The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been at the forefront of the news and our minds. Due to this, people have begun educating themselves on race more than ever. People of all different age groups and demographics are truly understanding how important it is to learn about racism and how to combat it.
This article will address the experiences of Elizabeth Rees, Lizzie Van Buskirk, and Natalie Rose. All three have acknowledged how important it is to educate themselves on Black Lives Matter. Hopefully, you can feel inspired towards learning about this important issue too.
Elizabeth Rees, a 47-year-old white woman, knew quite a bit about racial inequality before the BLM movement. She went to a diverse high school and always had a circle of friends that included people of color. Her beliefs and heart were in the “right place.” However, she realized that a lot more needed to be done after hearing about the recent BLM crisis.
Research businesses that support BLM.
In order to educate herself, Rees has been researching businesses. She wants to support people of color and women-owned businesses. In order to do this, she tries to understand who the business owners are and their missions.
Rees also uses her workplace to an advantage, since it matches contributions. Consequently, Rees looks for organizations important to her (the NAACP legal defense fund) and sets up recurring donations. Any of us can support businesses and donate to organizations if we research them.
Represent your generation as support.
On another note, Elizabeth Rees believes there is a generational element to racism. As a 47-year-old, she believes that younger people are more open about other cultures than members of older generations are. Rees says, “If you grew up thinking something, it’s hard to reverse that.”
She is hopeful that the future generation can create a sustainable change if all people continue to support BLM. When looking at past events, she found there to be little to no success when only people of color supported one another without the help of outside supporters. The time has come for all of us, including every ethnic group, to fight for these people.
Have an open mind.
Rees’ advice for people beginning to educate themselves is to be open. She wants others to realize how we stay in our own little world at times. She says, “There’s something much bigger than us out there. The whole of society is very important and we have to see outside of our circle of friends.” Rees urges everyone to look at the world beyond themselves and learn from it.
At this time, Rees is also conscious of other people’s feelings. She says, “If people are feeling something, whether you can totally understand it or not, it’s still valid.” When Rees doesn’t understand something, she tries to acknowledge how others feel. We should all try to be more empathetic when it comes to Black Lives Matter.
Use social media to educate yourself and others.
Lizzie Van Buskirk, a 21-year-old white woman, was aware of the BLM movement from the Ferguson Protests in 2014. However, this summer’s movement following George Floyd’s death shocked her. “Everywhere I looked everyone was talking about it,” Van Buskirk said. On social media, she saw the protests and backlash from George Floyd’s death.
Van Buskirk’s main source of education has been social media. She uses the app TikTok, where many people have been teaching others about the Black Lives Matter movement. There she has learned about the Tulsa Massacre and Juneteenth.
In addition to this, she is trying to consume more black-created media. “[I am] trying to stay more aware and work that into what [I normally do],” said Van Buskirk. We can all try to work more Black Lives Matter material into our daily lives too. It’s easy to look for this content on social media with hashtags or find helpful books and movies online.
Van Buskirk feels a considerable generational gap when it comes to racism. With the internet, it’s easier to connect to people and learn about others’ experiences. She said, “I definitely wouldn’t be as aware and empathetic toward people that aren’t like me if it weren’t for the internet.”
Because we have the power to voice our beliefs on the internet, we should use it to our advantage. We can aid in the spread of information and progress in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Try to learn something new every day.
Van Buskirk has learned about the prison system in her research. Before the BLM movement, she knew it was a racist organization, but she didn’t know about its origins. The prison system didn’t organize until after slavery ended.
People continued to take advantage of black people in a societal approved system within prisons. This information shocked her the most, but she still knows that it is important to keep learning these new concepts everyday.
Explore the unknown.
Lizzie Van Buskirk’s advice for those beginning to educate themselves is to listen. She suggests using the internet as a resource and looking unknown things up. Van Buskirk finds it useful to find the “black lives matter” tag on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. “Just being there is enough to start opening your mind and start learning about things that you didn’t expect,” Van Buskirk said.
Natalie Rose, a white woman in her late 20’s, is ashamed that she overlooked the extent of racism in the United States before the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement. She says, “I thought it was enough to not be racist and treat everyone with kindness and respect. It is not enough.”
Prior to the BLM movement, she also thought that the government would handle these important issues the right way, but now she has realized that it’s the citizens’ responsibility.
Listen to Podcasts and read about it.
One way Natalie Rose has educated herself is through listening to podcasts (NPR Code Switch). She has also followed BLM influencers on social media and reads articles about allyship. Another of her resources is 13th, a documentary about racism in America. In terms of activism, Rose has signed petitions. We should all sign petitions and vote in order to bring about societal change.
Throughout her self-education, two things stand out in what Rose has learned thus far. She has learned that the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t mean that all lives don’t matter. It is a movement drawing attention to the disadvantages and unjust deaths of black people.
“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard; it simply means the color of your skin is not one of the things making it harder,” Rose said.
Look for helpful resources.
Rose recommends that people new to self-education should go onto Google to find many helpful resources. She also suggests following influencers on social media who are helping their followers learn about BLM.
Additionally, we can listen to podcasts while we walk or drive. “Take the time to learn and unlearn,” said Rose. Doing so means that we can begin to understand new things and let go of old misconceptions.
Keep the ball rolling.
As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow and create change in society, it is important for all of us to help out and contribute. Just as it was for Rees, Van Buskirk, and Rose, let this be a wake up call. It’s time to commit to action, not just beliefs. We can all do something, whether that be through self-education, donation, signing petitions, and much more.
How the Coronavirus is Shaping the 2020 Election
2020, a year already destined to be recorded as one of the most bizarre times in recent history, adds another layer of intrigue in November: the presidential election will take place in the midst of a deadly pandemic sweeping across the globe.
Voters across the country are entering uncharted territory this fall; individual health concerns about contracting coronavirus will lead many to vote by mail for the first time.
Coronavirus has afflicted nearly every part of the world, but the United States in particular has felt its ravaging effects. The U.S. has accounted for over 200 thousand of the 1.15 million deaths related to coronavirus worldwide.
Another way of thinking about this: one out of every five people killed by the virus was an American citizen. This statistic weighs heavily on the minds of voters in the upcoming election, as the decision to vote traditionally or by mail needs to be made.
There is much confusion surrounding mail-in ballots, and rumors about the likelihood of voter fraud abound. The reality is that voter fraud of any kind is extremely rare in the United States. This extends to mail-in voting.
Causing more confoundment is the fact that voting regulations vary from state to state. Places like Hawaii, where mail-in ballots have been the norm for some time, will presumably have little trouble implementing this method again in this election.
On the flip side, a state like Alabama that only allows voters to register for absentee ballots may find the increased number of mailed-in votes difficult to process.
Yet another wrinkle in the mail-in ballot complex is the necessitation of so-called secrecy envelopes that are required by some states. Further, any vote cast via mail without a said envelope, which are sometimes called “naked ballots,” may not be counted.
However, the need for secrecy envelopes ceased to exist when mail-in ballots began being counted at a separate location from the public polling places, thus eliminating the need for secrecy.
These regulations may deter some voters from opting for a mail-in ballot this election. However, others may fear that the risk of contracting a deadly virus is too great at public polling locations, where thousands of people will congregate.
The virus’s recent resurgence in Europe has led many experts to predict that the United States will also see a spike in the number of cases very soon. This second wave may hit just in time for the election, and that unfortunate timing only adds to the existing fears of voters.
In this upcoming election, no matter which political party you align with or which candidate you prefer in the White House, vote in whichever way makes you the most comfortable.
If the risk of contracting coronavirus frightens you, know that all states are required to allow absentee ballots, and most states support general mail-in voting. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s voting regulations, and most importantly: VOTE!
Tragic Chicago Shootings Shed Light on Gun Violence
It is absolutely heartbreaking that in the midst of various social movements and a global pandemic, there have been several shootings in Chicago this past week alone. There have been unsolicited and unwarranted attacks resulting in many endangered lives.
With two pronounced dead and more than 47 innocent civilians wounded, this resurgence of gun violence must be addressed immediately and thoroughly.
Although the right to bear arms is instated in the U.S. Constitution, the time for Americans to reconsider the Second Amendment has long been overdue. If anything, we’ve become numb to these events; after countless shootings throughout the past couple years, gun violence is no longer an active topic of discussion.
The lack of conversation around the topic of gun violence is where the problem lies, but it doesn’t have to be this way. People don’t have to accept these dangerous situations or weapons into the U.S. culture and society any longer. People have the power and the right to promote greater change and come to a more agreeable solution.
It is time to weigh some of the moral pros and cons of eradicating the Second Amendment.
Pros and Cons of Enacting More Gun Control Laws
It is not an unlimited right to own guns. The Second Amendment states that only those who are “fit” to own a gun should purchase one, and it does not support the “possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”
Laws that require a permitting process have also been maintained, but could become more strict. This would essentially reduce the number of people eligible to purchase firearms, and hopefully reduce the amount of unforeseeable casualties due to gun violence.
The Second Amendment also protects the right to individual gun ownership, even if the owner is unconnected with service in the militia. This means that tougher gun control laws would infringe upon the right to bear arms in self-defense, and would therefore deny people a sense of safety.
The police cannot protect everybody at all times. This right dates back longer than some of America’s oldest traditions, and it is these traditions that are the most difficult to change.
More gun control laws would reduce gun-related deaths. Between 1999 and 2016, there were a total of 572,537 gun-related deaths: 33,579 were suicides (58.8% of total gun-related deaths); 213,175 were homicides (37.2%); and 11,428 were unintentional deaths (2.0%).
Firearms are also the second leading cause of death for children, with motor vehicle accidents taking first place. Implementing universal federal background checks may be able to reduce firearm deaths by a projected 56.9%. The more gun control laws are enacted, the fewer unnecessary and violent deaths there will be.
Gun control laws do not deter crime; they deter gun ownership. A study showed that assault weapon bans did not significantly affect murder rates.
These criminals do not, and will not, presumably, obey gun control laws. Resolving the issue of the misuse of firearms will take more than another law enactment; it would require a deep uprooting of future generations’ educations and, consequently, banning the right to bear arms.
More gun control laws and/or the banishment of firearms will help protect women from domestic abusers and stalkers. Five women are murdered every day in the U.S. by firearms. A woman’s chances of getting murdered increases by 500% if a gun is present during a domestic dispute. Statistics show that between 2001 and 2012, 6,410 women were killed with a gun by an intimate partner in the United States.
However, not every gun owner is abusive or has negative intentions. Many own guns for recreational purposes. Gun control laws, especially ones that try to ban “assault weapons,” would consequently infringe upon the right to own guns for hunting and sport.
Under the pretense that all hunters are clear-headed and would never turn a gun onto a person, this would be doing the population a massive disservice and inevitably cause more political issues. In 2011, there were 13.7 million hunters in the United States who were 16 years old or older, and they spent $7.7 billion on guns, sights, ammunition, and other hunting equipment.
Gun control laws would reduce the societal costs associated with gun violence. 100,000 Americans who have been shot generate nearly $3 billion in emergency room and hospital charges, and this is excluding the charges of a taken life. With all of this combined, implementing more gun control laws would be doing a massive service to the people, both physically and financially.
When implementing more gun control laws, there will always be some other type of infringement that follows. Gun control law regulations, such as background checks, ID checks, and micro-stamping, are seen as an “invasion of privacy,” which would go against the Fourth Amendment.
In order to do a thorough background check, the use of a government database that holds all personal information, such as addresses, mental health history, family, and more, would be required.
There are many more pros and cons to gun control laws that are easily accessible on the web, but the recent Chicago shooting has reminded us of one thing: gun control is an important part of the U.S. society and should be taken seriously.
The Second Amendment is interconnected with other rights stated in the Constitution. As shown, enacting more gun control laws in an effort to reduce gun violence incidents is difficult, and by doing so, it also affects other rights and concerns.
To find a real solution, preserve all life, and respect all rights, the leaders of this country must not only reconsider the Second Amendment alone, but also the entire Constitution.
May those affected by the tragic Chicago shootings find peace and continue to protest against gun violence. At some point in the unforeseeable future, a way to put these travesties to an end will be found.
How Climate Justice Equals Social Justice and Vice Versa
“What is intersectional environmentalism? This is an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront, and does not minimize or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people and the planet.”
~ Leah Thomas (via Intersectional Environmentalist)
With climate change raging ahead at a pace much faster than environmental progress, many of those who are concerned for the future of the planet also feel a sense of urgency to make substantial and lasting change in order to reverse the ways in which humans have destroyed our collective home.
Although academia has attempted to evolve in order to fight back against the growing threat to the health of our planet, it is clear that we, as an environmentalist community, are not making the progress necessary to undo current damages.
Furthermore, there is a harmful tendency in the environmentalist community to be so hyper-focused on climate justice that all other forms of social justice are neglected.
Environmentalists, as an activist community, cannot ignore the fact that marginalized, low-income communities are the first to be negatively affected by environmental injustice. Furthermore, we, as human beings, cannot expect to advance in global sustainability if institutions of higher education are dominated by sexism, racism, and prejudice.
This is not even to mention that low-income, marginalized communities are often blamed for destroying the planet via overpopulation and poor waste management strategies. However, according to Oxfam’s “Extreme Carbon Inequality” report, people belonging to the richest 1% of the globe’s population use, on average, 175% more carbon than someone from the poorest 10%.
Although social justice causes like gender and race equality seem completely different from climate justice, movements such as ecofeminism have arisen from the belief that all forms of oppression are connected, or are symptoms of the same disease.
If we, as a society, accept that humans have the right to dominate and use nature however we see fit, regardless of the consequences, this way of thinking may lead people to believe that certain members of society have the right to dominate others perceived as “lesser.”
As long as we live in societies dominated by inequality, the ruling class can always take advantage of and damage those with less agency, like women, minorities, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and, even, the environment.
“Intersectional environmentalism” is a term coined by environmentalist Leah Thomas, and it stresses the importance of protecting both humans and the environment from injustice. This movement does not only stress that both ecojustice and social justice are important — it also signals that developments or defeats in one category affect the other.
Take the current COVID-19 crisis, for example. We may not know for sure that the emergence of the virus is an environmental issue; however, we do know that climate change will set off other crises related to food production and the frequency and severity of natural disasters.
The coronavirus crisis has disproportionately affected people of color and poorer communities in America. Marginalized communities all over the world take the brunt of the harm during global crises such as this.
For example, the WHO reported that a hurricane that hit Bangladesh in 1991 killed 140,000 people, 90% of whom were women. Relief worker Rasheda Begum attributes this disproportionate loss of female lives to the rigid social structures that hold male lives above those of women and mandate women to protect their children and property at all costs, thus prohibiting them from evacuating.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, largely affecting impoverished communities that could not afford to evacuate the area in time. These communities, which were made up of largely poor, Black individuals, were left to battle a Category 3 storm without an adequate federal support system.
Mark Naison, a professor of African American studies at Fordham University, has since asked, “Is this what the pioneers of the civil rights movement fought to achieve, a society where many Black people are as trapped and isolated by their poverty as they were by segregation laws?”
Fast forward 15 years to today. We are seeing some of the very same racial and economic factors putting low-income persons of color and indigenous ancestry at a heightened risk of dying from COVID-19.
Due to the high presence of comorbidities and lack of access to adequate healthcare, these groups of people, along with those over the age of 70, are the ones primarily being sacrificed by America’s inadequate response to the global pandemic.
Continuing to exploit the environment by perpetuating reliance on non-renewable energy sources, failing to safely dispose of toxic waste, allowing for a continued rise in global carbon emissions, etc., will put communities with less economic freedom and political influence at a disproportionate risk of death and fatal health complications.
In most cases, unfortunately, those with economic influence are the only members of society that are able to gain political influence, meaning that the people society exploits are unlikely to have any real voice to make positive changes for themselves and their communities. Therefore, it is important that we take measures to combat climate change, as these measures would be effective in the protection of marginalized communities from future environmental disasters.
Social justice is just as vital to environmentalism as environmentalism is to social justice. Diversity of personhood and academic specialization are key factors involved in the success of combating environmental injustice.
“climate change is a man-made problem with a feminist solution,” said Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland.
Feminists work to level the playing field so that one gender does not have more power than the others. Likewise, environmentalists work to dismantle the very same systems of oppression and provide a sustainable future for generations to come.
The best environmental policies come from those who have suffered the most from threats like climate change, poor air quality, exposure to toxic waste, and more.
If environmentalists truly wish to catch up to the speed of climate change, they must take on social justice movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter as if they were their own. All forms of oppression, all over the world, are interconnected; a victory for one marginalized group is a victory for all, including Mother Earth.
One tried and true method for oppressors everywhere is to separate the oppressed, drive wedges between us so that we are too busy fighting one another to direct our efforts where they truly matter.
The environmental movement has always been about more than protecting and preserving the natural world that has birthed and fed us. It is about protecting the world as a whole, including everything and everyone on it.
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