13 People On How They Responded To “What Are You?” As Children And As Adults

23 hours ago Courtesy of Lia Beck
As a mixed-race person, I’m trying to imagine what being asked, “What are you?” would feel like if I was white. Maybe I wouldn’t even know what it means. After all, I’m a “who”, not a “what”. But because I am mixed and have heard this question my entire life, I know that “What are you?” means “What race are you? I need more information so that I know how to categorize you.” (There’s also the classic “What are you mixed with?” which is a whole other problem in that it implies that one race is the default with which another one is mixed.)
“What are you?” looks past a person’s personality and interests and, often, even where they’re from. (After all, I’m from Virginia, but that is never the answer an inquirer is looking for.) And mixed race people — among others whose appearance is not immediately racially identifiable by an outsider — know this well. They’ve heard and answered (or ignored) the question all their lives.
I know the way I respond has changed since I was a kid. I’ve gotten more confident. I no longer constantly dread being asked, knowing I’ll have to timidly say “half white and half black.” Now I either feel comfortable just coming out and saying it if the person asking seems genuine or, if I don’t like their attitude, challenging them. (“What do you mean, ‘what am I?'”)
Sarah Gaither , an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, who is biracial herself and has studied the multiracial experience , says of this tactic, “It can be a very negative experience to have someone question your identity, and if that experience happens continuously across your life, you can imagine how easy it becomes to get tired in trying to explain your own identity to the world around you. So, by answering a question with a question, some multiracial people feel like this is a tool to get other people not as familiar with the mixed-race experience to think a little more deeply about the question they are asking in the first place.”
Other people who identify as mixed-race have also changed the way they answer the question over the years — but not all in the same direction. The people below all shared how they responded to “What are you?” as children versus as adults, and while some were more open about their backgrounds as kids, only to reject the question more as adults, some say they believe people asking are mostly just curious and so now they are willing to provide a full answer.
“Usually these differences in identification are linked to how a person physically looks racially, their family structure and the racial make up of their neighborhood and/or schools, and the types of treatment that they receive from others on a daily basis,” Gaither explains.
Here’s what 13 people who identify as mixed-race had to say about their own experiences: Josie
“As a child, I identified as biracial/mixed or spelled out my ethnic background (Italian mom/Egyptian-Sudanese father). These days, I identify simply as Arab or North African, and if pressed, I’ll go into specifics. I think the reason I’m less likely to say I’m mixed or biracial now is that I don’t relate to Italian-American culture at all. I won’t deny Italian (specifically Sicilian) heritage, but it’s not how I see myself (although I recognize people may see me as that because of my physical appearance).” Maria
“I have been asked this question hundreds of times! I am half Caucasian and half Filipina, and look Latina. About once a week, someone on the street or in a store addresses me in Spanish. As a child, I would say, ‘My father is American and my mom is from the Philippines.’ Now, depending on my mood, I say I’m American or human. If they want to probe further, they can, but it’s my attempt to have them realize the absurdity of their question. I wrote a children’s book entitled, Mommy, Why’s Your Skin So Brown? because so many people assumed I was the nanny of my lighter-skinned children.” Amanda
“I’ve been asked ‘What are you?’ for longer than I can remember throughout my life, and as a kid, it became a robotic, scripted response of ‘My mom is from Singapore and my dad is white and from the U.S.’ … It was such a common question, I never took offense to it and I was aware at a young age that my mixed ethnic background was not a norm and needed to be explained.
I have found as an adult, I still get asked ‘What are you?’ very frequently, but people try to be more sensitive about it and ask where I am from. When I answer that I am from New Jersey, they’ll then typically ask, “No, where are your parents from?” and then I launch right back into my [scripted response] that cuts to the chase … In general, I’ve come to accept that my racial ambiguity prompts people to ask ‘what I am’ and I do not mind answering because I am proud of my mixed ethnicity.” Emily F.
“As a kid, I would respond to the question ‘What are you?’ by explaining that my mom is white and my dad is Asian off the bat. When answering the question as an adult, I usually respond with, ‘Do you mean to ask what my ethnicity is?’ and then, if they say yes, I say, ‘Guess!’ I get this question so often I like to hear what they were thinking about it first before telling them.” Ariel
“I am half Burmese and half caucasian — my mother is originally from Myanmar, and my dad from New York. My look is kind of ambiguous — people often assume I’m Hispanic, Filipino, or even Hawaiian. I’ve gotten the ‘What are you?’ question my entire life, and as a kid found that saying I was half Burmese was perplexing to some because they weren’t familiar with the country of Myanmar. I’d simply answer “half Asian, half white.” I didn’t necessarily want to be ‘different’ when I was a kid, so I’d sweep that part of myself under the rug and answer with as little detail as possible.
As a 24-year-old now, I embrace these qualities … I’m more willing to take the time to explain, because I figure why not educate people — ‘I’m half Burmese; my mom is from Myanmar, also known as Burma. It’s a country in Southeast Asia, right next to Thailand.’ I couple that with lighthearted humor about how my dad is a Jew from Long Island, playfully alluding to the contrast and unlikely match. It’s an interesting background, and I’m proud of it.” Jillaine
“Growing up I’d constantlyget asked ‘What are you?’ and to be honest, I’d always have people try and guess. I found it to be an odd question, I never heard my single-race friends asking each other what they were, so I wanted to have some fun with it. People would guess black/white, but if I made them get more specific nobodywould ever guess Irish and Jamaican … Now that I’m older, I tend to just respond with ‘Irish and Jamaican.’ I still get funny reactions when I tell people, they think it’s a ‘cool’ mix. People tend to joke around now and say it’s the best of both worlds (*cough, alcohol and marijuana, cough*). It’s funny!” Winnie
“I’m Dominican, which means my heritage is extremely mixed raced. People tend have a hard time figuring out my ethnicity. When I was a kid, I never really understood the question. As a teenager, I would reply ‘I’m New Jersyian’, just throw people off. I used to think, ‘Why should that matter?’
What I’ve learned over the years is that some people ask that question to better understand their connection to you. It’s amazing how often different people tend to see themselves in me. I’ve had Egyptians come up to me, asking for directions, because they think I can speak Arabic. And I’ve had similar experiences with people from all over the world — from Brazil to Italy and Portugal. Some people call my complexion brown, others call it olive. I’d like to think that in this context, the question ‘what are you?’ is more about how we’re connected. They’re really asking, ‘What are you? Are you like me?’ So, when I hear the question ‘What are you?’ today, I’d gladly share identifiers based on the person’s interest.” Emily E.
“I’m Filipina, Spanish, Portuguese, and Irish, and I get the “What are you?” question frequently. When I was a kid, I would usually just immediately respond with the above — listing out my family’s various backgrounds. It wasn’t something I thought about and I always knew, even at a young age, what people meant. I feel like kids are always a bit more blunt and it usually comes from a ‘they don’t know better, but mean well’ place … As an adult, I try to reframe the question a lot as a subtle correction. So, if someone asks me ‘what I am,’ I’ll say, ‘Do you mean what ethnicity I am?’ I also always ask the question back and try and point out the double standard if someone says, “Oh, I’m just European” — why was it important to ask me if you feel like it doesn’t matter for you? I try not to get annoyed but it’s hard especially when I’ve just met the person or it’s a stranger and it’s one of the first questions they ask.” Leah
“When I was a child, I used to list every race I was. I was so proud of my heritages because each race I came from had many things I truly admired about them. As an adult, I sometimes list them. The one thing I always say is that I’m a mutt and proud of it.” Nikki
“I grew up in Central American as a white Hispanic. As a child I would be teased and they would call me a gringa . I never really fit in then, but I was pretty sure I would fit in once I got to the U.S. for college. In college I was an off-looking white person. People would do double takes when I explained that I ‘look’ white, sounded ‘American’, but was from Central America. Some cruel individuals would call me a beaner … or a spick, despite the fact that those particular slurs don’t apply to me. As a kid I would answer the question with, ‘I’m Honduran, like you. But my grandmother is American’. As an adult I answer the question with ‘I’m hispanic, but half (or a quarter) American … I have had to refine the answer to this question over 30 years, down to a short and sweet elevator pitch that captures all of my qualities and heritages.” Nicole
“The topic of my race(s) is something I’m always happy to share… once someone has gotten to know me. It can be as simple as mentioning my background in a casual conversation. However, when someone asks upon meeting me, I find it to be extremely rude. When I was a child, I felt awkward because I didn’t know if the person asking was genuinely curious or wanted to make fun of me. As an adult these days, I tend to take it in stride. Instead of taking it as an insult, I like to mess around with the person. I continue to do this until the he/she realizes that what they are asking is pretty silly and ignorant.” Pierre
“Whenever someone asks me what my ethnic background is these days, I just say French-Chinese. Not everyone’s got the time to hear my story about how my father is French-American and my mother Chinese-Indonesian. That I was born and raised in Singapore, went to school in Australia, and now live in the Philippines. I used to explain the story in its entirety whenever someone asked me as a kid. (My parents made sure I knew about my cultural background). But people always ended up having more questions after the explanation than they did to begin with. So, you could imagine why I quickly grew tired of getting asked. I kinda like the idea of calling myself a citizen of the world, but that’s such a douchey thing to say…” C.C.
“As a kid, I didn’t understand why they were asking as I didn’t realize that I was any different than anyone else. I always said that I was black. As an adult, when people would ask me that question (which they still do), I ask them why are they asking? I get answers like, ‘You don’t have typical black features. Your hair is different. You have legs like an Asian, etc.’ … My response to most is that I’m African American and that we don’t all look alike. I identify as African American because I was raised in an African American community and went to an African American school in Chicago. Although I know that I’m both black and white, I identify with the black culture because I was raised by a strong black father who valued his black American family and culture whereas my mom didn’t associate or get involved as much with her caucasian heritage.”
Obviously, the responses here are as varied as the respondents’ racial and ethnic backgrounds, but across the board there seems to be an understanding of why people are curious, even if they should either bite their tongues or have a different approach.
“Ambiguity is something that is very difficult for people to deal with since we are accustomed to wanting to categorize people easily and neatly into one social category or the other,” Gaither explains. “We are naturally curious social beings, but the intentions behind the ‘What are you?’ question can be difficult to determine, which can lead to this same question being a negative experience for people whose identities are continuously questioned.”
If you’re a mixed-race person yourself, it’s probably interesting to hear how other people respond and why, since sometimes the experience can feel isolating, especially when you’re a kid. And if you’re someone who has ever asked “What are you?” to someone else, it’s time to ask yourself why you asked, how you would feel in the other person’s shoes, and consider making a change.

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NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: Rams, Chiefs rise above chaos

The Power Rankings are in, with one theme that keeps popping up: Nobody knows anything. That’s what I keep hearing, but I will simply say everybody is beating everybody. Consider:
The Lions beat the Patriots , but were beaten by the 49ers , who lost to the Vikings , who lost to the Bills , who were blown out by the Ravens , who fell to the Bengals , who got handled by the Panthers , who lost to the Falcons , who lost to the Saints , who dropped one to the Bucs AND should’ve dropped another to the Browns , who just Baker-d the Jets , who absolutely blasted the Lions . Huh?
What a Sunday. For everyone who does “Power Rankings” – incl my dude @HarrisonNFL pic.twitter.com/EPQ61uQoSN
— Scott Hanson (@ScottHanson) September 24, 2018 This model of parity was the vision of former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in the 1990s, as free agency and, more significantly, the salary cap bunched all the league’s member clubs even closer together. On the surface, it seemed like a wonderful idea for the NFL, as now any franchise’s fan base had hope in training camp, no matter how dire the previous year’s record. Essentially, “any given Sunday” was truer than ever.
Speaking of the ’90s and what truly evens out the playing field, look no further than 49ers at Chiefs . Jimmy Garoppolo ‘s ACL tear changes everything for San Francisco’s future, as well as removing a potential wild-card contender from the heap. It also robbed us of seeing a full 60 minutes of a quarterback duel between Garoppolo and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes . It was in the first year of the aforementioned salary cap that a QB match of epic proportions between these two franchises also took place at Arrowhead Stadium:
Montana’s former teams are in symmetrical spots this week: second from the bottom, and …
I think #ChiefsKingdom deserves the # 2 spot this week! @HarrisonNFL
— The940Chief (@cmd3382) September 24, 2018 There you go, Chief.
As for the rest of the league, see below. I am sure you will find plenty to argue with, if for no other reason than my second paragraph up there. Doesn’t it feel like the Rams , the Chiefs — and then everybody else? Send your thoughts … @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence!
Post-free agency | Post-draft | Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for the “NFL Power Rankings” show. Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts in a tweet to @HarrisonNFL , and your comments could be featured on air.
RANK
1
RAMS (3-0)
Previous rank: No. 1
Clearly the top team in pro football. Which means all those analysts and colleagues of mine who told me I was putting too much stock in Jared Goff ‘s performance last year … Well, I don’t know what to tell you. His accuracy continues to impress. On Sunday, he darn near averaged 10 yards per throw — an incredible rate. Meanwhile, the defense took Philip Rivers ‘ best shots, ultimately producing stops when absolutely imperative. That was the difference in the game. There was also better red-zone efficiency and goal-to-goal performance from Los Angeles. Well, the home Los Angeles team. You know, the one that plays on the non-soccer pitch. Gosh, this L.A. football thing gets confusing.
RANK
2
CHIEFS (3-0)
2
Previous rank: No. 4
They say records were made to be broken, but this Patrick Mahomes pace reminds me of only one person and year: Dan Marino, 1984. Mahomes is already well ahead of Dan The Man’s touchdown stride (Marino’s then-record-setting 48 scoring tosses remain the most ever by a second-year player) at this point, although Marino’s torrid pace down the back stretch will be tough to equal once opponents acquire more tape on the K.C. phenom. At issue for the surging Chiefs is the defense, which allowed another four bills on Sunday. Go get Earl.
RANK
3
EAGLES (2-1)
5
Previous rank: No. 8
The world champs are back up, but this time with more staying power. Carson Wentz wasn’t flawless in the Eagles ‘ 20-16 win over the Colts. His presence was more than felt, however, and the rest of the league should take notice. My colleague Judy Battista certainly did, embarking on a deep dive of Wentz’s first action — and first drive — post-knee surgery. Also remember that the almost-2017 MVP was leading an offense sans Alshon Jeffery , Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles . Look out next week, everybody.
Power Rankings side note: The passing of Tommy McDonald this week is important. While there are so many fans and media covering the game who don’t acknowledge anything pre- Super Bowl era, football was indeed played before the late 1960s. As the passing side of the NFL grew in the late 1950s and early ’60s (especially with the advent of the AFL), no player was as prolific at getting in the end zone as McDonald. The Hall of Famer scored 66 touchdowns in his first seven seasons (all of which were spent with the Eagles ), despite the first four of those years featuring 12 games per season. That’s incredible. The next-closest guy over that same span didn’t even produce 50. Think about that. You know, they used to say about another Eagles receiver that “all he does is catch touchdowns.” Consider McDonald an early-day Cris Carter, but more of a vertical threat. He owned a wicked sense of humor, too. One last note here: McDonald was a bona fide star on the Philadelphia squad that won the NFL title in 1960. Yes, the Eagles were once champs before Nick Foles .
RANK
4
JAGUARS (2-1)
2
Previous rank: No. 2
Bortlesmania died a quick death in Jacksonville on Sunday. The Jags’ quarterback (as well as his team) stunk in two outings versus the Titans last year. They weren’t much better this time around, although you can’t put the loss on the Jacksonville defense. How often does a team give up nine points and 233 yards — at home, mind you — and lose ? With no Leonard Fournette , Jacksonville broke from its identity, logging more dropbacks than rushing attempts. Bortles posted 4.6 yards per attempt. Ugh.
RANK
5
PANTHERS (2-1)
5
Previous rank: No. 10
This might seem high for the Panthers . OK, fair. Consider, though, how the rest of the league is playing at the moment. Carolina controlled the Cowboys all game, went to the wire in Atlanta, then ran all over the Bengals’ defense. All those who thought Christian McCaffrey couldn’t be a lead back: How does 28 carries for 184 yards sound?
RANK
6
SAINTS (2-1)
6
Previous rank: No. 12
Heckuva bounce-back for the Saints on the road following a sloppy loss to the Bucs and a sloppy win over the Browns. Against the Falcons , the offense simply couldn’t be stopped. As a sub-conversation, Michael Thomas might be the most underrated superstar in the NFL. In three games, he’s posted 38 catches for 398 yards and three scores. That’s redonkulous. Consider also that Mark Ingram will be returning from suspension in two weeks, and that this defense has been playing far under its potential. Ingram’s return should allow New Orleans to play more ball control while giving the other side of the ball a blow.
RANK
7
STEELERS (1-1-1)
9
Previous rank: No. 16
Clutch Steelers football in prime time, that’s what that performance was on Monday night . Vintage. Vintage Ben Roethlisberger , too — looked a lot more like the 2008 postseason run than the knuckleball showing on the muddy pitch in Cleveland Week 1 . The defense was resilient, though obvious problems exist in the secondary. The pass rush made its presence known in Tampa, personal fouls and all. Methinks all those personal foul calls are a personal foul.
RANK
8
BUCCANEERS (2-1)
1
Previous rank: No. 7
Might seem a bit unfair that the Bucs linger below two teams they already beat. The difference now is that the Eagles got their franchise quarterback back and could have WR1 Alshon Jeffery this weekend. Meanwhile, the Saints just logged a huge division win at Atlanta and will have Mark Ingram in the backfield in two weeks, which should help their ailing defense (SEE: ball control). The real question is what Tampa’s front office does at quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a few bad balls on Monday night, but he started unloading on-time throws in the second half and almost pulled out an epic comeback. The offense has moved the football with him under center, more so than at any time in Jameis Winston ‘s three seasons. Easy decision.
RANK
9
VIKINGS (1-1-1)
6
Previous rank: No. 3
From time immemorial, the mighty have fallen when losing the turnover battle, no matter the foe. The 1968 Colts — one of the greatest regular-season teams of all time — infamously fell to Joe Namath’s guarantee partially because of turnovers. Dan Marino torched the NFL in his second year for the 14-2 Dolphins (as mentioned in the Chiefs blurb above) but fell in the Super Bowl because of two picks. (Not that we especially want to talk Super Bowls when it comes to the Vikings and Bills .) Anyway, Buffalo entered the Great Birdkiller in Minnesota with an 0-2 record, ranked 32nd in the Power Rankings and totally inept on offense — but walked out with a convincing win. That’ll happen when a team commits a personal foul to provide a stuttered offense with a free early set of downs … then fumbles … then fumbles again. Before the Vikes knew it, the score was 24-zip.
RANK
10
DOLPHINS (3-0)
7
Previous rank: No. 17
The Dolphins have earned this spot, whether you believe in them or not. Ryan Tannehill has played excellent football for three weeks running, highlighted by a 17-of-23 effort with 289 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders. No picks, either. Don’t forget Albert Wilson ‘s turn at quarterback. The defense was as shaky as it’s been thus far, but the unit made up for it by creating two turnovers, one of which sealed the win. Concern? Inconsistency in the run game. Miami must be effective on the ground to be more than a wild-card one-and-done.
RANK
11
CHARGERS (1-2)
Previous rank: No. 11
Before folks start complaining about the 1-2 Chargers being ranked above certain 2-1 teams (ahem, Redskins fans!), consider for a moment who the Bolts have lost to so far this season. That’s right: the top team in the NFC and the top team in the AFC. The Chargers hung with the Rams at their place all afternoon. Wait until stud pass rusher Joey Bosa rehabs his way back into the lineup. Mark it down: Anthony Lynn’s group will reach the postseason.
RANK
12
PACKERS (1-1-1)
7
Previous rank: No. 5
We are not going to write about a call that doesn’t deserve any more characters than it received on Twitter on Sunday. As for the “football” game that was conducted (you know, that sport that involves things like “tackling”), the Packers didn’t play their best. The front seven was beaten at the point of attack. Good news: seeing Aaron Jones get back in the mix at running back. Geronimo Allison continues to step forward with massively important plays, too.
RANK
13
PATRIOTS (1-2)
7
Previous rank: No. 6
Watching the Patriots on Sunday night, you got the feeling that Lions coach (and former New England defensive coordinator) Matt Patricia provided his team with a Power Point tutorial and a BMI assessment on every last player on New England’s roster. Meanwhile, the Patriots could not make life uncomfortable for Matthew Stafford . Anytime they dedicated more personnel to the back end to play coverage, the Lions ran the rock — effectively, too. With recently acquired receiver Josh Gordon in the mix, defensive end Trey Flowers presumably coming back and receiver Julian Edelman set to return from suspension in two weeks, this is not time to panic. (Well, not too much, anyway.)
RANK
14
FALCONS (1-2)
5
Previous rank: No. 9
In a league where the salary cap bears as much weight as scouting and personnel decisions, the most overlooked trait of a successful team is depth . No team in the NFL has been hit harder by injury than the Falcons , who, without Deion Jones , Keanu Neal , Ricardo Allen , Takk McKinley and Derrick Shelby , couldn’t have stopped Archie Manning and Bobby Hebert on Sunday, much less Drew Brees. Try winning at chess when you’re down a queen, two rooks, a bishop and maybe a knight. Even so, Dan Quinn’s guys fought until the bitter end. To score 37 points at home with no turnovers and still lose … very Steelers-esque.
RANK
15
BENGALS (2-1)
2
Previous rank: No. 13
The Bengals are not on the decline per se, but this is not the same team without injured RB Joe Mixon to balance the offense and provide a gassed defense with time to refuel. Sans Mixon, Cincy folded its tent on the ground game against Carolina, becoming one-dimensional and, ultimately, four-interceptional. Yes, I know that is not a word. Neither is Gio-Bernard-is-not-a-lead-back-ional (although he made some nice plays). Tyler Boyd enjoyed a nice day (six catches for 132 yards and a score), especially with A.J. Green departing early thanks to a groin injury. Of course, the second part of that sentence was the truly relevant part.
RANK
16
RAVENS (2-1)
1
Previous rank: No. 15
Difficult group to rank. While Ravens fans won’t be pleased that they moved down a slot, I can’t put Baltimore over Cincy at this point. And the main reason they dropped a smidge: The Steelers and Dolphins leapfrogged them — deservedly. The defensive unit is still the strength of this group, yet that’s the same side of the ball that the Bengals manhandled in Week 2. The passing game is still amazingly, stunningly, fascinatingly mediocre. The free-agent WRs — John Brown , Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead — are producing, but there is little oomph. Joe Flacco ‘s yards-per-attempt mark was under 7.0 for the third straight game. Decent quarterbacks should average a little higher than 7.0 in that category. But Flacco hasn’t hit that plateau for a season since 2014. It’s a problem, a huge problem. And it certainly makes matters more challenging for the run game (which was so-so on Sunday) and makes it harder for the defense to hold the fort. Thank goodness the Ravens are still viable there.
RANK
17
BEARS (2-1)
3
Previous rank: No. 14
Like Baltimore, Chicago drops despite prevailing in Week 3. And like those Ravens , the Bears have an air game that is mostly stuck at the gate — actually, it’s worse than that. The similarly offensively-challenged Cardinals did everything they possibly could to let the Bears hang around and win Sunday, which is precisely what happened. The new NFC North terror, Khalil Mack , was at it again. Mitch Trubisky was more like north of terrible. He isn’t losing games, but he isn’t exactly helping this otherwise-ready-for-prime-time team win, either. Put another way: 21-on-21, the Bears are legit. It’s that 22nd guy. Matt Nagy must create more opportunities to play to his young quarterback’s strengths.
RANK
18
REDSKINS (2-1)
6
Previous rank: No. 24
The most up-and-down, wonky team in this here league pecking order is y ur Washington Redskins . Their fans are feeling half confident about Jay Gruden’s 2-1 group. Washington faithful are knowledgeable about their Redskins . The fugly loss to the Colts can’t be ignored. Nor can the highly controversial call on Clay Matthews . On the other hand, Washington didn’t win because of that free set of downs. The ground game carried its weight with Adrian Peterson , too — that was key in a contest that carried elements. How about Daron Payne and fellow ‘Bama alum Jonathan Allen , with 10 tackles and three sacks between them? Gives me hope to not have to drop the Redskins into the 20s again. (Gulp.)
RANK
19
TITANS (2-1)
2
Previous rank: No. 21
The pesky Titans — who refuse to stop grinding, despite an injury-riddled start to the season — are getting healthier. Sure, it was another nail-biter. But that was also a top-shelf team Tennessee bested Sunday . At 2-0 in the AFC South, with a road win against the division favorite, the Titans are positioned nicely in the wake of Sunday’s defensive slugfest. That said, beating the Jags hasn’t been the issue for this group; beating the rest of the AFC elite has. Throwing for 100 yards per week might also be considered problematic.
RANK
20
BROWNS (1-1-1)
7
Previous rank: No. 27
The quarterback job in Cleveland is Baker Mayfield’s for now . And it should be for the rest of the season — win, lose or draw. If Hue Jackson goes back to the Tyrod well, we might see a Michael Myers reaction in the streets from Browns fans. Don’t do it, Hue. Please. Granted, Mayfield’s relief performance for the Cleveland ages did come against the Jets , but don’t rain on the Baker hype train. I was so happy for Browns fans last Thursday that I started looking at Brian Sipe and Herman Fontenot football cards. And while we’re celebrating a genuine W as a family here, let’s reminisce about another glorious comeback triumph over the Jets from yore .
RANK
21
LIONS (1-2)
9
Previous rank: No. 30
The Lions turned on the power boosters in the fourth quarter of their Week 2 loss in San Francisco , and it spilled over into Sunday night . Over the past five quarters, Detroit has outscored the opposition 40-13, moving the ball with ease — this after looking completely dysfunctional for the first seven quarters of the season. As of late, the Lions are getting the ball into Golden Tate ‘s hands, so as to set up easy second or third downs. OC Jim Bob Cooter is also firing up the running game in the Motor City, as the Lions enjoyed their first individual 100-yard rushing performance in years (a factoid the broadcast mentioned 85 times, but not 86). Kerryon Johnson carried on past the 100-yard mark, making him the first Lion to do so since Billy Sims in 1982. OK, it hadn’t been that long.
RANK
22
BRONCOS (2-1)
4
Previous rank: No. 18
After eking out wins the first two weeks, the Broncos fell into the loss column on Sunday . The offense? Problematic. The defense? Er, needed more help from the offense. After a strong start, Case Keenum and friends stalled, with penalties being the familiar culprit. Familiar because every phase of the game contributed to a whopping 120 yards from yellow flags. Six huge points were taken off the board when Denver was called for an illegal block during the touchdown return off a blocked field goal. A score there could’ve changed the entire complexion of the game. Oy.
RANK
23
SEAHAWKS (1-2)
6
Previous rank: No. 29
Nice win for the Seahawks in front of the home folk, who were fired up pregame by their former enforcer, Kam Chancellor , raising the 12 Flag . It was easy to stay in that mode after kickoff, as the Seattle defense played like the 2012 version of itself. Or maybe the Cowboys ‘ offensive ineptitude made such matters trivial. Earl Thomas is making his situation anything but trivial — i.e., organizations need to pony up for premier players. Thomas’ two interceptions continuously made the rounds on Twitter, as did the bow in front of the Cowboys’ bench . Of course, Twitter didn’t seem to notice that his second pick was a bit overblown, the equivalent of somebody catching an errant beachball at a Mariners game. On that note, I bet even Jay Buhner thinks the Seahawks should pay Thomas. Let’s just hope Thomas doesn’t get a headache .
RANK
24
COWBOYS (1-2)
5
Previous rank: No. 19
Do you know what my favorite thing about the Cowboys ‘ offense is? Absolutely nothing. “Hey, if you like offensive formations with two wing backs and one wide receiver, straight out of 1935, do we have the team for you! Come down and see us at David McDavid …” If you want to see Cowboys scoring in Dallas, your best bet is to go to Country 2000. Actually, that place has been closed since the early 2000s. Like back when Chad Hutchinson was quarterback. In fact, I think Cowboy fans are wistful for the Chad Hutchinson days right now. Dak Prescott hasn’t thrown for 185 yards in any of his last five regular-season games. ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-FIVE = the new gold standard in Dallas. Even Clint Stoerner must’ve had regrets about retiring after watching that debacle in Seattle .
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25
GIANTS (1-2)
1
Previous rank: No. 26
One week after engaging in the ol’ chuck-and-duck offense, Eli Manning received just enough protection to remind folks that he used to be a decent quarterback. Manning picked the Texans apart early, helping the Giants jump out to a 20-3 lead on the way to a 25-for-29, 297-yard day. That included two scoring tosses and zero interceptions. All that, and he still got sacked four times. Not moving the Giants up much until we see more. Only trust them to beat teams like the Colts , Bills , Texans , Jets , Raiders , 49ers and Cardinals . Which is why they are ahead of the Colts , Bills , Texans , Jets , Raiders , 49ers and Cardinals .
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26
COLTS (1-2)
4
Previous rank: No. 22
The plucky Colts hung tough in Philly , two weeks after doing the same against the Bengals and a week after delivering an unexpected win in Washington . The movie logline of the 20-16 loss in Philadelphia: A frisky football team enters a hostile stadium with high hopes, only to see its dreams derailed by red-zone futility. Or something like that. Indy kept finding its way inside the Eagles ‘ 20, yet three times, the Colts came away without a touchdown — and on another, no points at all. By the way, “finding its way” might not carry the kind of action you would expect in sports writing, especially about offense. Although considering the Colts couldn’t generate any Sunday (209 yards total), how they stumbled that deep into Philadelphia’s side of the field almost defies logic.
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27
BILLS (1-2)
5
Previous rank: No. 32
Call it the most stunning result in the NFL regular season in years — maybe since the Chiefs routed the Patriots on “Monday Night Football” back in 2014. Actually, not sure even that outcome was as eye-opening as the Bills stampeding the hapless Vikings . While your friendly hack writer was among the many who predicted a Minnesota win , that same article mentioned (multiple times) that turnovers could be the single factor to even out the tremendous disadvantage Buffalo faced coming into Sunday’s game. Josh Allen faced the usual fire drill up front on several plays, but he still managed to perform efficiently as a passer whilst running for two scores. The Edwin Moses act was spectacular, man. Somewhere, Joe Ferguson must be proud. #BILLS
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28
TEXANS (0-3)
5
Previous rank: No. 23
Have you ever seen a team performance graded at F-minus? Here ya go. Seems John McClain was in one of his moods, the kind brought about by an 0-3 start and shoddy play all around. OK, there were a couple of bright spots. J.J. Watt was disruptive, tallying three sacks and a forced fumble. The Texans mostly kept the much-ballyhooed Saquon Barkley in check. Their own running backs made up for it by averaging about 1 yard per carry. At least no one is blaming coaching for the awful start …
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29
JETS (1-2)
4
Previous rank: No. 25
The blowout win in Detroit is receding further and further into the rearview. While the defense might have been riddled by the Browns ‘ head-banded Boy Wonder, the Jets ‘ offense more resembled a biplane in the second half last Thursday night . Six drives resulted in a punt, fumble, punt, field goal, interception, interception. Whereas Sam Darnold was looking like Maverick after Week 1, he’s morphed into Slider the last two weeks. That was the guy in “Top Gun” who had perfect hair but added little to the winning scenes. He was in “Roxanne,” though. Tell me one of you out there saw that movie.
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30
RAIDERS (0-3)
2
Previous rank: No. 28
Jon Gruden looked disgusted postgame , lamenting penalties that cost the Raiders field position, as well as other assorted mistakes. Sounded like the coach felt his Raiders played just well enough to lose at the end of the game. Oakland marched right down the field on the opening drive, thanks to Jordy Nelson’s 61-yard catch-and-run and ensuing touchdown grab . (The guy produced a throwback day straight out of 2014.) The next Raider foray — 95 yards in nine plays — was an absolute beaut. Well, save for the last play, when fullback Keith Smith was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Ultimately, two Derek Carr interceptions were costly. Hey, at least the Raiders got a sack. Yay.
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31
49ERS (1-2)
11
Previous rank: No. 20
The news couldn’t have been any worse for the 49ers . Jimmy Garoppolo’s knee injury , as well as the 1-2 start, probably makes it a wrap for the Niners’ season. The defense has already endured its struggles through three weeks, letting the Lions move right down the field two Sundays ago, then failing to silence the Patrick Mahomes Experience in Kansas City. Now the reins will be handed back over to C.J. Beathard , who went 1-4 with a 68.7 passer rating in his five starts last season. He’s a young player, so you never know how much upside is lurking under those pads. Next up: at Chargers . Oh, boy.
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32
CARDINALS (0-3)
1
Previous rank: No. 31
The Josh Rosen era began in earnest on Sunday in Arizona. The rotten play-calling continued in earnest. Did you watch the game? Probably not. Story time, kids: The Cards handed Rosen the keys, down 16-14 to the Bears late in the fourth quarter. On third-and-2, and within striking distance of field-goal range, Arizona called a running play with David Johnson ‘s backup . Negative-3 yards later, it’s fourth-and-5. So, now we have a rookie QB in his first NFL action ever, game in the balance, versus a top-five defense. Despite having all three timeouts remaining, Steve Wilks and staff eschew stopping the clock to fully prep their 21-year-old signal-caller and just go with the play as called. Pick. Two hugely important plays, no timeout called, and their top offensive player doesn’t touch the ball. Alrighty.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL .

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EJ Hill stood on a podium at the Hammer for 78 days in a work about race, art and winning

By Carolina A. Miranda Sep 24, 2018 | 10:00 AM EJ Hill during his performance “Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria” — held at the Hammer Museum during the “Made in L.A.” biennial. (Brian Forrest / Hammer Museum) Over the course of this burning summer, the U.S. president met with the leader of North Korea, a Thai soccer team was rescued from a cave, Saudi women were allowed to drive, sexual harassment allegations that would bring down the head of CBS surfaced, Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and Tesla founder Elon Musk said a bunch of things.
Through it all, Los Angeles artist EJ Hill stood quietly on a winner’s podium inside a gallery at the Hammer Museum every hour that the museum was open — that’s 11 weeks or 78 days or 621 hours of standing, depending on how you do the math. Advertisement
His piece, titled “Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria”— which translates to “Excellence, Resilience, Victory” in Latin — was part of the Hammer’s 2018 “Made in L.A.” biennial, which closed earlier this month. In it, he used symbols of sport to ruminate on the nature of sacrifice, competition and achievement.
A track circled the room and Astroturf carpeted the floor. To one side stood an impossibly tall wooden hurdle. Around the gallery, like stations of the cross, were stark photographs of Hill running “victory laps” around the schools he once attended: St. Michael’s Elementary in South Los Angeles, West High School in Torrance and El Camino College, also in Torrance.
Most riveting was the deceptively simple sight of Hill on the podium. A visitor to the Hammer observes the performance by EJ Hill in June. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times) It’s hard being black, brown and queer. It’s hard to be alive in spaces that are designed to kill you. But there I am, still standing. EJ Hill, artist Share quote & link
The artist stood on his perch as mute observer but also as object to be observed by visitors who streamed through the gallery — visitors who, by popular vote, chose him to receive the biennial’s public recognition award , worth $25,000.
“We make these things, hoping that people pick up what we intend for them to pick up,” says Hill. “Most people get their arts education from going to museums and seeing art on their terms … For them to say, ‘Hey man, good job, we love this,’ feels like I can say with confidence that I am making work for the people.”
On the day after his summerlong vigil has come to an end, Hill welcomes me to the South Los Angeles home of his mother, Karen Thompson. They are having breakfast — scrambled eggs, beans and the spongy Belizean frybread known as a fry jack. (Although Hill was born in Los Angeles, his family hails from Belize.)
Padding around in shorts and a pair of socks decorated with palm trees, Hill has shaken the look of far-off intensity, sometimes pain, he would demonstrate in the gallery at the Hammer. Here at home, he is relaxed.
At moments, however, he grows slightly dazed, like an astronaut who has just reentered Earth’s atmosphere after a journey through space.
“We’re talking about this in the past tense,” he says of his performance with a jolt of surprise. “That’s nuts. I can’t believe that this thing is behind me.”
For months, his life revolved around nothing but the podium.
“It was kind of a monastic existence,” he says. “I would come home and just eat and go to sleep. Right now, I feel really resolved, centered and light.”
Thompson says her son would frequently come home exhausted.
“I was like, ‘Why can’t you just do this for an hour’?” she says good-naturedly. But she says she came to understand that a performance about perseverance would require, well, perseverance. “The first month, I’d go pick him up at the end of the day and I’d get there 15 to 20 minutes early and just watch him.”
Now that performance is done. Advertisement
“I missed a lot,” Hill says with a laugh. “I’m catching up on things. I went to see ‘Crazy Rich Asians’— so, going to the movies. I was reading the Kavanaugh hearing stuff. Everything feels so surreal.”
Throughout the summer, I checked in on Hill’s performance, repeatedly drawn in by the topics it explored, its fraught symbolism, its stubborn steadfastness.
When I first entered the gallery in June, he was dressed all in black, looking defiant, ready to face the weeks that lay before him. Over the course of the exhibition, the performance evolved.
In July, he wore white; by August, he was rocking a metallic gold sweatshirt, looking like an interstellar voyager ready to float into space. On some days, he seemed light, on others, he appeared to be willing himself to continue.
“I called them phases,” he says. “The white, that was like, ‘My body has settled into this, my mind has settled into the routine. The day is long but I don’t have to answer emails.’” A wry laugh spills out. EJ Hills stands before a neon text he wrote: “Where on earth, in which souls and under what conditions will we bloom brilliantly and violently?” (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
The reaction of viewers seemed as much a part of the piece as the performance itself. Many visitors to the gallery avoided looking directly at Hill, casting only furtive glances in his direction. Hill says he had people jab at him to see if he was real.
“One older couple came in and the guy was like, ‘Do you get it?’ and she’s like, ‘No!’ So they leave,” he recalls. “They were there for like 10 seconds max. That was so funny to me.”
But those who lingered were rewarded with something profound.
Hill had placed his body on a podium as object to be evaluated — the hyper-scrutinized black, male body in a position to be scrutinized further still. To be a fair-skinned woman walking around that podium gazing at his legs, his arms and his chest, was to feel complicit in our historical objectification. The black body scrutinized as vehicle for sport. The black body scrutinized as vehicle for labor. The black body on a podium. The black body on an auction block. One afternoon in the gallery, I found myself in tears.
Hill says many visitors to the gallery cried.
“People connect with what it feels like to want to completely throw in the towel,” he says. “This isn’t our game. We’re in this thing that wasn’t designed for us. It still grinds on us … It’s hard being black, brown and queer. It’s hard to be alive in spaces that are designed to kill you. But there I am, still standing.” For the last month of his performance at the Hammer Museum, EJ Hill donned a gold jacket, looking like an interstellar voyager ready to float into space. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times) Running laps
At its core, “Excellentia Mollitia, Victoria,” is about Hill, 33, reexamining the places that have shaped him and reckoning with their significance to his life. The work began as a sketch that he produced early last year, shortly after returning home to Los Angeles after time in Boston and New York (where he was an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem ). Hill leads me out back to his mother’s garage, which serves as his studio. Boxes and plastic crates are strewn about. There is a handful of drawings pinned to the wall. He digs around and produces a notebook and opens it to the corresponding page. It shows a running track and a hurdle. An adjacent text reads: “Run a lap (one per year spent) around every educational institution you have attended.”
When curators at the Hammer Museum came calling for “Made in L.A.,” Hill pitched them the idea. They said yes. Advertisement EJ Hill’s performance, “Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria,” began as an idea that he drew in his sketchbook in 2017. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
He began by running around the various schools he had attended in Los Angeles, actions elegantly recorded by photographer Texas Isaiah . “On each lap around the block that each campus is on, I would really think about who that teacher was at that time and what that meant in my life,” Hill says. “There were some laps that were really difficult.”
The actions acknowledged education as empowerment but also as something to be overcome, of the ways in which African Americans are welcomed — and not — into U.S. institutions. In this case, an educational system that claims to aspire to diversity even as it writes black history out of the textbooks .
“I have been trying to grapple with what it means to be included in spaces we’ve been taught to strive for,” Hill says. “The better neighborhoods or the better schools.”
“Is it possible to design these spaces with the best intent?” he asks. “Rather than replicating the power structure that we’re trying to dismantle?”
Just as powerful was the symbol of sport. The motif channeled one of the few avenues of success open to African Americans in the 20th century. On the floor, lay a wooden torch — evocative of competition but also of hate.
“The Olympic torch, it’s one thing,” says Hill, “but if you put that torch on someone else’s front lawn, it means something else.”
Throughout the course of the exhibition, visitors to the galleries frequently tripped or stepped on the torch, like a shameful piece of history that continuously reemerges as physical irritant. Part of the installation featured a torch — that could evoke the Olympics or acts of white supremacy. (Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times) Reaching the podium
The performance, however, was not without humor.
One of the schools Hill attended was UCLA, where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 2013. Of his experience there, he remains ambivalent. Like most MFAs, the degree is supposed to be about art and its ideas. But like many MFA programs at prestigious universities, the competitiveness of the art market seeps into the program.
“Culver City galleries were breezing through our studios,” says Hill. “And there’d be the talk of, ‘So-and-so sold out their open studio.’
“There’s this competition in art to become something. If you think of rappers, the whole persona of ‘I’m number one’— within art, it’s very much present, but you’re supposed to be coy about it.”
Hill decided not to be coy. He placed himself on the podium slot reserved for the gold medalist.
“I knew it was a bold move to put myself in first place and just claim that,” he says with a smile.
And certainly, to stand beneath Hill in the gallery, elevated on his winner’s perch, was to gaze at a figure who was larger than life.
The artist’s original plan had been to run laps around UCLA once the performance at the Hammer was complete. But he says the experience left him feeling resolved.
“I’ve seen all of the people who were part of that experience all summer, so I’m good.”
Now, he is working on his reentry into everyday life. The day after completing his performance, he was scheduled to fly to Boston to begin a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.
“It was a very extreme remove,” he says. “I got to spend beautiful moments in that room with complete strangers. But now I’m back on the hamster wheel.”
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