### Racism Defines Race

In a discussion about race and racism with a group of Black and Latinx students, the first part of the dialog centered around the things such as the difference between being African American and Black, or Hispanic versus Latinx. We meandered about for a while, and the conversation didn't gain focus until we talked about what it means to be white in America. Most observations about whiteness boiled down to having one's life valued more that those of people of color; the "value gap" as Prof. Eddie Glaude describes it. At that point it became clearer that our position in society defines our race. The processes that put us there is racism.

This brings up a subtle yet key point about race that is summarized nicely by Ta-Nehisi Coates: "race is the child of racism, not the father." Racism is a double standard that breaks along the line drawn by our society that places whiteness above, and non-whiteness below (I can never recommend Barbara Field's essay enough). Race is the set of narratives, customs and mental habits that justifies this stratification. Bringing the conversation back to the culture of astronomy, when we see white people overrepresented among the professoriate at the eye-popping rate of >90%, we need to be conscious of our narratives, customs and habits when we ask questions about this unnatural outcome. The tendency will be to ask, "Why aren't people of color advancing through our academic system?" or something similar. But we need to see our monochromatic demographics as what they factually are: we are seeing racism, not something that results from Blackness, Latinx-ness, or Muslim-ness, and our language needs to reflect this.

It's racism, not race. Race is extrinsically imposed, not intrinsically possessed. As such the answer cannot be diversity (or even racial justice*). It must be anti-racism, the process of learning about what features of our culture---yes, including the words and actions of the people in that culture---enact and maintain racism, and then learn how to subvert and counter those features until they are gone. A good place to start is by reading the book linked above (click on the image).

*I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to prove that if race is a narrative used to justify an unjust society, that there can be no such thing, in a truly literal sense, as "racial justice."

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…