The Blind Bicycling Isn't the Point

let's hear it for conversations that make people uncomfortable

ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.


I know I said last week that I might send you a bonus ROCK PAPER RADIO before today, but hear me out. Last Friday a story I’ve been working on since November(!) was shared with the world, which was followed by a whirlwind of feedback that has been so heartening and invigorating, but also a bit of a beast to keep up with. Also, the clown show of the impeachment hearing has been scrambling my general sense of reality. So here we are. Back to our usual schedule.

Here’s my story, from KUOW Public Radio and also all of my heart and guts: Whitewashing of Asian Students and a Report that Launched a Reckoning.

This feature is one part of a story that’s been brewing inside my brain for the last 11 years — seven as a teacher, four as someone still trying to make sense of a job that was both the most rewarding and most heart crushing work I have ever done. In other words, I’ve been waiting a long time to tell this story.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

If you’re available today (Feb 11) at 2pm PST / 5pm EST, I’ll be doing a live and interactive YouTube event to share a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to report on a topic that’s deeply wrapped up in who I am. It will be less heavy than it sounds! And perhaps a little weird. Click here at 2pm PST to join in live - and say hi in the comments so I can give our RPR fam some love.

Hope to see you later today.


As a middle school teacher, I learned early on that people become who we expect them to be.

If we tell the class clown who keeps derailing your Socratic seminars by saying the word ‘penis’ at random intervals (this is an actual thing that happens in middle school classrooms) that he has “behavioral challenges” and slap him with an Individualized Education Program and an ADHD diagnosis, guess what? That child will continue to share anatomy with the class during your lessons.

The thing is, what that student is doing is demonstrating leadership. Are they leading your class right off track, usually on a Friday afternoon just before winter break when you are at your most exhausted and impatient? Indeed. But leadership nonetheless.

That exact student, if taken aside and explained to that that same impulse to grab the attention and laughs of his peers can be used for good—that he is, in fact, already showing that he is leader, just might become the kind of thoughtful and enthusiastic debater that sparks magic during class discussions. This is not a theoretical, Pollyanna fantasy. This is a true story from my own classroom years ago.

This is a long lead-in to say, this is a glorious 33 minutes from NPR’s Invisibilia with Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller: Batman, Part I. It opens with rats, and ends with a reminder that telling people what they can’t do is a great way to make sure no one never surprises us. Oh, and there’s a bike ride and a hike in there too, featuring a complex and determined man named Daniel Kish who happens to be completely blind.



The theme of this week’s newsletter seems to be that humans are wonderfully complex. I know you all, as the misfit and unlikely optimistic subscribers of this mishmash dispatch, get that totally.

So in the spirit of this week’s vibe, here’s an amazing interview with Diego Garijoby by Tim Geyer for Vice: In the Ring, He's an MMA Fighter. By Night, He's a Drag Queen Called Lola.

And here’s the spectacular opening exchange:

VICE: Hi Diego, what hurts more: being punched in the face or having your legs waxed?

Garijo: Waxing is bad, but you know what’s worse? Breaking an acrylic fingernail. It’s a nightmare. As for punches to the face, they don’t bother me.

Careful of those manicures, even in lockdown.



That’s a wrap for issue 28, friends. Thanks for reading, listening, holding on. And gong hei fat choy, too! It’s the Lunar New Year tomorrow, which kicks off the Year of the Ox, a magnificent creature of hard work and steadiness. After this last chaotic year, let’s all welcome in the fresh start together.

See you in your next Thursday, if not later today on YouTube.


You can find ROCK PAPER RADIO on Instagram and Twitter @RockPaperRadio. You can help spread the word about our community of misfits and unlikely optimists by sharing this issue on the social medias with a comment that says HOW TO GET YOUR MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS TO STOP YELLING OUT “PENIS” IN CLASS. Or something like that.