Category Archives: American dream

A Snapchat nation won’t work

black-lives-matter-1By Signe Lambertsen

“Black Lives Matter,” white privilege, income inequality, campus unrest, unemployment rates, drug-related arrests and jail time, are but a few of the topics that guest speaker Tim Wise unfurled at the audience during this year’s CCSU “Bridging the Gap – A Dream Deferred.” The event was the culmination of this past semester where many  CCSU communication classes  focused on (among other things) the above-mentioned topics. Having continuity in the overall subject matter gave us students the opportunity to engage in critical thinking and prolific discussions all across campus.

Wise’s speech lasted over an hour and he then engaged in more than an hour of questions. The time flew by.

Wise began his speech with an admission that, even after his more than 25 years as an activist for racial equality, he, “shows up in these spaces in full recognition that my body fits this aesthetic of being a white, middle-aged male,” often speaking to an audience that is not. “It’s not lost on me that I’m the one standing here. But until we give weight and breathe to a black woman who can say what I am about to, with more validity than I can ever possibly have, we are not free.

Somehow, stating the fact of his “whiteness” allowed us, the audience, to recognize and acknowledge that we also entered this event with our own biases. It seemed to allow us to settle in to his topics without assuming that he was focusing his rhetoric from the point of view of a white male but rather as a well-researched, long-term activist who articulates often difficult subjects nationwide.

Many of his topics revolved around privilege – specifically white privilege. By definition, white privilege is “a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people’s conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country.” “The biggest problem with white privilege is the invisibility it maintains to those who benefit from it most. The inability to recognize that many of the advantages whites hold are a direct result of the disadvantages of other people, contributes to the unwillingness of white people, even those who are not overtly racist, to recognize their part in maintaining and benefiting from being white.”

Speaking as a white female and a self-proclaimed anti-racism advocate, I found myself clapping and sometimes cheering as he poignantly wove his rhetoric into a memorable storyline. I took notes of quips that I wanted to look back upon as I continue my own quest of understanding what being “white in the room” means. But over the past few days, as I really started thinking about it, I can’t help but remember how he labeled us “a Snapchat nation, whereby our attention stays focused for about 10 seconds and then is completely forgotten.” That is how we deal with history. Nothing he said is new but, as a white person, I have the privilege to pay attention at will. My goal is to do better than that – for myself, for my children, and for my nation.

Safe in our Matrix bubbles

By Kevin Hayes

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, United States, July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1KTWT

Tim Wise is an anti-racism educator, philosopher, and author of “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.” First and foremost, he is one of the most eloquent and powerful speakers I have had the privilege of listening to. Among the topics he touched on was how discrimination was viewed through the eyes of a white person vs. a black person, the recent and on-going backlash against Muslims, the Economy, and even a nice reference to how our lives can be compared to the movie, “The Matrix.”

At CCSU’s Bridging the Gap: A Dream Deferred event on Dec. 10, Wise touched on the recent “Black Lives Matter” protests that have arisen in recent months in the wake of police shootings against young black men. These demonstrations are the culmination, a “perfect storm,” if you will, of years of police misconduct and racial disparity. For example, when Wise discussed racial profiling among police officers towards minorities, I could sense from many folks in the room that they had experienced this at some point in their lives. Of course, there has been a backlash against the “Black Lives Matter” protests, mostly from white folks. They have responded with their own protests stating “All Lives Matter,” and that there shouldn’t be a disconnect between Black people and the rest of the population. But, as Wise pointed out, the majority of people against the movement have never experienced the level of discrimination or hatred that Black folks have faced.

Wise also mentioned the ongoing mistrust and hatred toward Muslims in the wake of the Paris attacks. This issue has only been antagonized by folks like Donald Trump. He has publicly stated that we should no longer allow Muslims into our country for fear that similar attacks will occur in the U.S. So he is essentially making a grand assumption that all Muslims could potentially be terrorists and therefore, don’t deserve the right to freedom from their persecution and disparity from their war-torn country.

If this isn’t discrimination on a grand scale, I don’t know what is. Wise related this way of thinking to the Civil Rights movement, where the advocates against the movement thought that Blacks were inferior to whites and therefore didn’t deserve the same rights and privileges as they received. Does separate water fountains/bathrooms ring a bell? This kind of rhetoric has no place in our society.

He also touched on how the U.S. Eeonomy is predicated on low wages, and is essentially rigged for the few, against the many. A good example of this is how Walmart profits from the low wages they provide their employees. This company that is worth billions, can’t even pay their employees a living wage. Most employees have to rely on food stamps to subsidize their income. And on top of paying them meager wages, Walmart again gets to profit from their food stamp utilization at the store (12 million a year).

That’s another example of a greedy corporation getting rich off of the suffering of others.

Finally, he made a comparison to how most of us live our lives like the movie, “The Matrix.” We like to stay within our safe “bubbles” in our own lives and fear venturing out of these self-made safety nets out of fear of experiencing and witnessing the true suffering and disparity that many face. This equates to taking the blue pill and going about our daily lives, happily oblivious. He challenges us to have the courage to take the red pill and see what’s really going on in our world. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Volunteer at a soup kitchen; donate clothes to a local thrift shop…it doesn’t take much to make a difference in this world. Truer words were never spoken.

 

To find ourselves

By Jalen Manzie

imgres-3Are you the type of person who takes action when you notice injustice taking place? Or do you like to talk about injustice, but don’t care about how other people survive as long as you are good?

Americans  know about income inequality and choose to brush the uncomfortable feeling to the side because it does not directly affect them due to the color of their skin. A big part of why so many Americans are living under these terrible conditions is because 1 percent of the population who just happen to be white earn the majority of the nation’s income.

That is only part of the problem. In addition,  billionaires are not recycling  money to the rest of the population. Instead, they make sure the money finds its way back into their pockets, thus ensuring future success for their families.

Income is the amount of money you earn on a yearly basis after taxes while wealth is  your assets that are able to increase in value over time. If you don’t have a steady income, then it would be harder for you to purchase things such as a house or to make stock investments.

People of color are being held behind  by the progressive and regressive taxes that play a  role in a family’s income. For some families, their taxes increase when the payer’s income increases, which basically a good way to keep one’s lifestyle stagnant. The more you earn, the greater percentage of taxes are taken out. On the other hand, a regressive tax actually increases as the individuals income decreases which in fact makes them move backward financially.

These situations have a way of reoccurring for those living under the poverty line who seem to never catch a break. It is one thing to be poor and Caucasian, but it is another to be a person of color, and broke because people would think twice about helping someone of color before helping a white man. Things are even harder for women, especially women of color. Knowing that women make up half of our work force and are only paid 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man is degrading and disrespectful.

I always hear people talking about how amazing America is and how it is the land of the free and home of the brave when in reality we are slaves to the government and corporations running our nation. We don’t do anything but sit back and accept what is given to us as long as we are earning enough money to keep the lights on and food on the table. There is always talk on how to make the world a better place and ending poverty for good, but I believe that if we want to find the true essence of what it is like to be free and have equal rights for people deserving of it, we must find ourselves first.

A Solution to the Wealth Inequality

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And by poor I mean everyone who isn’t part of the 1 percent. Wealth allocation in America has become so inflated and one-sided that the elite 1 percent own 50 percent of America’s riches. Americans have had to endure this corrupt economic model for years.

Enough is enough.

Here are a couple of ways to remedy the mass inequality and even the playing field for all.

The wealth gap between middle class workers and grossly overpaid executives is outrageous and yet these average employees are still paying higher taxes. The government’s duty is to serve the people, therefor they should alleviate inequality and poverty by instilling a fair tax system that cuts down on the top earners and helps build up the bottom. In order to cut down on inequality, wealth redistribution is essential. With that said, a progressive tax should be imposed on all in order to better reshape this country into a fairer nation. Under progressive taxes, those who earn more are taxed higher and those with less income pay less in taxes. The economic resources gained from the tax cuts on the rich could be put to use by using it on improving public education, medical research and other societal functions. During World War II, President Roosevelt put forth a 94 % tax rate for top earners. Since then, the U.S. has experienced decreased progressiveness in its tax policies over the years and as a result income inequality greatly increased by allowing the elite access to capital.

While the methods and ideas brought up may not be the solutions that will ultimately fix everything, something must change! All we want is just a fairer world to live in.

-Quenton

 

 

Who Will Save The Middle Class?

With income inequality on the rise, middle class earnings stuck, and more people being forced to rent because of lack of money, the middle class has been stagnant for years. Before the financial crisis of 2008, the U.S. already took first place for containing the highest disparity of wealth in the industrialized world. Since then, the gap between the wealthy elite and the remaining 99 percent has only worsened with those in power now in possession of over 70 percent of all monetary assets. With the 2016 presidential elections rapidly approaching, can any prospective candidates offer this change?

When it came to economics during the Republican president debates, the worries of the middle class were largely passed over for other topics. During this time, I only counted three times that the phrase “middle class” was spoken. Whenever the topic of the middle class became the focus of discussion, the candidates seemed intent on trying to one-up each other with bigger tax cuts that only benefited the already wealthy elite.

On the other hand, Democrats mentioned the middle class eleven times. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has solidified her campaign around gaining benefits for average working class families: increasing child care support, decreasing the cost of public college costs, and demanding required paid leave. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has spent a considerable amount of his campaign blasting the one percent, saying that “we are living in a rigged economy where 57 percent of income is going to the top one percent; it is immoral and wrong that the top tenth of one percent in this country own as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.” To save the middle class, Sanders wants to create more well-paying jobs, tax the rich, and overhaul systems that spread inequality such as our current criminal justice system.

-Quenton

The Gender Wage Gap

Women comprise half of America’s workforce. Yet oddly enough, for every dollar a man nets, women earn roughly 77 cents. How is that just? How can something so one-sided exist in a progressive society such as the U.S.? The gender wage gap is a massive hindrance to a woman’s equity and chance at the world. Even right here in Connecticut the gender wage gap is alive and well. As a matter of fact, Connecticut holds the widest wage gap out of all the states in the Northeast, with the city of Fairfield containing the leading difference. Good find.

In the U.S., more than one in three women live in poverty or are hovering around it, and four out of ten kids living in poverty belong to families that only contain a sole female parental guardian looking after them. Too many of these lone women are dealt with numerous responsibilities and surmounting odds: paying rent, figuring out a way to earn money and still find time to spend with family, scraping up enough money for presents, etc. How are they supposed to face these challenges and provide for their loved ones with lesser wages? With these conditions, are they supposed to?

When single mothers take on the responsibility of providing for the welfare of their family, something has to give: their hopes and aspirations. Dreams are cast aside, sometimes forever, to make sure that there is a roof above their kids when they are sleeping. Still thinking of pursuing a degree at a college? How can you with health care and child care breathing down your neck? It’s ironic that for a nation that was built around the American Dream, many of its female citizens have to sacrifice that right because of an archaic attitude that still sadly exists today: inequality.

-Quenton

Does it Matter?

I wrote this keeping in mind all of the recent locations and people we have met that are champions and heroes that are leading the battles our communities are facing each and every day.

 

Does it Matter?child homeless

Does it matter that mothers are afraid to send their children out to play?

Does it matter we treat another shooting as just another day?

Does it matter that we turn our heads away

As someone is being beaten or stolen away?

Does it matter whether we know them or care enough

To draw attention when others are being too rough?

 

A homeless man sits covered in snow early on March 25, 2013 in Washington, DC. A messy Monday is in store for millions along the East Coast, with winter weather advisories warning of a mixture of snow and rain for Washington, DC, Philadelphia, metropolitan New York and parts of northeast New Jersey. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Does it matter that the cold weather will be blowing in soon,

And some people are trying to figure out which underpass to call home?

Does it matter that these people try their best not to steal,

But can’t figure out another way to get their child a meal?

Does it matter that these same children, with parents trying their best,

Are expected to study, stay focused, and especially pass the test?

 

Homeless_2_-_Rosie_O'Beirne

Does it matter that the guy who sits in the alley

You know the one – he makes weird noises and calls you “Pally”

Tonight starts the weekend and everything’s closed

So he’ll make his way to the emergency room ‘cause it’s all he knows.

His demons chase him all day and all night

He’s lonely, he’s afraid, and by the way, he’s losing his sight.

 

83EC1784-8031-4192-90A0-95279D887DEE

Does it matter that there are people out there

Who just want to help … they really do care?

Does it matter that money and funding of programs to help

All too often gets shuffled or stuck in “red tape?”

It’s no longer time to sit back and get angry,

Find it in yourself to ask, “Does it matter?”

 

By Signe Lambertsen

Where Will The Middle-Class Go?

Less people are buying houses these days as a result of the increase in home prices. But those who do end up as homeowners are able to prosper because of the equity from their house. As more people rent and less people buy homes, the benefits of owning a residence are going to a smaller select group of people and thus contributing to the wealth inequality in the U.S.

Expensive housing helps spread of economic inequality. Over the past couple of years, the costs of purchasing a house have skyrocketed. In San Francisco, middle-class families are only able to purchase 14 percent of homes located there.  Slowly, the middle-class is disappearing. The distortions in housing ownership by the middle-class and wealthy are due in part to the growing divide in income inequality. As income inequality continues to widen, those with greater wages will be able to buy more when trying to obtain a house. As a result, this intensifies the cost of houses and contributes to the wealth inequality across a town. The high rate of income and house owning costs of New York is an example of this effect.

The concentration of wealthy households in an area segregates social classes and contributes to the erosion of the middle-class. Because of particular schools, jobs, and neighborhoods, families will flock to a particular area and add to that region’s wealth with their income. Unfortunately, other areas are left to languish and worsen as crime and lower housing levels drive people away. This leads to a societal class divide in the town and ultimately a future with an increased economic inequality. Unless something changes, the current housing wealth inequality situation is only going to worsen as concentration of housing wealth increases in the near future.

-Quenton

The Friendship Service Center

Homelessness is a chronic problem that has been affecting the New Britain area for decades. Fortunately, there are many prominent organizations tasked with the noble goal of providing aid and care to those with no place to call home. One such association is the Friendship Service Center, which has been offering services to those in need since 1968 when Father Joseph Farrell opened the very first Friendship Center to help those with rampant drinking problems.

“Today I’m opening a storefront Friendship Center. You folks know the location well – it’s between two package stores. We’re going to show the needy that nobody is a nobody in the eyes of God. I hope this work will grow and grow and be of as much help to as many people as possible.”

It’s from these humble beginnings that the Friendship Center has developed into an organization that is able to give shelter to the homeless, assist those with drug abuse, and ultimately offer a future to those in need where they are acclimated to society and living on their own successfully and independently.

Early in October, I went to the Friendship Center on Arch Street as part of a class trip to meet with some of the team members working there and talk with Executive Director Ellen Perkins Simpson where she shared some insight into her organization and mission. She went into great detail about how individuals staying at their housing units receive intense case management. There are weekly check-ins to see how they are faring in their apartments. Some of these clients have been living on the streets for years (some for over 10 years), so workers at the Friendship Center guide them on cooking, cleaning, and obtaining jobs, with the eventual goal of getting them to live by themselves independently. Visiting the Friendship Center was an eye-opening, yet hopeful experience. It was comforting to know that the team’s methods of rehabilitation worked and that several homeless people now lead very successful lives.

-Quenton

A First Person Shooter with a Dose of Ayn Rand? Count Me In!

In 2007, videogame Bioshock was released to wild critical acclaim and helped dispel the notion that videogames were merely playthings. Not only was it praised for its cinematic storytelling and moody setting – an underwater Art Deco utopia called Rapture- but it was hailed as a masterpiece of the game industry because it made one think. This wasn’t your typical mindless first-person shooter. Bioshock grappled with heavy philosophical questions, taking massive influence from Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, to create a game like no other.

Ken Levine, the creative mastermind behind Bioshock, has cited Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged as a paramount influence. Rand’s magnum opus distills her philosophy of Objectivism into literary form. Objectivism is, in her own words, “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Essentially, it’s the belief that each individual holds the right to seek out happiness and live out his or her life to its full potential, free of restraint.

Atlas Shrugged portrays a world where its best and brightest have all retreated to a sheltered paradise for themselves, leaving civilization to decay into anarchy. Bioshock depicts a similar setting where one man creates an underwater haven called Rapture, a city molded by the principles of Objectivism and inhabited by the world’s elite scientists, artists, and thinkers where they are free to continue their work unrestricted by the societal limitations of the world.

While both works portray a utopia for free-thinkers, Bioshock demonstrates what happens to a society fueled by Objectivism: desire and greed runs rampant and power struggles tear the city apart. Bioshock places players into the aftermath of an idealized dream, now a living nightmare. Won’t you play?

-Quenton