But where are you REALLY from?

(getty images)
(getty images)
Justin Alvis | Columnist
Saturday night I’m in East London with a few of my friends (African-American as well) I met in my study abroad program. We had just left the club and met these group of British-African boys outside and engaged in a conversation with them.
Twenty minutes into the conversation, they ask us “so where are you guys from?” My friends and I glanced at each other puzzled because we told them we’re from America when we first met. I answered “well, I’m from Cleveland, Ohio.. It’s sort’ve in the middle of the US.”
One of the boys laughed and said “no, where are you originally from? Where is your ethnic origins?”
“Well, my family is from Alabama and then migrated to Ohio after the war” I said. I had no clue where he was going with this conversation.
He then goes on to say “You’re obviously from Africa, do you not know your origins?” My friends and I, all students at HBCUs, looked at each other and rolled our eyes because we knew that we were going to have to treat these boys and take them to our freshman year African-American history class.
Apparently, they weren’t aware of the origins of African-Americans and how we were stripped away from Africa and brought to America to help build the economy that exists today.
It wasn’t just them, though. Numerous black people around Europe that I’ve met have all asked me the same question after I tell them I’m American. Afro-Europeans have this superiority complex about themselves  because they may be a little more educated or “cultured.”
My big sister warned me about this before coming as she was asked the same questions when she was abroad. I just didn’t think it would be so often or that I would be made the butt of the joke.
What’s funny is the external colonization of Africa happened in Great Britain before the US. In fact, the racism here is actually worse because no one speaks about it. It’s so inbred into the society and swept under the rug it’s almost as though blacks here “know their place.”
All this being said, I was so shocked that they didn’t understand why we wouldn’t know our exact origins.
Reflecting back on the moment, we may have been a bit irrational in our delivery but the discussion was definitely necessary.
The African diaspora is so unique and widespread that it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what village, tribe, or country you came from. We are all connected from Chicago to Brazil to London to Asia to Jamaica to Germany.

All This Alvis: Forgiveness is Subjective

Justin Alvis | Columnist
Often times we miss out on relationships in life that mean the most to us because we’re holding a grudge for other people.
Something happened to us, we vent to the ones close to us, and they tell us how we should feel or what action we should take before we can actually sit down and analyze how much emotional damage it really did. For example, one of my best friends and I recently started speaking again after a 15 month hiatus.
Long story short, not so kind words were exchanged during a not so friendly text discussion about race and colorism. Looking back, the issue was extremely petty, however, we let other friends and family dictate how we should feel or what they would do if they were in the situation so we stopped speaking to each other and created this faux beef that really wasn’t there.
When we finally decided to have a conversation all we both ever wanted was an apology and picked up where left off. It could be the opposite, people could for example, want you to reach out to an ex that hurt you. They may think that the problem is not that serious and he/she is the right person for you so you should make up.
Don’t you dare! Whether you’re being melodramatic or not, it’s your decision whether or not you want to speak with someone again. Do not let people close to you push you back into a relationship that seemed amazing on the outside and extremely toxic inside.
He cheated, she lied, your brother took the last of the fruit loops, your best friend is now dating your ex, somebody didn’t pay you back, whatever the issue is, do not allow other people (even sometimes parents) to dictate your feelings towards your own issues!
Life is too short to hold grudges, true, but life is also too short to create reactions that aren’t genuine to your heart and following the opinions of others. Hold that grudge, secure your block list, and make decisions that are right for you and your heart.

The cardinal rules of friends with benefits

Justin Alvis | Columnist
You met he/she in your JAC 220 class and you decided to be partners for a group project. You meet up about three or four times in the library and you immediately hit it off and find yourself getting off topic to talk about various things.
They hit you up to come to their apartment to work on the project and next thing you know you’re in their bed and just had sex. Whoops. You still consider them a friend but you’re sexually attracted to them and continue to have occasional (and sometimes arranged) “accidents.”
 Urban Dictionary defines Friends With Benefits as: two friends who have a sexual realtionship without being emotionally involved. Typically two good friends who have casual sex without a monogomous relationship or any kind of commitment. 
You want to continue this special friendship but you’re not sure how to go about it. Follow my five cardinal rules to keep the sex and the friendship without losing your edges.
1. Set some rules
When you realize that this might be an actual thing, talk it out with them to make sure they are on board with continuing the fling with no strings attached. It will become extremely awkward down the line if you don’t establish a mutual agreement about this new relationship. Don’t be afraid to say what you want and what you don’t want. A good rule to start with is are you guys going to be exclusive? Is the other person allowed to have other sexual partners? Are you just going with the flow or are you establishing set days?
2. Don’t tell anyone
The first mistake you can make is telling someone about your agreement. Once you start to tell people that you’re a little more than just friends, the word will quickly spread and you just ruined the relationship. Tell no one not even your best friends. They may keep it a secret, but they will start to manipulate your mind into thinking you actually have a crush on the friend. Which leads me to rule #3
3. Do not catch feelings
Do not, under any circumstances, catch feelings for the other friend during this relationship. That will only make things awkward for them if the feeling isn’t mutual. You’ll probably also make them feel guilty because they’ll feel responsible for you catching feelings. Don’t try going through their phone, don’t worry yourself with who they may be dating or who you saw them talking to at 12-2. Y’all are just friends! In fact, to make sure you don’t catch feelings, make sure you keep options on your phone. You don’t have to have sex with them but maintain romantic connections outside of the fling.
4. Keep conversation at a minimum
I’m not saying you can’t be friends and share laughs or extremely intense pillow talks, but try to keep conversations outside of the bedroom short and friendly to avoid breaking rule #3. Once the fling is over, I doubt you’ll wanna be friends.
5. Have fun and be safe!
You’re young. Have fun with the fling and do not stress yourself out about it. You can end it whenever you feel like it and if the feeling is mutual down the road you can try and take it a step further. Always check in with the other person or try to feel their vibes. Use protection because it would be pretty awkward if someone got knocked up from a fling.

All This Alvis: Jenner or Gender ?


Justin Alvis | Columnist

On the morning of June 1, 2015 Caitlyn Jenner came out of hiding. 

She, along with her tight abs and abnormally large breasts, graced the cover of Vanity Fair in a full spread about her new life as a woman.

Caitlyn, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, is a courageous Olympic Gold Medalist setting a world record not beaten until 1980. Jenner became “an American hero” by winning an event long dominated by Soviet Union athletes during the Cold War.

She was the father of four beautiful kids, and the loving, caring, husband of Kris Jenner. Bruce was the people’s favorite on the E! reality show “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” as the quiet and adorable father who always made time for his children and was supportive of everyone’s dreams and aspirations, including his wife’s. 

However, once Caitlyn announced her transition, her loyal friends became her worst enemy.

People took to their Twitter accounts to display their anger, shock, excitement, support and disappointment. Her Twitter account reached one million followers in just four hours and she was the talk of all of the blogs.

Now, keep in mind, Bruce went on air with Diane Sawyer weeks before to announce his transition; but no one actually thought he was serious.

The social media world became divided. There were the people who could not understand why someone would want to change genders. People called him selfish for starting a new life and seemingly abandoning his family.

Then there are the people who refuse to even acknowledge her transition, insinuating that Caitlyn is just a confused, gay man.

Gender and sexuality are two different things. Caitlyn is a woman who is still attracted to other women, therefore, society labels her a lesbian.

Caitlyn’s transition officially sparked the real conversation on gender issues in America.

Despite the overwhelming support from her family and friends, America decided to spew their hate on her happiness.

Caitlyn’s transition completely erased all of her accomplishments, amazing personality traits, and favorite hobbies. Her existence has been diluted to her gender, when that is such a small part of her existence.

According to the American Psychological Association, In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added gender identity dysphoria to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). a diagnosis of gender dysphoria ensures that more services for transgender people will be covered by health insurers.

However, Caitlyn does not think she suffers from “gender identity dysphoria.” She knows herself as a beautiful, blonde woman who was trapped in a man’s body for a very, very long time.

Gender and sexuality differ from person to person; everyone identifies differently. There is no one “man”, “woman”, “gay”, or “lesbian”.

Who are you to tell someone they can’t identify as a woman? Who are you to completely disregard someone’s presence because they do not fit into your religious and social beliefs?

The irony is that people develop serious mental illnesses and even resort to suicide because they are denied their presence due to sexual or gender preference.

To diagnose her gender identity as a mental illness is America’s way of labeling something they cannot understand. And that is the real problem.

It is the reason why millions of Americans are afraid to properly identify their gender and or sexuality like they can identify their favorite ice cream flavor. Both of them you are born with, it just takes exploring and time to determine. It is the reason why some major publications have a “LGBTQ” sections and “gay” clubs are a category of nightlife. It is the reason why eventually “gender identity dysphoria” becomes “schizophrenia” or “bipolar” disorder.

Imagine living life as a social experiment and/or topic all of your life for something that is biologically a part of your existence.

Your job is to love, support, and understand.

So the next time you meet someone that is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer, understand that is not their existence and they probably do not want to talk about it.