Obama’s Legacy

When my parents first moved from South Africa to the United States, they told me they had now opened up “a world of opportunities” for my brother and I. A phrase that just sounded like sweet nothings until November 4th, 2008 when for the first time, a man whose skin tone resembled my own, was elected to the highest office in the United States of America. I took for granted back then how impactful growing up in an America that was governed by the first black president would be, but now as his days are winding down, I am realizing just how much the legacy of Barack Obama and his beautiful family has inspired me to know the world of opportunities that my parents opened for me when they hauled us from South Africa to the United States.

Tears rolled down my eyes as I listened to our First Lady, Michelle Obama, condemn Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. “America is already great!!” she exclaimed, “In what other country could a man born to a Kenyan immigrant work his way to Harvard and then to Senate and now to the presidency!” Those words hit me like a train. As a child born to an immigrant family, I realized the doors that the Obama family had shown me were possible for me. Doors that my parents knew were there for me but were visualized in seeing President Obama sit at that oval office for 8 years.

The most formative years of my life were spent watching a family that looked like mine living in the White House. I saw the President of the United States, arguably the most powerful man in the world, STILL have to combat racism at every corner, a struggle that the black man knows all too well; but yet he still persevered and succeeded. Through the years, I’ve realized that if the President of the United States still has to fight racism, then I definitely will too. But just like President Obama, I will not let it stop me from my dream; and once I reach my dream, I will not let racism define the position that I’m in. I will do what I’m called to do in the best way that I can – just as President Obama has.

President Obama is not just inspiring to me because he is black. He is also the epitome of grace and elegance. As FLOTUS always says “when they go high, we go low” and they have embodied this through every racial slur thrown at them, every lie uttered about their family, every time their ability to lead is undermined, President Obama and his family respond with class and respect. I look up to both the POTUS and the FLOTUS so much, not only in giving me hopes about my career prospect, but also in the type of person I desire to be: A person of grace and elegance, just like the first family.

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


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 Affordable Care Act vs. Trump Presidency: Will He Succeed?

The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23rd, 2010. The act, also known as Obamacare, has had its ups and downs over the past 4 years as it faced heavy opposition from the Republican party. However Obamacare, despite its rocky start, has improved the lives of many and has succeeded in its initial goal, which was to reduce the number of uninsured citizens. According to the Washington Post, in comparison to 2013, there are over 8.8 million insured individuals, dropping the rate of the uninsured from 13.3% to below 10%. This, however, is not enough to keep President Trump from repealing (or at least trying to) Obamacare.

According to CNN, both President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said that repealing and replacing Obamacare is a legislative priority. In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, Trump repeats just that, claiming that his new plan would offer greater health care for less money. Is this true? Does Trump have concrete plans, or is he just misleading the public in order to repeal the act that has helped millions? That is the questions most Americans are asking.

So far, both the senate and the House have passed measures that aim to remove the penalty for not having health insurance and the mechanics of providing subsidies to qualified families and individuals to help reduce the cost of a health plans. Legislators are currently floating proposals that would replace Obamacare, going for the “replace-then-repeal” approach. But can they come up with something better? Although Obamacare has done little to reduce the overall cost of health insurance, it has allowed qualified families and individuals with insurance they would not be able to afford otherwise. It has ensured that people with pre-existing conditions are still able to get insured and treated without paying enormous out-of-pocket costs. Pleading families and individuals have taken to the internet in order to voice their concerns about the repeal. Countless of individuals on Twitter and other social media platforms have posted pictures of their insurance and medical bills, highlighting how much lower their costs are because of Obamacare. The public is fighting back, but will it be enough to stop Trump in his tracks?

The next few months are crucial, as they will determine whether the Trump administration will simply reform the ACA, or repeal it entirely and start fresh. Trump has proven himself a detriment, already removing the Civil Rights and the LGBTQ pages from the White House website and halting a reduction to the annual mortgage insurance premiums. Will the complete removal of Obamacare be next on his list?


Further Readings:

The Success of the Affordable Care Act is a Hugely Inconvenient Truth for its Opponents

US Patients Await Obamacare’s Fate

What to Know About the Future of Obamacare

Trump’s Cabinet Round-Up

Trump’s Cabinet Round-Up

        The majority of Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees are still waiting to be confirmed by the Senate, but in the meantime here is a round-up of the top cabinet candidates and appointed positions. As of Tuesday, January 24 only three of Trump’s nominees have been confirmed – CIA Director (Mike Pompeo), Defense Secretary (James Nattis), UN Ambassador (Nikki Haley),  and Homeland Security Secretary (John Kelly). Trump’s cabinet nominations have resulted in an array of responses – from highly contentious to little opposition. Trump’s cabinet nominations are 86% white (compared to 52% with Obama) and 82% male (compared to 65% with Obama). His cabinet also consists of 14% billionaires, whereas both Obama and George W. Bush had no cabinet billionaires.

The Cabinet

  •      Vice President – Mike Pence

Previously served as the Governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017.

  •      Defense Secretary – James N. Nattis

Nattis is a retired general, who aims to fight against ISIS. During Nattis’s hearing, he rejected some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric by saying he supported the Iran nuclear agreement, supported NATO, and has a tougher position on Russia.

  •      Homeland Security Secretary – John F. Kelly

Kelly is a retired four-star Marine general, who would be in charge of carrying out Trump’s infamous “wall.” During his hearing, he laid to rest many of Trump’s most outrageous claims such as forcing Muslims to “register” with the government.

  •      Attorney General – Jeff Sessions

Sessions is a Senator from Alabama and was an early supporter of Trump. Sessions supports strict immigration and toughening up on crime. The hallmark of Sessions’ hearing was Georgia Representative John Lewis questioning Sessions’ racist history. Naturally, Trump responded on twitter to Lewis’s comments.

  •      Secretary of State – Rex W. Tillerson

Tillerson is the president and chief executive of Exxon Mobil. Previous Secretaries of State have focused on globalizing the U.S., but Trump is a critic of globalization. Tillerson was grilled on his relationships in Russia, where he has close business ties. Tillerson also noted his skepticism of climate change, explaining he did not see it as a national security threat like others do.

  •      Transportation Secretary – Elaine L. Chao

Chao was the labor secretary under President George W. Bush and is a longtime Washington politician. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Her nomination has faced little to no opposition. She would be in charge of fulfilling Trump’s promise to rebuild America’s transportation infrastructure.

  •      Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Ben Carson

Carson is a former neurosurgeon and ran against Trump to be the Republican nominee in the presidential election. Carson would be in charge of affordable housing, fair-housing laws, and mortgage insurance. Interestingly enough, Carson believes that individual gumption is the key to overcoming poverty, not government programs. In his hearing, Carson explained he would never abolish a program without having an alternative for people.

  •      Interior Secretary – Ryan Zinke

Zinke is a representative from Montana and former Navy SEAL. Zinke is crucial in deciding if/how to continue with Obama’s efforts to cut down on oil, coal and gas, and increase the usage of wind and solar. Unlike Trump, Zinke does not believe climate change is a hoax.

  •      Education Secretary – Betsy DeVos

DeVos is the former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and proponent of school vouchers. She is also a billionaire. She would oversee Trump’s promise to move national responsibilities to state and local governments. Her hearing was heated because of the partisan split over charter schools and vouchers.

  •      Health and Human Services Secretary – Tom Price

Price is a Republican representative from Georgia and an orthopedic surgeon. He has led the fight against “Obamacare” in Congress. He would work to fulfill Trump’s goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

  •      Commerce Secretary – Wilbur Ross

Ross is an investor and billionaire. He is known as the “King of Bankruptcy,” and helped Trump avoid personal bankruptcy. Ross vowed to increase tariffs on China and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

  •      Treasury Secretary – Steven Mnuchin

Mnuchin was formerly with Goldman Sachs and is also a movie producer. Mnuchin would head up government borrowing in financial markets. The Senate Finance Committee questioned Mnuchin on his offshore tax havens and multiple companies.

  •      Energy Secretary – Rick Perry

Perry is the former Texas governor and in 2011 proposed abolishing the Energy Department. He will be in charge of maintaining and protecting the U.S.’s nuclear weapons. In his hearing, Perry retracted his earlier statements in which he denied human-caused climate change.

  •      Labor Secretary – Andrew F. Puzder

Puzder is a fast food executive and is most notably opposed to raising the minimum wage. Democrats and labor organizations have intensely opposed Puzder’s nomination.

  •      Agriculture Secretary – Sonny Perdue

Perdue is the former governor of Georgia. This department focuses on America’s farming industry, and Perdue would also assist with some of Trump’s trade goals.

  •      David J. Shulkin – Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Shulkin is a doctor and the current secretary for health at the VA. Shulkin is critical of the Obama administration and claims Obama left veterans forgotten and unsupported.

Cabinet-Level Officials

  •      White House Chief of Staff – Reince Priebus

Priebus is the head of the Republican National Committee. His role will be important with turning many of Trump’s goals into policies.

  •      E.P.A. Administrator – Scott Pruitt

Pruitt is the attorney general of Oklahoma and a supporter of the fossil fuel industry. He is one of the nation’s leading advocates against the E.P.A.. In his hearing, Pruitt said he wanted a more state-oriented approach to environmental regulations, not national enforcements.

  •      Director of the Office of Management and Budget – Mick Mulvaney

Mulvaney is a representative from South Carolina and is known for being a fiscal conservative and eager for big spending cuts. He would focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act, a tax overhaul, and spending on Trump’s sweeping infrastructure overhaul.

  •      U.S. Trade Representative – Robert Lighthizer

Lighthizer is an international trade lawyer and protectionist. He served under President Reagan as a trade official. The U.S. Trade Representative serves the President by recommending and negotiating United States trade policy.

  •      U.N. Ambassador – Nikki R. Haley

Haley is the governor of South Carolina and would represent the U.S. on the U.N. Security Council. Her nomination has not been a contentious debate. In her hearing, Haley noted she believed Russia had committed war crimes in Syria.

  •      Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers – TBA

This position is the leader of a three member committee that analyzes economic growth and changes and assists the President in making economic decisions for the United States. This position is typically filled by someone chosen from academia.

  •      Small Business Administration – Linda McMahon

McMahon is a wrestling entrepreneur, former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment. She will be in charge of helping small business get loans and support.

Other Senior Positions

  •      Senior adviser – Jared Kushner

Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law, married to Ivanka. Kushner is an elusive character and often steers clear of media attention, but has been described as an integral role to the Trump campaign. An interesting interview with Kushner was published in Forbes in December 2016. Kushner almost never speaks to the media and the Forbes interview articulates his crucial, yet seemingly enigmatic, role in the Trump campaign.

  •      Chief Strategist – Steve Bannon

Bannon is a right-wing executive and former head of Breitbart News. Bannon identified Breitbart News as “the platform for the alt-right.” Trump said that Bannon would be “working as equal partners” with Priebus.

  •      National-security adviser – Mike Flynn

Flynn is a retired lieutenant general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. His role focuses on addressing proposals from the State Department and the Pentagon.

  •      Homeland-security adviser – Thomas Bossert

Bossert was a top security aide to George W. Bush and currently runs a risk management consulting firm. His position will be equal to the national security advisor.

  •      Director of National Intelligence – Dan Coats

Coats is the former ambassador to Germany and a senator from Indiana. As Director of National Intelligence, Coats will serve as the head of the Intelligence Community.

  •      C.I.A. Director – Mike Pompeo

Pompeo is a representative from Kansas and former Army officer. Pompeo explained that he would further investigate the Russian interference in the election.

  •      National Trade Council – Peter Navarro

Navarro is an academic economist, and the only one among Trump’s top men and women. He is a critic of the current policies toward China. He will oversee White House trade and industrial policy.

  •      National Economic Council – Gary Cohn

Cohn was the COO and president of Goldman Sachs. Despite Trump’s critiques of Wall Street during the campaign, Cohn is one of three Goldman Sachs executives to join his inner circle.

  •      Regulatory Tsar/Special Adviser on Regulatory Reform – Carl Icahn

Icahn is a billionaire investor and is focused to fulfilling Trump’s promise to decrease regulations on businesses.

  •      Counselor – Kellyanne Conway

Conway is known for her role as Trump’s campaign manager and spokeswoman. It appears Conway will continue this sort of role in the Counselor position.

  •      Public-liaison adviser – Anthony Scaramucci

Scaramucci is the founder of the investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Scaramucci will head up trying to convince the United States business community the benefits of investing in Trump’s agenda.

  •      White House Counsel – Donald F. McGahn II

McGahn is a lawyer in Washington and will have a critical role in advising the president on his many legal matters.

  •      Press Secretary and Special Assistant to the President – Sean Spicer

Spicer was the spokesman for the Republican National Party and also served Priebus as an aide. Spicer will be the direct liaison between the media and the White House.

For reference, these are the steps to becoming a cabinet member:

  • Person is nominated by the president-elect.
  • Nominee has a senate hearing in front of relevant senate committees.
  • Nominee is voted out of the committee if the majority of the committee votes for the nominee. The vote then goes to the Senate floor.
  • Nominee is confirmed by Senate in floor vote.

For the sake of brevity, NPR posted a list about which stage each of Trump’s nominees are currently in. In the next few weeks, we should see nominees in senate hearings and being voted on by committees. Some of Trump’s most contentious candidates – Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Andy Pudzer and Steve Mnuchin – are definitely cases to pay attention to.

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.

I Stand With Planned Parenthood

Since its inception over 100 years ago, Planned Parenthood has been a consistent and accessible source of vital healthcare for millions of people, including women, men, trans people, and gender non-conforming folks. On October 16th, 1916, the nationwide healthcare group opened its doors. Ever since then, anti-abortion activists and the Grand Old Party have tried to seal them shut.

In 2015, Republicans nearly shut down the federal government by threatening to defund Planned Parenthood over doctored videos alleging illegal activities, which were ultimately ruled false.

Unsurprisingly, the GOP used similar tactics when they recently unleashed a vicious attack on Planned Parenthood by describing future plans to take away funds allocated for the group. On Thursday January 5th, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said defunding the extremely popular group, which Americans support funding for 2 to 1, will be included within the GOP’s attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

According to the organization, which has offices in all 50 states, an estimated 2.5 million individuals rely on Planned Parenthood for fundamental healthcare and services, including: family planning, birth control, abortion, pre- and post-natal care, STD testing, and cancer screenings, to name some.

Additionally, 1 in 5 women will rely on Planned Parenthood for reproductive healthcare throughout their lifetimes. Clearly, these statistics are staggering and illustrate the organization’s vital role in American society.

Cutting off women’s access to healthcare, specifically access to reproductive services, is oppressive. When women are stripped of their bodily autonomy, those in power effectively limit or erase women’s ability to determine their life’s path.

Coupled with the gutting of the ACA, as well as threats to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding and Medicaid reimbursements, millions of Americans will soon be left without healthcare if Republicans continue these damaging attacks, which all signs strongly point to.

Despite their rhetoric of “fixing a broken system,” it is clear that Trump, Ryan, and the rest of the GOP are simply interested in and committed to ripping healthcare away from people who need it most.

On Saturday, millions of protestors marched for women’s rights, many in support of reproductive justice. I, like countless other Americans, am tired of conservative politicians and activist vilifying this incredible, compassionate organization.

Throughout our lives, we’re constantly taught that America is The Land of the Free. A place supposedly built on values of equality, justice, and liberty. But until all people are able to obtain quality, affordable, and easily accessible healthcare, none of us will be free.

3 Reasons MLK Wasn’t Who You Think

With MLK Day last week, my Instagram and Twitter were filled with quotes from MLK and posts about how his peaceful legacy is the only right way to fight for our rights in this country. This is the same routine that we go through every year. Martin Luther King Jr. is often painted as the ideal activist, the peaceful contrast to the more radical Malcolm X. However, while MLK did give his “I Have a Dream Speech,” lead a March on Washington, and win a Nobel Peace Prize, here are three ways we are often wrong about Dr. King.

1. He was considered dangerous by the FBI.

Even though hailed as the example all protesters and those seeking change should look to today, Dr. King was considered dangerous by the FBI while leading marches, sit-ins, and boycotts in the U.S. In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, MLK encourages tension, because it brings issues to the forefront, no longer allowing them to be ignored. In the book, The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., he says, “If peace means accepting second-class citizenship, I don’t want it. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace. If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I don’t want peace.” Because of his stance, the organization called King “the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country,” validating their illegal surveillance of King as an issue of national security. Under FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI even went so far as sending a threatening letter to MLK, telling him, “you are done.” This letter, encouraging MLK to commit suicide, was also intended to discredit his work for racial equality.

2. He wasn’t actually against disobeying the law.

For those who say that protesters should follow the example of Dr. King, obeying the law so that the police will respect them, so that they won’t be attacked: you are wrong. Some of the demonstrations, like sit-ins, were against the law. The police showed up for them, just like they do today. Black people protesting has always been viewed as a threat, whether it’s peaceful or not. In fact, MLK was arrested 30 times over the course of his activism. His plan was to peacefully protest, which meant he did not attack those he was protesting against. However, that doesn’t mean he advocated always following the law. He is quoted as saying, “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

3. He didn’t only fight against segregation.

Although segregation and voting rights were often the focus of MLK’s activism, he did not ignore the cries for equality in other sectors. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that the structural inequalities were not only for black people, but also other people of color and those of lower class status. He saw flaws in the capitalistic and materialistic system of the U.S. and worked closely with labor movements across the country to refocus on the rights of workers as human beings. We shouldn’t forget, when delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech, it was a part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Without an economic restructuring, he knew progress would be hard to achieve and maintain. Police brutality was also on King’s mind, when he was arrested on September 3, 1958. In an article from the New York Times, King’s is quoted, after being released on bond, saying that police tried to break his arm, choked him, and kicked him into a cell. In addition, he publicly spoke against the Vietnam War, knowing it would sever his relationship with President Johnson. In his speech entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, MLK realized that it wasn’t just the United States’ injustices on its own soil that must be addressed, but also those overseas.

It is true that MLK championed a nonviolent approach to change, but activism has never been viewed as acceptable when coming from people of color. He was radical in his time, and we should never try to whitewash history to make Martin Luther King, Jr. palatable to the masses today. The pedestal that King is often placed on was constructed on what is considered safe for history. But that is not the end of his narrative. Standing up for rights of black people even if it meant breaking the law, contesting the economic system of the United States, and breaking ties with a president over a war are not the actions of someone considered a “safe” example. They are the actions of someone who actively believes in change and realizes that radical activism may be required to get there.

For further reading:

What an Uncensored Letter to MLK Reveals

The King Center

The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Beyond Vietnam—A Time to Break Silence

The MLK History Forgot

Dr. King Jailed; Charges Beating

This article was edited for clarity at 12:37 p.m. on 1/30/17.

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.

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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.

Views shared on the blog are not necessarily those of the Campus Y as a whole, but those of the bloggers.