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America Redefined

The Myth Of Meritocracy

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Source: Today Testing

The United States has always ironically embraced meritocracy—a term used to signify that success is granted to those who earned it based on their ability. This asserts that race, gender, and other discriminatory factors do not infringe on someone’s potential.

This myth has been embraced and is used to deflect issues that predominantly affect marginalized communities.

Meritocracy is ideal; yet when juxtaposed with the realities of the current system and American’s history of bigotry, it is simply far-fetched.

To become a meritocracy, America needs to do much more than simply declare that they are one. America needs to instead work towards this system by embracing equal opportunity and resources for all despite socioeconomic status.

In American society, there are certain core values that are supposed to represent what America is. To many, individualism and success are essential values accepted by all.

In the United States, people are responsible for their own success or failure. Furthermore, individuals are encouraged to work harder and be better than others, as this will eventually lead to wealth and power in the future.

When people either reject the culturally defined goals of success or they are unable to achieve this “success”, they are forced to blame themselves.

They are blamed for their “lack of ability” and laziness, and there is tunnel vision focus on their “character defects”. Yet, blaming a person for their lack of success ignores the structural issues that hold people back, starting from education.

Meritocracy rewards people that are already ahead. How education is funded proves it.

Public school funded in the United States comes from federal, state, and local sources. Yet, nearly half the funds received comes from property taxes.

A property tax is a real-estate tax that is calculated by the local government and paid for by the property owner. To determine property taxes, a municipality would hire a tax assessor.  The tax assessor assigns property taxes by multiplying tax rates by the market value of the land.

Since funding for education is through local taxes, the system generates massive funding disparities between affluent and low-income communities.

The national average spent per student is around $11,841. Depending on whether the community is impoverished or wealthy, the amount spent per student is vastly different.

In communities that need funding the most, they are forced to battle structural inequalities with a lack of monetary resources. Districts that lack adequate funding have lower-paid teachers, neglected facilities, bigger class sizes, and are unable to fully prepare students for college or the real world.

How can we be so self-confident that people are responsible for their own success or failure when inequalities such as this blatantly exist? As a society, there is this expectation that everyone should be able to achieve success.

While American embraces this belief, students across the country are being left behind. Students deserve much more than what they get, and it is time to radically change how this country views and funds education.

By: Trevor Falsey

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America Redefined

Responses to Immigration Reform Changes under Trump

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen | Wikimedia Commons

President Trump and former President Obama have both deported tens of thousands of illegal immigrants. However, they evoked different responses from the public.

Deportation is not new to the United States. As a country with the highest immigration rates, there have been many cases in which undocumented people have been sent back to their countries.

Under the Clinton administration (1993-2001), 12.3 million people were deported. Under Bush’s presidency (2001-2009), 10.3 million people were deported. When Obama was president (2009-2017), his administration deported approximately 5.2 million people.

As of this fiscal year thus far, the Trump administration has deported approximately 750,000 undocumented people. Two years into their terms, Clinton, Bush, and Obama had deported more undocumented people than Trump has in his two years.

It may occur to some people that deportation under Obama’s presidency was not breaking news, while that under Trump’s is. The public response to deportation lies within the context.

Obama focused on removing illegal immigrants with criminal records that posed threats. He also tried to return illegal immigrants to their countries before they became immersed in the American culture. The administration placed the least priority on undocumented immigrants who were rooted in the U.S. and had no criminal records.

Additionally, Obama tried to counteract the amount of deportation. He demanded an executive order to pass Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It granted work permits to illegal immigrants who were brought to the states as young children.

Protesters at the Travel Ban Rally hold signs in front of the Supreme Court
Victoria Pickering | Flickr

On the other hand, Trump vocalized his desire to deport as many people as possible. He wanted to focus on the numbers.

Trump’s rhetoric had offended certain groups of people. He used racial slurs or derogatory terms to describe people. He labeled illegal immigrants “animals.” Additionally, he referred to Mexicans as problematic, rapists, and drug dealers.

The Mexican border fence in San Diego California
Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño | Flickr

Trump also spoke of building a wall along the US-Mexican border. The process would make it physically impossible for people to cross the border. Trump has been pushing his efforts to prevent immigration.

Although Obama and Trump had deported great amounts of immigrants, the public responded in very different ways. Trump’s use of derogatory terms evoked fear and anger among the people. Therefore, Trump is seen as a threat to undocumented people.

By: Kahyun Kim

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America Redefined

A Look into Trump’s “Hardline” Immigration Reform

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Source: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño | flickr

Ever since his presidential campaign, and even into his presidency, President Trump has vocalized his opinions about hardline immigration policies. He promised to make America great again, and thus sought immigration reform in ways he thought was best fit for the country.

Trump’s ideals caused outbursts of protests and fear in undocumented communities. He often used derogatory terms to refer to undocumented people and has publicly told them to return to their “sh*thole countries”.

During the first few days in office, Trump ordered Executive Order 13769, more commonly known as the Muslim Travel Ban. It banned people in predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the United States. In addition, it limited the amount of refugees that were admitted into the U.S. As a result, there were people being held at airports, unable to board their flights.

During the first few days in office, Trump ordered Executive Order 13769, more commonly known as the Muslim Travel Ban.
Source: Victoria Pickering | flickr

In February of 2017, the government introduced a new bill entitled Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act. The bill seeks to decrease the legal immigration to the United States. This means that the government will issue less amounts of green cards.

When the bill is in effect, The RAISE Act would forbid chain migration. Children would no longer be able to apply their parents for lawful residency.

One of Trump’s prime method of tightening border security was to build a wall between the border of Mexico and the U.S. In December of 2018, Trump demanded $5.7 billion in federal funds to build the wall. Ultimately, this caused the government to shut down for 35 days, making it the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.

In the fall of 2017, the White House caused people to protest, as it terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This means that adults who were illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents would no longer be protected from deportation nor be eligible for work permits. However, lower courts have been fighting back the decision, requesting the renewal of DACA.

In the fall of 2017, the White House caused people to protest, as it terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Source: Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Another immigration reform was the zero-tolerance policy. Families were separated at the US-Mexico border. When referred by border agents, parents were held in federal jails for prosecution, while children were sent to detention facilities. The government indicated no plans to reunite these families.

More families would soon be separated as the ICE raids to deport at least one million undocumented people.

Recently, on June 17th, Trump tweeted his will to begin the deportation process. 

However, he delayed the plan by two weeks in order for the Democrats to reform the asylum laws. Though Trump had delayed the plan by two weeks, the fear induced on the undocumented people has been slow to do the same.

Trump’s main goal of immigration reform has been in effect almost as soon as he stepped into office. Though he has taken initiatives, they were not looked upon with great positivity. They rather induced fear and caused immigrants to fight back for their rights as people residing in the United States.

By: Kahyun Kim

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America Redefined

Far-Right Candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, Elected President of Brazil: Why You Should Care

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Source: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil

In October, Brazil elected far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro for President. Along with a long thread of homophobic, racist, and sexist quotes, he’s enabled a new Brazilian generation fueled on hateful speech.

There’s been an influx of violence in Brazil beginning at the infancy of Bolsonaro’s Presidential campaign.

Media has referenced Bolsonaro as a fascist, populist, and self-proclaimed Brazilian Churchill. Brazil is under a sheet of uncertainty regarding whether or not his problematic stances will be implemented during his presidency.

By highlighting quotes endorsed by the President-elect, it will provide a glimpse into the possible future of Brazil’s leadership.

In 2013, Bolsonaro declared himself “a proud homophobe“. Prior to his Presidential campaign, he was a Congressman with a notorious reputation of expressing homophobic, racist, and sexist stances.

Bolsonaro expressed that he is “ incapable of loving a homosexual child”. If his son was gay, Bolsonaro explains he’d be dead in his eyes and he’d prefer he die in a deadly accident. Throughout his political career, he has never concealed his anti-LGBT+ views.

Host of Stephen Fry: Out There, a show that explores homophobia around the world, Stephen Fry interviewed Bolsonaro in 2013 where he described his experience with Bolsonaro as a “chilling confrontation”. When Bolsonaro announced his campaign for President, Fry pleaded with Brazil to not elect him.

When it comes to Bolsonaro quotes in reference to women—they also elicit a strong response from the public. In 2014, congresswoman, Maria do Rosario, called him a rapist for supporting the military despite their violations of rape and torture.

In response, Bolsonaro said he is not a rapist, and if he were one, she wouldn’t be worthy of rape. He also added that she was very ugly in the following interview.

The indigenous people who live in designated land in the Amazon are now at risk.

He signed an executive order that will lead to “an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people.” Others are also worried that his presidency will further destroy the Amazon Rain Forest rather than protect it.

Bolsonaro is an avid apologist for torture. When Brazil was under a military dictatorship, Bolsonaro claims that it failed because they didn’t torture or kill enough.

A solution proposed by Bolsonaro to save Brazil is to start a civil war. A war that could potentially kill thousands, but for what?

Repeatedly, he has said that he will only govern for his supporters. When it comes to those who are against him, his solution is that they either fall in line with his ideology, leave the country, or go to jail.

There have been instances of Bolsonaro supporters murdering others in his name. Rather than Bolsonaro expressing his disapproval with their actions, he concludes that he has no control over them.

His hateful speech has triggered a cycle of violence between his supporters and opposition. Since the announcement of his victory, thousands of Brazilians have challenged his term.

Many worry that he will lead Brazil back under authoritarianism rule. It is important for the opposition to remain persistent and to fight for human rights.

By: Vivianna Shields

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