Why I'm a bigot.

Well, here's my story.

Today, I was talking to my mom on the phone and I actually spoke out loud things that I've realized about myself, but never really let anyone else know. Mainly because it's embarrassing and I'm prideful. Now, here I am letting all of you know because maybe you've felt the same before...

I always wanted to marry a person darker than me. I called it, "not being racist, just a matter of attraction." Right. Really, I didn't want to fit a stereotype. Everyone always says "you are most comfortable around people who look like you." Which I disagree with. I believe you're most comfortable around people who share the same values as you. Notice that has nothing to do with skin tone or even really culture because different cultures can have the same values. Also, notice that I decided to fight this with focusing more on outward appearances. Because that's not counterproductive at all. My mom likes to point out that I would never even consider being with someone of my own skin tone because of this. She's right. It took me a few bad life calls to figure this out. I started getting romantically involved with men simply because of their skin rather than basing it on their character. I just happened to choose guys whose characters were, well, not right for me.

Then, there's Africa. Basically, from the time I was in middle school I've wanted to live in Africa. I wanted to chill with the elephants and help people in poverty. I mean, obviously there's no one in poverty in America. Well, maybe there are but come on they don't need help, that's what the government is for, right? Not only did I want to help people (I'm so noble), but I wanted to be something that I'm not physically. I wanted to be surrounded by people with darker skin than me because I thought maybe I'd magically turn dark and people would accept me. I didn't want to be known as "the white girl" anymore so surely, this was the answer. I honestly thought my passion for "helping" Africa was rooted in something good. I thought it was rooted in the idea that we are all equal and we all deserve to experience joy and love. I do believe this. But, behind that was this idea that Africans need my help rather than Americans. Deep down, whether I knew it at the time or not, I was holding America to a higher standard because Americans were "more civilized" or something of that nature and that's why it pisses me off so much that America is so screwed up. We're too "advanced" to still be doing stupid things. Africa, on the other hand. It's okay for Africa to be screwed up because they don't know any better? Come on people, THIS IS RIDICULOUS! It's ridiculous and a super archaic line of thinking. This is really deep down how I felt. Not only is this how I felt, but this is still how I have to fight feeling constantly. I don't know if what I was dealing with was a sense of nationalism or racism; I think maybe it was a combination of the two. Either way, it's lame.

It doesn't matter if you're thinking your "race" is the best or if another one is. It's all racism. It's all rooted in ranking human beings based on the most shallow of things, the pigmentation of your skin. It's absurd. But, as much as it hurts my heart and my pride to admit it, I do it. At the end of the day, it's still seeing people as their outsides rather than their insides. Sure, I think it's cool to be grateful for physical differences because we're all so different and all so the same and beautiful at the same time. But, that's not what makes you feel deep, deep love. You get that from being understood and having a connection with someone. That's where the heart of humanity is at. That's what it should be about.


It's okay to be optimistic? Whaaaaat?

Today I had a test. I, like everyone else in this world, don't like tests. My nickname should seriously be bad memory bekah because memorizing information comes about as natural as dyed hair. (Also, if you missed my tweet from last week about how I think in dorky metaphors, corny jokes and inappropriate comments... now you know).

Anyway, I was sitting in a lounge with some people from the class studying and we were all just complaining so much about this test and about life and about everything. Then, it just hit me. What was the point? Why were we complaining so much? What good was this doing?

You should know, first of all, I don't think it's never appropriate to complain. I think it can be very therapeutic and can bring resolution to certain situations. Second of all, I realize I'm pretty much complaining about complaining. I contradict myself at times, I'm sure you do too, but this has a point.

So, I decided I was going to get over myself and simply quit complaining. I wasn't going to tell anyone else to stop, but I was going to stop. I immediately just started saying overly dramatic, optimistic things about how we're all going to make 100's on the test and that we're going to remember everything and blah blah life is filled with sunshine and happy things blah. At first I was just saying it to combat my pessimism. Then, it actually became genuine optimism and happiness. Whoah, what?

The test wasn't that bad and I feel like my happiness spilled out into my answers. I'm not sure if passionate is the correct word, but I feel like my answers had some passion in them. So, maybe all of my actions will have passion in them. Maybe I'll choose to be happy and optimistic and passionate instead of dwelling on the hard life of education. Maybe I'll help make other people happy and optimistic. Maybe they'll make other people happy and optimistic and it'll create this chain reaction of people becoming happy and optimistic and passionate and loving!!!!!!

I don't care if you think I'm naive. Yes, I'm an idealist but I feel like I'm also aware of the reality of life and the fact that there is enormous amounts of pain that needs to be dealt with and maybe needs to be let out through complaining. All I'm saying is that maybe we just need to learn some balance of expressing our pain and also bringing sunshine to situations.

Just some thoughts.


Bus Stop Diaries 3

The bus comes every 30 minutes. I decided "oh hey, I have to export my animation so I should go early." Long story short, I missed the bus so I had to wait at the bus stop for 30 minutes.

20 minutes later a guy, probably in his mid-to-late 30's, comes and sits on the bench by me. Side note, I think the best thing to do when someone walks up or when you walk up to someone is to say something right away, break dat ice ya digg? It makes it a lot easier to keep talking to them once you've already started. "Good morning!" "Good morning!" That's all you need to start possibly the best conversation of your life...

This man had a lovely smile that never went away, gold teeth and all. We ended up talking about his job and how he is grateful for it after he got laid off at his last one. He is also about to start the late shift which he likes because it's quiet (11pm-6am). He usually likes to keep to himself because some people just try to start trouble. We talked about FSU and then about NC. "I heard it's pretty rough up there with gangs. Like in Raleigh..." Of course he was talking about Durham. Which, of course, I corrected (gently) and then said that's where I'm from in my chipper, life-is-filled-with-rainbows-and-pretty-things voice.

Then we started talking about racism. Those of you who don't know me well probably don't know that racism is something that gets under my skin so much. Putting ranks on skin tone and making generalizations based on outer appearances is one of the most ignorant, disheartening, frustrating things in the world to me. I try not to talk about it because I get so upset about it.

"Is it very racist up there?" he asked. After waiting a second and deciding not to go on my soap box I said, "I think anywhere you go you'll find some type of racism." I told him about my high school where, although we live in a "desegregated" country, was filled with cliques and segregation. If you were to walk into the lunch room it wouldn't take you long to notice it. I'm not sure how much of it was from race and how much was from other things like wealth, interests, location, etc. Not to run off on too much of a tangent but people always use that excuse that "people are more comfortable around people who look like them" and I'm just not buying it. Someone could look totally different than you but agree with everything you agree with. I think it's more about the fact that people don't want to be told they're wrong and feel threatened around people who disagree with them. People think they can tell so much about a person from their appearance. Of course you can tell some about their interests or what they want you to think their interests are. But you can't say, "You have dark skin, you must not like anything my pale friends and I like." That's a bunch of bull and a super lame excuse. Think of something more intelligent or at least somewhat accurate, please.

Back to the story, he then started talking about how he has never seen people as being defined by their color because we're all created by the same God and we're all equal in his eyes. (can I get an AMEN?!?)

The thing about that morning is that I was in a pretty bad mood and was fully convinced that all people just suck. It's so easy to get caught up in our pain and in our problems (big and small) and forget that there really is beauty in people. Give them a chance to show you. Sure, sometimes, maybe a lot of times they will fail you and show their ugly side. Don't let yourself think they are one dimensional. I think that everyone has an ugly side and a beautiful side. Keep searching for that beautiful side. You'll find it even if it's just one 30-something-year-old man with gold teeth and a mechanic's uniform.

To get you started, check out this link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/pictures-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-humanity



Stop Waiting

I feel like I start 80% of my posts with "This may be a long post..." Just thought I'd point that out.

This may be a long post. In the words of Erica King and many others, "Sorry, not sorry."

The first time I remember noticing this was in middle school. I just wasn't satisfied with going with the flow and just floating through life doing things that people tell you to do and that society expects you to do. I didn't do anything about it, though. I mean, it's middle school, people don't expect much from you (side note: when you feel people expect little from you, you only give a little. maybe we should start encouraging people of all ages to dream as big as they can at all times and, here's the crazy part, believe in their dreams). But I remember thinking, "I guess this is all there is. America is for those who want money and fame and other countries are places where people can make a difference." Which is when I first wanted to live in Africa.

So, high school came around and it was like I was searching everywhere for something deeper. Everything always just felt so shallow and empty. From friendships to even church youth group. It just wasn't there. Whatever "it" was. I even went on a mission trip to Slovakia where I do believe that God moved but I was so beyond lost. I didn't know how to feel about trying to impose my beliefs on others. I didn't understand how all of that worked. Yes, I do believe that God can use any moment to work but I also believe we should genuinely care about people and learning their stories before assuming they would ever want to listen to what we had to say. But, that's a different blog post for a different day. The point is, I never understood that anything could be more than surface level.

Skipping a huge chunk of my story and moving on to the summer of 2011 I interned in ATL with a beautiful non-profit, Broken Voices. Unfortunately, I was at a really dark place in my life. Fortunately, in spite of that dark place I was able to see some light. The biggest event of the summer was IDEAfarm which is also a different blog post for a different day. Long story short, I finally learned that there are injustices in the world that pull on our heart for a reason and that it is no coincidence that we have gifts and talents and when those two are put together, you can actually do something good in the world. WHAAAATTTT??? Yeah, forreal. Me. Rebekah Rausch. Major clutz, screw-up, goof who 75% of the people in this world don't take seriously. Yeah, I can actually do good and love people.

Moving right on to this past weekend at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference (SWPJC) at Fort Worth, Texas. I could seriously talk for days on the things I learned about photography, the world, people and myself. The main thing that I realized from this and from research after was that I have been coming up with a million reasons as to why I'm not good enough and basically negating everything I've learned over the last 2, well really 21 years of my life. The truth is, I'm not perfect. I never will be. I may never be as good as Eugene Richards or Joanna Pinneo or Dave Black and that's okay. The point is that I'll be me and instead of demanding perfection, I need to demand action and the best that I can give at that time. Honestly, some days the best I can give is getting out of bed and refusing to let depression and fatigue take away my smile. But I need to stop waiting for something big to just come to me. I need to stop waiting for my photography and videography skills to magically get better from reading countless articles on lighting and storytelling (not that those aren't fantastic things to do). I need to do. The best way to grow is by doing and by making mistakes. It isn't by sitting around sulking in self-pity of how much you suck.

So, here are my points of this post:

-Life is not surface-level. There are deep joys and deep pains and there is beauty that stems from both. I refuse to believe that we are here to simply survive. We are here to love and to be loved. We are here to see people facing injustices and people who are broken and stand beside those people because we are equal. We have all experienced some type of injustice and/or brokenness. We need to learn to see our differences and find our commonalities within those differences. We may eat different food but you know what, we both like to eat. You may swim breast stroke and I may swim freestyle but we both know what it feels like to have to come up for a breath every once in a while. I'm not saying we should pretend there aren't differences. I'm just saying there may be something deeper there; like even in our differences, we are the same.

-You aren't perfect, but don't let that stop you from doing the best you can. We all have the power to impact the world we live in. We do it all the time, intentionally and unintentionally. Maybe it's time we are more intentional in how we impact and we focus more of our energy on spreading peace and justice rather than hate and judgement. Realize that you have a gift and probably multiple gifts. Learn those gifts and use them. They are there for a reason so figure out how that fits in with the things that deeply break your heart in this world. If it's a certain age-group, a certain nation or one single person.

- Lastly and one of the most important things to remember, don't hate yourself for your failures and your imperfections. Don't hate yourself for waiting all this time. Hating yourself will only make it harder to love others. You are a valuable person. I mean really, the God that created the universe also took time to create you and give you talents and joys and beauty. If the greatest power ever loves you even when you totally screw everything up, man, why shouldn't you learn to love yourself? It's hard to see the sweetness of life when all you ever focus on are the bitter parts of it.


Bus Stop Diaries 2

Today at the bus stop I met a man from China. He is studying biomedical engineering at FSU and has been doing his Master’s/PhD program for the past 4-5 years.

The conversation started by me asking him what he was studying. He did the normal thing and then asked what I was studying. He also asked what I wanted to do in my life. I gave a semi-vague response that I give to most people when they ask, “I want to teach photography to high-school students.” But, what was so beautiful about this moment is that he could have done the normal thing and said “well that’s interesting” and changed the subject, but he didn’t. Instead, he asked why.

This question was so beautiful because I think our motives behind doing things tell so much about who we are or at least who we hope to be. See, about eight times out of ten I don’t tell people right away that I want to teach in a low-income area and not just photography but visual storytelling. I feel like we devalue these people by throwing them into categories and putting them in an imaginary box dooming them to a meaningless life. These people have stories. They see stories, they live stories. Stories that deserve to be heard. Stories that are beautiful and full of lessons just the same as a person born into different circumstances. These people deserve to know that they are worth something and that they can be someone and can live a life of purpose and can help make a mark on this world for the better. They shouldn’t have to settle for a life where the goal is to be wealthy and have an attractive spouse. They need to know that just because photography and videography is expensive doesn’t mean that they should cross that off of the list of possibilities. I want to show them that in the midst of a dark world, we can see light in moments, in people, in everything. Not only can we learn to see this light but we can learn to capture it in a way that expresses it to other people.

It may seem dumb that I got so excited about someone asking me why I want to teach. But really, think about why you are passionate. Ask others why they’re passionate. When you get people talk about their passion, life immediately seems more beautiful and more full of hope.


Bus Stop Diaries

Yes, this is one of those long posts. I'm only a little sorry.

One thing about living in Tallahassee is that I'm having to learn how to use a bus for the first time (at least in the US). It's actually a million times easier than I thought which is great.

Basically Monday-Thursday I have 12:30 classes. I go to the bus stop around 11:45 just to be safe (the bus usually comes around 12). So far, with the exception of one day, I have gotten to meet or at least have a mini conversation with people while we wait together. One thing I believe is that it's very dumb to waste 15 minutes pretending to stare at your phone rather than talking to the one person sitting next to you who has a least one thing in common with you: they're waiting for the bus.

After today I decided, why not share these fun stories! So, here I am.

I'll just share about today for now.

Today I got to the stop and there was a guy standing by the bus sign. I went to sit down because... well I had ran that morning and my legs felt like mush. He had this awesome leather bookbag on so of course I had to tell him I loved it!

Me (sitting a few feet behind him): "I like your book bag!"

Him: .....nothing.

No response at all. He didn't even turn. So of course, I'm thinking maybe he's hard of hearing which would be fun because I know how to say some phrases in ASL. It didn't seem as though he was which means that he totally ignored me or he doesn't speak english. He turned around and sat down next to me and we smiled and said hey. After talking a little with him I realized that he probably just had no idea I was talking to him because he was super friendly! I didn't catch his name but we had a short conversation before a lady walked up and sat in between us.

This lady was a visiting scholar from China. I've met a lot of people from China and India here... I LOVE IT! She asked where I recommend she should go in the US. Of course I told her NC! So I asked her where I should go in China and she said if I wanted lots of historical stuff I should go to Beijing which is cool because one of my new friends Linda (that's her American name) is from Beijing! But this lady said she was from (I think) Mohe County which is actually colder than Alaska! Then the bus came and we didn't get a seat together so that conversation came to an end.

After my class I was waiting for the bus to go back and I ran into that guy again! Turns out he's from the Netherlands! He's also a visiting scholar. Unfortunately, I couldn't hear or understand a lot of what he said because the bus was pretty loud. I did catch that he used to live with 16 other housemates and now he lives by himself. I told him my story about how my pictures kept falling off the wall and waking me up scared at 3am. He also said that all he has here are clothes and a flag one of his housemates gave him. When we got to my stop I thought he was getting off too but he didn't so our conversation was cut short. Maybe I'll get to see him again and see if he wants some decoration help or considering the fact that I eat dinner alone if he wants to eat with me.

The point is, I think we should be more aware of the people we get the pleasure of sitting next to everyday. Why not strike up a conversation? Even if it's about the weather maybe you'll start talking about China! Even if it's "so what are you studying?" It could lead to my conversation I had the other day with this guy from India who is extremely passionate about engineering and wouldn't stop smiling while he was talking.

The whole faking on your phone thing, totally 2012. Come to 2013 where we talk to each other!


To brag on my photo students just a bit

Well, this Thursday is the last day. Not even bitter-sweet, just kind of bitter. I really felt like I was making a bit of a break through. Especially because we did light painting last week and they LOVED it! I ended up having one girl that was there through the whole thing, one guy who was there mostly and a guy and a girl who only got to come to two of the classes. I learned a ton throughout this journey and I can't wait to find a Boys and Girls Club in Tallahassee.

I just want to brag on each of the four a bit...

Jada was the one who was at all but one of the classes. She has some real talent and really uses her brain. She's good at exploring different angles on her own. She's also very good at putting things in the rule of thirds. She's good at hearing me out on things and is definitely a leader (when she wants to be). Here's one of her best shots:

Tyrese is one who, unfortunately, was only able to come to two classes. He is a good self-starter and doesn't have to wait for me to tell him to take more pictures. He seems to really enjoy taking head shots of people. Last week we focused on concept photography and he was really good at sticking with a concept and zoning in on it. Here's one of his best shots:

Marsha is another one who was only able to come to two classes. She really enjoys taking shots of her friends. She's good at catching natural expressions and poses of people. She isn't shy about taking pictures and shoots a lot (which I think is great). Here's one of her best shots:

Sincere is by far the most passionate about photography. He was there for most of the classes and was a really good listener. He likes taking picture of nature and inanimate objects rather than people. I got to work with him 1-on-1 one day and he did a really good job of applying what I suggested but also making it his own. He's also good at finding exciting angles on his own. Here's one of his best shots:

All four of them are very talented in their own unique ways. It has been such a pleasure to get to know them (the good and the bad). They all have great potentials to go far in life and it's so amazing to see that potential come out during photo class. I'm getting some of their photos printed and giving it to them Thursday. I'm hoping they'll like them and keep them to show what amazing things they can accomplish when they put their minds to it.