What A Beautiful World: Fighting Colorblindness

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(Image from the Facebook Page Exchange Love)

 

Maria Rolling (Guest Contributor)

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Maria Rolling

The most touching viral videos I’ve seen recently are the ones of children who are colorblind who see color for the first time. These children often only see the world in muted colors or no color at all. But they are given a gift of special lenses that allow them to see all the vibrant shades of their surroundings. These videos are beautiful in and of themselves, but recently they’ve taken on a new meaning for me.

 

Growing up, I was colorblind in how I saw the world. Though I knew other races, religions, and cultures existed, I had limited exposure to them. My family never really spoke about race because there was never a reason to do so. I grew up in a primarily white neighborhood, went to primarily white schools, watched television shows and movies that mostly starred white characters. Throughout my childhood I only knew a small handful of students who were of a different race and religion than me limiting my view of the world.

 

In school, I loved learning about the civil rights era and seeing amazing people like Martin Luther King Jr., the Little Rock Nine plus so many others take our country by storm, fighting for racial equality. World History was my favorite class because I was exposed to different cultures and religions around the world. However, all of this was just our history to me. I knew that our world still had problems, but by 2008 I naively thought we were past most of what we learned in history books. I figured out very soon how wrong I was.

 

When I started UC in the fall of 2008, my perceptions of the world were shattered. Once the initial shock of seeing so much cultural and racial diversity on one campus wore off, I was thrilled. For the first time I saw so much color in my world – the racial, cultural, and religious diversity opened me up to a completely new way of thinking and for the first time I saw just how beautiful our world really is.

Friends of Communication - Homecoming Parade
Ilana Segal, Victoria Kuhlman, Shaunak Sastry, Steve Depoe, Maria Rolling, and Zhuo Ban.

My freshman year, I found myself being the minority quite a bit. My roommate was black , and wanting to break away from the group I went to high school with, I chose to hang out with her and her friends.  Immediately, I  noticed how differently my roommate and some of her friends would act when they were in a group of mostly white people versus a group of mostly black people. I learned that some of these students were amazing athletes, others were incredibly smart, and others were just average. Hanging out with them broke the stereotypes I learned about growing up.

 

A few months later I started making a very different group of friends. I started dating a guy from my learning community, Ali (name changed). He is a Muslim from Pakistan; I was completely fascinated about his culture, his language, and his religion. Although I knew I would probably never be fluent in Urdu or Hindi, I thoroughly enjoyed learning small phrases – my favorite will always be “tum pagal ho” (you are crazy). Outside of language I also decided to learn more about Islam. The extent of my knowledge at that point had only been related to 9/11. I prayed with him, I learned about the Quran, and I even took Middle History and Arabic classes.

 

Ali and I were only together for about 6 months, but the experience of dating him was the most pivotal point of my life. During that time, I was fully immersed in his religion and his culture. I met all of his friends and their parents. What also surprised me was how much I learned about my faith and my beliefs through seeing a different perspective. When I learned about Islam and the teachings of how to live a full life, I started to draw a lot of similarities between that and Catholicism, despite the surface differences.

 

Ali’s and my relationship was wonderful, but it wasn’t without its challenges. I remember my parent’s concern about me dating a Muslim. Their perception of Islam and anyone from the Middle East (and surrounding areas) was based on 9/11 and the wars going on prior to and after that devastating attack. Needless to say, they were a bit hesitant in meeting him. Ali on the other hand could only introduce me to his parents as his study partner – only his friends knew about our relationship. This is when I started learning about the religious and cultural norms for relationships and marriages. At this point, much like the rest of us our freshman year, Ali was trying to understand who he was and how his faith fit into his life. Though we had a lot of common interests and goals, and we were really close – I think he hit a point when he realized just how important his faith was to him and our relationship put him at odds with that. Ultimately this led to our amicable split.

 

Even though Ali and I were no longer dating, I remained friends with some of the women in his social circle. These women continued to challenge my way of thinking. When I met with them, only 2 were wearing Hijab. As the years went by, the rest of the group became closer to their faith and starting wearing Hijab as well. Looking back at my college days, I see the strength it took for them to really examine their lives and understand their faith at a much deeper level. I’m happy with for them and am glad to have reconnected with many of them since college.

 

It’s crazy to think this experience happened 10 years ago. My social circles have shifted quite a bit since I graduated, but the impact of fully immersing myself into groups that were different than me was invaluable. Although I found love and appreciation for our world’s differences, I realized that there were so many who have not reached that point yet.

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Maria Rolling, with her fiancee Jeff Geiman and many others, at Ayesha Haq’s Eid Celebration Party.

When President Trump started running for president, I realized that most of my friends and family members actually had very different world views. At first it was small things. In 2014 when my fiancé and I went to Colorado, I started hearing racist remarks by my step-mom about blacks and Native Americans. She would comment on the fact that Native Americans were not trustworthy and that they really had overtaken some of her favorite areas to visit in the mountains. Jeff and I were too dumbfounded to say anything. And, in 2016, when we visited my friend, his fiancé had made several comments about blacks and Jews. She would act terrified as we were walking to the train station when we walked by small groups of black people and would ask her fiancé to protect her. At one point during this visit we were discussing movies we watched in classes during high school. I was reminiscing on some of the greats like Remember the Titans and she said “yeah, but we don’t need any more civil rights movies though, no one really cares about that stuff.” Fed up with this nonsense I finally asked if she was a racist, to which she replied, “is that really a question?” Immediately I started recognizing hate and intolerance that I never noticed before – and what bothered me more was how blatant people were with their opinions.

 

One of the first tough conversations I had on these controversial topics was with my uncle. I grew up with him and we had always been very close, despite our different opinions. I knew he was conservative and he knew I leaned more liberal, but it never bothered us. In 2016, I realized that the reason our different opinions never mattered is because we never talked about them.  When President Trump was campaigning, my uncle would reference various articles or events that took place and highlighted the highly conservative viewpoints. I would give my opinion but we would always let it drop before it got heated. One day he brought up the immigration issue and our conversation quickly escalated to a heated debate, and then to one of the most explosive arguments I’ve ever had. My uncle was trying to say how little immigrants tried to assimilate – the comment you hear quite often now, “why don’t they try to learn English and actually attempt to live the American culture”, and I explained that is not what I saw based on my experiences. He was quick to tell me “you don’t know a damn thing and you’re completely wrong.” I could see his face turning red and my eyes swelled as I tried to hold back tears. Not only was it eye opening for me, but for him as well. I realized how passionate I was about these issues and knew I could keep silent no more. My uncle realized not only how deeply angry he was, but also that we’ve lived in different generations and have completely different experiences.

 

Getting into arguments is something I dread but I wanted to use my voice and energy for something better. I was so fortunate to have received the gift of color-lenses from my experience at UC. Even though I knew I couldn’t change everyone’s views, I could at least work to create a positive, or at a very least courteous, discourse with people who saw things differently than me.

Exchange Love - Walk for Peace November 2016
Amanda Westphal, Julie Feldhaus, Valerie Westphal, Debbie Seiler, Maria Rolling, Abbey McMahon, Carol Bross McMahon, Dave Keller, and Jeff Geiman.

 

After the Orlando shooting and then the blow up from President Trump winning the election, I created a Facebook group called Exchange Love. Our mission statement explains:

…we believe that at the core, regardless of where each of us stands on particular issues, it is the kindness, compassion and love we show to each other that makes us stronger.

The first word in the name of our country is “United.” By reaching deep down within ourselves to rediscover the love we have for each other, we have the power to shape the discourse of this country and that of the world.

So let’s put our voices to good use and amplify compassion, show respect and kindness to everyone, and exchange love for our fellow human beings. Change truly begins within each of us to simply offer a hand, a kind word or a simple action to each other. United, we can make a change in our world for the better.”

As humans, we will never agree on politics or religion, and we will never fully understand another culture, race, or even gender identity and sexuality. But we can ask questions, learn, and realize that we’re all in this together.

I hope that as our country continues having these difficult conversations and work through the mounting issues of social and racial inequality, that white people will stop saying, “I don’t see color” in an effort to prove their lack of racism. Seeing color does not make anyone racist, it’s how you choose to respond to the differences around you. Much like that child in that video I am beyond grateful for finally having the special glasses that allow me to see all the color and beauty of this world. I hope that I can continue to share my experiences and that others seize the same opportunity to appreciate just how beautiful our world is because of our diversity.

 

 

Womens March - January 2017
Maria with her fiancee Jeff Geiman at the Women’s March.

Maria Rolling graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2012. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication, a Minor in Psychology, and Certificates in Public Relations and Arabic Language in Culture. She currently works in business development with a global engineering firm where she’s able to collaborate with colleagues in other countries including Ireland, India, Milan, Singapore, and many others. Outside of work, she is the Vice President of the UC Friend of Communication Alumni Board, leads a local run club through the YMCA, and volunteers with the National MS Society. 

 

Diwali Recap

Nikita Srivastava (’19)

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Me playing with a sparkler.

For many non-Hindus, Diwali is known as the festival of lights. Diwali celebrations focus on bringing the family together and enjoying festive activities such as: making rangoli, lighting diyas, and dancing to latest Hindi Film songs. However, the religious meaning of Diwali is incorporated in all these activities.

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The Srivastava Family: Geetika Srivastava, Nikita Srivastava, Bal Krishna Srivastava, and Sangeeta Srivastava

After several years, this was my first Diwali without my entire family. Usually, we make rangoli in front of each entry way into our home so the goddess Lakshmi will bless our home. Then we light diyas everywhere symbolizing light and guidance in the darkest of times. After our prayer ceremonies, we feast on the delicious food my mother spends all day making while I dance (horribly) to the trendiest Hindi songs. If the weather is nice, we end the night with fireworks and sparklers.

This Diwali, my mother drove down from Dayton to have dinner with me. She made traditional Indian food and desserts. I surprised my mother by lighting diyas outside and inside my apartment. Even though it was only the two us, we still had a great Diwali celebration.  Although we did not did get to make rangoli or play with sparklers, we reminisced about the good old days, laughed at each other’s corny jokes, and reminded ourselves why we celebrate Diwali.

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Geetika Srivastava, Samantha Andrews (my best friend), and I celebrating Diwali in 2012.

For Hindus, Diwali means finding your way back to the light. At some point, we all get lost and we all need guidance. For the Srivastava family, Diwali means coming back home to a supportive family that will stand by you no matter what happens.

As holidays approach, look to the sidebar for new, fun, or interesting facts about little known holidays!

 

 

Juries and LGBT Litigants: Berthiaume v. Smith

David Wovrosh, Cincinnati Law 2L, summarizes Berthaiume v. Smith for the National Association for Public Defense. The case, decided by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, involves LGBT litigants and jury member bias. David writes:

In Berthiaume v. Smith, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that jury members may be questioned during voir dire regarding latent bias predicated on sexual orientation.   Relying on its decision in United States v. Bates and the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Rosales-Lopez v. United States, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that, where matters of sexual orientation are “inextricably bound up” with the facts of the case, LGBT litigants are entitled to constitutional protections against jury bias.

To learn more about NAPD’s involvement in the case and for the full text of David’s summary, please visit the National Association for Public Defense.

 

Second Look

 

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Nikita Srivastava (’19)

Here’s what caught our eye on the web recently:

At a time when many are asking why race remains such a potent force in our society, it’s important to explore the impact of persistent residential segregation.  Mark Treskon of the Urban Institute reports that inclusive communities are more economically prosperous. Published in 2017,  this article focuses on segregation in Chicago from 1990-2010 and trends seen in Chicago appear in other major cities as well. City actors could break down barriers to local inclusion, the entire region could benefit from the higher incomes and education levels. The Urban Institute investigates how policy can break down these barriers.  Click on this link to learn more: https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/less-segregated-communities-arent-only-more-inclusive-theyre-more-prosperous.

 

mindy-kalingNeed a show to binge? Have no fear, Mindy Kaling is here! The Mindy Project starts its 6th and final season this month on Hulu. Kaling portrays Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a young Indian physician, navigating her way through life as successful owner of two practices. Mindy faces issues of being in an interracial relationships and being a single mom. Kaling not only shows the humor in these situations but the reality of what is truly like to be an ethnic minority woman trying to make it in a man’s world. Watch it now: http://www.hulu.com

 

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Witness to Innocence is a national organization composed and lead by exonerated death row survivors. Many wrongfully convicted individuals face the death penalty. WTI empowers exonerees by fighting against the death penalty. Furthermore, WTI partners with other anti-death penalty organizations providing a different perspective on the issue. The mission is “to abolish the death penalty by empowering exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones to become effective leaders in the abolition movement.” Click on this link to learn more: https://www.witnesstoinnocence.org/

 

Native American stories and voices are continuously ignored by mainstream culture. Colonization forced assimilation erasing, literally and culturally, indigenous people and the issues they face. In particular, Native American women, trans and nonbinary folks face a unique set of issues. Many Native American women lead the charge to not only raise awareness but also actively fighting for change. Here are 15 indigenous feminists you need to know about: https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/15-indigenous-feminists-know-read-and-listen

 

UC Law Women: Back In Action.

Nikita Srivastava (’19)

logo squareThe University of Cincinnati was one of the first law schools to develop a joint degree in Women’s Studies and Law. In addition, the number of women applicants and law students has steadily increased over the years; women now comprise about half of every entering class. Despite these rising numbers, women in the law continue to face issues that merit special attention – issues such as pay equity, networking, promotions, etc. Fortunately, the College of Law has several centers and student groups that address issues faced by women in the law. These include the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice, Out and Allies, and If/When/How. However, over the past several years, a student group devoted solely to women in the law was non-existent.

UC Law Women, a student group formed in the 1980s, was founded to raise awareness of the unique issues faced by women in the legal community but, for a variety of reasons, faded away in the mid-2000s. Then, in the fall of 2016, Maria Catrina Castro, a current 2L, saw Law Women listed on UC’s organization page; she asked how to join and discovered the organization did not exist anymore. Disappointed, Maria made a mental note to reboot the organization. She knew it would not be possible in her first semester to create a student organization, so Maria waited until Spring 2017 to start the process. She approached students who took active roles in social and gender issues – and sought out a variety of perspectives to ensure that the club would be an inclusive group.

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President Maria Castro, Professor Lenhart, Secretary Nikita Srivastava, and member Ben Sandlin

The formal process of rebooting Law Women began in February 2017. During a Student Federal Bar Association dinner for Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bernice Donald, Maria asked me if I had ever heard of Law Women – I shook my head no. Maria then asked, “Do you want to start a women’s club with me?” “Absolutely!” I replied. The idea that Maria had carried with her for months was taking shape. Maria informed me that she talked to other 1L students Natalia Trotter, Jessica Nguyen, and Megan Powley about the relaunch. We then approached Professor Betsy Lenhart, who was coincidentally hosting the dinner for Judge Donald, and asked if she would be our faculty advisor. Professor Lenhart agreed, expressing surprise that so many years had passed without an active Law Women student group. She said she had no doubt, especially knowing Maria and me as students, that the new club would succeed.

We got to work on the mission statement right away, stressing the diversity and inclusivity of the new organization. Our mission statement provides:

The mission of UCLW is to provide a diverse and inclusive forum for UC Law students to promote the representation and leadership of women in the legal profession and within the law school community. UCLW advocates for the legal, political, economic, and social equality of all people regardless of sex, gender, race, color, ethnicity, nationality, religion, political ideology, sexual identity, age, disability, class, or socioeconomic status.

Maria continued to reach out to people who were interested in organizing the new group. She held an initial meeting with about 11 people to discuss the organization’s goals for the law school and the legal community. This group drafted the mission statement and constitution, which Professor Lenhart received in late March. Professor Lenhart noted the inclusiveness of the mission statement and the importance of recognizing that women’s experiences in the law are often different than men’s. As faculty advisor, Professor Lenhart said that she was honored to work with a group of students who had restarted an organization by scratch. She added that she wants to be an active advisor, and sees the potential for UC Law Women to play a unique role at the law school.

The goals of UCLW are threefold: (1) to promote representation and leadership of women in the law school and legal community, (2) to contribute to a legal environment that is supportive of women, (3) and, to build a strong network of women in legal community. Moreover, as a new organization, UCLW must also promote the organization within the law school and Cincinnati legal community. As Maria told me:

“I want to make sure that our current and future members take an active role in helping to build this student organization. My hope is that all UCLW members feel committed to the organization and excited about its potential. So ultimately, I hope to avoid a fizzle out by helping to create an organization full of active involved members and leaders who will take over and continue to build on this work.”

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Founding members: Treasurer Natalia Trotter, Vice President Jessica Nguyen, Fundraising Chair Megan Powley, President Maria Castro, and Secretary Nikita Srivastava; with other voting members.

UCLW’s first Fall event is a Meet and Greet with women faculty on September 7 from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm in the Crow’s Nest. UCLW’s first general informational meeting will be September 20 from 12:15 pm to 1:15 pm, where the founding members will not only address the issues women face within the legal profession, but also possible solutions to these problems. Also, UCLW, recognizing that women are in many different organizations, wants to collaborate with other student organizations. Vice President, Jessica Nguyen, organized a “Trunk N Treat” charity event with South Avondale School on October 28. This event is a great way for the UC community to gather and provide a safe environment for local children to trick and treat!

“Women make up at least 50% of the student population,” Maria noted, “and they are involved with everything across the board. I want to make sure as many different perspectives as possible are represented. And I want to make sure that we built an organization that embraces everyone.”

All events are open to all students!

For more information, email UCLawWomen1@gmail.com

Nikita Srivastava is 2L and Fellow with Ohio Innocence Project. Currently, she is Vice President of Criminal Law Society and Secretary of UCLW.

Friends of the Court: Cincinnati Law students contribute to SCOTUS ruling

By Guest Contributors Francesca Boland(’19), David Wovrosh (’19), and Prof. Janet Moore 

On June 19, 2017, Cincinnati Law students saw their work cited in a 5-4 majority opinion of the United States Supreme Court. The case, McWilliams v. Dunn, resolved a lower courtdcsxxa-xoaafsoq split over what the Constitution requires when prosecutors seek to impose the death penalty against defendants who have mental illness, but cannot afford to hire mental health experts to present an effective defense.

First-year students researched the issue during the spring semester for an amicus brief filed by the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD). The Court cited that brief in holding that Alabama courts violated a right that was clearly established in its 1985 decision, Ake v. Oklahoma.  Continue reading “Friends of the Court: Cincinnati Law students contribute to SCOTUS ruling”

OJ Simpson Revisited

OJ Simpson’s parole hearing provides another opportunity to consider race in the criminal justice system.

By Nikita Srivastava

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OJ Simpson

Former football player and Hollywood star, OJ Simpson will have a parole hearing on Thursday, July 20th, 2017. In December 2008, Simpson was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison with the possibility of parole in 6 years. This, of course, was not Simpson’s first encounter with the law. In 1994, a jury acquitted Simpson of the murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman. His high profile case sparked a division on race relations in this nation.

Simpson’s parole hearing will occur when race remains a highly contested and hotly debated topic in this nation. As a result, it’s fitting to examine Joe’s Feagin concept of the white racial frame (WRF) helps us understand why Simpson and his legal issues embody issues of race. And, to watch the Oscar-winning documentary, OJ: Made in America, which brings these complicated issues to life. Continue reading “OJ Simpson Revisited”