RE: Laci Green taking the Red Pill

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!).

Continue reading RE: Laci Green taking the Red Pill

My (Working) Trump-era Reading List

Bold = finished reading!

Know Thy Enemy

  • The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump
  • Insane Clown President by Matt Taibi

Supercapitalism

  • The Nazis, Capitalism and the Working Class by Howard Zinn
  • Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders
  • Listen Liberal by Thomas Frank

Immigration

  • Dreamers (El dedo en la llaga) by Eileen Truax
  • No One Is Illegal by Justin Akers Chacón and Mike Davis

LGBTQ Equality

Housing/Homelesness

  • Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Environment

Reproductive Rights

  • Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  • Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis

Healthcare

Education

Worker’s Rights

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

Mass Incarceration

  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado
  • Guantanamo Diary

Holiday Charities and Causes

5495All 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.

Charity List:

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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.

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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.

EGPAF_4c

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!

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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_logoBecause let’s create a world in which we can all be kinder to each other.

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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.

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See you in court.

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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.

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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:

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.

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).

The Summer Reading List

Currently it consists of the remaining books I put down on a list a year ago.

Summer Reading List: Fiction Summer Reading List: Non-Fiction
  1. Wuthering Heights (re-reading)
  2. Le Morte d’Arthur
  3. 1984
  4. A Prayer for Owen Meany
  5. Fifty Shades of Grey (gave up on this one, no shame).
  6. The Winter King
  7. Wolf Hall
  8. Outlander
  9. The Name of the Wind
  10. The Return of the King
  1. Guns, Germs, and Steel
  2. The Rape of Nanking
  3. Beyond Outrage
  4. Things that Matter
  5. Human Genome
  6. Emperor of Maladies
  7.   
  8.   
  9.   
  10.   

Updated as of 9/25/2016!

To the Instructional Quality Commission, CA Dep of Ed

This is my public comment for the meeting concerning the changes in the sixth grade world history textbook. For more information, please check out South Asian Histories for All 

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I’m a recent UC Berkeley graduate and here on behalf of students from over 30 California colleges and universities who don’t want 6th graders learning that caste, a system that slaughtered thousands, provided social stability. We ask you to remove the sentence in Chapter 10, page 220, line 928, that says caste provided social stability and identity.

As an a upper caste Hindu American born who’s financially stable, I am here because what the Hindu American Foundation is proposing is against everything the California educational system has stood for.

Both California and Texas control the textbook market. The Texas textbook erases every reference to the pain and oppression slaves faced. And here we are surprised to see EDUCATED-people openly denying racism in America. We see politicians mock #BlackLivesMatter and deny the existence of filmed-police brutality

You can love your religion while still recognizing structural inequalities within it, I say this as someone from an upper caste Hindu family. Both my parents were able to secure master’s degrees and provide me with financial stability. They were aided by their caste privilege. I went through the CA public education system. But this isn’t everyone’s story, and I cannot in good conscience approve of children thinking otherwise.

We would never say slavery and racism “provided stability and identity,” and we shouldn’t say that about casteism.

Thank you, on behalf of students from 30 California colleges and universities.

The Future Ben Carsons

Rewind to two years ago: Summer 2014. “So, what did you think about the Supreme Court ruling this morning?” I ask in my biochemistry discussion. I’ve spent the past hour raging to my friend, a recent poli-sci graduate, via text.

Pin drop silence. People are confused: what was the ruling? I explain the Hobby Lobby decision. Most don’t seem to care: for now, the structure of the nucleotides will do. Everyone goes back to talking about the World Cup as I try not to throw a desk across the room.

This isn’t anything new. I’ve broached political topics to my biological-science-major friends, only for them to transform into deer in headlights. Yet, the fury on my end doesn’t fade away. When hearing the Hobby Lobby ruling, I am angry that someone would equate Plan B to an abortion pill. After spending hours in classes that outlined chemical pathways of the reproductive system, I can barely stand that such scientific inaccuracy was swallowed by judges, even in the highest court of the land. But here I am, in a room with the future doctors of the United States, and Brazil’s soccer team is a greater concern to everyone than reproductive healthcare.

Now I’m in quite a different scene: I’m living with thirty other UC Berkeley students and interning at the Mental Health Association. Sacramento was an intellectual shift for me. For starters, everyone at the Capitol Mall reads the news. Sure they might not understand the difference between alpha-helix and beta-sheet secondary protein structures, but they definitely don’t ditch the polls in June and November. Everyone in my cohort has an opinion on topics ranging from education to environmental legislation.  Within my organization, people are watching key legislation that merely changes a few words in Medi-Cal yet can have a fiscal impact of millions of dollars. Once a month, organizations ranging from hospital associations to advocacy groups sit down and discuss policy recommendations, including amendments to existing bills. Discussion remains energizing and fast-moving, especially when field-overlap occurs: how does mental health tie into K-12 education? Where can we do better within psychiatric care in the criminal justice system? How do we address the coefficient of homelessness in mental illness?

The downside to all of this? Only one other person in my political-nerd cohort had taken biochemistry.

It is inconceivable to me that individuals can rationalize entering healthcare without knowing the dynamics of the field; it’s the equivalent of taking a flight without packing. I still struggle to articulate my frustration without using expletives. Political apathy is what adds to the problem: it’s why lawmakers can write off tuition hikes, it’s why my high school demographics have flipped, and it could be how Donald Drumpf gets elected in November. Everyone got a taster of this when Benjamin Carson was running: he separated Siamese twins, got into one of the top medical schools, became an accomplished neurosurgeon, yet still managed to confuse Hamas and hummus. He received the mainstream media spotlight (and the mean tweets), but he’s definitely not the first doctor to fumble–and at this rate, he won’t be the last.

AMCAS tried to flip this around by adding Psychology and Sociology to the MCAT. Yet, we the pre-meds have found our way to best this by memorizing all the sociological terms and occasionally picking C as a last resort on multiple choice. Anyone can pick which political labels to identify with, but the bottom line is this: our government wasn’t structured to accommodate civic disengagement. There is a significant difference between not being able to afford time off on November 8 versus binging Game of Thrones instead of sending in a mail-in ballot.

If the recent legislative decisions regarding the Zika virus wasn’t a sign that pre-meds need to speak out, then the ongoing anti-vaccination movement should be. Voter disenfranchisement hasn’t disappeared–it’s only changed its shape; your vote is representing more than you might think. A biology class isn’t a requirement for filing for candidacy, but it is a necessary prerequisite for addressing healthcare. And that is where we come in.

 

Thoughts on the UCLA Shooting

To the professors at UCLA,

I say this with mixed feelings: today some of you have proven yourself to be exemplary educators. Despite issues with space reservations and timing, you chose to cancel midterms and finals and have students stay safe.

But many of you did not.

You told your students to get on a computer and complete their assignments. You told them that yes there was a shooter on campus but they needed to take their midterm first. You told them that class would resume as usual; the shooting was merely a disturbance, they would be able to resume classes without a problem.

Today I was reminded of an event that occurred on September 30, 2013. No, this was not the Isla Vista shooting. Gun control should be a part of this conversation, but this was not what came to mind. On that day, an explosion occurred on campus, setting the power out on campus. A few students were caught in the crossfire and received minor burns. Some students were stuck in elevators. Many continued on with midterms by using other light sources, even those on their cellphones.

But it didn’t stop there. The dorms were not serving food. They had no electricity or Internet, and all the academic portal websites were down. Yet professors were emailing their students saying that despite the power outage, midterms and papers would continue as normal. We were not told if we could return to campus until 5 AM the next day.

That night several of my friends were at my house. I was serving one dinner while others were frantically trying to get their assignments done so they could leave. That night I was unable to do work, trying to check if everyone was all right and trying to accommodate friends who hadn’t been given a grace period.

This isn’t a once-in-a-while shooting or explosion. This isn’t a new phenomenon, it exists, it is rooted and our culture and we have accepted it as the status quo: when a crisis happens, our mental health is disregarded as we’re told that our work outweighs our health and safety. I’ve seen students sending medical bills to professors, only to have their excusable absence rejected for a zero on the midterm. I’ve seen the influx of students at Tang during finals week for physical and mental conditions alike due to everyone abandoning their health for academics. I’ve seen students who’ve been sick for weeks but can only worry about their upcoming midterm instead of their health.

There’s something wrong with this picture. So to the University of California, I say enough is enough. Implement emergency protocols and ensure that faculty can put aside academics for safety. To student advocacy groups, please keep fighting for mental health; today was proof that we’re not close to where we need to be.

Tangled, South Asian Edition

My hair is quite interesting to say the least.

When I was a one year old, it fell in waves until my parents shaved it off. Curls followed and by age seven, my hair was nothing but a feather duster poof. That was when the single braid started; everyday my mother would enter my room, brush it out, and braid it into the rope that endured twenty four hours of running about.

There was no taming my hair (my mom would joke that it was a bird’s nest): frizzy strands of tight waves that would find a way to tie themselves up into knots. By third grade I had given up on any possibility of hairstyling; girls in my classes were letting down their hair and occasionally appearing with Princess Leia buns.

During Summer 2008, a relative introduced me to permanent straightening. Everyone was on board, as the comments I received were nothing but positive: “Straight hair suits you more”, “You look so much more beautiful with straight hair”, the list went on. I was bored of my single plait; I wanted to be able to wear my hair down for once! Finally, I gave into my insecurity and had it chemically weakened and flattened into sleek tendrils.

For the next five years, the cycle repeated itself: I would go to India over the summer, flatten my hair, and return to two months without bad hair days. Then the natural coarse hair that refused to disappear grew, resulting in a frizzy mess with straight ends. By the next year, my hair would be an amalgam of frizz and thin strands, forcing me to put it in a ponytail. Every year when I went to the hair salon, the hair stylist would tell me that my hair was “unhealthy”, and she would list off why: dry, coarse, not soft. I would sit for three hours and inhale substances, which in California would probably mandate a Prop 65 sign. All I would tell myself was that this was how my hair should be and that I was genetically unlucky; I could just do this for the rest of my life and spare myself some self-esteem issues.

But some point after Winter 2013 I said no. To this day, I still can’t recall at which point I cracked: the exhaustion of straightening my hair to maintain texture consistency or the increasing number of articles stressing how damaging the procedure was. Yet after that, all the dollars went to hair products and masques to ensure damage control. It took me over two years to grow it all back, during which keeping it somewhat in order required two hours of hair product and patience after showers.

My current hair remains a poof-ball. However, the last time I went into a haircut, I was told it was healthier. And I’ve learned the truth behind the myth: my hair is manageable and I don’t need to burn it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit to make anyone happy. True the shampoos on the mainstream market aren’t meant for my hair texture. But today, I’d rather have my frizzy nest than burning my scalp in carcinogens for three hours.

The lone shooter with depression

A week ago it was Planned Parenthood in Colorado. Yesterday it was San Bernardino. We’ve officially had more shootings than we’ve had days in the year, essentially equating to multiple shootings per day. It seems to be an endless cycle: media coverage, people propose solutions, victims are in everyone’s “thoughts and prayers” and then it ceases..until another mass shooting catches CNN’s attention.

And in between that time, Twitter explodes, people post those viral Facebook posts, and Congress passes nothing.  Most of them concern gun control laws, many offering condolences, a few criticize media coverage. Policy solutions are proposed by celebrities: stricter gun control laws, background checks, the usual.

And mental health inevitably enters the conversation. Donald Trump deemed the Planned Parenthood shooter a “maniac”. Paul Ryan suggested improving the mental health system to address the recent “tragedies” Legislation is proposed to encourage mental-illness based background checks , just like Amy Shumer did this summer. In their defense, it’s a convenient excuse—why else would people want to kill each other? Yet according to multiple studies 1, 2, 3, mental illnesses (ranging from schizophrenia to depression) were insignificant factors in determining propensity toward violence.  On the other hand, other co-variants such as race and gender play a more crucial role in establishing a causal association with violence.  Yet few speak up about how mental health is scapegoated as a cause of violence.

The worst part of this whole ordeal? No, it’s not the fact that a therapy visit could ruin your rights to buy a gun. Stereotypes such as these are precisely the reason why a mental health stigma exists. This is why teenagers are afraid to go to their school counselors, this is why despite resources, getting treatment is a convoluted mess. The fear of being perceived as “violent”, the fear of eventually losing employment or other rights due to a psychiatrist record on your health record (a HIPAA violation).

So how do we shift this? Simple steps include not coining the perpetrator in acts of violence as “crazy” or “depressed.” Our mental health services do not cause shootings—those are results of our culture. Also be mindful that mental illness is not synonymous with depression or PTSD (you wouldn’t use the phrase “physical illness” to describe both cancer and diabetes would you?).  Lastly, make mental health an open topic of discussion. The more often these conversations happen, the easier it is to pave the way for chance.

But also acknowledge hate crimes as hate crimes.  A culture that perpetuates entitlement over women causes a shooting near a UC. A culture that mischaracterizes a non-profit as “selling body parts” results in a shooting. Not a mental illness.