How to conquer workplace discrimination

Workplace discrimination is often subtle but very real, says financial educator and author Alvin Hall.

Alvin Hall: Many people think that as you rise through the ranks and become successful and you start earning money—as an African American—that all of this prejudiced interaction goes away, that it doesn’t exist.

But you can walk into a building and a guard in a building, because of the way you look, the way you’re dressed decides he or she is going to put you in your place. They’re going to show you who has the power here.

So when that happens you have a whole different dynamic that you have to deal with. And I can tell you from experience that when this happens to you, other white people around you don’t see it. They just don’t see it. But you can tell by the tone of voice, the way they delay dealing with you, all of these subtle things tell you what’s going on, and then you have to find a way, if this is a place you come to repeatedly, to adjust. But the major thing I tell everyone is that you have to get this out of your soul before you go home because you can’t take this type of anger into your house, because it sits there, it festers, and that anger becomes more undermining long term. Because eventually you’re going to walk into a building and somebody’s going to do that to you, and you’re not going to be able to handle it, you’re going to lose your temper.

Today I feel that if you live in a big urban area you can basically have whatever identity you want, because people will at least not (in general) attack you, yell at you, call you names. That does happen, but you can go through a whole day, maybe a whole week without that happening.

When I was growing up I was lucky if I could get through a day not being reminded in a pejorative way that I was black, that I am black. It was tough.

You develop a series of walls when that happens, and you learn to sort of adjust those walls. Some of them are more flexible than others, and some are pretty solid.

And you adjust those walls depending upon how you think people are perceiving you. I can tell you that I can walk down the street now sometimes, in New York, especially in London, and I don’t even think about the fact I’m black. It just doesn’t enter my mind. I’m just walking down the street.

And then at other times I’ll go into a building having had a walk and the guard at that building will put his body right in front of me, and it’s an aggressive move because he has decided—just seeing me walk into the building!— that something is inappropriate or something he needs to challenge about that.

I think that a lot of people don’t experience that in their day to day lives still. I think it’s something that’s unique to people of color. I think a lot of it is unique to male people of color and particularly black men.

And the majority society thinks you’re being paranoid. I’m going to tell you a story.

I was working for a big corporation, regularly coming to the building every week. There was a guard at the building. I had to sign in and provide him with my details every week. Now I am not a retiring flower; I engage, I talk. Every time I came to that building he would not look at me. And then when I walked away he would say, “Put the badge on your jacket!”

It wasn’t a request, it was a command. And I would put the badge right in the middle. And then sometimes if I was wearing a really nice suit I’d put it on my hand and hold my hand up like that and walk forward.

One day we had a little confrontation about this. I said listen, this is good, this getting me into the building. You see me every day.

He pretended he didn’t.

When I came back the next time it had gone all the way up to the people in the building, the company I was working for. And they requested that I change my ways and I said, “How long have you known me?”

And they didn’t answer that question.

I said, “Have you had problems with me coming in this building before?”

They said “No, but maybe something’s changed about you?”

That was coded language. It wasn’t the guard that was a problem. It was me. With that I didn’t say another word. I then changed the way I dressed when I came in and I made no eye contact with him whatsoever.

And eventually I decided to tell the human resources people about the situation. Nothing happened.

So the type of freedom that people think exists doesn’t exist for everybody today.
So whether you’re gay, transgender, or whatever, you’re going to run into some problems at some point. So I think that people think that these problems don’t occur. They think that it’s something that you’re being paranoid about but no, it happens subtly, every day, and you’re reminded that you are different.

So yes, some people can be more open, and I’ve encountered that. But some of the rest of us we get these little reminders and then you have to walk away from it, and hopefully as my parents said, don’t bring it back into your own house.

Workplace discrimination is often subtle but very real, says financial educator and author Alvin Hall. The majority of society may not always see it but minority groups experience it on a daily bias.

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  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
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Personal Growth

In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

Ashes of cat named Pikachu to be launched into space

A space memorial company plans to launch the ashes of "Pikachu," a well-loved Tabby, into space.

GoFundMe/Steve Munt
Culture & Religion
  • Steve Munt, Pikachu's owner, created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mission.
  • If all goes according to plan, Pikachu will be the second cat to enter space, the first being a French feline named Felicette.
  • It might seem frivolous, but the cat-lovers commenting on Munt's GoFundMe page would likely disagree.
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