Politically Correct is Respect

If I had a nickel for every time someone deemed me as “too PC,” I’d be a very rich woman. Political correctness basically means that, before you open your mouth, you consider how your words will impact others (i.e. racism, sexism, etc.). You’re thoughtful, and you realize that words are not simply a meaningless conglomeration of letters and sounds.

Of course, nobody’s perfect. Most have, at some point in their lives, made a problematic comment that they probably regret. But imperfection is never an excuse to perpetuate oppression. Because we were all socialized in a racist, cishet patriarchal society, it’s important to constantly check and learn from one’s behavior. We have a collective responsibility to create a world that recognizes the full humanity of all people.

Being “politically correct,” though, is generally not celebrated nor encouraged. Typically used as a pejorative, the phrase “PC culture” has been routinely implemented to delegitimize marginalized populations’ experiences and efforts to dismantle oppressive systems. Although we generally think of conservative, right-wing public figures as the main disparagers of political correctness, white, male, liberal individuals also use this damaging rhetoric.

Jerry Seinfeld made headlines a couple years ago for vowing not to perform at “PC colleges.”

“I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me: ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC,’” he said. “They just want to use these words: ‘that’s racist,’ ‘that’s sexist,’ ‘that’s prejudiced.’ They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

Apparently Seinfeld, a rich, white man, is the arbiter on what constitutes as racist, sexist or prejudiced. College students, many of which are people of color and women who experience racism and sexism on a daily basis, know what we’re talking about due to lived experiences those with privileged identities simply cannot relate to.

Additionally, Bill Maher, who has consistently opposed “PC culture,” recently received criticism for having Milo Yiannopoulos on his show Real Time with Bill Maher for normalizing the former editor of Breitbart, a right-wing media company known for publishing racist, sexist, transphobic content.

Language is central to how we see ourselves, others, and the world around us. Words have consequences. They can be used for good—creating a healthy dialogue meant to advance social change. Conversely, language can also reinforce power structures. Offensive rhetoric that targets marginalized populations should be viewed as unacceptable and harmful, not simply a difference of opinion.

Trump’s Address to Congress 2.28.17

On the evening of the last day of Black History Month, Mr. Trump stood before the joint houses of Congress to deliver his speech. Starting off, he condemns the anti-Semitic attacks and the drive-by shooting of Indian immigrants. He says that, while politics may be divided, the United States stands together when it comes to the heinous acts of hate. Trump then goes on to give nationalist-tinged rhetoric about America’s readiness to take her rightful place in the world.

He addressed the crumbling infrastructure he hopes to rebuild, later mentioning the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. In his speech, Mr. Trump claims that he will create tens of thousands of jobs, which is true; however, these jobs will only be temporary, and will end when the construction of the pipelines is completed. He says that he will end the crisis that faces inner city children of Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore, then says we must address the influx of drugs and people over our borders. With this being said, he again affirmed that a wall would be built along the southern border of the United States.

In combating the threats from outside the U.S., Trump also said he wished to continue the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, which is why he introduced the “improved vetting procedures” that culminated in his travel ban. He also claims that he wishes to work with Muslims specifically in the fight against ISIS, which seems strange coming from the man who introduced a travel ban for those from several primarily Muslim countries.

Trump turns to jobs and the American market next, saying that he will most definitely bring back jobs. However, he doesn’t introduce any real plans to do so. He also says that the tariffs that other countries have on American goods are ridiculously high, so there must be change. If he is suggesting higher tariffs for foreign goods, that could hurt our market, because other countries will also raise their tariffs on American products.

He moves to immigration next, saying that a merit-based system would be in the best interest for America. Mr. Trump also restates his intent to roll back the ACA, his support for Devos and her school choice plan, and the law enforcement of the U.S. His plans to expand the military defense budget are also discussed, as well as more of the “unifying” theme he seems to present throughout the speech.

In his speech, he presents a long list of things he’d like to do, but the actual implementation of them remain up in the air. His vague calls for “unity” and putting aside “trivial” differences seems to belittle some of the very real issues that have divided people throughout the country. While newspaper outlets have called this speech “surprisingly presidential” for Mr. Trump, that is more of a criticism than praise, considering the shock that comes when Mr. Trump actually seems like he might be taking his job seriously.

Stick to Your Day Job

“This is about the time, when I start talking about politics, that the internet trolls tell me to stick to my day job–so I’d like to talk about my day job. My day job is as the chairman and the co-founder of Thorn. We build software to fight human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.” said Ashton Kutcher to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Feb. 15th.

We know him as Kelso on That 70’s Show, or maybe as the host of Punk’d. We do not question his authority on stoner comedy or celebrity pranks. So why, when we discover that Kutcher also plays a leading role in combating human trafficking, do we ask that he stick to boob jokes and prank calls? Why should celebrities have a say in issues other than new fashion trends and diet fads?

We consume more media every day than we may even be aware of. Some days, college students hear more from the stars of their favorite Netflix show than they do from their parents. Celebrities tell us what lipstick to buy or what shoes to wear. Their songs affect our mood and their social media posts affect our timelines. Prominent figures have voices of varying influence in the lives of thousands, and in some cases millions of people. Now, with so many issues coming to national attention as we combat an oppressive White House administration, those voices can change the way we think about social justice and equality.

In February 2016, Tomi Lahren emerged as a well-known conservative figure when she critiqued Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show, saying that the use of Black Panther imagery in Beyonce’s performance of “Formation” was “not about equality, [but] about ram-rodding an aggressive agenda down our throats and using fame and entertainment value to do so.” Lahren is not necessarily wrong; Beyonce did wisely use her own staggering fame and new catchy tune to spread a message. From Lahren’s perspective, that message had no appeal. Lahren has never been a woman of color in a white man’s world. Yet to the young black girls who grew up in a country that treated them as a second thought, Beyonce’s message of black female power was encouraging. With this performance, Beyonce told women of color that they are worthy, strong, and absolutely unstoppable. Beyonce realized the platform she had, and used it to empower black women on a national level. All while working her “day job”.

A celebrity is, by definition, someone who is widely known. What they do with that influence is up to them. Some shy away from the responsibilities of having an amplified voice in a rebellious society. Yet others understand that it is a part of their “day job” to influence the consumers of media. We are all have different parts to play in today’s tumultuous political landscape. What if those cast in the starring roles didn’t deliver the lines needed to resolve the conflict? How would we ever be able to understand the perspectives of others and work towards a resolution?

Civil Discourse Isn’t a Lecture

As usual, the UNC College Republicans are hosting an event about free speech. Can I just say that if I was politically ignorant and didn’t know what traditional Republican beliefs were and I was solely basing it off the College Republicans, I would think Republicans only care about being anti-political correct and protecting hate speech. Anyway, I digress.

So Dr. Mike Adams is coming to campus next week. He’s a professor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He studies sociology and criminology and is a self-proclaimed liberal….interesting.

In the past, Adams has posted things on his Facebook page such as “the only thing more disgusting than a jihadist Muslim is a pro-choice Muslim” and “let’s make it illegal for doctors to mutilate the genitals of the mentally ill. That would resolve the whole hb2 thing”.

Last week, UNC College Republicans wrote a letter to the editor of the The Daily Tar Heel basically saying Adams is a cool guy and the UNC community should come hear him speak.

Here’s my issue. I don’t care that this guy is coming to campus. Come, speak, whatever. But the problem is he is solely speaking, not engaging. He is going to come here, spit his rhetoric about why being politically correct is a joke, probably offend the LGBTQ community, and maybe entertain some questions from the audience about how to deal with being the only republican in their class.

I don’t want to go to that. I don’t want to attend a lecture by someone who is going to shit on my beliefs and then not even going to give me a chance to explain my opinion? That isn’t discourse, it’s a lecture.

If I wanted to engage in civil discourse, I would grab have an actual conversation with someone who has different viewpoints than me. Hint: this doesn’t necessarily have to be a Republican but for the sake of this article let’s pretend it is. We would grab coffee, talk about ideology, talk about political institutions, and try to figure out how we came to develop what we believe. Talk about the experiences and identities we bring to the table and not invalidate them. Listen to learn, not to respond.

If I go see Dr. Mike Adams, is the coffee scenario the kind of civil discourse I will get to engage in? Probably not. And there is the main problem. Sure, I could go to this lecture and ask a question challenging him, but that is not an environment I personally want to be in. I don’t want to ask a question and instead of him answering it, he tries to invalidate me and my opinion. Just like a Republican probably wouldn’t want to come to an explicitly Democrat speaker event and challenge them and then get embarrassed by a room full of people that have pre-conceived notions about you and your party.

The way I see it, I wouldn’t go to this event to engage in civil discourse. I don’t think being surrounded by people who don’t agree with you is the best way to have a conversation. But I would go to gain a different perspective. To hear different opinions, and then maybe discuss them later one on one with someone I did feel comfortable having this conversation with. I’m all for leaning into discomfort, but that discomfort needs to turn into growth.

I guess my point is, UNC College Republicans, own up to what you are doing. If the tables were turned and UNC Young Democrats hosted this type of event would you come? This isn’t civil discourse, this is a lecture to engage in confirmation bias. To have someone confirm what you already believe is true. If you want to engage in civil discourse, have an actual conversation.

A Call to Educators During Trump’s Administration

Another day, another controversial Trump action.

On Wednesday, Trump announced that he was taking away protections of transgender students from using the bathroom designated for the gender they identify with.

I’m not concerned about Trump, I’m concerned about schools. I’m an activist, of course I’m going to fight this. If a school is being transphobic towards its students, I’ll protest, send letters , call representatives, whatever it takes.

But I can’t be in school with these kids. I can’t keep an ear out in their classrooms and make sure their not being bullied. I can’t be an active bystander and get them out of a threatening situation. I can’t be their teacher and let them know that regardless of how I feel about their identity, I care more about their capability as a student and a human being.  

I can’t do any of that, but educators and students can. Even though these protections are being messed with, schools still have the power and freedom to allow students to chose to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

So, educators, principals, guidance counselors, students, we’re looking at you.

What were you doing for transgender students before this? Barack Obama put the protection of transgender students until Title IX during his time in office, did you help protect that? We all know that just because something is a law doesn’t mean it’s always enforced, especially in the education system.

Brown v. Board was passed in 1954 and schools under the law had to be desegregated, yet schools didn’t really start becoming integrated till the 1960s. Why? Because educators didn’t care that it was the law they felt it was morally right that black and white students didn’t go to school together. Or, if they didn’t feel this way, they were silent and complicit and rarely challenged their schools so they implementation would occur faster.

So, I’m hoping you in 2017, we are not repeating the mistakes of history. We are not letting our personal moral beliefs stand in the way of a child’s education. I hope you are not silent and complicit if you see a transgender student being bullied or discriminated against. We need educators to be self-aware. Who are you protecting, and at what expense are you protecting them?

Even Betsy DeVos, the highly controversial new Secretary of Education, thinks taking away these protections is a bad move. DeVos did not support this decision and wanted to make sure that schools were doing their part to make sure that bullying and discrimination would not be tolerated.

School is a place meant for learning and growth, not hate and terror. Make sure you are doing your part to ensure that school is a safe environment for every student.

Homophobic Hip Hop

If you’re like me, the release of Migos’ new album was the highlight of your week when it came out, and you’ve been blasting it ever since. At the gym, in your car, walking through campus; it really doesn’t matter, because the album is consistently lit enough to get you through any part of your day.

Following the release of their album, Migos interviewed with Rolling Stone, during which the interviewer asked how they felt about iLoveMakonnen coming out. Apparently this was news to Migos, and there was an awkward silence before Quavo expresses his surprise. Even more, they express distaste with the fans and others who supported iLoveMakonnen’s decision, with Offset saying, “This world is not right.” Along with many others, Migos seem to believe that not being cisgendered and heterosexual undermines the credibility of a hip hop artist.

This attitude is not at all new to hip hop culture. While some artists have been accepted in mainstream culture recently, for the most part the hip hop culture and lifestyle is seen as incompatible with anyone whose identity lies outside of gender norms. This credibility issue continues to come up, with even artists that say they support LGBTQ artists not wanting to have ties with them. When giving statements supporting the LGBTQ community and the artists that identify with some part of it, straight hip hop artists often preface their support with, “I’m not gay but…” Why is this qualifier necessary? Why is hip hop so determined to separate itself from certain groups of people?

Some artists don’t believe hip hop culture will ever fully accept LGBTQ artists in their ranks, because, according to an interview with Snoop Dogg, it’s such a “masculine” genre. Migos themselves have often raved about the diversity of hip hop in Atlanta, yet cannot reconcile the idea that diversity can include personal identities about sexuality. With hip hop lyrics often littered with slurs about gay men, artists who don’t identify as straight men are often disinclined to be real about their sexuality, in fear of losing “credibility” in the hip hop culture.

In a Vulture article earlier this month, the writer posits that rejecting the idea that anyone who is not straight can be a “real” hip hop artist is simply bigotry used to protect the hierarchy in hip hop culture. To be a “real man” means certain things, and for the most part, hip hop doesn’t seem inclined to work to change that.

There have been a train of artists working to provide more inclusion for LGBTQ artists in hip hop. Many, like Jay-Z, have changed their tune concerning old lyrics spouting homophobia, apologizing for them. The recent uptick in artists coming out has forced many hip hop artists to grapple with their own homophobia, and if they are still going to discriminate against artists, and other individuals, who don’t fit their idea of a “real” hip hop artist. While hip hop has often been used as a tool of social activism to fight against injustice, it seems that a glaring blind spot has existed with LGBTQ rights, and will most likely exist for a long time until many more artists within hip hop work to change that aspect of culture that discredits artists who aren’t straight men.

 

For further reading:

Snoop Lion Talks Homosexuality in Rap Music, Frank Ocean’s Coming Out

Migos’ Wild World: One Night Inside the Studio with ‘Bad and Boujee’ Trio

Rap is Less Homophobic Than Ever, But It Has a Long Way to Go

How Homophobic is Hip Hop in 2016?

Has Hip Hop Outgrown Homophobia?: A Timeline

From A$AP to Jay Z: 15 Hip Hop Stars Who Think Homophobes are Muthaf*ckers

An Honest Discussion with a Black Cop

When I went home for Thanksgiving, I was ready for the relaxation, food, and fun with my family. I didn’t think that I would end up having deep conversations and debates with my family members, specifically my uncle. My intentions were never to have any type of conversation; it was Thanksgiving after all and we were supposed to be enjoying each other’s company. However, my uncle and I began talking.

To preface this, my uncle is a cop. He came in with a blue lives matter wristband. At first, I was a little defensive. Of course, cops need to be protected as well, but at the end of the day, the blue comes off and the skin they are in remains. The black skin my uncle is in remains. I’m as nervous for him to be out doing his job as anybody else. He’s a good cop and great at his job, but there’s still forces outside of his control.

I asked my uncle what he thought about all of the cop shootings that we had. His opinions were ones that stuck me. Not in a negative way, but in a way that had and continually has me thinking of how everyone can do better. My uncle is a corporal, which means he sometimes train the new recruits.  He recalled a story of when he was with a recruit that did a horrible offense.

My uncle decided this particular recruit was not feasible to be pushed through to the next level of work, so he wrote it in his report. The next week, the same recruit had been pushed through anyway, even though my uncle had specifically said in the report he would not be good on his own. For the next couple of months, that recruit had been demoted and pushed through time and time again for breaking the rules or doing something that put others in danger.

My uncle explained that the police force is looking for quantity over quality. They need people, regardless of how good or bad they might be. Sometimes it’s not as simple of having good cops and bad cops. It’s not that the good cops aren’t doing anything. It might just be that there are higher ranking police officers pushing people through who aren’t trained well enough to have a gun and a badge. While my uncle is saddened by the shootings, he hates the narrative that the good cops aren’t helping because they are. Citizens, especially protestors and activists, just can’t see that part.

On the other side, we talked about the black community and what they are doing wrong in this situation. Don’t get me wrong, he was not defending these senseless shootings, but we did talk about how the black community is locked up on a much higher basis than the white community. Black people, especially black men, are being locked up for the same crimes that everyone else does. But why is this so? My uncle discussed the dynamic that happens when black people get caught repeatedly. Something most people know is that most of the black men in jail are there for non-violent drug offenses. If a person gets caught one time, the judge considers this your first offense and the sentence, if there is one, will be light. As a person continually gets arrested for the same offense, the punishment gets harsher. The importance of knowing and recognizing this by everyone is extreme.

We have to have a discussion about both of these situations that are happening on a daily. We have to create a dialogue between police and the communities, especially the black ones, they are supposed to protect. Everyone needs to work together to make their communities better. We have to stop calling for good cops to speak out because they genuinely might not be able to. Police precincts are still filled with politics just like everything else. Everyone can benefit from information from the other, so let’s sit down with our officers at the local precincts and have an honest, open discussion.

Terrible, Yes, and Not Great

With the current rise of the Alt-Right movement, we’ve sadly been hearing the name “Hitler” a lot more than the average person would hope to hear that name. Similarly, many people have drawn starch parallels between the new Trump administration and Hitler’s Nazi regime, which has instigated heated debated. A few times during these arguments, I’ve heard something along the lines of “I mean Hitler was evil but we can’t deny that he was still a great leader!” First of all, yes we can, Secondly, this idea comes from the false narrative that is often taught in high school history which leads us to believe that Hitler single handedly convinced an entire German population to turn against Jews. A narrative that is often taught in schools as something we should be impressed by. A narrative that is not only false, but also very dangerous – particularly in relation to discussions about our current administration. With the following information, I hope to convince you that Hitler was NOT, in fact, a good leader at all.

  1. Hitler was not a great leader; he was a great manipulator

Hitler did not SINGLE HANDEDLY convince the entire German population to turn against Jews. Hitler didn’t create anti-Semitism in Germany. Germany had a long history of discriminating against Jews that dated back to before Hitler was even born. With the economic devastation that followed World War I, Hitler exploited this culture of Jewish discrimination to deceive the German people and manipulate them against a common enemy, which he then used to rise to power.  If someone who lies well is the current definition of a good leader, then that explains our current administration.

  1. Germany’s “economic miracle” under Hitler was not so miraculous

Many argue that under Hitler’s economic policies, unemployment dropped and the economy was on its way to revival. This is significantly exaggerated because women were not calculated in the unemployment calculations which drastically distorted the numbers. Additionally, under Hitler’s new policies, unemployed young men were given an alternative: either get a government job or be forced into a concentration camp. So, of course the unemployment numbers seemed low but it was an illusion created by Hitler so he could use it as a propaganda ploy to further manipulate German people against Jews.

  1. Hitler lost the war and he lost it really badly!!

If you want to say Hitler is single handedly responsible for something, it’s the death of 3% of the world’s population. Hitler provoked a war which killed over 60 million people!! And after all this?? HE STILL LOST THAT WAR! Even when he knew he had no hopes of winning, he continued to escalate the war and endangered the lives of the people that he’s supposedly so good at leading. Furthermore, instead of surrendering, he killed himself and never took responsibility for his actions, as any true leader would!

  1. He actively constructed and instructed the genocide of 6 million people… for no reason

This one shouldn’t need further explaining.

Street Harrassment

Eyes straight ahead. Keys firmly clutched in hand, pepper spray ready. Headphones in, music on mute. Keep walking. Stay brisk—don’t slow down.

The sun is setting. Franklin Street is suddenly bathed in a warm, glowing light. You allow yourself to briefly relax, a moment to take in the picturesque scene before you. A male pedestrian asks you a question.

Ignore. Continue walking. A group of women across the street catch your eye. Cross the road. Walk behind them.

Finally, you arrive at your destination—you can breathe, a sigh of momentary relief before you soon must leave again.

This script is repeated over and over and over again, no matter the time or place.

Go out in groups.

Carry a pocketknife.

Always stay alert, never let your guard down.

Check, check, check.

If someone attacks you, it’s because you missed something. A slip-up. You’re targeted with questions.

Why’d you wear that?

Can’t you take a compliment?

Why were you out so late?

When arriving at UNC-Chapel Hill, incoming students are told that Chapel Hill is the Southern Part of Heaven—a safe, fun, inclusive haven where you can freely learn and grow. For many students, though, this promise rings hollow.

This insidious, constantly unsafe feeling in public spaces is characterized by street harassment—sexual harassment in public spaces, including catcalling, stalking, touching without consent, etc.

Street harassment is incredibly prevalent. In a study conducted by Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment organization, and Cornell University, researchers found that 29 percent of those who shared their experiences of street harassment on Hollaback!’s website were physically touched in a public space without their consent, while 57 percent were subject to verbal harassment.

On college campuses, harassment has other implications, too. The threat of street harassment often will dissuade women from studying in a library late due to fear of walking home late at night, negatively impacting academics. According to Hollaback!, 67 percent of students experienced harassment on campus, 61 percent witnessed another student being harassed on college campus, and only 18 percent of students had not experienced or witnessed harassment on campus. Hollaback! Also found that a staggering 46 percent of students said harassment caused disappointment with college experience.

I can recall multiple times in which I simply decided to remain in my dorm to complete assignments during the evening, even though I focus significantly better in a quiet, studious library—a choice male students, specifically cis, white, heterosexual men, rarely have to consider.

Women and other marginalized folks should be able to freely exist and move around in the world without fear of potential bodily, mental, and emotional harm.

If We Ignore Institutional Racism, will it Actually Go Away?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of the teen from Memphis, Tennessee who stood up to her racist parents and earned herself a crisp $35,000+ right? If not, here is a quick rundown: a teen from Memphis stood up to her parents because they were against her having a black boyfriend. They denied her college tuition, so the teen took matters into her hands and started a GoFundMe page. The reaction to her tragedy was quite positive and she has proceeded to collect over $35,000 for her tuition. One might think that this story is a heart-warming tale of one girl’s fight for social justice and her rewards in the process, but it is much deeper and much more complicated.

Racism, in all of its complexities, can manifest itself in, more or less, 2 ways: institutional racism and interpersonal racism. The latter is more individualized, meaning that the individual/s involved are in control and are choosing to be racists to others, be it in a blatant manner or in the form of a microaggression. The former, however, is more systematic. It seeps into every part of our society, from our political systems to our educational systems and beyond. It is essentially built into our society. The former is derived from the latter, but the most important difference among them is that institutional racism is far less acknowledged than interpersonal racism. Institutional racism is a myth to all those who do not experience it, which unfortunately means that the majority of the U.S.’ population does not believe that institutional racism is real. So, if it’s not real, why bother acknowledging or fixing it?

Asking those kinds of questions is the problem. Racism does not just boil down to a dispute between one individual and another. It is constantly perpetuated by the society we live in and the rules we follow. Media outlets fail to address the fact that the institutions that govern us were built specifically to oppress minorities and people of color. Instead, we are given story after story like the teen from Memphis. Stories like these are great, but if we continue to ignore the fact that structural racism exists and solely bolster the idea that racism is an isolated issue, we will never be able to make real change.

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