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Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

I’m OK With Oppression, As Long As You Don’t Mess With My Television

July 16, 2013 9 comments

“Today, we have no political or national will to end injustice.” 

The problem with this statement is that there are people in this country who believe that there are no injustices.  Seriously.

But every issue we face as a nation, comes down to some form of discrimination and many just don’t see it that way.  Instead, most see our call of injustices as an excuse.

You can look through my Facebook timeline and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Growing up in a conservative, rural town in New Mexico, most of the families appeared to have the same things, same experiences. Disparities in wealth, health, etc existed, but as a young child I didn’t see it and no one was really there to tell me otherwise.  It wasn’t until I left for college and graduate school and my work with communities across the country the last fifteen years, that helped me to think critically and see injustices for what they really were.

Yes, we have choices.  But our choices are predetermined by who we are as a people because it is embedded in our society.  Not one person in this country can tell you what justice looks like, because not one person has ever seen it.  While people continue to internalize and justify racism and discrimination, we will never see it, at least not in my lifetime.

Our upbringing didn’t help us either.

During my EMERGE NM class this week, I learned something from our instructor, jona olsson.  It is something I’ve known for a long time, but I could never put it into words.  She couldn’t have put it any other way:

“we are expert scholars in the propaganda our parents taught us.”

Powerful, right?  I mean, really.  Think about that statement for a second.

Not to blame my parents for everything, but we’ve been taught so many things from generations before us, particularly on how we treat other people and how we’re supposed to be treated and we can’t seem to shake it. Thinking about it this weekend, I go back to comments and statements made by family and friends overtime, stereotypes they hold to be true, and it makes me angry. So angry, I choose to not surround myself around that as much as possible. But Saturday night’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial didn’t do anything to lessen this feeling.

The “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida is the dumbest piece of state legislation I have ever read (we’ll leave Texas law out of this conversation, because Texas is just another freak of nature).  The law is one thing we need to argue about, however to see people sit back and say that Travyon Martin, a young black kid, was not targeted and discriminated against by George Zimmerman, a known violent person and racist, is absolutely outrageous.  The verdict wasn’t so much the surprise, it was the shock and awe I felt from those who decided to come out in support of the murderer’s actions and characterization of Travyon Martin.

With the character assassination of the murdered child, the quote above brought it home to me the night we found out the verdict.  I knew George Zimmerman would not be convicted. I knew because 1) Stand Your Ground is way too broad and 2) our justice system in this country is jacked.  What I was not prepared for, however, was the utter carelessness of loss of life from those around me, especially from communities of color, who were ok with the verdict or did a *shoulder shrug*, like it was no big deal.  Some said, “get over it.”

Get over it?  As a person of color, we are devalued in our country because of who we are; the color of our skin, our language, what we wear and even our name, and yet we defend the system that is built to keep us oppressed?  What the “get over it” people did, was show me that once again, they have drunk the kool-aid of oppression. They actually believe that there is no such thing as injustice in this world and that we each have control of our own destiny and that those with privilege are actually good people and looking out for the best of us. Racism is over. GET OVER IT!

I remember a story my dad tells me and although he means well, when he tells it, it really infuriates me.  My father was a farmworker for all of his life until retirement over a decade ago.  During his career, he worked for a gentleman here in Lake Arthur, New Mexico, a farm owned by a family that my dad had strong ties to. To say that my dad was loyal, is an understatement.  He was so loyal that one day, one of the owners of the farm came by where my dad was burning weeds along the area where he was farming. The owner fell into the burning brush and my father jumped in after him and saved his life.  My dad insisted that this man go to the hospital while my dad stayed behind, letting his own burns heal on their own. The infuriating part about this narrative is that when my dad tells this story, he shares it in a way that makes him nostalgic for those days. You know, the good ole’ days? What he never mentions, or does not want to argue, is that his boss never provided him basic health care, he worked six days a week, from 6a to 6p, and managed acres upon acres of farmland on his own.  When he retired, he was so proud to have learned that his former boss hired three guys to do what he had done on his own!  For him and my family, this “built character.” Sure, it did! But the toll it must have taken on my dad physically. This story also reinforces this mentality that we we don’t deserve to be treated fairly and equally.  So when I bring this up, I’m told to not say more.

It’s just an excuse.

When you pass this farm that my dad managed for so long, it’s no longer the beautiful land he once cultivated. Instead, the land is unkept, without nourishment, and saddens my father each and every time he passes through. The owners of this land are now extremely wealthy, living off the money they made after selling the water rights to the farm my dad worked so hard for.

I love my dad.   I love him because he worked hard to make a better life for me and my family.  But his hard work also lead me to question the system and think critically about what and how we are treated.  We are two very different generations and we see the world differently. What he sees as loyalty and being a good hired hand and worker, I see as an employer taking advantage of a man and exploiting him to get what they could out of him.

When I tell my dad that this is an “injusticia” it aggravates him in the same way others treat the idea of injustice all across this country.

It’s just an excuse.

The murder of Trayvon Martin, the attack on women’s reproductive rights, the nativism we hear and see during immigration debate and the justification we make for “random” acts of violence are consequences of a misogynistic society.  We refuse to see it for what it is:  oppression.

Racism and discrimination may not be as obvious as it was in our history books for many American’s, but to say that it doesn’t happen, especially from people of color, makes it even more impossible to initiate a national or political will to make our society better.

It’s ok to talk about it.  It’s ok to say we have problems in this country and that we need to make necessary steps to figure it all out.  But I worry that we may have to go through a series of challenging events before the “get over it” group finally realize that they were wrong all along.

They came for everyone else and you didn’t care.  Who will be defend you when they come for you?

 

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Poor People: The Cause of America’s Eventual Demise and Why We Should Drug Test ALL OF THEM!

January 13, 2012 1 comment

Lately, I have been reading some disturbing things on my Facebook timeline, posts and comments by people I rarely talk to, yet wonder if I should continue following considering they have such a questionable outlook on what is really going on with domestic issues here in the United States.  Years ago, it would have been a random chain email (remember those?) from hard right conservatives, but in the last three years there has been a surge of “chain emails” disguised in updates on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media tools — specifically from “friends” I would never consider “hard right,” and publicly declaring their affirmation for what they post…which in my opinion is absolutely false.

The issue I am talking about is welfare and public services and all the misconceptions that come along with the issue.  I was utterly disappointed with the magnitude of comments I was seeing on certain posts, one in particular was a discussion on last year’s failed attempt by Florida Governor, Rick Scott, who signed a welfare drug measure in which all recipients would be forced to get drug tested before receiving services.  I find the array of diverse comments intriguing because, had they done their research, they would have known that 1) this measure was struck down as unconstitutional and 2) poor people are not responsible for the economic failures of this country, especially those recieving public assistance.  (Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has provided five myths of welfare you can read here)

Honestly, if I’d heard this discussion prior to just of a few weeks ago, I would have just ignored these people and moved on.  Why proceed with a conversation that you can’t convince the other side that they’re spewing false information?  However, today I am unable to ignore the topic because I am becoming more and more concerned knowing that these comments are no longer coming from just “bottom-dwellers” (that’s what I call a person who uses anecdotal evidence to make generalizations. I’m a liberal elitist so I’m allowed to label people) but from people we legitimize as prospective presidential frontrunners in today’s presidentital election.

Take New Gingrich, for example who just last month during his “surge” stated the following:

“Start with the following two facts: Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.”

If you don’t gasp out loud after hearing this, then stop reading this blog…like right now.  Seriously, Newt?  I can see this coming from the average joe at my office who would agree with this statement whole-heartedly, but a presidential candidate who was once the most influential person in Congress?  Believe me, I have very little interest in what Newt has ever had to say, but when you’re trying to become the leader of the free world and engage the working poor, you really think you’re going to get their support this way?  It’s not tough love, it’s a false generalization of a disenfranchised community and a long history of income inequality and racism.

The fact is that this particular comment is like many others provided by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rick Scott.  Just last week, another GOP presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, told a mostly white audience he doesn’t want to ‘make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.

While there are those within the general population who declare these affirmations to be accurate, I would like to say that not only are they wrong, but they’re also misleading others and making it extremely difficult to shift the conversation to adequately reforming the social services system and instead reinforcing stereotypes that are inappropriate and utterly false.

Yes, poor kids in poor neighborhoods should learn what it means to have good work ethic, but so should every other child in the country, but Gingrich’s theory that no money equals no morals is utter nonesense. Furthermore, let me throw this out there as well.  The poor should not be held responsible for the ills of a nation in a time of economic downturn.  The working poor should not be your scapegoat when you are trying to find “resolve” to your own personal financial strife.  Instead, what we should be focusing on are the overall issues attributing to this downfall and how they affect the entire nation.  The poor are not the culprits.

There is income inequality in this country.  Bottom line.

I get sick to my stomach when I hear people try to explain to me this idea that we live in a utopia and that racism and income inequality no longer exists and that people should suck it up and just work.  “If I could do it, they can too!” is what I hear on a daily basis.  Class warfare? Blasphemy!  Well, it is class warfare and if you, who represent the working poor and s0-called “middle class” defend the likes of the top 1% by demeaning those who have to utilize social welfare, then you are the problem.

I say this with so much angst because I feel that I have to constantly repeat myself because people do not seem to get that racism and income inequality continue to exist and until we admit this weakness in our country, our economic trials will continue.  No one uses racism and inequality as an excuse not to work, it’s a reality.

Last night, I watched an hour of CSPAN in which a panel discussed poverty in America.  The panel were obviously to my left of center, the usual such as Tavis Smiley, Cornell West, and Michael Moore.  The panel I find to be important figures in our society, but I don’t always agree with them on everything — except for poverty in America.  As someone who has experience in consumer protection and has seen countless families face foreclosure and be overwhelmed in debt, I could relate to exactly what they were saying.  Things like, “poverty is color-coated” and “boot on the neck of people of color” were things that were said and all important because they are true.  Most importantly, however was Roger Clay, from Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland who said that after researching unemployment rates the last 40 years, the unemployment rate in African American communities have never been lower than today’s 8% except for one time.  On average, African American communities have seen a 16.7% unemployment rate, the worst in three decades.  The lack of jobs in this country is astounding, but it’s also been an incredible disservice  to communities of color, who continue to see an ongoing struggle, yet our leaders do very little to bring this issue to the forefront.  According to Forbes contributor Joel Kotkin, even the middle class in groups of color are deteriorating.  “White households may have lost 16% of their net worth in recent years, but African-Americans have lost 53%, and Latinos 66%.”  This is the reality, yet we have people around us constantly attacking the poor as if they’re to blame.  Think about this.  The top 400 riches people in this country have the wealth of 150,000,000 people in the bottom income bracket…combined.  COMBINED!  How can you condemn the poor for needing to use public services when there is an obvious problem of income inequality in this country?

The following diagram clearly shows the average income per family, by income group.  If you’ve read this far, more than likely you’re not part of the 1% #justsayin

When people like those on my Facebook timeline post “facts” about how wonderful it would be to drug test welfare recipients, I’d like to ask them why they think we should test “those” people when it’s CEO’s and Wall Street we keep bailing out.  Riddle me that.


What is sad about this whole argument is that it’s usually those who are the “working poor” who defend the top 1%.  How is it that people like myself, struggling to make ends meet, would protect the rich as if it’s a noble cause all the while blaming the poor for what is taking place in this country today?

Why?

The only thing I can think of and I agree with others that have taken on this theory as well is that American’s still believe wholeheartedly that if they work hard enough, they too will become rich one day.  They too will someday get to be a part of that “American Dream” as we now know it.  And when you have people like Mitt Romney, for example, telling us that we’re “envious” of his wealth and President Obama and his supporters should stop attacking millionaires and billionaires like Mr. Romney, we have reached a low point in our country’s debate on income inequality and instead conforming to this idea that oligarchy is ok.

Monday we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and the  legacy he left behind, after his tragic death in 1968.  His life was taken too soon and as he accomplished so much for civil and human rights, income inequality and poverty were at the forefront of his next battle, a battle that still remains today.

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”

— MLK Jr.

Concerns about the welfare of our people is today just as much an issue as it was when Dr. King walked the earth and as a nation, we need to have a sense of urgency and realize that these inequalities exist and are a major threat to our democracy.  The future of the nation is at stake and unless we engage in a serious debate, to improve the lives of the poor all across the country, we will fail miserably.  But before we can do that, we…as a people, need to come to the understanding that the poor are not to blame.  The blame goes to those who we have allowed to take the power from us, the power to believe that anything is possible and that the “real” American Dream can exist.