Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

Campus Y Co- Presidents Forum Recap

On Wednesday evening, the candidates running for Campus Y Co-Presidents participated in a forum. The candidates were asked questions, both separately and collectively, about their platform, understanding of social justice, and where they want to take the Campus Y.

Asha Patel and Nick McKenzie are both sophomores who have been involved with the Y since their first year. McKenzie currently holds leadership positions in Nourish-UNC, Hope Gardens, and Carolina Empowerment Fund. Asha currently serves as a co-chair for Hunger Lunch, a venture within Nourish-UNC.

“I think it’s important for a leader to be able to connect to every single person that they interact with and other people working with you,” Patel said.

Running against Patel and McKenzie are Alexander Peeples and Courtney Staton. Peeples is a junior and currently serves as the Co-Director of Development on the Campus Y exec board. Staton is a sophomore and is currently a co-chair of Criminal Justice Awareness and Action.

“Social justice is showing up everyday and not continuing the oppression of other people,” Peeples said.

The forum began with each duo given two minutes to introduce themselves. Then they were asked a variety of questions and given either a minute per person to answer or minute as a duo to answer. For the most part, candidates did well within these time limits.

When asked what would they focus on if they could only accomplish two big goals as co-presidents, Patel and McKenzie said their focus would be on outreach and engagement with as many communities on UNC’s campus as possible. They also wanted to focus on getting more people to be involved with issues in Chapel Hill and municipal elections.

“It’s really powerful that we make sure there’s a larger education component of the Y especially in terms of local elections. We know that it’s going to be a huge issue coming up nationally…,” McKenzie said.

Peeples and Staton believe that the Campus Y has a crucial role in terms of campus activism and said their goal is to continue that role and expand it. They want to make sure the Campus Y provides resources to everyone for greater social good and never tries to take over voices.

“The Campus Y is supposed to be the place where activists across issues can come together and realize how they’re all interconnected and we want the Campus Y to continue to serve as that,” Staton said.

While all candidates had similar views on some things like the Y’s commitment to social justice or the transparency needed between the executive board and committees, other issues caused some tension.

During the audience question and answer session, McKenzie was asked about how he referred to people of color as “colored people” during a previous answer. He also was questioned how he planned to balance his personal political beliefs with the Campus Y given that public records indicate that he voted in the Republican primaries. Specifically, an audience member referenced past and recent legislature the Republican Party has passed that has been damaging to a number of social justice causes.

Both McKenzie and Peeples were asked by the audience how they were planning to self-reflect on their privileges as white males. Neither Patel or Staton were asked about their identities and how it would influence their leadership.

Voting for the Campus Y Co-Presidents will take place on Tuesday February 7th from 9 am to 5 pm. Voting is restricted to registered members of the Campus Y only. If you have any questions about whether or not you are a registered member, email CampusY.unc@gmail.com

You can learn more about Asha and Nick’s platform here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_tJ-HA1DNHXQ1lHSkdLOXV4Q0k/view

You can learn more about Alexander and Courtney’s platform here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B322ptORbby1U0VsbzNya3N2V2c/view

Now What?

If you’re like me, you’ve only gotten angrier since the inauguration. I honestly feel like for each day that goes by, my anger level increase tenfold. Sometimes I feel like maybe that’s not such a good thing, but I’m hoping that the anger that is still fueling me after I watch the news will be what keeps up my motivation to fight the system. I don’t want to become complacent with what is happening around me, especially after so many women marched on Saturday.

So let’s revisit that march to remind us why we should stay angry.

The March

“CHANGE, REPRESENTATION, RIGHTS ACCESS, ERADICATION OF MEN, UNDERSTANDING, SHATTERING PATRIARCHY, EMPATHY… just kidding. That would be ideal… Hopefully a sense of seriousness.” Senior Abigail Parlier says about what she hoped the implications of the international women’s marches. She was there amongst a group of strong Tar Heel women who decided to go to Raleigh. The disappointment she felt about the majority white crowd has also been a subject of criticism when the rose-colored glasses came off Sunday. She was also critical to bring up that the march was not just about women’s rights, but it was  “a whole conglomeration of things that feminism really represents…. And that we reduced women to a vagina (even though vaginas rock) but not all women have them.”

So now what do we do to make sure that the problematic issues at the march are addressed and that the momentum doesn’t die?

Call Your senators.

Senator Thom Tillis (R)

  • Washington DC Office: 202-224-6342
  • Charlotte Office: 704-509-9087
  • Greenville Office: 252-329-0371
  • Hendersonville Office: 828-693-8750
  • High Point Office: 336-885-0685
  • Raleigh Office: 919-856-4630

Senator Richard Burr (R)

  • Washington DC Office: 202-224-3154
  • Asheville Office: 828-350-2437
  • Rocky Mount Office: 252-977-9522
  • Winston-Salem Office: 800-685-8916

Call Your Representatives

George “GK” Butterfield Jr.  (D) – 1st district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3101
  • Durham Office: 919-908-0164
  • Wilson Office: 252-237-9816

George Holding (R) – 2nd district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3032
  • Raleigh Office: 919-782-4400

Walter Jones Jr. (R) – 3rd district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3415
  • Greenville Office: 252-931-1003
  • Havelock Office: 252-555-6846
  • Jacksonville Office: 252-555-6846

David Price (D) – 4th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-1784
  • Raleigh Office: 919-859-5999
  • Western District Office: 919-967-7924

Virginia Foxx (R) – 5th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-2071
  • Boone Office: 828-265-0240
  • Clemmons Office: 226-778-0211

Mark Walker (R) – 6th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3065
  • Graham Office: 226-229-0159
  • Greensboro Office: 226-222-5005

David Rouzer (R) – 7th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-2731
  • Brunswick County Office: 910-253-6111
  • Johnston County Office: 919-938-3040
  • New Hanover County Office: 910-395-0202

Richard Hudson (R) – 8th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3715
  • Concord Office: 704-786-1004
  • Fayetteville Office: 910-997-2071

Robert Pittenger (R) – 9th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-1976
  • Charlotte Office: 704-362-1060
  • Fayetteville Office: 910-303-0669
  • Monroe Office: 704-917-9573

Patrick McHenry (R) – 10th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-2576
  • Hickory Office: 828-327-6100
  • Gastonia Office: 704-833-0096
  • Black Mountain Office: 828-669-0600

Mark Meadows (R) – 11th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-6401
  • Henderson County Office: 828-693-5603

Alma Adams (D) – 12th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-1510
  • Charlotte Office: 704-344-9950

Ted Budd (R) – 13th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-4531
  • Advance Office: no number listed
  • Mooresville Office: no number listed

NEXT TIME YOU CAN VOTE:

November 6, 2018 General mid-term elections

What happens? All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested. Also, 39 state and territorial governorships will be contested.

Follow the Women’s March 10 Actions/100 Days

The official website of the Women’s March has a campaign for 10 organized actions to occur over Trump’s first 100 days in office.  Imagine just how effective this is going to be when the same millions of women who marched (and those who couldn’t march) continue to be active.

My Closing Remarks

Mostly, stay angry. Stay angry and nasty. If you stay angry and stay aware of what is going on with the Trump administration, you are more likely to take more action. I know it took this orange fire lit under some asses of some women to make them realize just how big of a deal this was, and they took to the streets. I was surprised at some of the people I saw who attended marches…. Now lets keep the momentum going. Don’t turn off technology or separate yourself from Facebook because your racist uncle keeps commenting on your status and your other racist cousin keeps sharing pro-Trump/anti-feminist memes… embrace what you’re seeing and let it remind you why you’re fighting. Let it be the fuel that drives you to make this world a better place. It is better to be aware of the atrocities happening so that you know what to fight.

The Women’s March 2017: An Improvement, Not a Final Achievement

By Sunday morning, the Women’s March 2017 had a Wikipedia page. It became a historic event, with people all over the world marching in response to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump and the threat to various progressive values that it meant. Although, it should be noted that the march was framed as pro-woman generally, focused on intersectional feminism rather than being solely anti-Trump. The photos depicting the hundreds of marches from every continent left me in awe. Responses from many UNC students who travelled to D.C., or any of the other sister marches across the country described the gatherings as moving, inspiring, a sense of true solidarity. But amidst the celebration of successfully spurring a worldwide phenomenon, there have also been many voices decrying the hypocrisy and perpetuating division associated with the feminist movement.

I have heard so many different opinions about the march, and the feminist movement in general during the last few days. I will not denounce the march, but I won’t call it a total success either. I am proud to have marched in Asheville, and I am proud of my friends who travelled all over to march too. It is important that we discuss how the march succeeded, but also how it failed.

The actual messages of the organizers of the march and those who spoke were beautiful and inclusive. America Ferrera gave a powerful speech reminding everyone that the US is made up of far more than the people who voted for the current government: “The president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance.” Janelle Monae began the chant “Sandra Bland! Say her name!,” joined by the “Mothers of the Movement.” One UNC student I spoke to who travelled to D.C., said that she thought that the most poignant words were from Tamika Mallory: “Welcome to my world, welcome to our world … for some of you it is new, for some of us it is not so new at all.” In other words, for all the women there who suddenly felt oppressed by the election of a man who has spewed such blatantly sexist rhetoric, remember how long women of colour have dealt with far worse struggles.

Despite such intersectional messages and reminders, there can be no denying that many women did not feel motivated to participate because of their long sense of alienation from the feminist movement. As Jenna Wortham of the New York Times Magazine put it, “who didn’t go to the women’s march matters more than who did.” We have to take note of why many women felt that a march, framed as representing all women, did not actually represent them. One of the most frequently shared images from the march was of a woman holding a sign saying, “don’t forget white women voted for Trump.” It’s true; 53% of white women did vote for Trump and 94% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton. Black women “show up for white women to advance causes that benefit entire movements; the reciprocity is rarely shown.”

It is severely problematic that many many women of colour do not feel included in the feminist movement and as the results of this election demonstrated, many white women value their racial privilege above seeking gender equality. Finally, there also needs to be a much larger push to include transgender women in conversations about gender equality. Many people felt that the emphasis on symbols of vaginas, uteruses and ovaries excluded transgender women. Cis women need to acknowledge that the fight for gender equality extends far beyond their day-to-day interactions with sexism, and transgender women are currently fighting for basic rights and freedoms.  

White women need to realise that their cause is much stronger if they treat minority and transgender women as true sisters and embrace the beautiful notion of intersectional feminism for ALL women. Most feminists in theory agree that women of colour and transgender women should be welcomed, but they must be more active in pursuing those beliefs.

Another UNC student I spoke to said that she was disappointed that the turnout of people was not more intersectional. However, she hoped that the speakers emphasizing an inclusionary message was an indication that in the future, it would be more likely for women of all different backgrounds to stand together.

I loved that there was one mass response to the divisiveness and hatred that Trump used to win the election. However, those women need to open their arms and be more outspoken about their support for the women and men fighting for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, refugee rights, immigrant rights and disability rights. I think this march was a step towards improvement, not necessarily an accomplishment in itself. We should acknowledge how wonderful such a massive, peaceful demonstration is, but also realize that it shouldn’t be enough. I hope that it is a sign that women will acknowledge one another’s differences and varying priorities and stand up for one another and all social justice causes together. 

 

Edited for clarity on 1/25/17 at 12:00pm.

Can Trump Actually Overthrow Roe v. Wade?

In several speeches and interviews, President-Elect Trump has claimed that he will overturn the landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, throwing each of the 50 states back into their pre-1973 forms (in which most states were firmly against abortion. With a Republican-controlled House and Senate, as well as the prospect of Mr. Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, who will most likely share the same conservative leanings, many have been thrown into panic, wondering if their state will soon decide to outlaw abortion in the next four years. However, while there has been much concern around this, can Trump really cause the reversal of a Supreme Court decision? Even as President, will he have the power to overturn a decision made by the highest court in the United States? Two possible ways could be 1) the Supreme Court itself reversing its decision, or 2) Congress creating laws that slowly erode the provisions of the decision.

In the past, rulings have been overturned if the Court finds that they have erroneously made a decision that violates Constitutional rights. Justice Harry Blackmun, when writing the original Roe v. Wade decision, cited the first, fourth, ninth, and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution, saying that they protected a woman’s right to privacy, and that outlawing abortions (before the baby can live outside the womb) was therefore unconstitutional. Thus, the decision cannot be overturned on this basis. However, this decision was also based on the assumption that prenatal life is not considered one of the “persons” protected under the Constitution as well. The only way Roe v. Wade could be overturned on this basis would be if scientists came up with a consensus on when life begins in the womb, and thus when the fetus is protected under the Constitution. While there are many differing views, there has not yet been an agreement, and there is not likely one to be made soon.

One of the more likely ways that abortion rights could be affected is through Congress. While it would be extremely difficult for the Republican-led House and Senate to start the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision, it would be easier for them to create legislation that slowly eroded at the provisions of the decision, in order to make abortions so difficult to receive that they were basically obsolete. While not yet obsolete, legislation has moved in this direction in some ways. The Hyde Amendment has restricted Medicaid from funding abortion in almost all cases since 1976. According to Planned Parenthood, 1 in 5 women from ages 15-44 rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. In addition, this policy has been applied to other healthcare programs reliant on the federal government (like that for federal employees and military families). The Federal Abortion Ban of 2007 prohibits abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy. Currently, Arizona Representative Trent Franks is pushing for a federal law that bans all abortions after 20 weeks. In addition to these specific measures, states can also limit abortions in their jurisdictions, by limiting insurance coverage and placing undue restrictions on clinics, among other things. Protestors outside of Planned Parenthood clinics often discourage women from getting abortions, as does the required anti-abortion counseling mandatory in 35 states and waiting periods in 27 of the same states.

For the most part, while the Supreme Court has handed down a decision that allows abortions under the Constitution, federal legislature and states have found ways to slowly chip away at the provision. While there are other nuanced ways that this decision could be overturned, it is not likely that the decision will be completely overturned by Trump in his four years of presidency. However, the Republican-led Congress may pass laws that further restrict the ruling, and individual states can further restrict those decisions. Although no definite decision may be made in the near future, it is possible that these types of decision may become issues that are brought before state and federal legislatures. As college students, we have the privilege to be old enough to be active in our government’s processes, and I suggest that we take the time now to stay up to date on what’s happening in our state and our country.

For Further Reading:

PlannedParenthoodAction.org

https://www.guttmacher.org/laws-affecting-reproductive-health-and-rights-2013-state-policy-review

https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/counseling-and-waiting-periods-abortion

Internships: A Classist Industrial Complex

As fall semester comes to a close, that dreaded time of year again is right around the corner. On top of stress over final exams, projects, and registering for spring classes, internship application deadlines are rapidly approaching. I already have a growing sticky note on my desktop outlining due dates for various applications.

Although some organizations or companies will provide a stipend or hourly wage, many internships are still unpaid.

You may find your dream job, you may be fully qualified, but you can’t afford to accept an internship that doesn’t provide monetary compensation. Unpaid internships, therefore, are undeniably classist and consequently create a cycle of opportunity, perpetuating privilege and oppression.

A student who can comfortably live and intern in New York City, Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles, California for a summer or semester at a prominent, well-respected company without compensation places them on a clear and more inevitable trajectory for success. In contrast, students who cannot realistically complete unpaid internships, will likely work over the summer at a local store or restaurant, automatically placing them at an unfair disadvantage.

Most likely, these students already experience class privilege, have connections, and are part of helpful professional networks. With these positions on these students’ resumes, they have an unearned advantage over their less privileged counterparts.

Two graduates who apply for the same position may have attended the same university, have the same GPA, or participated in an equal number of extracurricular activities. One, though, interned for a major company for free, while the other lived at home and worked. Who do you think is likely hired?

I’m incredibly grateful to have interned with a voting rights nonprofit centered on social justice that paid full-time summer interns. Without a paycheck, I wouldn’t have been able to accept a position that has directly shaped and strengthened my abilities and confidence. They invested in me and my future. It’s time for all organizations to follow suit.

Why Do Our Rights Make You Uncomfortable?

On August 26th of this year, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines across the country by sitting during the national anthem before the start of the football game. What many people don’t know is, that on August 14th and August 20th Kaepernick also did not stand for the anthem, but these protests did not garner much attention because the quarterback was not in uniform for those games. However, as Kaepernick’s protest gained national attention, he took a stand to clarify his reasons for protesting. In an interview, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Despite this, critics swooped in, claiming that he had no right, that he was un-American, that he was disrespecting the troops that fight so hard to secure our freedom.

However, despite the criticism, Kaepernick continued to kneel, and he was not alone. The 49ers safety Eric Reid, Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, U.S. National Team midfielder Megan Rapinoe, and many others across the country began to join in Kaepernick’s protest as the year went on. Not only in professional sports, but athletes in college sports and high school sports took up the cause as well. Bands and families of players also began joining the protest to support the movement. From kneeling, to locking arms, to raising fists, the protesters’ solidarity has scared and angered many.

There are some problems with their criticisms. Are these not the rights that soldiers fight to protect? Many troops have come forward on social media to support Kaepernick’s right to protest. Does the United States actually treat all citizens (those that aren’t cisgender white males) as equal first class citizens? In North Carolina alone, HB2 declares that this state doesn’t view all citizens equally. Nationally, the election of Donald Trump despite his misogynist, racist, and xenophobic views says otherwise. Doesn’t the first amendment guarantee the right to free speech? It says, in fact, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” So, what is the problem?

We do NOT get to pick which civil rights and liberties that others get to exercise, especially those who want to limit others to protect their own positions of privilege or avoid things that make them uncomfortable. In addition, this is a peaceful protest, that many people love to suggest to movements in lieu of other methods (for example, those who criticize the Black Lives Matter movement). If a peaceful protest is suggested, yet still criticized when implemented, I think it is safe to say that what is actually being asked for is silence and acceptance of the inequalities to which these protests desire to bring light. Being uncomfortable, because your norm is being threatened by others exercising their rights or fighting for those that have been denied to them, might mean you need to check your privilege.

13th- The Amendment that Snuck in Slavery?

“The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners.” This bleak quote from President Barack Obama opens what would be some of the most informative yet disheartening 100 minutes of my life.

The current system, the prison-industrial complex, had its origins within the roots of slavery. After the addition of the 13th Amendment, that only formally outlawed slavery, there were 4 million people suddenly free in the United States. While the idea of incarcerating African Americans began then, for things small as loitering, the current manifestation of mass incarceration was not fully realized until the 1970s, when the prison population began to increase. From nearly 360,000 to over 2.3 million in 2014, the prison population has increased at a phenomenal rate. This was no accident.

It took some preparation to create the expansive system in place today. In DuVernay’s documentary, she explains that it began with Nixon’s “law and order” stance, which was directed primarily at black political movements, antiwar sentiments, and women’s liberation movements. Next, Nixon focused his policy on what he coined as the “war on drugs.” This was, according to former Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman, simply a way to associate the anti-war hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and thus criminalize the two groups.

From there, we move to Reagan’s presidency, where the modern “War on Drugs” really took form. It was during this time that crack cocaine came on the market, a drug that was not in powder form like cocaine, and was cheaper and became more readily available in inner-city neighborhoods. While the medical effects of cocaine and crack are the same, the consequences are so much different. The form used primarily by minorities carried a much higher criminal sentence than the form used primarily by white, middle class citizens.

In addition, the media was demonizing black men, calling them “super predators.” No politician could afford to be “soft on crime” if they wished to win any type of office in the United States at that time. Policies and laws passed were focused on ensuring that criminals served their full sentence and that prisons were full. Black movements were criminalized as a threat to American democracy. I found it interesting that Dr. King, who is today cited by many white people opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement as the epitome of an acceptable protester, was considered one of the most dangerous people in the U.S. by the head of the FBI at that time. Leaders of black movements during that time were incarcerated, forced to flee the country, or killed to stifle their progress. Police gunned down Fred Hampton, one of the leaders of the Black Panther movement who was known for uniting blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans, in his home as he slept beside his pregnant wife.

Police violence has become so common today that one almost has to become numb to continue to function on a daily basis. Laws uphold the prison system, as do many private companies that profit from mass incarceration. Many companies thrive on the cheap or free labor that comes from inmates, who are disenfranchised and considered second-class citizens, even after they have paid their debt to society, even if they were only incarcerated for a minor, nonviolent offense. Private company coalitions, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, are groups of politicians and corporations that make laws and propose them. ALEC has garnered $1.7 billion per year in profits from the laws they propose and get passed.

The 13th Amendment reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” That little clause, “except as a punishment for crime,” makes all the difference. We have simply witnessed the evolution of slavery from its most blatant form of human beings in chains and bonds, to its current form of targeted incarceration and revocation of rights. In Ava DuVernay’s documentary, there is no shying away from the problem, or renaming it to make one feel more comfortable. This is as it should be; comfort zones have never produced change anyway.

Another Trump-Clinton Story: Mental Health Policy

In spring of 2016, I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.  Although it wasn’t a complete surprise, it had made me see the people around me a little differently- including politicians.  And what a time to be alive with Trump and Clinton running against one another!  So, I wanted to take a look at both presidential candidates’ policy regarding mental health.  Admittedly, it’s not a sexy topic, like immigration or what offensive Trump said in the last 24-hours, but it still affects an estimated 26.2% of the American population over the age of 18. In order to have a clear understanding on what the candidates had to say about their positions, I only looked at the information listed on the candidate’s websites- not what CNN or Fox News would spin off of something they claimed during a debate.

Let’s take a look.

Trump-Pence

trump-pence-logo

Click here for the link to the Donald J. Trump website on Health Care Reform.

Note, I said health care reform… not mental health.  Trump obsesses over repealing the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), inhibiting the sale of insurance across state lines, allowing individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns, allow individuals to use Health Saving Accounts, require price transparency from healthcare providers, grant-block Medicaid, and to remove barriers so drug providers can compete in the market.

Trump claims, on his website, that these preliminary actions will lower the cost of healthcare for all Americans… but you know, only the “legal” ones, as Trump goes on for the next paragraph and a half about “illegal immigrants” being a burden on the healthcare system, thus driving up the prices for current citizens.

But that’s not all!

Trump’s position and future policy also consists of reducing the number of individuals who can access Medicaid and children’s Health Insurance Programs. Of course, he says that all people need is a job, and that will get the economy moving.

Finally, we come to mental health; a small, mediocre paragraph at the bottom of the webpage.

“Finally, we need to reform our mental health programs and institutions in this country. Families, without the ability to get the information needed to help those who are ailing, are too often not given the tools to help their loved ones. There are promising reforms being developed in Congress that should receive bipartisan support.”

That’s it.  He suggests that we should have reform, and that there are already some existing pieces of legislation for reform that should receive bipartisan support.  But he doesn’t say how individuals will receive this mental health support, if it will be accessible to non-citizens, individuals without insurance, or people who cannot afford care.  He does not talk about mental health care accessibility in prisons or schools.

But don’t worry, folks, he’s going to make America great again, just like he says at the end of describing his exceptionally vague position on mental health programs.  It’s basically the ID term he forgot to study for and is trying to make something up on his history exam.

Clinton-Kaine

 

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Click here for the link to the Hillary Clinton website on Comprehensive Agenda on Mental Health.

It’s already a different world.  Hillary has a comprehensive agenda on mental health- an entire policy ready to be enacted- while Trump had only the tiny paragraph. Clinton plans to support Americans living with mental health problems and illnesses by integrating healthcare systems in order to get mental health on the same level of importance of physical health.

What’s more, she has a direct plan of action that includes supporting military service members and veterans and ending drug and alcohol addiction.  According to her website, Hillary’s plan will promote early diagnosis and intervention (including launching a national initiative for suicide prevention), integrate mental and physical health care systems, improve criminal justice outcomes by training law enforcement officers in crisis intervention, prioritizing mental health treatment over jail for non-violence offenders, enforce mental health parity to the full extent of the law, improve access to housing and job opportunities, and to invest in brain and behavioral research.

“The next generation must grow up knowing that mental health is a key component of overall health and there is no shame, stigma, or barrier to seeking out care.”

Now, Hillary has a lot of information on her website, so I’ll break it down into short bullets so everyone can get the gist.

Early Diagnosis and Intervention

  • Increase public awareness and take action to address maternal depression, infant mental health, and trauma and stress in the lives of young children.
  • Scale up efforts to help pediatric practices and schools support children facing behavioral problems.
  • Help providers share information and best practices.
  • Ensure that college students have access to mental health services.

Federal Support for Suicide Prevention

  • Create a national initiative around suicide prevention across the lifespan that is headed by the Surgeon General.
  • Encourage evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health programs in high schools.
  • Provide federal support for suicide prevention on college campuses.
  • Partner with colleges and researchers to ensure that students of color and LGBT students are receiving adequate mental health coverage.

Integrate our Healthcare Systems and Expand Community-Based Treatment

  • Foster integration between the medical and behavioral health care systems (including mental health and addiction services), so that high-quality treatment for behavioral health is widely available in general health care settings.
  • Expand reimbursement systems for collaborative care models in Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Promote the use of health information technology to foster coordination of care.
  • Promote the use of peer support specialists.
  • Encourage states to allow same-day billing.
  • Support the creation of high-quality, comprehensive community health centers in every state.
  • Launch a nationwide strategy to address the shortage of mental health providers.

Improve outcomes in the Criminal Justice System

  • Dictate new resources to help train law enforcement officers in responding to encounters involving persons with mental illness, and increase support for law enforcement partnerships with mental health professionals.
  • Prioritize treatment over punishment for low-level, nonviolent offenders with mental illnesses.

Enforcing Mental Health Parity

  • Launch randomized audits to detect parity violations, and increase federal enforcement.
  • Enforce disclosure requirements so that insurers cannot conceal their practices for denying mental health care.
  • Strengthen federal monitoring of health insurer compliance with network adequacy requirements.
  • Create a simple process for patients, families, and providers to report parity violations and improve federal-state coordination on parity enforcement.

Housing and Job Opportunities

  • Expand community-based housing opportunities for individuals with mental illness and other disabilities.
  • Expand employment opportunities for people with mental illness.
  • Expand protection and advocacy support for people with mental health conditions.

Brain and Behavioral Science Research

  • Significantly increase research into brain and behavioral science research.
  • Develop new links with the private and nonprofit sectors.
  • Commit to brain and behavioral science research based on open data.

Of course, she has statistics, facts, and other data to support how and why she will act upon all of the above positions regarding mental health care.  But look at how detailed and inclusive her agenda is.  I’m sure she has left out information that some readers might see more clearly than me, but it looks pretty damn good.

Conclusion

Well, it seems clear to me which candidate understands what mental illness and mental health conditions are and how they affect day-to-day life for individuals.

I was talking on the phone with my mother a few moments ago while I was writing this post.  Her comment was “Hunter, Hillary has been running for president for 8 years now, of course she has a detailed plan.  Trump knows what he wants to do, and he might help to do some reform on mental health care, but he’s just more focused on repealing Obamacare.”  Say that is true, that Trump has a real plan on mental health reform… But he doesn’t seem to want anyone to know about it.  I’m willing to bet that if elected, his position will not change from what is written on his website- a vague, last minute thought that doesn’t get any real attention.

So, voters, if you haven’t already done early voting, make sure you keep this in mind as you go to the polls, especially if you have a friend or family member who is affected by mental illness.  Or, if you are just a good person who wants to make sure that anyone with any sort of illness is given the care they need.

(One more time for the people in the back)

Go forth, and vote.

McCall Dempsey and Southern Smash

Parts of my body I’m not a huge fan of. Wearing a crop top also means a fifteen-minute pep talk prior to wearing it. I tend to avoid mirrors. I’ve cried in a dressing room. Shorts also require a pep talk.

As a college student, as a girl, as a member of the world we live in today, I am not unique in struggling to view myself in a positive light.  There are larger forces—magazines, ads, Instagram models, TV shows, artists, musicians—that are telling me something about my body is wrong or different. Simplest solution? Lose the weight. Simplest way to do this? Cut calories, obsess over eating, and workout relentlessly.

Many girls think they are alone in this cycle of self-depreciation. They think if they share their problems, they will be judged or hurt. McCall Dempsey, founder of the body positivity non-profit, Southern Smash, felt this way too. She spoke to a group of girls on Sunday, October 16th sharing her incredible story. McCall struggled with disordered eating for over 15 years. She nearly lost her own life to this obsession with her body image. McCall overused diet pills, restricted calories and worked out obsessively for 15 years. Eventually, she entered a rehabilitation facility to heal. Today, she stands the mother of two adorable kids and a successful public speaker about positive body image and self-love.

Image courtesty of Southern Smash
Image courtesy of Southern Smash

But, McCall’s story is not mine to tell. I encourage you to watch this video on McCall’s blog to learn more about her story. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, definitely go. She will leave you in tears, both from the power of her story and her hilarious commentary. After her rehabilitation, McCall speaks at colleges to raise awareness for eating disorders.

One of the most poignant takeaways from McCall’s speech was that eating disorders do not always look like how our high school health class teachers told us they do. Eating disorders are not always thin, sickly girls. McCall showed us pictures when she was struggling with disordered eating and she looked like a normal, healthy, happy college-age girl. These pictures were a powerful reminder that you really never know what someone is going through.

Image courtesy of Southern Smash
Image courtesy of Southern Smash

After McCall’s time in rehabilitation, she confronted her biggest enemy with a smash – the scale. McCall (as do many others) put her value as a person in a blinking number. To end this unhealthy relationship and encourage other girls to do the same, she created Southern Smash, a non profit focused on raising awareness around eating disorders and, the best part, smashing scales! McCall travels around college campuses to speak about her story and host a scale smash. Southern Smash was on UNC’s campus on Tuesday, October 18th for the signature scale smash. This powerful event brought together the UNC community to raise awareness for eating disorders and put ourselves above the number on a scale.

Images: Southern Smash Facebook page