Disclaimer: This piece isn’t so much centered on Laci as it is the concept of debates these days. I respect Laci, and in this situation, I felt compelled to respond mainly because I’m concerned about the platform she is advocating. She argues for civil debates in her videos, so I am hoping this will be considered as such (if she ever reads this!).
Bold = finished reading!
Know Thy Enemy
- The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump
- Insane Clown President by Matt Taibi
- The Nazis, Capitalism and the Working Class by Howard Zinn
- Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders
- Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank
- Dreamers (El dedo en la llaga) by Eileen Truax
- No One Is Illegal by Justin Akers Chacón and Mike Davis
- Evicted by Matthew Desmond
- Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
- Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
- Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis
- The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid
Racism and Xenophobia
- White Trash by Nancy Isenburg
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis
- Islamaphobia and the Politics of Empire
- From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado
- Guantanamo Diary
A few days ago, I found myself watching a live video stream of the University of California Regents meeting. Assemblymembers gathered in solidarity with students and made commitments toward fighting for higher education. They agreed that tuition costs were excessive and promised to fight for students in the California Legislature.
Best part: all of them were Republicans.
I disagree with Laura Bush on plenty, but I cheered all the way when she said this:
The power of a book lies in its power to turn a solitary act into a shared vision. As long as we have books, we are not alone.
Not enough of my friends read, and it’s tragic. Reading is hands-down one of the best stress-relieving, knowledge-instilling, and relaxing activities out there. Yes, I’m still bitter that looking at your phone during a party is fine but reading a book isn’t.
So to the two of you who read this, my current reading list is here. I’m thinking of writing a “2016: Reading Recapped” post, but honestly, anything with 2016 in it sounds terrible.
|Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare||A Problem From Hell by Samantha Power|
|All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr||We Believe You by Annie Clark & Andrea Pino|
|Emma by Jane Austen||The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer|
|The Help by Kathryn Stockett||Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond|
|Maximum Ride by James Patterson||Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow|
|Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov||The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene|
|Dune by Frank Herbert||White Trash by Nancy Isenberg|
|2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark||Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild|
|Solaris by Stanisław Lem||The Depression Cure by Stephen Ilardi|
Dedicated to everyone who despises long articles regarding this subject.
If I had a shot for every time I heard this since election night, I would be on the waitlist for a liver transplant. Hell, even Jon Stewart echoed this sentiment, and it’s essentially dividing what’s left of the Democratic Party.
My response to this is simple: we need to rethinking racism.
We need to start acknowledging its existence. People who identify as white have been shown to think that racism is no longer a concern. We essentially live in a colorblind, racism-denying era in which laws no longer explicitly target groups of people. Yet novels, dissertations, college classes, and published studies prove what underserved populations have been saying for years: it’s far from over.
We also need to reframe it. Sure, not all Trump supporters use racial slurs, call Mexicans rapists, or attack a woman wearing a hijab. But witnessing an act of racism, being in a position to say something, and doing nothing…that is an act of racism. The people in the JCPenny video staying silent, the people on the airplane shouting “Bye!” at Muslims removed for speaking Arabic, the people at Fruitvale station remaining silent while police assault a black man for playing music on the train…this list is endless. And that is where the issue lies.
Trump wasn’t elected because of active racism, he rose to power because of indifference toward racism. Voters were willing to overlook his xenophobic-fueled policies for a promise of change. That willingness and that agreement to put others at risk for their own benefit is racism. Indifference towards racism is complying with racism. It is an act of racism by itself.
Our institutions encourage indifference. In third-grade, trying to break apart a fight resulted in suspension. Even my own parents encouraged me to “stay out of trouble” and turn a blind eye. Yet in an age in which hate crimes are rising and social media can potentially hold people accountable, indifference is no longer an option. Stop being a bystander and stand up for people. The risk of embarrassment and shame is nothing compared to the safety of another human being.
Anyways, my two cents. Let’s hope we can follow through for the next four years….
To Mutual Friends of Survivors and Assailants:
Have you taken the It’s On Us pledge? If you haven’t, let me reiterate:
To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.
To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
If your friend has been assaulted by another person you’re friendly with, chances are your situation is not uncommon. One out of five women will be assaulted in college. But so much of the survivor’s emotional and spiritual wellbeing is dependent on your response.
From here, there are two routes: stand with the assailant or stand with the survivor. There is no middle ground, and I mean that quite literally. Withdrawing yourself from the situation altogether enables the assailant. Acting as if it didn’t happen enables the assailant. Indifference and inaction both enable the assailant.
How so? A lack of intervention allows the impact of the assailant to continue without resistance. When it comes to physical and emotional violation, there is no neutral. Assailants turn friend groups against the survivor. They instill survivors with long-term fear. The list of emotional and physical consequences resulting from sexual assault is endless and varies on the individual.
So how do you support the survivor?
Believe them. DO NOT blame them in any capacity. No “what ifs” or “you should have done ____”. Stand up. Stand up for the survivor (and sometimes this means standing against your friends). Offer to help them, regardless of their decision. Do not pressure them to report. Support needs to be unconditional, not based on what you would do in the situation.
We can take as many pledges as we’d like, but what does it matter if we don’t follow through? How can we stop sexual assault if we can’t stand up to the people who perpetuate it?
If you want to support the assailant, then own up. The rape culture you perpetuated, the betrayal of the survivor, the damage you’ve committed, that is on you. And you need to accept responsibility for that, which most people in such situations cannot.
Our presidential-elect has committed sexual assault and bragged about it. For the next four years, we might be contesting our institutions. So rather than choosing the road more travelled, let’s remember the pledges we made all right?
All right everyone. It’s Holiday Season, and normally, I’d be chugging chocolates down my mouth, but this is 2016. Ditch your safety pins. It’s about time we put our money where are mouths are. Any donation counts, and of course, all of this applies if you’re in a financial position in which you can donate. But it’s surprising sometimes how easy it is to budget $5 from monthly expenses. Ditch the coffee, avoid buying drinks during girls’ night out, or save some of that holiday money for a great cause.
- Planned Parenthood: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/
Because reproductive health care is a human right, because maternal death is HIGHER in the USA in comparison with other developed countries even though we spend more money on it, because everyone deserves STI education, contraception, etc.
Oh and maybe because telling a woman what to do with her body isn’t cool. And that’s what we’re in for with a Trump presidency.
- End Rape on Campus: http://endrapeoncampus.org/
EROC is dedicated toward holding college campuses accountable and protecting survivors of sexual violence. One in three women and one in thirty men in college are sexually assaulted. This number might be higher as from my experience, the proportion is greater than that. It is time that we stop accepting the status quo that sexual assault shouldn’t be penalized.
- Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation: http://www.pedaids.org/
EGPAF has funded research toward pediatric AIDS and currently supports more than 6800 sites around the world. The foundation has started more than ONE MILLION individuals on antiretroviral treatment, regardless of whether they can afford it.
And the best part is, the efforts are pulling through. In 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that 1 million babies globally had been born HIV-free thanks to increased funding in fighting the epidemic. Elizabeth Glaser, the founder of EGPAF, not only challenged the inequalities that make up our health care system today, but she also signified the importance of never giving up.
But the fight is far from over. Every day, over 400 children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV, mostly through mother-to-child transmission. The good news though? Just a few years ago, that number was 900. We can get it down to ZERO!
- JED Foundation: https://www.jedfoundation.org/
The JED foundation is focused on promoting mental health care among college students. With suicide and depression rates rising in this demographic, this cause is more vital than ever. The website also offers free resources for students and faculty.
- Born this Way Foundation: https://bornthisway.foundation/
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/
NAMI has consistently lobbied and provided resources for better mental care. They’ve done so much research on this issue; I wouldn’t have had half the statistics regarding mental health on college students if it weren’t for them. So, so important.
- American Civil Liberties Union: https://www.aclu.org/
See you in court.
- Cal-PEP: https://www.calpep.org/
CAL PEP is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland that focuses on underserved populations: sex workers, MSM, populations who are stigmatized and usually refused healthcare, the list goes on. They’re a small nonprofit, yet the amount of programming and work they do is astounding. I’ve interned with them, and I can say firsthand that I’ve never seen a more hardworking staff. The Bay needs these types of organizations to keep communities at risk afloat.
This cause also matters to me on a personal level; having been in the Bay Area my whole life, I’ve witnessed gentrification and the population shifts firsthand. These smaller organizations are essential toward fighting this and providing low-income folks with healthcare.
- Lambda Legal: http://www.lambdalegal.org/
Lambda Legal focuses on the LGTBQ community and HIV/AIDS. They’ve been fighting for gay rights in multiple court cases and have been involved from the start. While I haven’t worked with this organization directly, a friend of mine has testified to the amazing work they’ve done.
Causes & Human Rights Movements:
- #BlackLivesMatter: http://blacklivesmatter.com/
Black folks are being killed for walking on the streets, playing with toy guns, sleeping, and purchasing cigarettes. In the past year, I have seen so many heartbreaking accounts of families losing people due to police brutality. I have seen local accounts of systematic racism, and even now, I feel incredibly helpless and sorrowful about the future. Hence, this is exactly why BLM needs support. They keep the momentum going.
- #NoDAPL: standwithstandingrock.net
I know, I know, it technically isn’t going to be an issue anymore. But keep your eyes out, a Trump administration can easily change that. Check the hashtag and follow AJ Plus on twitter (they’re hands down the best news outlet when it comes to this).
It’s been a rough month. Trust me, I know; I’ve been avoiding social media, and quite frankly, I wish the whole county could go electronic free for a bit. Yes, a bunch of your staffers lost your jobs a few weeks back. But if you think the past few weeks have been the worst in your life, I urge you to check your privilege. Half of all Americans have no wealth. If Trump takes away their health insurance, they have no safety nets, no social capital, no escape plans to rely on. They are the ones with more to lose. But not the point.
I’ve been reading lately. I read Hillbilly Elegy, I’ve been reading articles from both sides of the aisle, and I’ve been reflecting on the past few weeks. I’ve been observing the twitter accounts of legislators: Democrats and Republicans alike, and here’s what I think:
But first, I want to share a little life lesson down from memory lane. Every time I would complain about failure as a kid, my mother and I would have a discussion. She would point out the areas in which I could have done better and prompt me to focus on improving the next round. If I insisted that the test was unfair or that the game was rigged, she would give me an hour lecture about how “if other people found a way, so can you.” Yes, the Electoral College is outdated, disproportionate, unfair, and frankly needs some reform. But here’s the deal: it’s not why you lost.
Dems do not have the majority in the Senate, and you cannot attribute that to the EC or gerrymandering. Dems also are the minority in many state legislatures, and the GOP has control of most gubernatorial positions. Eliminating the Electoral College will most likely cause a difference in the executive branch of government, but it won’t hit the underlying issue: people are not voting for Democrats.
So why is this so? I’m going to cut to the chase: Dems are no longer the party of the working class.
The GOP has established its values quite thoroughly: family values, religious freedom, small government, more corporate liberties. In areas in which government operates poorly (which is a good amount of the USA), this is particularly appealing. The Democratic party, however, is in shambles. Wall Street money has infiltrated politicians, resulting in public rage and anti-establishment sentiment. Democrats have remained silent when to comes to issues affecting people-of-color, a significant part of their constituency. Where’s the outrage for #BlackLivesMatter and #NoDAPL? Of all my current federal legislators, only Kamala Harris has vocalized frustration by questioning our incarceration system. Evan McMullin, a conservative former presidential candidate, has called out Donald Trump more so than Senator Feinstein.
Even with a minority, the Dems have not mobilized their voters to the extent of the GOP. They need to echo our frustrations and propose solutions (ever wondered why Sanders gained so much popularity in the primaries?). They chose to use the filibuster only once since January 2015, and that was during June 2016, i.e. campaign season. Where was the filibuster when Planned Parenthood faced defunding? Where were you all when voter ID laws disenfranchised a significant portion of your constituency? Even the gun law they were advocating for during the summer was based on racial profiling; its actual impact would be minimal (hence why I semi-agree with Paul Ryan labelling the filibuster as a “publicity stunt”).
A quick look at my Twitter would tell you that I’m left-leaning, and I typically vote for Democrats. But I am not the whole country, and if the Dems want to gain majorities back, they need to start thinking about voter’s mindsets and needs.
To everyone who might buy this, expecting to read a series of Islamophobic incidents one after another, think again. “Muslim Girl” is not merely a memoir of a girl growing up in a racist, bigoted society. It is a narrative of Muslim women speaking up for themselves. It is clearing up misconceptions that arise due to media outlets and government officials talking over women. It is an argument for a cultural and philosophical shift that would explain why we carry a certain mindset and point of view. Most of all, it reflects true challenges of making such an intellectual change possible: institutional resistance and physical danger being a few.
Some background: I started following al-Khatahtbeh on social media networks after being a member of the audience at CGIU (Clinton Global Initiative University). She stressed the importance of Muslim girls dictating their narratives themselves, a message that (as a second-generation immigrant) strongly resonated with me. “Muslim Girl” presents anecdotes that provoke afterthought, one example being Amani’s family’s relocating to Jordan due to Islamophobia. Is this what the United States has come to and is this the country we want to be? Even in American high schools, we see whitewashed narratives dominate that frame events as black-and-white; our nation remains faultless in textbooks, despite the reality being quite the opposite. A few anecdotes from the Koran reveal how progressive Islam actually is–contrary to most media commentary— by encouraging discipline and compassion. But perhaps one of the most moving narratives was that of Muslim girls taking back their narrative into their own hands, and not just from mainstream media but from Muslim men as well. When Trump rambled about his Islamophobic policy, they chose not to actively cover him and give him more attention. When hate crimes increased as women wearing the hijab were targeted, they published a safety guide for women. As hate continued to increase, they sought to reconcile their individual differences and bridge gaps as a community.
And those stories delivered the most uplifting motif of the book: a sense of hope for the future.