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We have to talk about white privilege

tim-wiseBy Nicholas Evangelista

One of the major leaders of the anti-racism movement is a privileged, white male.

Let the irony of that statement sink it.

But it is true. Tim Wise is an author of the book White Like Me, and is a well-known activist who has had countless appearances on television. And at CCSU’s Bridging the Gap: A Dream Deferred event on Dec. 10, he made some great points that really stuck out to me.

  1. The very fact that he is a leader for this movement is ironic.

Even he knows that this is not how it should be. As paraphrased from his speech:

It is still easier for Universities to get me to come here and talk about these issues. We must continue to have these talks until a woman of color, for instance, could stand at this podium and say these things and more, and be taken every bit as serious as I am going to be.”

This is an important point. Why is it that a white male like Wise should be the leader in this? Of course, it is good for someone like him to be able to come out and admit that he has privilege. I am a white male, too and I am every bit as privileged as he is. But me coming out and admitting that does not solve the problem alone.

The truth is, we need to take the issues seriously. We need to stop pretending the issues don’t exist. People are talking to us, but we need to learn to listen.

  1. Race and poverty are tied together.

This is an obvious statement, but one that needs to be said again and again and again. We live in a system that abuses people and impoverishes people so that the rich can get richer. Race almost is less of the reason, and more of a result. The truth is, people of all races and ethnicities are suffering. Right?

Not exactly. While it is true that not all white people are wealthy and successful, there are still major disproportionalities between white and colored people. Being white means that statistically speaking, I am more likely to have a better education, more likely to have better jobs, and therefore more likely to make a good living. Even if that does not mean that it is true for everyone, it is still overwhelmingly true statistically speaking. Not only that, but African American men are significantly more likely to go to prison, and to serve longer sentences, even though they do not commit crimes at any worse rate than that of white people.

These disproportionalities are due to a structural system that is designed to keep certain types of people in place so that other types of people can stay in power. The simple fact is, white people start at an advantage, so it is no surprise that that is where we tend to finish.

  1. Having privilege does not make you a bad person, but it is to not abuse it that makes the difference.

Being white does not make someone a villain. Privilege simply means that you benefit from the system that you are born into. This is purely by chance–you do not choose where you are born. You have no say in your ethnicity, gender, or social class at birth. But by using your privilege to gain upward mobility, or even to stay at the top, could make you a perpetrator of the system.

Wise used an analogy of moving floors in an airport to explain privilege:

“Those moving floors are the advantage you get, and even by doing nothing you still move forward. We need to stop, and step backward. Only by moving backwards can we head towards equality.”

This is a difficult step for many people. Admitting and accepting that being indifferent is not good enough can be difficult. After all, we all just want a good life, and to be able to take care of our family. If it were right there in front of us, why wouldn’t we take it?

But that is what compassion is about. It means not taking for yourself when you can see others who are in need. It means that even though you are in a position of power, you choose to help those who are below you, and to think of them first.

And this is especially hard to do when we are all so separated from one another. This was the last major point that Wise made, which impacted me. White men–myself included–do not know enough about other people’s lives. We do not see what they see. We are, for all intents and purposes, blind to it. The action we need to take is to see. We need to open our eyes and see the abuse and turmoil that many people live through because of no fault of their own. This is what racial inequity is. It is a system that is rigged so that certain people win, and others lose for no reason other than how they were born.

And it would be truly despicable to stand idly by and let this continue.

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

 

 

Employer of Last Resort

WPA pic 1
Source: History.com

It seems so simple.

Unemployment is high.

The strength of our American infrastructure is low.

Yeah, it seems so damn monumentally simple to connect these two elements and benefit everyone (not just the unemployed). We did it before and we can do it again.

Back in 1939 (when the dinosaurs roamed) a program was implemented by the president at that time, Franklin D. Roosevelt called the Work Progress

Source: Wikipedia.com
Wikipedia.com

Administration. This program attacked two major problems of that time; unemployment and the lack of a descent infrastructure (sound familiar?). From the time of the program’s inception until its demise (1935-1943)  it ultimately provided  some 8 million jobs. Oh, and it did more than that! By putting  people back to work this program restored their dignity and their  faith in their government as a entity that does care about their safety and well being.

On the news we are constantly reminded of the failed health of our

source: wheresmy jetpack
source: wheresmy jetpack

economy and of our failing infrastructure. Oh, I’m sorry,  what do I mean by infrastructure?

Well, the infrastructure is our roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, railways, and anything else essential to our health, wealth, and economy. With that being said, how can we explain not investing in our people and our home?

We may see the homeless and unemployed on our streets but do we see the shear neglect and disrepair of our streets? Boom! Put it together people. Its the ole “two birds-one stone theory”. We can fix two problems

source: Brookings.com
source: Brookings.com

with one solution, get your federal and state legislatures to lobby (yes, i said that bad word,lobby) for a new New Deal. Instead of spending money on fixing other countries, tell your representatives to FIX US! Next year will be voting time so, catch the politicians’ ears while they are listening. Tell them our people are hurting and our roads are hurting, Fix Us! Think about it.

submitted by Braxton Gray

When Unemployment hits close to home

When Unemployment hits close to home

The national unemployment rate is misleading and it’s used as a political ploy. The media loves to state how much the unemployment number has “dropped” down to 5 percent, a significant reduction compared to the Great Recession numbers of 2008, which were more than double that figure.  What isn’t factored into that number are the countless millions who are so hopelessly out of work that they’ve given up looking for employment.  My father falls into that category.

My father was laid off in 2012, after 40 plus years in the printing industry.  His company had to scale down their workforce to keep their bottom line in check, and who do you think was first on the chopping block? Employees who were the closest to retirement age, of course.  Why keep a workforce on with higher accrued salaries when you can just hire kids right out of college and pay them an entry-level wage, which they’ll gladly accept.  This man, who worked his butt off to provide for my mother, myself, and my two sisters all of his adult life, was promptly given the boot and sent on his merry way.  This Navy veteran, who fought for our country during the Vietnam War and sacrificed time away from his family to keep our borders secure and the American people safe.

And how has our country re-paid this man?  By treating him like another expendable number.  To watch my father apply for job after job, and either not receive a call or e-mail back, or go to the interview only to be told he’s over-qualified. (Translation: You’re 62 years old, and 3 years from retirement, you think we’re going to hire you?)  To watch him make countless calls to the unemployment office with no new news or have to file extensions just to stay afloat.  To have him and my mother rely on her part-time job and their credit cards just to get by month after month.  I don’t think I can ever truly express into words how much that has pained me to watch them endure that or the disgust I feel towards our government.  Luckily, they both turned 65 this year and are now on Medicare and are receiving their pensions.  But my mother will most likely continue to work part-time into her 70’s to supplement their income and wages that they’ve lost.  But hey, Big Government, that’s the American dream right?  Why don’t you stick those unemployment numbers where the sun doesn’t shine, be truthful to the American people, and come up with a solution for the unemployed in this country.

Kevin Hayes

 

The Problem With Super PACs

Source: bloggingwhileblue.com

Have you ever donated money to a political party or candidate? If so, how much was it?

Certainly it wasn’t $32,042,855. It couldn’t have been $16,000,000.

Welcome to a political world dominated by Super PACs. So what is a super PAC? What purpose do they serve?

The website, opensecrets.org, offers an explanation.”Technically known as independent

Source: motherjones.com

expenditure-only committees, super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates,” the site states.

Super PACs are a very recent phenomenon. Two landmark cases directly led to their creation.

In 2010, the rulings from Citizens United v. FEC, and SpeechNow.org v. FEC,  allowed individuals, corporations, or unions to donate an unlimited amount of money to independent expenditure only committees.

The ramifications of these court decisions could be immediately seen. In the 2012 elections, $828,224,700 was raised by super PACs. $305,014,588 has already been raised for 2016. This number is almost guaranteed to surpass the total from 2012.

Under federal law, an individual cannot donate more than $2,700 to a presidential candidate. Super Pacs directly undermine that law, as donors can donate unlimited amounts to these influential groups.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Money donated to super PACS goes to advertisements and other factors that help candidates get elected. This is all considered OK because super PACs are, “Prohibited from coordinating their strategies with candidates.”

Super PACs are undermining the very concept of democracy. They directly allow the wealthiest people of this country to influence elections.

That’s a bold strategy, considering income inequality in this country is at its highest point since 1928.

Who are the politicians more likely to listen to? The billionaire who donated millions of dollars to a super PAC that supports them? Or the person who cannot donate any money because he/she works 50 hours a week on a minimum wage?

It’s time to rethink super PACs. Is this what the Founding Fathers really had in mind when they helped forge our nation?


By: Jackson Rioux

Homeless at Home–The Homelessness of the Indigenous People of New Zealand

About one year ago, I had the luxury of visiting the incredible and beautiful island of New Zealand. It was an amazing experience which gave me a tour of the North Island. The whole trip made me wish I had been born there so I could spend my life living like the natives do.

But the real natives of New Zealand do not live what I would consider a happy life at all.

The indigenous people of the islands of New Zealand are known as the Māori. And they are of the highest homeless and impoverished demographic of the entire country. 

There are structural and personal implications that lead people to being homeless, no matter where you are. In New Zealand, the Māori are victims of colonialism and the Māori ideology of individual responsibility. This is similar to poverty in America, especially with the false belief that anyone can pull themselves up by the bootstraps and become wealthy if they try. Many do try, every day, and still have no upward mobility.

The personal implications arrive through relationship breakdowns, when a person is no longer in contact with anyone who can help them. This stems from the overarching problems of drug misuse, family abuse, and mental illness that is rampant in the modern Māori society.

I met with Dr. Hodgetts from the University of Waikato to talk about Māori homelessness:

“Homelessness to the Māori is often seen as a choice rather than a lack of options. We need to look at it that way too if we want to understand their situation.”

He talked about the idea that many of the Māori did not want to be helped. It was incredibly hard to find these people, to build relationships with them, and to finally convince them that they need help. Even when they are helped, they often eventually revert back to living on the streets.

“They call this feeling Mokemoke–meaning dislocation or loneliness.”

Many of the homeless Māori today still believe that they must take care of themselves because the Europeans who settled in their land are considered “guests”. They do not ask for help because they feel that this would make them poor hosts.

Although most of the people in poverty in New Zealand are from a European background,  over half of the homeless are Māori.

By Nicholas Evangelista

Spent

About a week ago I played “Spent”  a computer game that attempts to simulate the experience of the working parent with a limited budget. You start out with $1000 dollars and very few assets to assist you. Your job with a single decision can turn sour with switching your method of payment. In order to survive for just under a month I was forced to cut corners by choosing not to receive medical treatment for injuries and taking loans from friends. At points the honest decision was not the most viable decision. The choice of paying the driver of car a you accidentally rear ended or driving away with you son in the back to save a few hundred bucks wasn’t an easy one. Life as it was forced me to miss key moments in my son’s life in order to make rent or improve our quality of living . One aspect of the game that I wished they delved into was the emotional strain of life coupled with the physical and psychological burdens of work and finances. It certainly showed me what I might have to do in these situations. And though I don’t plan on having children the scenarios are all the same applicable.

Vampires and Zombies

Vampire and Zombie

Even though we have just emerged out the season of trick or treating along with its hosts of ghouls and goblins, we are still able to catch real-life “scary movies”  starring such villains as the team of Racial Intolerancecartoon vampire and Wealth and Income Inequality. These two constructs are presently (and always have been) sucking the blood out of American society so, the Word-Sword has dubbed them Vampires.  

We in American society whom have fallen under the dual effects of Intolerance and Inequality 461924e0c4545db9193fb159_640_zombiesonly to have to shuffle through our daily existence as sometimes little more than “the walking dead” thusly have been dubbed as Zombies. 

Now the story unfolds as the societal blood sucking constructs of Inequality and Intolerance use their formidable weapon of divisions between the races, income levels, and genders to weaken and kill the practitioners of Capitalism there by turning them into their minions of Consumers (Spoiler Alert : All serve the almighty 1% ).

The story progresses through time while the Zombies of society fight to regain their humanity as they try to cross the perilous  canyons of wage and wealth disparities, inequity in housing and services, and inequality of occupational compensation along the lines of race and especially gender. The walking dead pass signs proclaiming  such useful understandings as “Get Up, Get Out and Do Something!’, “Knowledge is Power”, or the more simply stated “Wake Up!’. Do the Zombie 99% heed the call to arms of these messages? Some do, some don’t. Some even make it across the Racial, Wealth, and Income Inequality canyon in such good shape that they can also become societal bloodsucking Vampires themselves and feed upon the life’s blood of their former comrades at arms.

 

The final chapter of this “scary story” has not yet  been written (at least not as of this telling) but, we do know that more and more of the 99% societal  “walking dead” are indeed waking up and demanding not just life but a better life of equality. Think about it and have a Happy Thinksgiving.         Fight the Power pic

 

Submitted by Braxton Gray

Dishonest Math: The True Unemployment Rate

One of the main goals of the White House is to reduce the unemployment rate. When it came out in the news that the unemployment rate is 5%, many people celebrated the news. However, this claim that the unemployment has been reduced to such a low number has been found to be false.

long-term-unemployed

Turns out, many of the people who we may label as unemployed are not even counted into the percentage. If you haven’t worked recent weeks, or worked just an hour a week for lower than $20, you’re not counted as unemployed. That leaves the mind to believe there are so much more people who are unemployed than we are being told. The problem is worse than we thought.

Income and wealth inequality is already a huge issue this country faces, however, how can we even begin to discuss income inequality when there are millions of people who don’t even receive one? Finding and landing a job is tough, especially when there aren’t enough jobs available.

The unemployment rate doesn’t factor in people who work part-time, the people who have become small business owners, and even the people who simply stay home and receive benefits from their spouse. There are a lot of cases such as these that aren’t collected by the current metric of measuring the unemployment rate.

According to an article titled “How To Fix the Unemployment Rate”, posted by INC.com, there are easy steps to take to accurately measure all the people who are unemployed, such as, instead of asking a person if they have a full-time job, instead ask “”How many hours did you work this week in a revenue-producing activity?” Changing the way we measure unemployment will start giving us real numbers, and thus allowing us to find real solutions to this problem.

By: Jesmarie Disdiel

The Gender Wage Gap Exists

 

Gender Gap with men on one side of abyss and woman on the other
Gender Gap with men on one side of abyss and woman on the other

It’s not news that women get paid considerably less than men, especially if you’re a woman of color. In 2014, it was stated that women who worked full time in the U.S were typically paid just 79 percent of what men were made. Why is this?

The gap has narrowed over the decades, but the fact that it still exists is an issue. Women of color get the shorter end of wages when compared to white men and women, although the gender gap is smaller for women compared to men in the same group.

wage-gap-race-infographic

This gender wage gap affects women of all races, education, and fields of work. In latest news, Jennifer Lawrence wrote in an essay that even she, a very successful female actress, gets lower pay than her male co-stars. Income inequality affects everyone.

Less pay an hour, less salary, means that women will make a lot less in their lifetime than men will. How can someone raising a family on their own ever make a reasonable living in this country? It’s about time women receive a raise.

Today, women have increasingly become more educated than men, however, this has not reduced the wage gap by much. Critics of the issue blame the gap on majority of women choosing lower-income jobs such as education, but statistics show that this rebuttal does not hold. Women who had the same careers as men were proven to be paid less than them.

How can this wage gap be closed? Companies need to commit to paying their workers, either man or woman, fairly. Equal work deserves equal pay. Women need to fight for their right for equal pay and learn how to better negotiate with their employers. Congress needs to make policies that force employers to follow the law of equal pay.

By: Jesmarie Disdiel