A look at a current news item through the lens of different titles available on GVRL.
By Michelle Eickmeyer
Most of my colleagues know I write this post, and often ask me throughout the week what topics are in the running for the post. There is often one or two stories or events which immediately seem like good options. Once I even did two posts. But the idea that it’s easy to find something which you could explore, on a scholarly level, and find accredited, proper sources for a research paper or project is exactly the point of this blog. I do not write this to remind graduate professors how easy some students have it and how random those first years of honing a research skill can be. I write this post to encourage those who support the often rudderless-ships of undergraduate, introductory level, new to a topic or new to research students. Research doesn’t have to be scary, or daunting, or incredibly complicated to be appropriate, credible, and respected. Studies prove that the most difficult parts for inexperienced or beginning researchers are selecting an appropriate topic and finding good sources. Getting started is the hardest part. Hopefully, there have been take-aways in this series which have helped you show students that “research” can be found anywhere.
This week the world was treated to a video, shot on Valentine’s Day on a lovely day in California, by the Ad Council. They use what I would guess is the world’s largest x-ray wall (or TV with x-ray-like results, which is probably more likely) to display people interacting with each other. Intermixed are cut-aways to the curious expressions and happy faces of the growing crowd. The Love has No Labels campaign attempts to reduce people down to their very basic level – bones – to find similarities. The ultimate goal is to remove the barriers of difference and eliminate bias based on age, disability, sexuality,and race. Millions of people around the world have shared or talked about it. It’s a fantastic campaign, and regardless of your feelings on any of the people included, acknowledging that we all could do better to not judge each other based on one aspect of their physicality or personality is a message I support wholeheartedly.
Yes, there’s a metaphor here. This week I chose this video because, on some small level, this is what I try to do each week with this post. Break down beginning research to an easy to understand, bare-bones examination of the different ways to look at a topic. Now, I know this post is NOTHING like the video. I’ve yet to cry writing this series and I cried from nearly the first 15 seconds of that video (those who know me will not be surprised by this).
Here are five titles that address the skeleton video from different perspectives:
The idea that someone can, fundamentally, be worth less than another person based solely on the color of their skin is abhorrent. But racism doesn’t usually show itself in such extremes. At what point is distrust racism? There’s a song from the play Avenue Q (in which half the cast are puppets, seriously) called “Everybody’s a little bit racist.” I would argue that several of the items in the song are far more than “a little bit” racist, but how do you judge impartial treatment? What is insensitive? Does that move depending on the exposure of the person to people of other races? Does it move depending on the race of that person? Is the term “reverse racism,” in effect, racist? Explore this important topic here.
Did you know that the federal government has been issuing Public Service Announcements since the Civil War? These PSAs were largely distributed as pamphlets or newspaper ads. As televisions became common place in people’s lives, the government began to mandate that a small percentage of air time be dedicated to PSAs. In the 60s, non-government “issues” started using PSAs to address topics. Generally, these are considered things which, if changed or adopted or whatever, would advance the greater good. Stop smoking. Prevent and combat heart disease. Exercise more. Wear a seat belt — always, in every seat in the car. The Ad Council, who created the skeleton video, has played an essential role in creating and distributing PSAs since its creation in 1942. Learn more about PSAs and the Ad Council with this title.
Why is this PSA so effective? What makes people react to or notice situations differently? Whether you like it or not, no matter how intelligent, tolerant, loving and open-minded you are, you make decisions about people based on characteristics and circumstance. These subconscious assessments can make us feel more comfortable approaching one stranger over another, frequenting one coffee shop over another, believing one politician more than another. These are things you cannot control and are not purposefully doing; they are implicit bias. When the skeleton video began, and you saw to “people” in an embrace… what did your mind tell you about those people? Your answer to that question says nothing of your acceptance of lifestyle or choices or race. It’s just how the mind works. (Information from the Kirwain Institute was also used for this section.) Learn more about PSAs and bias in this title.
One of the most striking aspects of the video is the clean, undeniable images of the skeletons. You know what is happening, even if you don’t really know exactly what is happening. Two people hug. Kiss tenderly… or passionately. Dance. You know what that long thing with the group of small things goes up in the air above the big round thing that someone has raised their hand over their head. It’s perfectly clear what is happening. Since the end of 1895 we’ve literally been able to look inside of people and see what’s going on in there. (If only figuratively looking inside of people to see what’s going on were so easy…) The x-ray is an invaluable medical tool, used for the diagnosis of myriad issues. From cavity to Cancer, Crohn’s Disease to gun shot (someone has to find that bullet…), treatment of maladies is immensely better since the x-ray. Discover more things x-rays can do in this title.
In the PSA section above, I commented on illicit bias. No where in the skeleton video is illicit bias more clear than with the two sisters, one of who has down syndrome. Last holiday season, Target was praised for featuring then 2-year old Izzy Bradley from Minnesota. In 2008, political pundits questioned whether Sarah Palin was “making the right choice for her family” in running for Vice President shortly after having a child with Down Syndrome. How could someone with Down Syndrome have love in their life? Or play with toys? Or not be a complete burden to their parents? Sadly, that is what the illicit bias (and too accepted declared bias (the opposite)) would indicate. For all of the thoughts those of us on the outside have of people with Downs, very few of us know anyone affect or understand this complex disorder. For more information on this too-misunderstood disability.
Michelle is an “anytime!” traveler and language enthusiast. She has degrees in talking from Central Michigan and Michigan State University. She is currently becoming a runner and used to play golf in high school.