Math+Life #25: Set in Stone?


Black, white, yellow, blue, pink, orange, red, green,

Small, large, medium, short, tall,

A color wheel of ethnicities and values,

which our society has immaculately broken into sets,

with ridged hard walls,

We treat these sets like little china dolls,

displaying them behind shiny glass,

never to be meddled with,

The sets are off limits,

The sets are categories of worth,

The sets are what subtly shape our society.


And of course there has to be more to these sets,

Some are ranked higher in worth than others,

Some have more elements than others,

Set A is deemed better than Set B,

A looks down at B,

A is expected to have an upper bound on B,

where the values in set A are greater than all the values in set B.


Even though not all elements in set A demean all in set B,

There’s enough in A to make B feel like they should stay in their box forever.


Society continues to manufacturer boxes and boxes,

Discriminate, categorize, label,

As if these boxes and sets are a brand we are pressured to create,

As if the packaging has to be perfect,

We continue to slice our communities with knives of prejudice,

We shove these broken pieces of discrimination and categories down others’ throats,

Until we all become robots to create the labeled brands and sets of china dolls.


Our habit of manufacturing and creating these ridgid sets can repress the truth,

The truth reveals there is more to set B than we thought,

Set A can consist of lower bounds too,

with certain elements in A which dip below the characters of B,

B might not belong in the dark hole we’ve stuffed them in,

Maybe they’re even greater than us?

Maybe set B was never a proper subset of set A,

Maybe they were just equal all along.


This can make us question;

Is this abstract concept of sets in society valid?

Is it worth it to have sets when their rigid walls can blind us from the truth?

Does it matter whether the truth is which set is “better” than the other, or is this evaluation unjust?


It may be difficult to think about or even admit this truth in society,

However, during times like these, where we scream for justice,

it is essential to do more than think,

We have to break these sets,

one wall at a time. 


Math Connect:

In math, sets are a collection of distinct objects and elements. Sets can consist of anything, from clothing items, colors to numeric values. For example, set A could be defined as [1, 2, 3], and set B could be defined as [3, 4, 6] or [hat, tie]. There are many different applications of sets in life. Let’s say there are two sets: A and B. If A is [1, 2, 3] and B is [0, 1, 2, 3, 4]. We can call A a subset of B, since it has all the elements that B does. Now, we say that a number in B has an upper bound for A, if that number is B is greater than equal to all the values in A. So for instance, the number 4 in set B, is larger than all the numbers in its subset of A which is 1, 2, and 3. Similarly, we say that a number in B has a lower bound for A if that number in set B is less than equal to all the values in set A. Sets can of course, get a lot more complex.

I connected sets to our society by talking about how we categorize groups of people often, that we often disregard who is actually present in that group (set). These labels we create blind us from the truth. These categorizes we create may be subtle and automatic, but the more we comply with these structures, the more we encourage others to do it. The categories can relate to ethnicity, race, gender, or anything else. I wanted to elaborate and convey a message of how we need to break these sets of society in order to find justice, especially in times like these. 

More information on sets:

Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 12.21.24 PM


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