Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Almost instantly, after hearing about Warren treating a heritage as merely a check in a box, I pretty much vowed to myself I wouldn’t back her candidacy. I write frequently about race relations, and for someone who is running for president to treat this discussion in such an ignorant manner turned me away. The way that people have dismissed this story recently with her polling numbers surging is worrisome to be quite honest. Yet, putting myself in the shoes of other Americans who may not seem to care about this egregious mistake, I am trying to understand her policies.

From the surface and beyond that, she is very progressive. She’s for very strong regulations on Wall Street, and that’s backed with her helping start the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is also progressive on family policy, expanding to universal childcare and paid family leave. She also is for reducing student debt and for single-payer health care, which is pluses.

But, the thing that concerns me is that on crucial issues, she isn’t as firm on some policies. She is for the cancellation of a majority, but not all student loan debt. She only recently backed Medicare for All, yet still hasn’t established a clear plan on what that entails for her presidency. Yet, by far one of, if not the biggest hole in her platform, is on foreign policy. She goes straight down the line with centrists on the military, wars, and conflicts in the Middle East. If you read the tab on her page about foreign policy, it is so generic, it’s genuinely concerning for me as a voter. She also has said she would take corporate PAC money if she made it to the general election. That possible sacrifice of yet another core progressive standard also is disconcerting.

When Bernie ran in 2016, the progressive that is Elizabeth Warren backed not the candidate that was vouching for and pushed for the middle class; she backed Hillary Clinton. Warren didn’t back the candidate that supported strong Wall Street regulations or Medicare for All; she supported the candidate who told us that the status quo was working. Now, we’re in 2019, full swing into the 2020 primary race, and centrists are slowly warming to the idea of having Elizabeth Warren be their champion if she is the last defense against Bernie. If that isn’t alerting a concern about her possibly compromising on her less clear positions, including health care, student debt, and foreign policy, I don’t know what is.

However, at this point of the race, I want to be hopeful. I think that as far as what she’s supported so far, I would be fine with a President Elizabeth Warren. Is she my first choice currently? No. But is she someone who has some values and policy positions I can get behind? Absolutely. But I will not say I am not at least a bit worried she may turn into Obama 2.0 on policy or compromise on core progressive tenants if she is pressured to do so from establishment Dems on the hill or her strategists on the trail or in office come January of 2020. That is something I really would not like to see.

But, I will say I am looking forward to seeing how things shake out for her candidacy. If she becomes the nominee, I will back her and vote for her come November. But, at this point in the race, I just dislike her platform more than I dislike/support Bernie’s. She isn’t as progressive, but she is doing a damn good job at portraying herself to match him in that lane. She just isn’t as dedicated to the true progressive movement as Bernie is, but I still am putting her as my current second choice if Bernie drops out (which I hope won’t happen).


Being Noah Tesfaye #89: My Mixed Thoughts on Elizabeth Warren

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/

Kamala Harris’s Record Must Not Be Overlooked

Kamala Harris is one of my senators. She’s black, an attorney with a career on the surface is strong, and appears genuinely invested in a progressive agenda. On paper, if you gave me a lot of these brief qualities (race being a nice little bonus but not really a factor in my vote), I would say you have my perfect candidate.

During the debates, she pressed Biden on busing policy, attacking his record on race in a way that impressed me. In short, she landed the punch that started the precipitous fall of Joe Biden in the polls. That’s something I’m beyond grateful for since I would take any other Democrat frontrunner in this race other than the former vice president.

But that’s just about where a lot of my positive thoughts on Harris unfortunately ends.

When she launched her campaign, the video that accompanied the announcement beyond vague; it lacked any substance. Americans today want to hear about specifics, even straightforward policy goals, not on buzzwords that Americans don’t agree on their definitions. Right from the jump, my doubts about supporting her only increased.

The first concern I have is that on policy, she is masking her more centrist opinions by more recently supporting progressive policies. Yes, she’s for Medicare-for-all, but she also isn’t completely behind free tuition at all public colleges and universities for all citizens. Yes, she’s for reparations, but she has not been as willing to push for a more progressive marginal tax rate.

I could go on and on about those specifics but I will leave you linked to this video by Kyle Kulinski (granted a strong left radio host) on those different centrist policies.

Without a doubt, criminal justice reform is the policy area with which I follow the most and am most passionate about this upcoming election. It means so much to me not just as someone who’s studied the area for me to realize how severe the circumstances are for so many incarcerated people, but as someone who knows people personally who have been screwed over by the system.

If anything, Harris lost my primary vote automatically before she even ran because of her criminal justice record.

First, she was against the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana as late as 2014(she later reversed her stance). As if that wasn’t enough, she also throughout her career as San Francisco District Attorney and the California Attorney General was for the three-strikes rule, along with not willing to put together statewide regulations for body cameras. She’s denied release of incarcerated people even when they’ve been proven innocent, as well as fought to deny gender confirmation surgery to imprisoned trans people(she later apologized for her stance). She pushed foran anti-truancy policyto punish and even imprison parents of more truant students to push them to get their kids to go to school.

It doesn’t end there. As state AG, she ran on enforcing capital punishment, something that should never under any circumstance be allowed and should be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (although I know that won’t ever happen, especially with the conservative court we have currently constructed). She’s been against numerously wrongly convicted cases so religiously, but she’s only recently begun to walk back her statements and begun to concede she was wrong on several cases.

This kind of attitude of conceding for her past record all too much is just too constant for me to believe she ever will push for true progressive legislation if she’s elected our president.

She through her record has not been consistent enough for me, or really anyone, to trust that she has the interests of all Americans at heart. I’ll concede that her policies that target black voters are a nice gesture. But like every other candidate, she fails to truly understand the issues of reparations and is far too behind on eliminating money bail for me to even suggest she is the best candidate in this race for black people.

This more also goes to the more recent stirring up of the discussions I’ve heard around that she isn’t “black enough.” We have to stop that. I don’t have African American roots in this country, and neither does she. But that doesn’t make her any less black. Why go and nitpick on the lack of whatever heritage tied down to America when she on policy is so lackluster anyways? Would it be great to have the first black woman, the first Indian-American president? Yes. But her blackness or alleged lack-thereof shouldn’t be a part of the equation. To do that is unnecessary and a waste of your time.

Harris is a true centrist Democrat’s dream: energetic, composed, and lacking any strong progressive leanings. That’s why she will not threaten the status quo of corporatism in America as president.

Harris will not be getting my primary vote, but should she somehow emerge as the nominee, I will still vote for her. Any Democrat is better than Trump, but let us hope that a true progressive emerges in this race to defeat her. America should have a president who has proven and will continue to push for all of us. Harris just isn’t that.


Being Noah Tesfaye #88: Kamala Harris’s Record Must Not Be Overlooked

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 First Democratic Primary Debates — Oh How the Tides Have Turned

The first Democratic Primary Debates are now in the books. On Wednesday and Thursday this past week, the 20 candidates that qualified were sorted out randomly into two ten-person debates. In short, these two nights of policy and ideological arguments marked the true beginning of the 2020 Presidential Election.

For each debate, I recorded and watched through every minute, looking for new takes, new ideas, and anything novel that I had not seen yet in the campaigns.

In short, nothing about my own preferences of nominees changed. In fact, the debates only further solidified the candidates I had been looking to see perform the best, Bernie and Warren. Warren got sorted on the easier Wednesday night roster, where she was the only candidate polling in the top five. Compared to the rest of the field, she came in more prepared, more policy-oriented, and showed the average viewer why she was the readiest for the job that night. She was methodical and made sure to use her voice that ensured she wouldn’t lose ground in the polls but still showcase her ideas.

Bernie’s night got to a slow start but significantly picked up as the night went on. Granted, his night was filled with far more interjection and unnecessary jabbering. However, Bernie stood out above nearly every other candidate when it came to how every candidate framed his own arguments, with comments like “I agree with Bernie,” or “Bernie is right on this.” The policies that he ran on in the late 80s, the policies he ran on in 2016, and now the policies he is running on for 2020 are now becoming widely accepted by almost every candidate. Whether Medicare-for-all, the assault weapons ban, or harsher regulations of Wall Street, Bernie led the charge to put the common American as his true first priority and has done so for decades. The level of respect and support for his ideas amongst his peers is indicative of the awareness of the validity of these plans. Once he got to his closing statement, no one finished their debate performance as he did. He framed his conclusion around the concern he has that nothing will ever change unless a candidate has the guts to truly take on corporate America, portraying every other candidate’s goals as merely talking points that don’t indicate their commitment to all citizens.

On night one, Cory Booker and Julian Castro came in and did what they needed to stir up their names back into the mainstream conversations, focusing on their core campaign issues (Booker on civil rights, Castro on immigration). The candidate that I had not anticipated admiring was how passionate Jay Inslee was in pushing for climate change as the sole purpose of his candidacy. Climate change is the single biggest national security and economic threat for our country in my view. For him to at least have the chance to voice those ideas on the national stage is something I am grateful for, although it is inevitable that his ideas will be not ranged as priorities and we will fall only further into the climate crisis we are enduring right now. Tulsi Gabbard could not answer a straight question for the first hour but then proceeded to assert her dominance in the foreign policy field against Tim Ryan.

Yet, for as many, as may have tuned in for the first night, the second was the one with the majority of popular candidates: Bernie, Biden, Harris, Buttigieg, and the two rising non-politicians Yang and Williamson. And in just two hours Thursday night, we all saw what I had anticipated coming:

The beginning of the collapse of Joe Biden.

Besides his policies being awfully centrist, we saw his ideas for America crumble Thursday right before our eyes. Of course, the moment we will remember for the rest of the campaign will be when Harris spoke to Biden’s record on race relations, specifically opposing busing. She tied this to her own life story, is the second class in Berkeley at her school to desegregate and she was bussed in. His response was unfocused and couldn’t make up for his past record on the issue. When it came to foreign policy, Bernie went right after Biden’s record voting for the war in Iraq, followed up by mentioning his persistent anti-war record and backing the War Powers Act to prevent the war with Yemen. Everything Biden said on Thursday only further hurt his campaign, and with the comments, yesterday about a black kid wearing a hoodie “may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger” only further solidify why he would make a terrible general election candidate and president.

Harris was by far the biggest winner of the debates. On Thursday, she came in appearing to be all for the progressive agenda in a way that makes the average, non-politically active person think she is for those ideas (even when we very much know she doesn’t stand for those ideas). She had many lines throughout the debate to smartly portray herself as the adult amongst children bickering, poignantly wrapped up when she said “America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how they’re going to put food on their table.” To be the one to come in ready to knock out Biden was the best move for her politically at this point. She isn’t attempting to go towards the hard left, millennial voter; she is going for the not-so-politically inclined, moderate voter, specifically the more conservative older black Democrat voters. Those voters may be feeling more concerned about Biden, but now they know they can have someone who supports their views and is a viable alternative for any centrist Democrat.

O’Rourke failed as I had anticipated, but the true disappointment I had watching the debates was seeing Yang’s poor performance. Although his mic did get cut off at moments throughout the night (which is crazy considering his mounting support for NBC to do that), the moments he did get to speak were not as punchy and as to the point as I know he can be. Hopefully, his momentum can continue and those who hadn’t ever seen him can learn more about his campaign. Maybe the next set of debates will provide more impactful for his candidacy. At this point, the more name recognition for him or Williamson is the goal to continue further and meet the later debate thresholds.

With the first debates wrapped up, it has become more clear that Democrats and America really as a whole, has become far more progressive in just the four years since the previous primaries. I am really eager to see how things shake out in the next month until we hit the second debate, also split across two nights, July 30–31st. At this point, keeping an eye out on policy shifts and agenda changes can be an effective way to remain engaged in the campaigns.

The goal of these posts aren’t really to share any particular ideology, but to reinforce the idea that everyone can be informed about politics in simple steps. So whether it means reading articles or watching YouTube clips, do whatever you want to be able to be informed enough to make your own choices once the primaries start in January.


Being Noah Tesfaye #87: The First Democratic Primary Debates — Oh How the Tides Have Turned

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/

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/