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Big Think Interview With Jarrett Barrios
Jarrett Barrios is the President and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). We was previously the President of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, and was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and state Senate. He is the founder of three nonprofit organizations: Oiste, a Massachusetts Latino political organization; Acceso, a humanitarian organization that provides outreach to Cuba; and The Commonwealth Seminar, which seeks to diversify the Massachusetts state legislature.
Question: What was it like growing up gay?
I grew up in Tampa, Florida. My family was immigrants from Cuba, not during the Castro era, but before. They worked in cigar factories. They were union organizers and really a strong commitment to family and to; I guess I would say, they would probably say class justice. The idea that nobody’s going to give you anything, that you have to work together with your counterparts if you’re going to get better schools, if you’re going to have better benefits at work, better salary, healthcare, these sorts of things. And that idea, I think, probably seeped into me as I was growing up. My grandfather in particular, who was a pretty radical labor organizer in his day, talked a lot about that.
So, a lot of my ideas around, you can’t take justice for granted, but you have to work for it really come from my family. I was the first kid from my highs school to go to Harvard. It got up north on a dare from my mother to apply to Harvard College, never in a million years – I mean she didn’t know what that was, I‘d never seen snow, I’d never been north of Washington D.C., I didn’t own a coat. So, I landed back, 24 years ago now, I landed in September, 1986, in Cambridge, Massachusetts without much of a clue about what to expect. But rather quickly became immersed in a new community, not one that was based in my family unit. My extended family back in Tampa, but one of fellow Harvard freshmen and other students who were part of the real political community that I became involved with in college.
Question: When did you first come out?
Jarrett Barrios: I came out – I first came out to friends when I was 15, in my junior year in high school. Then to family when I was 16, 17, to my parents, a very sort of Cuban coming out. You know, I’m talking to this guy that I’m interested in dating and my mother’s listening on the phone because there’s no privacy at all, nor should there be any expectation. And then there was an explanation that I had where we kind of discussed it with some words that were loudly expressed. And eventually we figured it all out. It took a couple of years, but we reached our peace and my mother and my father, and really my entire family has been wonderful in their embracing of me as an equal partner in our family experience.
Question: Are there similar issues of discrimination and prejudice faced by Hispanic and LGBT communities?
Jarrett Barrios: Well, I grew up in a Latino family. I grew up gay, openly gay since I was 15. They’re alike in some ways, and different in others. Perhaps one of the most important differences is that, because of my last name, because of people in my family who speak with accents. Because of the fact that we speak Spanish and the food that we eat, and all of these other kinds of cultural markers, it is often extremely clear to somebody that my ethnic background is different than theirs and it’s an ethnic background, at least in the United States, is called minority, and in many cases, and in many places, is considered “less than.”
Being gay is a little different. You don’t wear that on your sleeve. It’s not part of your last name; it isn’t in your accent. And so, the first and foremost difference is, you actually have to come out and tell people that orientation. You have to invite people to understand. That’s not to say that people can’t be discriminated against because they’re perceived to be gay. That wasn’t the question. The question is how is it different? And an important difference is that I have to announce my inequality. I have to announce to people my difference and my sexual orientation as not the majority’s sexual orientation, which opens me up to discrimination.
I was born subject to that because of my ethnic background as a Cuban American, as a Latino. And that’s a very important difference. Now, in some other ways, not much of a difference at all; I think I’m a lot more understanding and empathetic to the debate around immigration in the United States because of my experience as a gay man; as an outsider. I’m much more open, and in turn I think it is much more easy for me to engage around civil rights, around the equality of lesbian and gay families, and lesbian and gay people in the workplace and in the military because of my cultural experience growing up in a blue collar neighborhood where I was raised with stories by my grandparents and my parents of discrimination based on our ethnic background.
Question: How has being gay influenced the way you’ve raised your children?
Being gay has opened me – helps me understand how one can be misunderstood. How you can be trapped in the lens of somebody else’s’ stereotype. Whether it’s “all kids are like that,” or “all teenage boys are like that,” or “all gay people are like that.” And it’s made me thing more compassionate. Not necessarily any less strict with my sons, but certainly more understanding, I think, of the challenges that they are facing and really, the challenges that I, as a parent am facing, to make sure we grow them into fine young men. And you know, teenage boys are, you know, it’s day-by-day on that score.
Question: Do you feel, living in Massachusetts, that you have full equality?
Jarrett Barrios: You know, it’s wonderful living in Massachusetts because we are – we have the option of full equality, of legal equality. And that’s important to distinguish between legal equality at the state level and full legal equality, which would include federal recognition of our marriage, of our family, which isn’t the case because of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.
But at the state level for sure, we are about as equal in Massachusetts as anywhere else in the United States as a gay family. Now, what does that mean? Well it means that I have the same challenges and frustrations raising kids, but I also have the same rights that are necessary for me to take care of my kids, whether it’s access to school records, whether it’s being able to get the hospital to take care of them. If my husband’s name is first on the list, I’ll still be recognized because we are legally married. If I were to die, we wouldn’t face additional tax burdens because your relationship isn’t recognized; countless ways, 600-700 different ways. We are held to be equal in Massachusetts that I wouldn’t be in another state. And that’s very important.
My younger son tried out for the local baseball team. We moved recently; a couple of years now, from Cambridge, which is where I was in the legislature where I served, to Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. And I live in a part of Jamaica Plain that was where a lot of Dominicans lived, where a lot of Dominican folks lived, and a lot of lesbians. So, we had the best little league team in the city. It was the place everybody wanted to come. And the tryouts happened, my son made the team – he was thrilled. The second day of practice comes home excited. The third day of practice comes home and he’s in tears. And I asked, “Nathanial, what’s the problem? Do you want to talk to me about it?” You know, 13, he’s a tough kid; he’s not going to let anything – let me see any vulnerability or weakness. So, I call his coach and his coach explained, you know, “I was going to call you Jarrett. The baseball team, they were practicing today and there were a couple of other kids that Nathanial was trying to make friends with, and they were calling each other gay. And Nathanial, in an attempt to make friends offered up that his two dads were gay, not understanding that they were using the term “gay” in the way that it was derogatory;” making fun of each other. And so when he offered that up, they clearly ate that up and began to ridicule him. Which totally hurt, disoriented and defeated him in his intentions, you know, in his new neighborhood, new community, new team to be a valued member and embraced member of his baseball team. And that was very hard. It was hard because, you know, we live in Massachusetts. We live in a place where we’re nearly legally equal, but there’s no court and there’s no legislature that can change how Nathanial was treated on the baseball diamond.
Question: Are Americans more open minded than they used to be about LGBT equality?
Jarrett Barrios: As people understand that inequality, they’re fair-minded. Americans are fair-minded. And they come to understand who we are much more completely and are then open to supporting, not just legislative endeavors for equality, but cultural frames, which we cast how we are understood. I think about separate from coming out, the other ways that we win support. And I have to tell you, there are, particularly in 2010, the media. And by that I mean, news, and entertainment is the most, after coming out directly to people, the most important, the most powerful way to help people understand who we are and therefore for gay folks; gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people to achieve our equality. And as impatient as I might be, there’s an importance to that impatience. We must be impatient to ask America to treat us equally. It’s important to understand that we aren’t going to, in our impatience win that by yelling at a few Congressmen. The way to win our impatience – our equality and use our impatience to our advantage by taking it to the streets, taking it to the people we work with, talking to the people in our worlds. And by supporting the media that tells those stories fully and fairly.
That, if it’s a news story about gays in the military, the stories about gay men and women, who are serving with honor, but a being hounded out of the military, which is wrong. And people understand that.
The stories of couples that simply need to take care of one another. What more traditional value can there be in America? What more conservative value can there be than the institution of marriage and what it entails. Taking care of others and having the basic rights to take care of one another to protect, not just your family, but the institution that we call America, to allow ourselves to reproduce that for the next generation. That’s marriage.
And that’s something that I think Americans, when they understand it, not through the lens of somebody’s sort of radical conservative agenda to raise money off of, you know, poor old ladies in Iowa. Right? That they’re sending the mailers out where they characterize gay folks as the devil. But when the see the reality of our lives, you know, we have kids. We get older, need to take care of – we have pensions that we need to pass on. There’s no benefit to anybody else. There’s no damage to anybody else’s marriage by giving the benefits, the responsibilities of marriage to our families. And we need those benefits to take care of each other.
When people understand that through stories that are told responsibly through the media, news stories, or on television. The television show, “Brothers and Sisters,” where they were hoping to get married and then Prop 8 passes and that couldn’t happen; these are responsible ways of communicating important values and in many ways far more persuasive. Far more impactful than any amount of lobbying that we’re going to do on Capital Hill to win our equality.
Shows like “Glee” and “Modern Family,” which give realistic, sometimes all too realistic portrayals of gay families and gay people are very, very important to helping America understand, particularly those Americans who don’t think they know anybody who’s gay. Or who know somebody who’s gay, but those gay friends and family members have never bothered to sit them down and tell them that they’re second class and they deserve to be treated fairly. It’s amazing to me how many of my gay brothers and sisters, my bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters don’t tell their friends and family why they deserve equality.
Recorded June 17, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman
A conversation with the President and CEO of GLAAD.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.
Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.
Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.
- Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
- Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
- The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
These new status behaviours are what one expert calls 'inconspicuous consumption'.