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Campus-oriented news, first-person reports from student activists and journalists about their campus.

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 08/15/14?

Rikers Island

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

The Rebirth of Stockholder Capitalism?” by Robert Reich. Guernica, August 8, 2014.

In this article, Robert Reich offers useful terms to understand the paradox of our financialized economy: shareholders have been reaping the profits of most companies at the expense of other stakeholders, a larger category that encompasses employees and customers. Some companies are trying to circumvent this, such as the supermarket brand Market Basket, which reinvests its profits into providing higher wages for employees and lower prices for customers—as opposed to funneling money to shareholders. Inevitably, soon enough the company's board fired the CEO who started the initiative, to great public outrage. The control of companies by shareholders is absolute but benefits no one but shareholders themselves. Because of this, Reich advocates for a stakeholder capitalism, with companies taking into account their customers' constrained salaries and their employees’ basic necessities (and more cynically, purchasing power) in their decision making. These are the most basic measures we could ask for in a strained economy. But I wonder whether shareholders' unchecked power on industry is inherent to capitalism itself, insofar as there are shareholders with the leverage to drive companies according to their own interest. We need deeper, structural reform.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

"What Is a Woman?" by Michelle Goldberg. The New Yorker, August 4, 2014.

Nation writer Michelle Goldberg's piece on the divide between radical feminism and transgender identity adds another dimension to the influx of attention trans rights has received recently (e.g. trans* actress Laverne Cox appearing on Time magazine's cover last June). The complexities behind this particular issue within the trans rights realm has led Goldberg's piece to already face backlash for being one-sided, especially from the viewpoint of the trans community. It goes to show that the process of grasping the politics behind gender is only just beginning despite trans individuals having been in the public eye for years.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

The Most Wanted Man in the World: Edward Snowden in His Own Words,” by James Bamford. Wired, August, 2014.

In this article, James Bamford profiles Edward Snowden in hopes of answering his burning question: What drove Snowden to leak thousands of top-secret documents of domestic surveillance programs? Snowden reveals throughout the piece that he intended for the government to have some idea about what he stole, and that the biggest question is not what new story will come out next, but how that problem will ultimately be addressed.  His answer: We can end mass surveillance with technology, without any legislative action at all. Initially, as he first headed to Hong Kong before releasing the NSA documents, he expected that Americans would collectively shrug and move on from the information he had leaked; and regarding the question of whether or not there is another leaker, Snowden expresses how that simply underscores the NSA’s inability to control the massive amount of private information it has been collecting. This captivating piece is the story of Edward Snowden’s intelligence career and decision to become, as Bamford describes, “a uniquely postmodern breed of whistle-blower.” 

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

"This is Why We Are Mad About The Shooting of Mike Brown," by Kara Brown. Jezebel, August 11, 2014

On August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown did not simply "pass." Michael Brown was shot six times by a Ferguson Police Officer who stood thirty-five feet away from him. Michael Brown was gunned down. Ten bullets exploded inside of his body. Michael Brown was brutally murdered. Michael Brown was left uncovered and untouched in the street, his body left to burn in the summer heat for hours before any law enforcement official or paramedic came to the scene of the crime. No explanation has been offered to explain this unexplainable and inexcusable atrocity. Except to relay a broader message to a broken community of black people in this country. That Michael Brown was slaughtered. That Michael Brown was assassinated. That Michael Brown's life was violently and maliciously taken from him. His story rests among the countless others who have died beneath a country's fear of color. A life stolen by a country with a dirty, dirty history. On August 9, an 18-year-old was given no justice. He was given no liberty. He was given no protection from his country. And Michael Brown died the most unnatural of deaths. This we know is true.

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

"The New Racism: This is how the civil rights movement ends" by Jason Zengerle. The New Republic, August 10, 2014

James Zengerle uncovers the efforts of the Alabama legislature's Republicans, since the 2010 Tea Party wave election, to roll back a half century of progress on all fronts, from Medicaid expansion to the imposition of strict voter ID laws doubtlessly intended to restrict voter participation—and to render moot the civil rights movement's biggest achievements. Zengerle focuses on a state senator, Hank Sanders, who has been marginalized in the wake of the GOP's takeover. In only the past few months black voters helped Thad Cochran win his GOP runoff in Mississippi against an extreme candidate, giving the impression that they can play a pivotal role in the coming midterm elections. "But these will likely be pyrrhic victories," Zengerle notes. "At the state level, Republicans can continue to win by catering exclusively to white voters, pushing the parties even further apart and making state laws ever more extreme. The fact that black people in the South still have the right to vote, and they’re still able to elect black politicians at the state and local levels, is what makes the end of the Second Reconstruction so much more insidious than the end of the First. Lacking white politicians to build coalitions with, those black politicians are rendered powerless. As Kareem Crayton, a University of North Carolina law professor, told me, 'The situation today has the semblance of what representation looks like without very much ability to actually exercise it.'” 

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Let’s Get Naked,” by Kristen Radtke. BuzzFeed, August 11, 2014.

The graphic novel is a male-dominated genre in which women's bodies are distorted and exploited, perhaps even more than they are in other realms of popular culture. In this BuzzFeed article, twenty-three female graphic novelists respond to this trend with representations of female bodies that they feel are closer to their own life experiences. “I look forward to the time when honest depictions of women’s bodies are a normal thing to look at, instead of some kind of statement," writes graphic novelist Anya Ulinich. “I love any excuse to look at naked bodies in a nonsexual context," writes Liana Finck.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

Death in Gaza: Some Counts More Controversial than Others,” by Peter Hart. FAIR.org, August 12, 2014.

The New York Times and Washington Post published articles recently that suggested (read: encouraged) the world to be skeptical of the death toll coming out of Gaza. At the same time, Palestinian and non-state organizations have reported that 84 percent of the deaths in Gaza right now are civilians. But surprise! Israel doesn't agree. The dispute over how many, and who, is being killed should be rather telling. As the author of this piece writes, the quarreling over death toll numbers is " reminiscent of some of the problematic reporting about deaths in the Iraq War. Which might lead one to conclude that what makes a given death toll controversial is linked to who is doing the killing."

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, Black Feminist thought, and police brutality.

Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine ‘denied UK visa over homophobic stance,’” by Bwesigye bwa Mwesigire. The Guardian, August 13, 2014.

Recently, Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine was denied entrance into the United Kingdom and was forced to cancel performances over his homophobic stance and lyrical content. But Bobi Wine's visa denial does not come as a shock. For months, gay rights groups have voiced outrage over Uganda’s homophobic policies. But recently, Ugandan gay rights activists were celebrating victories—"Uganda's Constitutional Court recently overturned a ruling that would have seen homosexuals face life imprisonment" – and earlier this month LGBT groups celebrated their third annual pride celebration. As the nation’s former colonial power, there is a level of irony within Bobi Wine's UK visa denial—which offers a major statement against the Ugandan government’s anti-gay agenda. There is no telling what impact the UK's decision will have, but in the coming months the opposition in Uganda will continue to fight against the institutions that oppress sexual minorities.

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

Rikers: Where Mental Illness Meets Brutality in Jail,” By Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz. The New York Times, July 14, 2014.  

This New York Times investigation provides a harrowing account of how society’s most vulnerable are treated at Rikers Island, the country's second largest jail. Brutal attacks on inmates by correctional officers are a common occurrence, especially among the mentally ill (77 percent of the seriously injured inmates had received a mental illness diagnosis.) The vivid descriptions of abuse and profiles of inmates subjected to especially cruel treatment shows that mental illness at Rikers Island is met with severe violence. The investigation also reveals that there is no accountability for the correctional officers deplorable behavior, which have left several inmates with major injuries, some even requiring life saving surgery. Sadly, Rikers Island offers only a glimpse into a much larger and more systematic problem that can be found across the country’s correctional facilities—one that reflects a deep lack of understanding and empathy for those suffering from a mental illness. 

 

Read Next: What Nation interns are reading the week of 08/08/14.

Students Stand Up and Speak Out in Sacramento, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, DC

Gaza protest

Saturday’s march on Washington for Palestinian justice. (Photo: WJLA)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out July 14 and July 25. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. At 11, Not One More

On August 2, more than 2,000 people marched on Washington, DC, to pressure President Obama to stop deportations and expand deferred action for all. The mobilization, organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, was led by undocumented individuals and families affected by the president’s policy on deportations. Day laborers, members of the LGBTQ community and children were among the speakers at the march—illustrating how deportations impact many communities. Starting at the National Mall, we took over the streets en route to Border Patrol, where we stopped briefly to hear from families affected by the crisis at the border. From there, we continued to Freedom Plaza, where we dropped banners reading “Not1More Deportation” and “DACA4All.” Our last stop was at the White House, where we announced ongoing local action to pressure the president.

—Reyna Wences

2. At 12:30, Free Palestine

On August 2, some 20,000 people marched from the White House to The Washington Post in a display of anger over Israel’s most recent onslaught against the Palestinians. Before the march, supporters rallied in Lafayette Square to listen to a variety of speakers, ranging from Cornel West to local student activists. As a sea of Palestinian flags flooded the streets, traffic came to a halt. Once the march reached the Post, activists began to stack coffins against the windows. The protest was more than a cathartic experience; it was an opportunity for activists of all ages to reunite or meet for the first time—and share ideas for future action, including ramping up BDS work across the country.

—Tareq Radi

3. #MyOwnAdvocate

On Monday, July 28, undocumented leaders from the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Undocumented Illinois, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, ASPIRE and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network launched #MyOwnAdvocate, a campaign demanding that DC-based immigration advocates step aside and make space for undocumented people to negotiate the Obama administration’s pending changes to immigration policy. Together, we visited the National Immigration Forum, the Center for American Progress and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, asking all three to boycott all further immigration meetings with Obama until the people directly affected by his current and pending policies are present at the table. Afterward, we started a picket line in front of the White House and publicized our call.

—Hairo Cortes

4. #SupportSalaita

This week, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revoked associate professor Steven Salaita’s appointment to its American Indian Studies program. Salaita, who left his position as an associate professor at Virginia Tech, was set to join UIUC this month—until his hiring was overturned by Chancellor Phyllis Wise following Twitter posts critiquing Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza. Wise’s decision blatantly disregards academic freedom and freedom of speech—which she herself defended earlier this year amid the American Studies Association’s decision to endorse an academic boycott of Israel. Student and activist groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have mobilized online, with petitions demanding the Salaita’s reinstatement as well as an email campaign directed at Chancellor Wise. Joining faculty from across the country, the Director of American Indian Studies, Professor Robert Warrior, has stated his support.

—Ahmad Hamdan

5. At UC, Student-Workers Gear for a Boycott

The elected officers of UAW 2865, the union of 13,000 University of California student-workers including teaching assistants and tutors, published an open letter in solidarity with Palestinian labor unions’ call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli occupation. The letter, voted on and passed by the union’s 83-member Joint Council, outlines the union’s intent to support its Palestinian counterparts and seek a membership vote once the fall term is in session. If this vote passes, UAW 2865 would become the first US union to join BDS. The Joint Council is asking members to consider divestment of UAW International’s pension investments from companies that profit off Israeli occupation; join five of nine UC campus governments in pressuring the UC to divest; and observe a member boycott of academic activities officially sponsored or funded by Israeli universities justifying apartheid. The letter calls for members to vote “yes” on the resolution. Jewish members also published a letter in support of the move.

—Anti-Oppression Committee, UAW 2865

6. At UMass, Undergrads Call for a Union

In the fall of 2013, Peer Mentors at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst began efforts to join UAW Local 2322, which represents resident assistants and graduate student workers. Peer Mentors are live-in undergraduate student-workers who assist first year students in their transition to the university, with a focus on academics. A majority of Peer Mentors have signed union cards; we believe that we deserve higher compensation and a greater voice in the nature and future of our position—which has been undergoing ongoing revisions with little or no student worker input. While the university affirms the importance of Peer Mentors, it has contested our unionization efforts to the Department of Labor and, in a hearing, stated its intention to convert our job from an hourly waged position to a for-credit practicum with a stipend. By fighting undergraduate worker unionization efforts, the university silences our voices and experiences—and damages the communities it aims to create.

—Jenna Grady, Emily Braun, Ian Roche, Aeden McCarthy and Hoai Quach

7. Capitol Hill’s Title IX Teeth

On the week of July 28, bipartisan coalitions of Senators and Congresspeople introduced two bills to end sexual violence on college campuses. Know Your IX’s ED ACT NOW campaign, which advocates for better federal enforcement of Title IX, was particularly encouraged to see two provisions we’ve called for since our launch: greater transparency into civil rights investigations of schools and fining authority for the Department of Education if a school violates these rights. Currently, the only sanction ED can levy against a noncompliant school is revoking all federal funding, which would be a disaster for students, particularly those on financial aid. Perhaps for this reason, no school has ever been sanctioned for sexual assault-related Title IX violations, rendering the law an empty promise. Know Your IX looks forward to working with the bipartisan coalition and student allies across the country to make sure these key provisions become law, bringing our campuses one step closer to safety and justice for students of all genders.

—Know Your IX

8. Sacramento’s Preventative Education

Since last spring, federal complaints filed by scores of students across California, from the University of Southern California to Occidental College to UC-Berkeley, have pressured lawmakers to make campuses safer. Now, California lawmakers are springing into action with SB 967, a bill that would require students to have affirmative consent from their partners before engaging in sexual activity. The bill, which students have been vital in putting at the forefront of California’s legislative agenda, also aims to increase important preventative education and outreach to students to confront the widespread culture of campus sexual assault. Beyond serving as a model for how states can respond to sexual violence on campus, the bill has generated an important dialogue among anti-sexual violence activists, students and the mainstream media about how our culture can encourage safety, respect and consent.

—Sofie Karasek

9. Where Has Corbett Been This Whole Time?

At 9 AM on Wednesday, August 6, students from Youth United for Change protested in front of Governor Corbett’s office in Philadelphia as he held a press conference on funding for education. We tried to get inside, but security refused, saying that the event was closed to the public. As Corbett came out of the elevator, we greeted him with chants—and he ran from us. We were escorted out of the building, where we rallied with students from Philadelphia Student Union. Reporters asked me if we should cut Governor Corbett some slack, because he was giving us $265 million for education—but he doesn’t deserve to be the hero status as he is the main reason we are in this struggle in the first place. We will continue to demand full and fair funding so we can have the education that we deserve.

—Katherine Garcia

10. When Will the Genocide End?

On Saturday, August 2, more than 150 people, mostly under the age of 25, came together to offer and hear public testimony about Chicago police violence, participate in a workshop on the history of police violence and current resistance and network with each other. The gathering was the first event of a new group, We Charge Genocide, a grassroots, intergenerational effort to center the voices and experiences of the young people most targeted by police violence in Chicago. Our next action will be a copwatch training on August 21.

—We Charge Genocide

Reflections From Behind the Brick Wall

Ivy Walls

(youngist.com)

This article originally appeared in {young}ist and is reprinted here with permission.

"SCHOLARSHIP IS ART AND WE ARE ARTISTS. THIS IS IN ALL CAPS TO BE HEARD OVER THE NUMBING SILENCE AND CACOPHONIUS BLABBER OF THE ACADEMY. ARTISTS AND CREATORS AND LIFE-GIVERS ARE NOT APPRECIATED HERE. THERE IS NO BODILY INTEGRITY. NO REFLECTIVE QUIETNESS. NO TENDER TOUCH. ONLY THE CRUDE NECESSITY TO SELL AND CONSUME UNTIL YOU BECOME A CANNIBAL OF YOURSELF.”

I’m writing this as a way to process the four years I spent in school, but I am not sure where to start. I could plunge into a critique of the academic industrial complex and the corporatization of higher education, but my memory is working in snapshots right now. Crying in professor’s offices, in corners of the library, embarrassingly often. Looking at the ceiling and doodling during class in boredom and frustration. Feeling a murky cloud of self-doubt settling over me. I still feel silly and self-indulgent writing this. It’s not something I want to talk about, but I feel like I have to get it out of my head. 

I spent a lot of time wandering campus and feeling cynical and somewhat horrified by my surroundings. The thing about getting a critical education is that it will invert your gaze upon yourself in a self-destructive way. Not everyone carries the analysis of the world that they learn through gender theory, critical race studies or postcolonial studies far enough, but those of us that do realize that we are being given the tools to unravel the institution we find ourselves in from within that institution. It is a hugely unsettling paradox that can provoke a lot of rage (that has nowhere to go). We see what is wrong with not just the broader world, but with our immediate world—the university—a place that thrives off all sorts of material and psychological violence. And it is then that we come upon a painful realization that this place does not want to change, and will not. It may teach you what is wrong with the world, but it is divested from engaging in how to change it. What good is a “reading room in a prison?"

I discovered the limits of supposedly “radical” spaces in the university too quickly. I remember sitting in my senior feminist studies seminar, becoming aggravated with a classroom that was more interested in discussing whether Beyoncé is a feminist rather than talking about how neoliberalism is claiming feminism, more interested in reading Tina Fey than Marxist feminists, more inclined to read Audre Lorde’s poetry as “pretty words” than an clear articulation of a pain that necessitates action. Is this really the next generation of feminists? I would ask myself with frustration. I found out later that this was symptomatic of a focus on postmodernist feminism, one heavily invested in language and representation rather than material realities. In an age where the university was becoming increasingly ruled by capitalist interests, an article about the revolutionary potential of Rihanna’s pussy pat would sell more than writing that actually elaborates the grim realities of capitalist patriarchal exploitation. So even the “feminist" classroom was deeply disappointing; radical theory was far removed from radical action, coupled instead with the glittery status of “sounding” radical without being threatening to the status quo.

And there was no space for our rage. The classroom centered “the personal is political” around the individual, turning politics into a therapy session that glorified the narration of personal experience, rather than affirming that what was political was already profoundly personal and directly connected to histories of trauma and violence. We would hear ten stories about “the first time I got my period”, but reading the first-hand testimonies of third world revolutionaries provoked no emotional response. Centering our personal experience so much made students unable to draw links between their stories and collectives histories of oppression. 

I found that I learned far more outside the classroom, in student groups and organizing. Yet even that work was frustrating—our activism almost always culminated into fruitless meeting with administrators. While I think the presence of a loud and vocal bloc of students was beneficial to the overall apathetic student body typical of elite institutions of higher education, personally I found myself constantly exhausted from being in a kind of war with the university. I signed up for a column in the college newspaper, thinking that it would be a good outlet for my words, but I wondered how long I could keep informing people about the obvious, how many times I could say that an incident was racist, how many ways I could say that this is wrong

Sara Ahmed once described the work of diversity workers in a university as constantly banging their head against a brick wall. The “brick wall” was a metaphor I found grimly accurate for the university – a place that won’t change, no matter how much “head-banging” those invested in changing it painfully endured. I remember walking around campus taking pictures of brick walls as a kind of disillusioned art project. Another time, I took pictures of the beautiful scenery of my campus, and juxtaposed the imagery with text detailing collusion with imperialism, slavery, and colonialism. I spent a lot of my last two years not going to class (somehow I graduated), wandering around, and observing my surroundings with a sense of horror and absurdity that I never want to lose. I think that holding onto that initial feeling of “WTF is this” when our paradigm is being shifted is key to remaining authentically committed to the ongoing project of justice. Don’t get used to the way things are. 

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What to do with a place so absurd that it is showing you the tools to destroy the it but not letting you use them? Become a troll. Trolling as a bullshit response to the bullshit of the university is something that is impervious to co-optation in a way that can allow someone to maintain their sanity in a totally insane place. Subversive actions whether it was late-night “vandalizing’ racist posters with sharpies, wearing Israel day shirts as crop tops marked with Palestine to large school concerts, or gracing a racist and sexist creative writing teacher with a poem entitled “why I don’t want to talk to white people” as a final assignment (and getting full marks) were modes of survival in a place that was constantly drilling into our heads that we were wrong, “crazy”, even worthless. I found myself not being able to do the things I was best at, like writing, because  I was overcome with so much self-doubt. I kept coming back to a quote by Alexis Pauline Gumbs in her article The Shape of My Impact: “the university does not love you, but the universe does”. In such a place of invalidation, the affirming power of laughter and community were very important. My advice to young and critical people in the university is to find a family of trolls to nourish you. 

I hugely appreciated the words of others who have written on this topic, your words made me feel less alone. I write this now with a necessitated urge to take the theory we learn within the academy outside the academy. That is the only healing response to violence of the university: to redistribute its wealth and knowledge potential to the spaces where these things are needed the most, through community organizing, through art, etc. Right now, I am thankful to be out of the often toxic space that academia is, to be able to think outside of it and beyond it, and focus my mind and energy on things that matter. 

Read Next: Where is the voice of migrant children in the immigration crisis?

What ‘Nation’ Interns Are Reading the Week of 08/08/14

Roxane Gay

(© Justine Bursoni Photography)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats,” by Nick Hanauer. Politico Magazine, July/August 2014.

This has been a highly read story by zillionaire Nick Hanauer, which is interesting in both the many preconceptions it slashes and those it embraces. As Hanauer points out, the failure of considering workers as consumers is creating a society where most cannot afford the production of industry. There is actually a profit motive to advocating the minimum wage, as better paid workers would make more avid consumers. Zillionaires should therefore jump on the 15-NOW bandwagon! How lovely. Yet, Hanauer embraces a few highly problematic myths: firstly, that of capitalism as a vehicle for progress, which promotes some form of mild, necessary inequality, which simply has to be reduced and kept in check for capitalism to better strive. You can be poor insofar as we still profit. Then, he fearmongers on how the blood-lust of the unsophisticated masses will take over if we don't do anything. Reform, zillionaires, or you shall be killed. This is an abject vision of the disenfranchised as prone to passions and violence, not simply asking for basic rights and justice. If this sparks reform, it would be for the wrong reason—yet, in an odd and cynical way, it could lead to more worker rights, which we're hardly in a position to reject, unfortunately.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

Fifth-graders defend their South Shore neighborhood.” Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2014.

The narrative of the South Side of Chicago being a war zone, aptly nicknamed "Chiraq," is an issue even the youngest of its residents take to heart. In an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, fifth-graders at the Bradwell School of Excellence in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood call out the media on how it fails to put a human face behind its news coverage in the area. Even in elementary school, these fifth-graders know that they and their neighbors are more than just "another statistic."

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

Fitting The Description.” Doifitthedescription.tumblr.com.

As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed over the weekend, I came across a hashtag, #ChiCopWatch. Curious about what this was, I clicked on the link and read through a number of testimonials about being harassed by Chicago police for “fitting the description.” #ChiCopWatch was launched by a grassroots group, We Charge Genocide, and is dedicated to revealing the “epidemic of police violence” in the city of Chicago. Along with the Twitter campaign (among other community organizing) is a site called Fitting The Description, a series of beautifully composed portraits of individuals holding whiteboards with three words to describe themselves.

“Focused, Motivated, Hopeful”
“Powerful, Progressive, Passionate”
“Feminist, Queer, Anti-Racist”

The social media campaign is an effort to both break down the stereotypes of those who are most brutally harassed by police, while also calling on communities to “copwatch” and report police abuse. This is of particular relevance and importance with recent outcries of police brutality as anational crisis, from New York to Chicago and beyond.

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

"Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist is a manual on 'How to Be a Human,'" by Nolan Feeney. TIME, August 5, 2014.

If you haven't heard about Roxane Gay's new collection of essays—personal and scholastic—Bad Feminist, count yourself among the fallen (and now saved, because you're currently reading this sentence and the collection recently came out. Praise be). Time interviewed the professor and author of An Untamed State to discuss questions for those interested or at odds with contemporary feminist doctrine, from combating ignorance like the Women Against Feminism campaign to discussing Beyoncé as a target and then bringing feminism back to the basics—humanity and empathy. America needs this brand of imperfectly human commentary, written as both a shedding of self and a loud, earnest exhalation that teaches its readers how to better move through the world as woman, as man, as human. For this I would (if I could) scream from a mountaintop and say, so it might land on the heads of the many who need to read these essays, Thank you, Roxane.

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.


"The GOP's mixed message to minorities", Jill Lawrence. Al Jazeera America, August 6, 2014.

Jill Lawrence writes about the battle within the Republican Party and its official aim of reaching out to voters of color, while its members in Congress, channeling its most fringe constituents—those who chose to spend their Fourth of July weekend screaming invectives at child migrants fleeing deplorable violence—offer the worst possible message, lacking any compassion or logic. The striking contrast of Reince Priebus reaching out to the National Urban League as the House Republicans sue President Obama on spurious charges of abuse of power paints a picture of a party that has alienated the people of color in the country, which will shrink their party.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Gaza Calls! Day of Rage August 9th, Jantar Mantar, Delhi,” by Nivedita Menon. Kafila, August 7, 2014.

Indians who protest Israel's assault on Gaza face similar resistance to Americans who are against the attacks—India has a military and trade relationship with Israel that many Indians do not wish to jeopardize. This week, Indians opposed to the war will meet to protest at Jantar Mantar, a famous Delhi landmark, to demand that the Indian government impose a military embargo on India, a boycott of all direct and indirect collaborations with Israel, including academic collaborations, and encourage increased educational and cultural exchange with Palestine. The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel also campaigns for greater awareness of the destruction of Gaza.

 

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

Understanding Israel’s War as Racist Is Crucial to Ending Occupation,” by Sonali Kolhatkar. Truthdig, July 31, 2014.

Twelve years ago, Jewish right-wing journalist Uri Elitzer referred to Palestinians as "snakes" in an article, and called for Palestinians and their mothers to be killed. Last month, a Danish reporter came across a group of Israeli's gathered outside in the Israeli town of Sderot with folding chairs and popcorn cheering and clapping as a bombs dropped on Gaza. This past May, Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu called for Israel to be formally defined as a Jews-only state. And this year, Upper Narazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso called for his city to be "Jewish Forever." He was quoted saying, "If you think I'm a racist, then Israel is a racist state." It's no doubt that racism might very well be the driving force for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What's even more sobering, as Sonali Kolhatkar points out in her July 31 Truthdig article, is that their Jews-only logic is not unique. "Just as Zionism is based on the belief that God granted Jews the land that Palestinians were living on," she writes, "white settlers in the United States believed they had a God-given right to the land they were settling—a Manifest Destiny." American settler colonialism was not thought of as racist at the time. But we know better now, or at least we should. So maybe it's time we take a more critical look at the very blatant racist behavior, rhetoric and policies towards the displaced, dying and disheartened Palestinians living in Gaza.

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, black feminist thought, and police brutality.

I was wrong about Gaza: Why we can no longer ignore the horrors in Palestine,” by Brittney Cooper. Salon, August 5, 2014.

For centuries, religious texts have been used to justify the genocide and oppression of African-American communities. Today they've formed another barrier—but this time by halting solidarity with another marginalized group. African-American communities are disproportionately evangelical Christians, and stories of the Promise Land have left this community deeply rooted in a pro-Israel political agenda. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the violence and occupation that Americans for so long have been taught to support. Brittney Cooper eloquently deconstructs the lies Americans—and specifically people of color—have been told about the history and suffering in Palestine. Communities of color are not unfamiliar with racial and ethnic police brutality and political oppression, and what Cooper comes to realize is that "as a black person attuned to the processes of colonization, slavery and apartheid that built the West on the backs of black and indigenous people, [she] cannot help seeing these acts of war and terror as interconnected." With this understanding, it is hard to consume the sermons that use religion to morally justify the Israeli occupation of the Gaza. "Having come from people who have risen up, rioted and rebelled against oppressive state forces that confined us to land, restricted our movement and denied our humanity, [resisting] the urge to characterize all forms of resistance as terror" and evaluating religious understanding, may be difficult—but it is necessary. To read Biblical texts with a sociopolitical agenda—as many in power have been doing for centuries—only continues the cycle of violence and occupation. America has used religion to justify its "sordid history of settler colonialism, slavery, mass incarceration and other racially driven social ills, [and this] teaches us a lot about why our country identifies with Israel and it teaches us everything we need to know about why we shouldn’t." 

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

The CIA Must Tell the Truth About My Rendition At 12 Years Old,” by Khadija al-Saadi. Gawker, August 6, 2014.

This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee is battling the CIA and White House over redactions made in a Congressional report on the agency’s use of detention and rendition. At stake, is the possibility of one victim’s story “being hidden under a sea of black.” Khadija al-Saadi was just a child when her family was flown to Libya, surely to be tortured for her father’s opposition to Colonel Gaddafi. Her story is one that should be familiar to most Americans: rendition, secret prisons, our government’s complicity and involvement in heinous acts. Now, at 23, she hopes her name isn't one that’s been redacted from the report. Khadija al-Saadi’s story allows us to reflect on our post-9/11 world and empathize with the CIA’s victims. As al-Saadi’s family moves forward, she hopes to gain closure as a result of “a full admission of what has taken place in the past.”

 

Read Next: What are Nation interns reading the week of 08/01/14

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 08/01/14?

Mcdonald's

(Reuters/Mike Blake)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

Facebook for Space? Airbnb’s Weird Corporate Nationhood,” by Kate Losse. Dissent, July 26, 2014.

This article in Dissent looks at the oddness of corporations’ constant appeal to emotional ties through the case of Airbnb: you no longer simply pay for a room, you actually belong to a community. The odd sense that you have to love the person you rent a room from hides the purely transactional nature of the company. It is not only tedious and slightly shallow, but it also makes bargaining harder and fundamentally transforms the way we think of payment, concealing it.

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

Whiteness is Still a Proxy for Being American,” by Peter Beinart. The Atlantic, July 27, 2014.

The thought that someone might mistake me for a foreigner has crossed my mind many, many times since I was a child. Despite my Filipino ethnicity, my nationality is American, since I was born and raised here. Although the dialogue of America as a “melting pot” is a well-known one, it seems that the default image of an American has always been that of a white person. White people are the “norm” in society, which is evident from beauty standards to the fact that they’re more likely to uphold the image of the “American dream.” Let’s make this clear: race and ethnicity don’t devalue how “American” someone is.

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

‘Water, Water Everywhere’: Racial Inequality and Reproductive Justice in Detroit,” by Cortney Bouse and Elizabeth Mosley. RH Reality Check, July 22, 2014.

This piece situates the water shutoff in Detroit in a larger sociopolitical context. The authors begin with the story of a woman named Kendra, who must push a cart several blocks every morning in order to access water, a basic human right, from a friend whose water hasn’t yet been shut off. They take this seemingly isolated story and draw connections to a rural area in Western Uganda where Mosley often saw women having to make these same daily trips for water. Mosley and Bouse also draw on the European colonization of East Africa in the twentieth century, “characterized by depletion of resources, exploitation of communities of color, and underinvestment in social infrastructure,” similar to what is currently happening in Detroit. And as if it wasn’t enough to make connections between the two “populations of color [facing] similarly devastating consequences from the inherently intertwined systems of capitalism and racism,” Mosley and Bouse tie the water shutoffs to reproductive health and justice.

They state how such water shutoffs “carry significant consequences for the health of racially and economically marginalized women,” and are “life-long assaults against personal autonomy endured by women.” This piece had my attention right away with its multilayered discussion, uncovering various intersections of gender, race and class regarding access to reproductive health and the movement for reproductive rights. I would go even one step further and consider the deteriorating situation of Detroit in the larger context of America’s “War on Terror,” just one example of the incarcerated “other” here at home. In an essay titled, “Detroit: Incarcerated and Disappeared in the Land of the Free,” by Trinh Minh-ha, the author states, “The war on terrorism has crystallized many of our phobias and prejudices. It gives racial profiling a new twist, while highlighting issues of immigration, identification,…as well as cultural and gender discrimination,” but “[c]olor, class, gender, culture are not categories, but an ongoing project and dimension of consciousness.”

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

‘Even If You Don’t Like It, You’re Supposed to Appear That You Do,’” by Noah Berlatsky. The Atlantic, July 28, 2014.

As of late, increasing attention has been paid to women’s social justice movements, and along those lines, this week The Atlantic interviewed Feminista Jones, a writer, activist, social worker and founder of the street harassment hashtag campaign #YouOkSis. The interview centralizes around what every person can do to support victims of street harassment and highlights the failure of both law enforcement and public policy on this issue. Street harassment, as Feminista Jones articulates, has not always amplified black women’s voices (as many women’s movements have historically framed themselves to be) and the consequence of this history is as follows: “[Black women] have not been given the opportunity to express the pain that we feel. What happens when we’re walking down the street is that people will harass us and see us being both women and also black, and they understand that nobody gives a shit about us.”

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

I’m Sick of Hearing About Political Polarization,” by Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg View, July 30, 2014.

The media’s driving narrative about Washington mostly focuses on political polarization, and rampant partisanship has become almost a cottage industry with new charts and studies coming out, it seems, on almost a weekly basis to show just how far apart the two parties are, harkening to a golden age of civility that never really existed, at least in the way that the press often presents it. Jonathan Bernstein discusses how the focus relies on how we got here—which is, admittedly, fascinating—but never on how to affect change through the framework of our representative government. Bernstein is right, too, that the focus on the trend of the conservative coalition (of southern Democrats and conservative Republicans) from the 1930s through the 1960s was an anomaly in what has been a history that’s rife with partisanship. (It should be noted, of course, that this coalition is what thwarted civil rights legislation for decades). Bernstein doesn’t provide any answers, but he does at least ask questions, the first step toward progress.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

Got Your Back.” This American Life, July 25, 2014.

Hamida Gulistani of Ghazni, Afghanistan was exactly the type of woman that the US wanted in its camp. Since 2005, she has been fearless about advocating for women’s rights, often intervening in abusive family relationships, using a combination of religious leadership and the press to shame men into treating their wives and daughters more humanely. With US support, she became a known figure in Afghanistan—a spokesperson for women’s rights who felt she could speak her mind in the public arena. Now that the US is leaving Ghazni, Gulistani is in a lot of danger—she’s been shot at in a mall, and her driver was shot in the arm. Kevin Sieff, the Afghanistan bureau chief for The Washington Post, reported her story for This American Life.

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings,” by Maximo Anguiano. independentcreativeservices.tumblr.com, July 9, 2014.

The title says it all: “The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings.” A summary of Richard Delgado’s 2009 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article, Maximo Anguiano brought this predominantly unknown history back onto the online stage this week via his Tumblr page, Independent Creative Services. In doing so, he reminded America of its deep roots in multiracial racism, where Latin@s and African-Americans were being lynched alongside one another from 1846 to 1925. (Which, when you think about it, wasn’t really that long ago.) Unfortunately, as Delgado points out, Latin@ lynchings were edited and minimized out of documented history since most lynching accounts were reported in Spanish language newspapers—sources that few mainstream American historians consult. Interestingly, Delgado goes on to wonder if remnants of Latin@ lynching may still be present today in the form of current movements to make English the official language of the US, attempts to end bilingual school and/or enforcing English-only speaking at jobs. It’s absolutely fundamental, Anguiano writes, that people of color and whites alike educate themselves on this history and refuse to be quite about the modern day “lynchings”—like the school-to-prison pipeline, stalled immigration reform, deportations, etc. “In order to achieve our full capabilities,” he says, “we need to reject a fragmented history and seek a personal revolution, which starts with ourselves.

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, black feminist thought, and police brutality.

The Girls Obama Forgot,” by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. The New York Times, July 30, 2014.

For too long, to be black in America has meant to be black and male. The struggle of men of color in this country is now broadcasted more than ever through Obama’s My Brothers Keeper program. The discourse in the United States today is about “fixing men of color—particularly young black men…[and] this hits a political sweet spot among populations that both love and fear them.” But while “liberal” advocates clench their purses and tend to the needs of men, women of color remain in crisis. To be black and female in America means that you are both absent and exploited. Black women’s bodies and experiences are continually appropriated to entertain the masses, but when it comes time to create racial justice policy, women of color are continually forgotten. As Kimberle Crenshaw states in her op-ed for The New York Times, “The median wealth of single black and Hispanic women is $100 and $120, respectively—compared with almost $7,900 for black men, $9,730 for Hispanic men and $41,500 for white women.” But what has been overlooked is that the women and girls of color who put the president in the White House refuse to be viewed as stepping stools for their male counterparts. My Brother’s Keeper advocates addressing individual circumstances and not systematic inequality. As Crenshaw outlines, it’s the classic analogy of the canary in the coal mine. Men of color have been used to alert everyone of the toxic environment in the mine, and policy creators and advocates have created narrow solutions to only alleviate the of distress of the canary. Women and girls have been left to survive in the mines toxic environment—holding their breath while continually being told that they are strong enough to endure. But systematic oppression is not the Olympics. Men of color must realize that their experiences are intricately bound to the women in their lives. Because this movement—that allows patriarchy and not gender equality to dominate—will never be sustainable.

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

McDonald’s Ruling Could Open Door for Unions,” by Steven Greenhouse. The New York Times, July 30, 2014.

The Fight for $15 campaign just won a small victory that could lead to big consequences for the McDonald’s franchise. On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the fast-food giant could be held “jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators.” The ruling was a result of the labor board’s legal team’s investigation of complaints from fast food workers accusing McDonald’s and its franchisees of unfair labor practices. The cases stemmed from the five one-day strikes demanding a $15 wage in November of 2012, when over 100 workers complained that they were retaliated against for protesting, either by having hours cut or losing their jobs entirely. The ruling is significant on many levels, one being the prospect of companies finally being held accountable for violating worker’s rights. As temp agencies proliferate, blame for workplace abuses is constantly tossed between employer and contractor, ending ultimately with no action. With this latest ruling, however, McDonald’s will no longer be able to partake in that model by diverting blame onto its franchisees.

Read Next: What Nation interns were readingthe week of 07/25/14

On Gaza, the Border Crisis and Police Brutality, a National Youth Groundswell

Gaza protest

Boston students mass for Palestine. (Credit: Elan Kawesch/The Times of Israel)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out July 1 and July 14. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. After Tariq Khdeir’s Return, Florida Youth Mass for Gaza

Tariq Khdeir is a 15-year-old Palestinian-American living in Tampa, Florida. Earlier this month, he went to visit family in Palestine around the same time his cousin, Muhamad Abu Khdeir, was made to swallow lighter fluid and set on fire by Israeli forces. While attending a peaceful rally in support of Muhamad, Tariq was arrested and brutally beaten by Israeli police, then kept on house arrest. His parents and protesters around the world called for his return home; he was eventually released amid escalating attacks on Gaza from the Israeli military. On July 11, Dream Defenders in Tampa held a press conference with other youth, including Tariq's peers, outside the city's courthouse, demanding his safe return and an end to collective punishment of the Palestinian people by Israeli forces. Outside Florida's capitol—where legislators are pushing anti-BDS legislation limiting people's ability to protest Israeli apartheid this spring—Tallahassee Dream Defenders and Florida State University's Students for Justice in Palestine rallied against the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza and called for an end to US government sponsorship of Israel.

—Dream Defenders

2. As Regents Blink at Foul Play, Students Rail on Israeli Apartheid—and Zionism at UC

Throughout July, students across California have participated in demonstrations opposing attacks on Gaza, including the largest Palestine solidarity rally in LA history. Earlier this month, the Daily Californian revealed that Avi Oved, the student nominee to the UC Board of Regents, had solicited funding from anti-Muslim political activist Adam Milstein for his prior campaign for student government at UCLA. Following the revelations, the UC Student Association voted to postpone his nomination, Jewish students spoke out against Hillel's facilitation of these donations and students across the UC spoke out against the corrupting influence of outside funding on student governance and against Oved's connection to an Islamophobic donor. During its July meeting, the UC Regents accepted Oved's nomination, despite the UCSA vote, a statewide petition of over 700 students and waves of public comment opposed to his nomination. Regents could see Oved as an ally in the effort to slow or stop the BDS movement at UC.

—Rahim Kurwa and Safwan Ibrahim

3. In Nashville, Governors Prove Silent Protesters’ Point

On July 12, the Freedom Side, a collective of progressive student and youth organizations, converged on the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville to demand our governors stop the separation of families through mass incarceration, deportation and laws that criminalize black and brown communities. We silently marched through downtown Nashville and protested outside the Omni Hotel, the site of the NGA meeting. Five of us, from the Ohio Student Association and the Dream Defenders, were arrested and detained for six hours without just cause and subjected to strenuous conditions at the hands of Tennessee state troopers. With the help of supporters in Nashville and across the country, we were released. The Nashville 5 and Freedom Side are determined to organize our communities and campuses and challenge our elected representatives who so far have failed us. Our lives matter.

—Michael Sampson, Aaron Hayes, James Hayes, Malaya Davis and Marshawn McCarrel

4. In McAllen, Undocumented Youth Mass for Child Refugees

While we have seen hateful messages toward children and families arriving in the United States, the Rio Grande Valley community has shown compassion and dignified treatment. On July 10, the Minority Affairs Council at the University of Texas Pan-American, along with United We Dream, started a three day vigil in support of the incoming immigrants. On July 15, activist Jose Antonio Vargas, who had joined in support, was detained for trying to board a plane in McAllen, Texas—facing what Rio Grande Valley residents live every day, the possibility of deportation simply for trying to move throughout their own country. While the Rio Grande Valley is known for its fast-growing economy, it is often forgotten that people live trapped within the boundaries of checkpoints and international bridges. We are segregated from the rest of the country; we live in a “Constitution Free Zone.”

—Tania Chavez

5. Democrats Get Listed

On Monday, July 21, members and allies of Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action gathered at Congressman Jim Costa's office in Fresno to kick off a statewide campaign, Migrant Lives Matter, led by the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance and Immigrant Youth Coalition. In a region heavily populated by farm workers and immigrant families, Costa, a Democrat, has not spoken on behalf of our communities: he did nothing to stop the deportation of forty people to dangerous conditions in Honduras; he hasn't pressured President Obama to use his executive power to grant administrative relief for the 11 million undocumented people in the country; and he has stated that activists need to switch our focus to the Republican Party. Our campaign is targeting all Democratic representatives to take action—or be placed on a "deportation party" list. At Costa's office, we delivered a letter and requested a response by the end of the month; later, he stated that will set up a meeting and work with us.

—Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action

6. Republicans Get Buried

On July 21, Dreamers from across the country converged on Washington, DC, to represent the thousands of undocumented immigrants in the state of North Carolina and the millions across the country, including my mother. We came with a message for Ted Cruz and the Republican Party as a whole: You are irrelevant, and the GOP is dead to our community. The GOP killed immigration reform. Now, amid the humanitarian crisis at the border, the GOP is advocating to get rid of DACA and leave Dreamers like myself under the threat of deportation. We went from office to office, holding funeral services in front of each, leaving a mock coffin at the door and letting legislators know that their shameful politicalization of the crisis to attack us will not stand.

—Oliver Merino

7. Southern Strategies

On the Unite to Fight–On the Road to Southern Movement Assembly IV road trip, July 10 to 18, ten community activists traveled to ten cities for a series of movement building events with community groups fighting to build a South where young people aren’t afraid to walk in their own streets and schools for fear of being targeted, harassed and killed. We witnessed the intersection of our struggles, from formerly and currently incarcerated people in Alabama and students fighting for the right to healthy food in our schools in Atlanta to environmental racism in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and gentrification and public space in Durham. Over the next month, we will bring this conversation to youth assemblies in Jacksonville, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, during Standing Our Ground Week and Southern Movement Assembly IV.

—Donshay Brown

8. “Justice Center” Lies

Thanks to a misleading title on the 2012 ballot, calling the proposed construction of a new youth jail a “Children and Family Justice Center,” King County, Washington, voters approved a plan to replace the King County Juvenile Detention Facility with a new $210 million facility. A group in Seattle, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism/End the Prison Industrial Complex, is fighting to stop the proposed construction with our No New Youth Jail Campaign. On June 11, we hosted a community night with more than 200 people and marched to King County headquarters to protest the new youth jail. On August 8, we will be giving a televised presentation on youth criminalization and the new jail to elected officials.

—Yaninna Sharpley-Travis

9. How Long Can HWS Colleges Ignore Sexual Assault?

In May, the federal Office of Civil Rights listed Hobart and William Smith Colleges as one of fifty-five universities under investigation for mishandling of sexual assault cases under Title IX. On July 13, the New York Times published an article detailing the story of a student at HWS who was raped by three football players in late September—all of whom were found not guilty by an institutional review board. For the past year, students and faculty at the Colleges have been mobilizing around issues of sexual violence through organizations including the Sexual Violence Task Force and the Coalition of Concerned Students. We have pressured the administration to provide a resource center for survivors, a student staffed support hotline, transparency about policy and process and policy changes. Upon release of the article, an alumni-led group, HWS Community for Change, has joined the mobilization, demanding changes to the Colleges' reporting processes, additional support for survivors and improved trainings.

—Coalition of Concerned Students

10. When Will Justice for Eric and Renisha Be Served?

 

On Thursday, July 24, alongside local and national partners including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Communities United for Police Reform, Freedom Side, RaceForward, ColorOfChange and the Ella Baker Center, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice hosted a Twitter town hall on #JusticeforEricGarner and #RememberRenisha—and police brutality, gun violence and surveillance affecting communities of color.

—Dante Berry

What ‘Nation’ Interns Are Reading the Week of 07/25/14

Beyoncé

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.

Subversive Imaginations,” by Chris Hedges. Guernica, July, 23, 2014.

So much of politics is speaking against, that I sometimes forget what it speaks for. This week was rife with tragedies from Gaza to Ukraine, as well as the usual overflow of indignation caused by the harshness of domestic politics. This beautiful article by Chris Hedges reminds us that emancipatory politics would allow people to be able to enjoy the brevity and marvels of bare living. Speaking about politics in terms of numbers, minimum wage, healthcare and incarceration rates is crucial, but it crowds out "the mysterious incongruities of human existence." From Shakespeare to Native American societies, he reminds us that "a society that loses its respects for the sacred… and severs itself from the power of human imagination ensures its obliteration." Although solitude disappears and culture is commodified, this is something to struggle for. We have to imagine the society we want to live in to then create it. Maybe no one does this better than philosopher Grace Lee Boggs, also interviewed in Guernica this week: as she writes, we must "grow our souls."

—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.

"The Horrifying Women's Rights Injustice that Modern Feminism Forgot," by Raquel Reichard. Mic, July 14, 2014.

Although the feminist community has made great strides in pointing out why women's rights issues matter (see: #YesAllWomen), it is not immune to missing a mark—especially on the issue of forced sterilization of incarcerated women. Writer Raquel Reichard points out that feminist sites such as Jezebel, xoJane and Bustle had essentially non-existent coverage of the issue. Perhaps the inhumanity behind forced sterilizations isn't getting the amount of attention it deserves because it doesn't fit society's ideas of traditional reproductive rights. For modern feminism to fully advocate for all women, it shouldn't fall into the trap of perpetuating the invisibility of inmates. As Reichard puts it, "while a women's right to choose deserves headlines, so, too, does the callous stealing of that right."

—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.

The United States Wants the World to Forget These Prisoners,” by Molly Crabapple. Creative Time Reports, July 21, 2014.

In her piece, Molly Crabapple brings attention to Communications Management Units, or CMUs, prison units that are designed to cut off prisoners from the outside world. Not surprising is the fact that 70 percent of those in CMUs are Muslim, though the purpose is to limit the communication of terrorist inmates. In her piece Crabapple profiles—visually and in writing—four Muslim men: Shifa Sadequee, Tarek Mehanna, Shahawar Matin Siraj and Ghassan Elashi, “men the state wants the world to forget.” This story is yet another reminder that “Muslim” has come to mean “terrorist” and that “[a]cts of speech, travel or association that would be A-OK for a Christian are enough to get a Muslim branded a terrorist.” With her beautiful drawings and captivating written words, Molly Crabapple paints a picture of those we are supposed to forget, imprisoned and erased.

—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.

39 Pieces of Advice for Journalists and Writers of Color.” Buzzfeed, July 21, 2014.

Buzzfeed collected this is superb list of advice from twenty writers and journalists of color who work everywhere from Vox to The New York Times to Jezebel to our very own The Nation. Each writer was asked the three questions (listed below) and the pieces of advice that follow are brutally honest, funny, thoughtful and extraordinarily insightful:

• What piece of advice would you, as a writer of color, give to burgeoning writers/journalists of color?

• What do you know now about being a writer of color that you wish you’d known when you first started?

• Is there anything you did as a writer starting out that you now regret?

—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.

Jacqueline Halbig v. Sylvia Matthews Burwell [PDF].” U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, July 22, 2014.

The somehow deeply controversial act of providing health insurance to Americans who need it and the legal circus that surrounds it continues. This case centers on the language of the Affordable Care Act and who is able to access to subsidies to help pay for health insurance, especially for those with low-incomes. The language of the law, the plaintiffs allege, says it is only those who get their subsidies on the state exchanges and not the federal exchanges—which would leave out five million people in thirty-six states. A divisive Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law and a decisive presidential election that affirmed its creator were not enough to fell the ACA, but it's possible, this ruling tells us, that it could be undone by a typo.

—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.

The Gaza debate in Parliament is about the domestic politics of left and right,” by Prayaag Akbar. Sroll.in, July 21, 2014.

Right wing Indians, whose voices have strengthened with the advent of Narendra Modi's election, are increasingly pro-Israel. Some Hindutva leaders have even attempted to draw parallels between Israel-Palestine and ancient Hindu-Muslim conflicts in India, but Prayaag Akbar of Scroll.in questions the true motivation behind their support, arguing that other historical connections between Palestine and India are more prescient. Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, supported Palestine in the spirit of solidarity among post-colonial states. Support for Israel's offensive against Gaza may come not from shared history, but rather a desire among Indian right-wingers to execute violent offensives against civilian insurgencies within India, in Kashmir as well as in North Eastern and Central states. Akbar concludes by warning readers that, "To applaud Israel’s actions today means India will support state-ordained violence against civilian populations."

—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.

We Watched Jorge Ramos Swim Across Río Grande & We Still Don’t Get Why He Did It.” Latino Rebels, July 23, 2014.

Last week journalist and news anchor Jorge Ramos did something really silly. He swam across the Rio Grande, otherwise known as the river of death to almost every migrant crossing the US-Mexico border, as a means to (supposedly) better understand what so many Central American migrants face as they attempt to cross into the US. Latino Rebels reported on the bizarre event with both an empathetic and critical voice, writing, simply, that they just didn't get why the Latino journalistic superstar had to go so far as "play" crossing the Rio Grande. They did, however, understand why, perhaps, Ramos felt staging the highly lethal river-crossing (with multiple eyes and cameras watching), would be useful in raising his ratings. But, they wrote, "In the quest to share an angle to a story that we will argue has already been told countless times, Ramos crossed a privileged line."

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—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora,immigration, Black Feminist thought, and police brutality.

The Myth of the Beyoncé Voter,” by Tanya Basu. The Atlantic, July 18, 2014.

Following the controversial ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, political pundits have set a critical eye on a new group within the American electorate: Beyoncé Voters. The term, coined by Fox News's Jesse Watters, refers to single women, a demographic that he believes will be vital in the coming election. Tanya Basu critiques assumptions about the politically savvy, economically independent—and apparently Yonce obsessed—young female electorate. The danger, she asserts is that "no party can afford to lump such a diverse group of people together and treat them as a single bloc to be won or lost." Basu states that economic stability and not birth control is what will get single women to the polls come November. What Jesse Watters does not recognize is that the financial needs of single women in the United States is incredibly diverse, and no singular tactic can claim the demographic. Although Basu's critique is incredibly valid, I would argue that single women will not ignore the Supreme Court and the Conservative Rights increasing disregard for the female body… an ignorance that will only push members of this demographic further to the Left. 

—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.

Noam Chomsky vs. Al Franken: Behind the odd progressive divide between senators, intellectuals on Gaza,” by David Palumbo-Liu. Salon, July 23, 2014.

Last week the US Senate officially threw their support behind Israel's deadly assault on Gaza when they unanimously passed S. Resolution 498. It calls on Hamas to stop all rocket attacks on Israel and urges Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity government arrangement. It's no surprise Senators Bob Menendez and Lindsey Graham authored the resolution or that Rand Paul hoped it would have "more teeth in it." But it is thoroughly disappointing that staunch progressives like Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken and Bernie Sanders added their support. Stanford Professor David Palumbo-Liu argues "the resolution not only gave the green light to the invasion—it gave the IDF a high-five and armaments as they crossed the intersection. All this after more than 400 civilians already had been killed by Israeli forces, the vast majority of them children."

Palumbo adds something else to his critique, perhaps what we need most after more than two weeks of dismal and heartbreaking developments from the Gaza Strip: the growth of international opposition. Public campaigns in the form of protests, petitions and statements are bringing conscientious and compassionate people together the world over who are dismayed by Israel's actions. Civil society is being galvanized more than ever. “The enormity of [Israel’s] onslaught and the political machinery behind it need to be answered by a massive international movement,” says Palumbo-Lui. “This is a start.” 

Read Next: What Nation interns are reading the week of 07/18/14

The Hidden Crisis on College Campuses

Dana Bolger

Dana Bolger speaking at a Senate roundtable on campus sexual assault (Title IX Roundtable DiscussionSubcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. (Flickr/Senator Claire McCaskill)

This post orginally appeared in Generation Progress and is reposted here with permission. Follow @genprogress for invaluable updates.

As the latest graduation season came and went this past spring, the traditional mortarboards worn by graduates were adorned with a new addition—bright red tape spelling “IX.” Simultaneously referencing the gender-equity provision Title IX and red-tape bureaucracy, students from Brown, Stanford and many schools in between came together in repeating a rallying cry: “Red tape won’t cover up rape.”

The refrain and accompanying red-tape tactic were originally used at Columbia University in 1999 and 2000, when a group of twenty-three students took federal action against their school for what they viewed as a systematic failing to support survivors of sexual assault. In addition to their federal complaint, activists plastered the names of accused rapists in bathroom stalls across campus and tried to stage a protest at an event for prospective students, which was promptly shut down.

Despite the decade that has passed since the original Columbia protests, one in five women are still sexually assaulted while in college, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In response to the campus sexual assault epidemic, which President Obama deemed an affront to decency and humanity, the Obama administration formed the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in January, with a comprehensive report titled “Not Alone.” It has four main goals: to identify the scope of campus sexual assault; to help prevent sexual assault; to ensure that schools are responding effectively when sexual assault does happen; and to enhance federal enforcement efforts.

Vice President Joe Biden recently explained the need for increased involvement from the White House and told Time: “If you knew your son had a 20 percent chance of being held up at gunpoint, you’d think twice before dropping your kid off. Well, my God, you drop a daughter off, it’s one in five she could be raped or physically abused? It is just outrageous.”

In 1990, the government began its first large-scale effort to address the college sexual assault epidemic by passing the Clery Act. The law, which is also known as the “Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act,” was passed by Congress after Jeanne Clery, a student at Lehigh University, was raped and murdered in her college dormitory. It specifies procedures that colleges must follow regarding resources and treatment of sexual assault survivors. A student who believes his or her school has violated the provisions set forth by the Clery Act can file a report anonymously to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Unlike the Clery Act, however, complainants of Title IX cannot maintain anonymity. Title IX is a more recent addition to the toolkit students can use against their schools if they believe it to be mishandling claims of sexual assault. Under the Obama administration, the muscle behind Title IX’s application to sexual violence has been strengthened. What was once known primarily for its part in reducing gender inequality in college sports is now being used to combat sexual violence on college campuses.

The Department of Education sent a letter to colleges across the country in 2011 warning them that inadequate responses to sexual assault allegations would constitute violations of Title IX, and, potentially, loss of federal funding. On May 1, 2014, the Department of Education released for the first time the list of schools under investigation for failing to comply with Title IX. The list includes fifty-five colleges and universities. Although the White House task force and its report have been met with enthusiasm from anti-sexual assault activists, its recommendations will ultimately go unimplemented in many schools unless they are mandated by law. For that to happen, Congress needs to take action. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are leading efforts, but will need support from their colleagues in Congress to turn any of their ideas into law. For now, students and young people across the country are the ones making substantive improvements on their college campuses to stop sexual assault before it happens, and to ensure that when it does, schools are helping survivors, not their own reputations.

A Culture in Crisis

On the 168-acre campus that straddles the Charles River outside Boston, Vanessa (a pseudonym), an undergraduate student at MIT, is anxiously preparing to present at a poster session required for class. As Vanessa stands next to her 5' x 3' poster a professor approaches, and her presentation comes and goes, but the professor isn’t done yet. “Why are you such a bad presenter?” he asks. “Were you abused as a child?”

While Vanessa refrains from responding, her professor continues anyway, reasoning to himself aloud that she couldn’t have been abused as a child because she had turned out “normal.” Vanessa has nightmares so vivid that she once fell out of her bed in terror and injured her back. But for Vanessa, the nightmares aren’t only at night. She frequently has panic attacks and experiences symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She no longer enjoys an active social life like the one she used to have. These days, she doesn’t even like talking to people all that much. She has trouble recognizing herself as the same person she was before.

Before she was in an abusive relationship where she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped. Before she tried to get academic accommodations from MIT and found herself neck-deep in an abyss of bureaucracy that seemed more worried about protecting itself than protecting her. It took her a long time to realize that their relationship was neither normal nor acceptable. While her assaulter doesn’t go to her school, it was in the classroom where she made the connection. After learning more about sexual assault in college, she began to see parallels between what she was learning about and her own relationship.

“Whoa, this is really creepy,” she thought to herself. “A lot of this stuff is sexual assault. That’s rape.” The relationship ended soon after. She started experiencing panic attacks and symptoms of PTSD that made it harder and harder for her to keep up with her classwork. She went to MIT’s Student Support Services, or S3, as many MIT students call it. “I wanted to make sure I could get academic accommodations,” she explained. “The end result was not that I got help but that I got reported to a bunch of other offices,” Vanessa said about her experience with Student Support Services. Still, at one of her meetings with S3, she decided to bring along her academic adviser. “Oftentimes, things don’t go well for you in meetings,” she said. So she wanted a third-party representative to be present at the meeting.

Two days after the meeting, she got a call from the Dean of Student Support Services telling her she could no longer speak to her adviser about anything related to her sexual assault. The dean said it would be a “conflict of interest” for the adviser. The professor couldn’t properly advise her on class choices while simultaneously helping her fight to get the academic resources she needed, he told her. “I mostly just lost my right to speak to my adviser,” she said. “We are forbidden from speaking.” Her professor received the same call. Vanessa suspects the dean chose to call rather than say, email, so there would be no physical record of the message. She eventually filed a Clery report, which is different than making a Title IX claim. A Clery report allows the petitioner to maintain anonymity and is more about systematic failings of a school’s treatment and resources for survivors of sexual assault. Title IX addresses specific complaints and requires the complainant to give his/her name. Vanessa chose to use the Clery Act because she wants to go to graduate school at MIT and thought that a public Title IX complaint would hurt her admission chances.

“After I filed my complaint, not much happened,” she said. She wrote an anonymous article for MIT Tech, the campus newspaper. She’s heard that the Department of Education requested information from MIT, which she interprets as a positive signal that something is happening. “I was expecting very little and I got very little,” Vanessa said. She remains frustrated at how convuleded the system is, and how it doesn’t seem like it’s designed to actually help students like her, but instead to protect the school from liability. “You basically need to go in with a copy of Title IX and highlighted sections,” she said. She adds that she was lucky she knew that going in but isn’t sure what other people would do in similar situations.

“I don’t know how many other students need help but don’t know anything,” she said. In the end, it seems like Vanessa made all the right choices. She knew the difference between a Clery report and a Title IX claim and was able to protect her anonymity on campus as well as her chances at graduate school. She brought her adviser with her to one of her meetings to serve as a witness in case anything went awry.

The Department of Education seems like it’s investigating MIT, at least partly as a result of the report she filed. Still, she says, she does have one regret: bringing an untenured professor to her meeting. “I probably should have brought a tenured professor,” she said. She’s worried about the effect this could have on his career. He hasn’t said anything to Vanessa to indicate such, but then again, he’s not allowed to. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the system as well as Vanessa.

A Call to Action

There was no one scandal that prompted Nowmee Shehab, 22, to become heavily engaged in efforts at Emory University to create a supportive environment for survivors of sexual assault. She readily acknowledges that she doesn’t have a single, all-encompassing answer to the question of why she first got involved.

Elizabeth Neyman, 21, will be a senior at Emory this year and said that she “noticed that there weren’t adequate resources for survivors” and “wanted to be a part of the solution.” Still, it was more of a gradual recognition than a striking epiphany. Both got involved not because of a specific horrific incident or a less-than-adequate university response, but instead because they both saw a widespread issue and were determined to make a difference A series of high-profile colleges and universities mishandling reported sexual assaults, the newly created White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, and strong organizing efforts from students across the country thrusted the issue of campus sexual assault into the national spotlight.

Shehab and Neyman are, just two of the many students who have capitulated their campuses into action. Still, the tangible changes they have produced, alongside the less tangible but no less important transformations in conversations and attitudes, show the change-making power of millennials. Neyman, for one, helped organize a group on her campus called Sexual Assault Peer Advocates (SAPA). Just a few years after the group’s inception, they’ve trained nearly 2,000 students on what to say, what not to say, and how to support survivors of sexual assault. That figure is all the more impressive considering that SAPA almost never existed. When its founders originally approached Emory’s student government to become a chartered organization, they were asked skeptically asked what made their club different from another group on campus that focused on prevention efforts. SAPA concentrates on helping survivors, but some members of the student government weren’t buying it. Eventually, they were able to convince the hesitant members of the student government, and SAPA was born.

Shehab, meanwhile, was a coordinator for RespectCon, an annual conference at Emory that focuses on sexual violence. Originally founded in 2013, this year’s conference was themed “Sexual Violence Prevention through a Social Justice Lens.” Simultaneously, Shehab led efforts to increase conversations about sexual assault within Emory Pride and worked as a programming assistant at the Center for Women on campus. Neyman helped reform Emory’s sexual misconduct process. Originally, the same people who decided if a student who was caught cheating or imbibing would be suspended also dealt with sexual assault charges. The new policy changes this, because the intricacy of sexual violence requires that people be familiar with the subject to handle it well. Additionally, Neyman has worked with Emory University Hospital, which serves tens of thousands of patients in the Atlanta area each year, to ensure that survivors of sexual assault who come to the hospital will have the resources they need. Starting in August, Emory University Hospital will offer increased resources to every survivor of sexual assault that walks through its doors.

Neyman and SAPA are also pushing for minimum sanctions on students who are found guilty of sexual assault. The typical sentence, she noted, is a one-semester suspension, and no one convicted of sexual assault has been expelled in the last nine years. Of course, processes aren’t everything. Neyman said that survivors of sexual assault have emailed administrators asking if their assaulters were returning to campus, only to be repeatedly ignored. That’s why Neyman and other activists have worked hard to transform attitudes on campus, because changes in policy, while an important and necessary step, will not solve everything. Shehab agrees that there’s still room for improvement.

“Rape culture is not something people think about a lot,” she said. She points out the irony that many people feel comfortable telling a rape joke, but not talking about consent. “There’s still a stigma attached to talking about consent,” she said. Problems like these are why the recent report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is so important. While Neyman noted that she has already worked on implementing some of the recommendations from the task force, she also said that the she “has never felt this affirmed or validated.” Shehab, who’s spending the summer interning for Representative. David Cicilline (D-RI) through the Victory Congressional Internship program, said it’s “really awesome that the White House acknowledged the severity of the issue.”

Although the issue is attracting more and more attention across the spectrum, from the White House and others, Shehab noted that “it’s not like sexual violence has just increased. It’s always been there.” Despite this fact, it’s hard to ignore the recent increase in awareness, media attention and government resources being devoted to the issue. And when you ask yourself why, it’s difficult to imagine similar progress being made without the efforts of young people like Neyman and Shehab, who have helped propel campus sexual assault into the national discourse. While Shehab is still figuring out what she plans on doing after graduation, she’s sure that she’ll remain involved with the issue. “Everyone is affected by sexual violence. And it’s everyone’s job to prevent it,” she said.

A New Generation of Leaders

Dana Bolger, 23, wasn’t aware of the ins and outs of sexual assault reporting policy when she was raped and stalked by a fellow student while attending Amherst College. “When I went to report to my college dean, he encouraged me to go home, get a job at Starbucks, wait for my assailant to graduate, and then return to campus when it was safe,” Bolger said. “In other words: to take time off from my education so that my rapist could comfortably conclude his. At the time, I thought that what my dean said wasn’t particularly nice or ethical, but I didn’t know it was also against the law.” That’s what Bolger and Alexandra Brodsky, 24, set out to fix when they founded Know Your IX, an organization created about a year ago.

The organization is a campaign that, according to its website, aims to “educate all college students in the U.S. about their rights under Title IX. Armed with information, sexual violence survivors will be able to advocate for themselves during their schools’ grievance proceedings and, if Title IX guarantees are not respected, file a complaint against their colleges with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.” Both Bolger and Brodsky, along with many members of the Know Your IX staff, are survivors. While Know Your IX is both run and driven by survivors, Bolger says they’re also trying to expand the movement to include more queer survivors, survivors of color and survivors from different strata of the socioeconomic spectrum.

Bolger graduated from Amherst this year and now works for Know Your IX full-time. Brodsky, who graduated from college in 2012, balances her studies as a student at Yale Law School with serving as the other founding co-director of Know Your IX. Although the organization is in its infancy, its founders have been incredibly successful in garnering attention from the media and the public at large, making concrete strides in public policy surrounding campus sexual assault and, most importantly, providing survivors of sexual assault with the information and resources they need to make informed choices.

“Schools are treating this as a PR problem, as an image risk to be swept away so that, in the high-stakes games of college rankings and university branding, they don’t scare off prospective students or alumni dollars,” Bolger said. “They treat survivors like liabilities to be managed, mitigated and swept aside.” Bolger, however, has refused to be “swept aside.” So has Susanna Vogel, 20, a college student at Davidson College in North Carolina, who wrote an article for Her Campus Davidson and is helping improve her school’s sexual assault misconduct policy after she was raped in her junior year.

Vogel’s assortment of extracurricular activities reads like that of someone who never sleeps: she’s the vice president of the Davidson Women’s Action Committee; former president of Changing Minds, a mental health awareness group; student solicitor for the Honor Council; member of Turner Eating House; and director of the 2013 Vagina Monologues and V-day efforts at Davidson. This is, of course, in addition to her studies as a psychology major. After talking with various administrative officials, Vogel chose to file a report through the Dean of Students office, which would then be heard by the Sexual Misconduct Board.

“I endured ninety days, a quarter of a year, of waiting and agonizing over what would happen,” she said. Eventually, after an emotionally taxing process, Vogel’s attacker was found responsible. The hearing then moved to the sentencing stage; he was mandated to spend twenty hours in counseling to discuss relationships and alcohol consumption and he could not go to a select few locations on campus, like her eating house (similar to a sorority) and dormitory. Vogel was, to say the least, disappointed by the outcome, which she described as a slap on the wrist. But she doesn’t like to dwell on the past and has instead focused her energy toward reforming the present sexual misconduct policy at Davidson.

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“Being raped and going through the sexual misconduct process stripped me of my sense of agency. Working to help change the process means that even if the student who assaulted me is still on campus, other survivors will have a better shot at justice. It gives me my power back,” Vogel said. “Working to create change means that maybe all of my suffering wasn’t for nothing. This isn’t a very noble reason to get involved, but it’s an honest one.”

This spring, Vogel drafted a petition with two other students that included specific proposals to improve Davidson’s sexual misconduct policy. The suggestions were wide-ranging, from incorporating a minimum sentence of a one-semester suspension for any student found guilty of sexually assaulting or raping another student, to conducting a survey of the campus to get a better idea of what needs are and are not being met with regard to the school’s sexual assault policy.

Vogel and the other two creators of the petition had an initial goal of 500 signatures, or a quarter of the 2,000-member student body at Davidson. Within two days, they had 1,000 signatures. Now, with the help of the broader Davidson community, they’re at 3,000. They delivered the petition to the Dean of Students and to the college president. Soon after, the dean and the president sent an e-mail to the entire college announcing that Davidson will launch a task force in the fall to consider the reforms Vogel and others proposed in the petition.

As for the future, Vogel isn’t sure what’s next. Her career plans are still up in the air, but she does want to spend some time working with survivors of sexual violence. One thing is definite, though: she’s returning to Davidson this fall. “I’m coming back to Davidson,” Vogel said. “I refuse to let him take anything else from me. Davidson offers a great education and fantastic opportunities. I will see the accused student frequently. It will be hard. But my life has to go on and changing location will not fix the damage that has been done. I need to move forward not, run away.”

 

Read Next: Want colleges to protect students from sexual assualt? Take action to give Title IX teeth.

A Young Climate Activist Reflects on Lessons Learned

G20 Climate

(AP Photo/Don Wright)

This is my tenth year as a climate activist—I just turned 22. Raised on a farm in Maine, there is one word that best describes my journey: evolution. My 12-year-old knees trembled when I first spoke in public. I was the epitome of introversion. I avoided rallies because they scared me. Now, I’ll gladly lead a rally. I’ll chant, if I believe in a cause. I’ll speak in front of anyone at any time. I’ll participate in direct action, if I think it’s necessary. Purpose gave me a voice.

Back at the beginning, I didn’t know that this kind of evolution was possible. I didn’t have role models who had traveled these roads. In the hopes of providing some guidance to other young climate activists, a decade seems like a good time to take stock of the lessons that I’ve learned.

My career as an activist began when I joined a campaign to protect a place I dearly love, Maine’s North Woods, from aggressive corporate development. I did research, testified at public hearings, wrote letters to newspapers and public officials and worked with local environmental organizations—all to protect my home.

When I entered high school, I was surprised that there was no environmental club, so I started the Climate Action Club (CAC). We began with small projects—letter-writing campaigns, recycling batteries, energy audits on classrooms. Eventually we launched the largest reusable bag campaign in the state, became the first school to install solar panels as a result of a student initiative and without government subsidies, won national and international awards and galvanized a movement in our school and community. We were even featured on the Sundance Channel. I learned that one person and one group of passionate committed individuals can build a powerful movement. This is when I started First Here, Then Everywhere, a website that aims to connect youth activists and spread the message of youth empowerment.

During the summer of 2012, I discovered the frightening power of the fossil fuel industry. That’s when I co-founded Divest Harvard (DH), a student-run campaign calling on Harvard to divest from fossil fuel companies. We join hundreds of divestment campaigns worldwide in a movement that aims to open political space for climate legislation by stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry.

Divest Harvard, just like the CAC, began with a small group of people in a room trying to figure out how to launch a campaign. Within three months, we had over 3,000 students in support of divestment, and we were featured in news outlets around the world. Now, as we enter our third year of campaigning, Divest Harvard is continuing to build momentum with almost 70,000 people who have publicly declared their support. It is yet another example of First Here, Then Everywhere.

I have distilled eight lessons from my first decade as an activist. The first four relate to effective strategies in the climate movement. The last four reflect my personal growth as an activist.

1) Adopt an “all of the above” climate strategy. The climate movement is unique for many reasons—one of which is that the potential audience is greater than that of any previous social movement. Therefore, the strategies and tactics used to engage people must be as diverse as people themselves. I strive to provide inclusive, varied and individualized avenues for engagement in campaigns.

2) Because climate change is urgent, it means that we need to be thoughtful—not reactive. I’ve been in a lot of situations where there is a dire sense of urgency to act because climate change is so pressing—even if the action is risky, ill-timed or counterproductive. Yes, climate change is urgent, and yes, we need to act quickly. But this urgency requires us to act strategically and thoughtfully because there isn’t time to fix major mistakes and cause mass alienation. We have one opportunity to build a climate movement, and the window for action is drawing to a close. So let’s make sure that we are thoughtful about our campaigns and do things right the first time.

3) Create choice points. Essential to good storytelling is the “choice point.” This is the moment when someone makes a decision that defines their narrative. For example, one of the powerful facets of the fossil fuel divestment moment is that it forces a choice: As an investor, will I support climate destruction, or will I move my money into climate solutions? The choice defines the person or institution. Creating choice points for yourself and others allows commitment to take shape. When it comes to voting or taking climate action—a clear choice can turn the tide.

4) Confront power to expose power. I learned this lesson through two experiences. First: the fossil fuel divestment movement. The movement puts the spotlight on the fossil fuel industry and the injustices that it perpetrates—from impacting frontline communities to political capture to climate denial. Divestment aims to expose the ways in which the fossil fuel industry uses its great power against the interests of society. This issue has become a focal point of international attention through conversations and confrontations over divestment.

Similarly, Divest Harvard exposed Harvard University’s values when we organized our first act of civil disobedience. Our campaign had called for an open public meeting on divestment with the administration for nearly a year. Our meetings with administration officials were off-the-record, leaving us no way to fully expose the shortcomings of their arguments. But Harvard refused to engage in public dialogue, despite the fact that free exchange is a core value of a Harvard education. Last spring, we resorted to direct action to create momentum towards an open meeting. We blockaded the doors to the administration building, while asking for a public debate. The result? The school arrested a student for the first time since the Vietnam War protests. Later that day, Margaret Atwood spoke on campus. When asked about the DH arrest that morning she said: “Any society where arrest is preferable to open dialogue is a scary place.”

5) Don’t use activism as a crutch. One of my professors gave me this piece of advice. I’ve often felt guilted into doing activist work. I’ve worried that taking time off or saying “no” to something would make me a “bad activist.” But activists need to be fully developed as people. I’ve been intentional about enabling all parts of my identity to flourish because I am more than just an activist. An effective activist is also an effective human being.

6) Don’t be afraid to evolve. Allowing myself to evolve has been central to my effectiveness as an activist. There have been times when I felt myself becoming ideologically attached to a certain theory of change. This made me reluctant to explore alternative avenues and perspectives. Now I try to remember that evolution is a necessary and natural part of life, including activism. It’s a process to embrace. I’ve felt frustrated and angry at the ideological rigidity of some activists’ and their refusal to entertain new ideas and strategies. Open and ever-evolving dialogue is necessary to grow a movement.

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7) Look to your peers. I have many adult role models, but there is something uniquely energizing in the social solidarity among peers. We are the first generation that will feel the effects of climate change. We are fighting for our futures. We understand each other when we say that we may not want to bring children into a climate-wrecked world. This connection will sustain our movement for years to come. We commiserate, deliberate, and celebrate.

8) Connect with your deepest sources of motivation. The beautiful thing about the climate movement (and most social movements) is that the motivation for action originates in love and empathy. Even if—on the surface—the climate movement seems to be about hating the fossil fuel industry and raging over political gridlock, the motivation is love for home, family, places, people, landscapes, creatures, ideas and the possibility of a better future. I’ve come to realize that connecting with this core inspiration for action is crucial to building a sustainable movement. We can’t nourish ourselves on hate. Let love and empathy give you purpose so that you can find your true voice.

 

Read Next: Whose summer break?—students fix the “Utah man,” lower the Confederate flag and ask Hillary for their money back.

The Garden Where Rough Edges Grow

CommonBound Conference

Climbing PoeTree performing at Common Bound Conference at Northeastern University (New Economy Coalition)

This post originally appeared in {young}ist and is reposted here with permission.

Every young generation, as it comes of age, is told it’s special, that everyone else’s hopes and dreams live through it, and, simultaneously, that it is already not living up to these expectations. With this in mind, I—a 23-year-old who’d never spent a weekend at a conference before—placed a starchy blue shirt and a shift dress in my backpack and took a bus to Boston.

Last month, I attended CommonBound, a gathering of more than 650 people, most of them activists, academics, and students, organized by the New Economy Coalition. In the classrooms, gyms and corridors of Northeastern University, we came together to discuss what the “new economy” is and share whatever projects we had been working on to further its realization. I spoke with and learned a great deal from leaders at Demos, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Center for American Progress, Black Mesa Water Coalition, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

According to an article by Gar Alperovitz, one of the keynote speakers at the conference and a leader in new economics, the movement is founded on the belief, “that the entire economic system must be radically reconstructed if critical social and environmental goals are to be met.” Everyone at the conference seemed to agree that this means establishing an economy that prioritizes communal values over individual ones. The emphasis was placed on climate, labor, and racial justice. We came up with more than 650 versions of a world we all had to win.

I came to the conference assuming I was there to take in and look up at the myriad ideas that constitute the new economy constellation. What I came to realize, while there, was that I have a voice in this movement too, and it was largely the youth culture and intergenerational emphasis of the conference that made me comfortable with this the New Economy Coalition awarded 301 scholarships for attending CommonBound this year, many of them went to young people and students. Last year, the New Economy Coalition’s annual conference, reRoute, focused specifically on “building youth and student power for a new economy,” and was the culmination of its year-long youth and student network program. During the opening remarks on Friday night, I was surprised to see that scattered among the distinguished professors, and community leaders, the activists who got their start in the ’60s and now wore khakis down to their kneecaps, were people who looked younger than me.

That evening I had trepidations attending the founding of CommonBound’s youth caucus. In college the “econ kids” lived behind a veil of zeros and curves I could never puncture. My alma mater, the University of Chicago, produced some of the most conservative economic theories of our day; now the CEO of Credit Suisse sits on their board of trustees, while his employees set up recruiting tables in the student cafes. At the worst parties, small talk amongst 20-year-olds would move from a spirited endorsement of Locke to a confused endorsement of Wall Street. In the words of Cher from Clueless, “I don’t wanna be a traitor to my generation and all, but…”

The caucus turned out to be nothing like what I had expected.

We talked for a while about the intern economy, how we as students and recent graduates live in a society that pits our young ambitions against one another, Hunger Games–style. The struggles that come with not being paid sufficiently for one’s labor are, more often than not, accompanied by the pangs of student debt, the massive principle balance that monthly interest payments never dissolve. Many among us complained that given the financial burdens placed on young people so early in life, our generation doesn’t deserve its bad rap, the irony and the eye-rolling. One woman pointed out that, yes, the situation is dire, but that the democratization of higher education, even in the last decade, means young people across socio-economic groups now have an immensely powerful problem to solve together through collective action.

That night my friend, who was hosting me for the weekend and was, at the time, getting wasted at his fifth high school reunion, checked in to make sure I had made it safely to his house. He texted his concern, and I texted back that I was still at the conference. His reply: “Wow, that’s a lot of Communism!”

I didn’t know at the time that a series of key words would come to punctuate my weekend as naturally and inauspiciously as commas. These would include: Marxism, capitalism, paradigm, Piketty, heterodox, commune, coffee and Marxist. “Communism” was rarely spoken of. Maybe the shedding of the suffix is how we keep the community, lose the institution, and crystalize this shiny new feeling in language.

“Yeah, and youth caucus-building,” I typed.

Seconds later he called. “Youth cactus? What is a… how is a youth cactus?” And so I spent the next few minutes convincing him what I had spent the better part of the night convincing myself of: the youth isn’t so prickly after all.

* * *

“Someone is going to tell our story, the question is who.”

The next day, I found myself in a workshop on the importance of messaging and storytelling within the new economy movement. The facilitator Christine Cordero, of the Center for Story Based Strategy, showed us photographs from the media’s polluted storyline during the first few days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Black people swimming through the streets carrying whatever small possessions they could find were labeled “looters.” Images of white people doing the same were labeled “survivors.” The media too was up to its neck in its own racist bullshit.

This workshop was essentially a call to resist the conservative logic that says stories are irrelevant, that people are moved by facts alone. This had also been one of main lessons I took away from the youth caucus the night before. We were resisting the logic that ourstories don’t matter, and we were saying they mattered, first of all, because we tell them to one other, which means they are already, invariably, connected.

At lunch, conference-goers broke into plenary groups of their choosing—“Free up Your Money to Do Good” and “Divest from Fossil Fuel Companies to Invest in Green Solutions.” I found a group of seven, who didn’t want to discuss one topic in particular.

It’s possible that each of us was born in a different decade. Among us was an older man wearing a rainbow kippah. He taught me that FASBs are Federal Accounting Finance Boards and launched into a history of the deregulation of America’s financial institutions, beginning in the ’70s. I explained to him how I landed at this conference largely because of a fluke, which happened almost exclusively through interactions on Twitter.

The high point of the weekend for me may well have been the words of artist-activist adrienne maree brown, who spoke on the final panel with Gopal Dayaneni and Alperovitz. Brown spoke of the necessity of building radical narratives, what she called “science fiction” of the new economy. “The problem with most utopias for me,” she said, “[is] mono value, a new greener, more local monoculture where everyone gardens and plays the lute and no one travels.… and I don’t want to go to there!”

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Before Thomas Moore messed with the etymology of “utopia,” forever transforming it into a good place, “utopia” meant no place at all. It is tempting to bind these definitions with a single romantic thread—what we want doesn’t really exist, perfection is annihilation. But I like brown’s active message so much better. The perfect place is out there, it’s just no place we want to be. And, make no mistake, utopias abound, offering the illusion of easy messaging. “Google the words ‘new economy,’” Cordero had said, “and you’ll see a lot of white people in gardens.”

I felt that afternoon, in that room of 650 worlds and no utopias, that there were real branches between them, holding us together, stretching back through many decades. And though my mind is still a deeply cynical system, I now have a greater desire to fight for a better world alongside the stratospheric dreamers of my generation. Here in the garden where the rough edges grow.

Read Next: Northwestern reshapes its sexual assault policy.

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