Monthly Archives: October 2015

has humanity become blood thirsty and desensitized by real life?

The brand spanking new violent viral video came out on Monday night for America’s viewing pleasure. It shows a high school student getting the fuck beaten out of her by a police officer. I accidentally pressed play while trying to click the link to the story on think progress‘s FB post, and saw the first few seconds, before my panicked clicking of the pause button worked and the video came to a standstill screenshot. I choose not to watch these type of videos, because well, I just can’t. I can’t watch the video of this girl, the video of the Eric Garner’s murder, Freddie Gray’s arrest. the police brutality to the children at the pool party in TX, the video of the child, Tamir Rice, who was shot by police for having a toy gun, the Virginia news crew, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, etc. etc, and on and on…

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t have a strong stomach for violence and violent images. I’m a drag to watch horror movies with, I’ll end up passed out on the floor. I also don’t have the stomach for such viral videos, ones depicting real life violence, real life murder, real life fucking death. And through all of the constant talk and shares of these viral videos, I wonder if the true injustice is being to lose its power. Are we entertained? Are we still outraged? Are they watched with the same heart and compassion that we watch “Celebrity Reads Mean Tweets”? Are we being desensitized by real life? Is it wrong of me to think that we are?

one movie i've passed out during in recent halloween seasons

I passed out during The Antichrist last h’ween. Fuck this movie.

A few years ago an old my roommate showed me a video of R. Budd Dwyer, a PA State Treasurer who killed himself on live TV. It really fucked me up.  The same with JFK’s assassination. The people who saw these broadcasts live were affected and are probably still affected. These gruesome images are probably stored in the same part of their brain that nightmares are created. At least they are for me. But what about 2015? We’re used to close-up shots. We’re used to audio, to screams, to pleas. We’re used to seeing men beaten until they can’t walk, until they’re lying dead. We’re used to watching all of this, after we watch the first five seconds of that ad before we can click “Skip Advertisement”…

I think that humans as a species have always had a bloody thirsty taste for violence. (re: The Bible,) I don’t have a problem with violent video games, movies, or music, but I do have an issue with real life violence. So this is what I’m pondering- where is the line between real life violence and entertainment? Is there even a line anymore? The more these videos are surfacing the less their value and popularity. Is it wrong that I link these moments captured on tape akin to Gladiators fighting to their death, people watching and cheering on? (Or in the Walking Dead when the Governor has the Walkers chained up and townspeople fight them, and the crowd cheers on?) Is this the same type of feeling we get watching a stranger, a person who is disassociated from ourselves, as the victim of brutal, and often lethal, violence?

My generation watched the second plane crash into the second twin tower. We watched from our TVs the people escaping from the blaze, jumping from the buildings to their death. We watched and were (at least I was)  profoundly influenced by this violence, happening in real time. I remember riding my bike to meet up with my 7th grade girlfriends after school and not having words to describe our feelings about what we saw. Was this the start of it all- the true start of our desensitization? Should we stopping blaming mass shootings  on video games so much, and perhaps start examining what we are actually watching, what real life violence we choose to stream on our screens? And then how are we able to process this? Are we accepting it as reality or just as another video to watch between thumbing down Facebook statuses, on to like the next cute dog picture?

Then we are brought to the threat of censorship. My short answer is that these videos absolutely shouldn’t be censored. If Eric Gardner’s death wasn’t caught on camera, would the American people had the ammunition to question what happened and exposed an injustice that would have been covered up? These videos are becoming an integral part for social justice and intensifying awareness to the American people of how fucked up things are. These videos need to be processed as what they are- real life deathly oppression and violence, not just viral.

Here’s a video of a bunch of cute dogs and cute babies if you need a cute dog breather.

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Dumb White Girl and My Use of Ignorant Language

Yesterday I referred out loud about a song idea of mine as being “gay” in front of my band mates. This is a term that I ignorantly use all too often. As soon as it came out of my mouth I automatically wish I could suck it back in. No one called me out on it, and I didn’t apologize, although I immediately realized that I was wrong to use such vocabulary in a derogatory way.

I’d like to pretend that this was an isolated incident, that I have never used the term “gay”, or any other label, as having negative connotations, but such would be a blatant lie. I have described things in a negative matter as “gay” and have not given it second thought.  I always try to be aware of the garbage that often spews from my mouth but a lot of the times I don’t do such a great job at this. I am still very much guilty of using offensive language, even if I am recognizing my ignorance.

Sometimes I say really stupid shit.

Sometimes I say really stupid shit.

I know I have in the past excused myself from such terms in explaining that they don’t matter. IE: “It’s just a term, I don’t mean any harm”, which consciously is true- I don’t mean any harm. However, the hate, and I believe that it is hate, that is built into words to describe things in a negative way, still is very harmful. I have used the term “gay” in a derogatory way in front of gay friends and straight friends and have brushed it off, without even allowing myself to think how this is offensive to them. When someone refers to something as being “gay” in front of me, I often will feel offended and I am a straight woman. So what makes it different for me to use such disgusting language?

The fact that I have grown up as a privileged white woman probably has something to do with this. I have never really been wounded by a sharp tongue. It’s not like anyone uses the term “white 20-something female” as a way to describe something in a bad way or as a derogatory term. The history that has evolved the word “gay” into a negative adjective has come from the negativity that the term was used to describe gay people. The same with words like “junkie” or “retarded” or “jew” or “nigger”. There is such power behind these words, and to dismiss this is to dismiss the history that has come from these words. 

Now, I don’t think of myself as being politically correct, but perhaps I am more than I’d like to admit. I think a world where we can call  African Americans, Anglo Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican Americans, Pakistani Americans, etc. as just “Americans”. I know this idea is a long way off, and perhaps there is an issue of generalization as suppressing cultural history, but I think it would make causal conversation easier. So I don’t know. All I can say is that I need to watch myself and make sure that I am aware of the underlying hate and offense that come with certain terms. So if I could go back last night and talk about my song idea, well, it was fucking stupid.

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It’s not about Bernie Sanders the person that is important.

Sometimes I feel like people get unreasonably angry about Bernie Sanders running for President. I see so many things online that basically say “All you Bernophiles are so stupid, just wait until he drops out/loses primary/forget he’s running for president and enters a nursing home”. I’m approached with this argument, in kinder words, to my face often (at least whenever I wear my Bernie shirt out to Price Chopper grocery shopping on Sundays in Dunmore). My answer each time is that it is the ideology of Sanders that gets me excited.

How fellow dunmore shoppers look at me in my Bernie 4 President t-shirt.

How fellow dunmore shoppers look at me in my Bernie 4 President t-shirt.

When faced with these scowling faces, annoyed with me for even saying that I will vote for Bernie Sanders, I must check myself and realize that their frustration towards my hope and ideology isn’t completely unwarranted. Of course I realize that Sanders is a long shot. I think everyone can agree to this, even if you do believe with your whole heart that he will win. The point is, people are tired of being let down. People are tired of getting their hopes up or allowing themselves to believe that things can actually change. If anyone should be doubtful about any possibility of change actually happening in America, it is the American people. 53% of us believed in 2008 that Obama would welcome in a new era, especially for us millennials, voting for our first time in a presidential election. But alas, because of the bureaucracy that is Washington DC, Obama was destined to fail as the dream we had imagined.

Here’s what I consider to be the best thing about Sanders’ run- he is bringing to light how things could be. He’s getting people, and not just young people, by the way (holla at my dad), interested in how our country works- how our economy works, how Wall Street works, what happened in 2008, how bills get passed, why we should care about who we vote in during the midterms, etc. etc. etc. This is why Bernie Sanders is important. Sure there have always been fringe and third party candidates that get young people riled up, but I do believe that Sanders’ is different. I believe that the American people, regardless of their political views, are realizing that we have a broken system and that by the definition of democracy we should have the power to change this.

So call me a dreamer or an idiot, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we start opening our eyes to the corruption we’ve been hopelessly ignoring. Maybe ignorance is bliss, however I’m optimistic that the American people are starting to reject what’s been comfortable and start seeing what is happening in our great country.

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Mainstream Media vs. The People

After watching the first Democratic debate on Wednesday night I predicted what the headlines would be the next morning: “Sanders wins over more American voters”, “Clinton second to Sanders at Debate”, “Crazy Scientist Looking Guy Actually Has Good Ideas”, etc. etc. Instead I was (somewhat) surprised to see via news headlines how Hillary had “clearly won” the debate.

I was a little confused by this considering that I saw more positive words about Sanders during and after the debate via social media than for any other candidate on the stage. Bernie pulled in 1.3 million dollars from donations during the debate, more than any other candidate. If talking financially and popularity it can be proven that Sanders won the debate.  Investigating further, I saw screen shots of many different mainstream media polls, including CNN, MSNBC, and Slate, all which pointed to Sanders as having the popular vote. It seemed by morning however these polls were deleted, and support for Hillary’s victory seemed universal throughout the media.

If we look at Hillary’s donors, we can see that Time Warner has given $501,831 to the Clinton campaign over the years, and an additional $83k for the 2016 cycle. Coincidentally, Time Warner owns CNN newsgroup. Of course CNN’s agenda is a Clinton win. By the controlling mainstream media we see how America’s views are manipulated.  Looking into Hillary’s donors for 2016 I found it startling that Google has donated $58k so far to her campaign. Will we soon find our right to open internet compromised in favor of Clinton? I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming months if it is easier to find pro-Clinton information online than any information opposing Clinton or positive information about Sanders. Checkout Clinton’s donors for 2016 here.

Should we be surprised by Hillary's appearance on SNL? NBCUniversal owns the network is a donor to the Clinton 2016 campaign.

Should we be surprised by Clinton’s appearance on SNL? NBCUniversal owns the network, who is a donor to the Clinton 2016 campaign.

In the midst of all of this, the mess that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made of the debate schedule only favors mainstream media more. In a piece this morning from Bloomburg, fellow vice-chairs and reps spoke out about the Chairwoman’s dictator ways in choosing to only hold 6 democratic debates. In 2007 there were 21 democratic debates held before the Iowa Caucus on January 3rd, 2008. The huge variance in democratic debates is an outrage to democracy. The fact that Wasserman Schultz was co-chair of Clinton’s 2008 campaign should be considered as a conflict of interest in her role as head of the DNC. Obviously she has stacked the deck in Clinton’s favor. I believe its safe to assume that Wasserman Schultz didn’t make this decision solely by herself, but by the help of Clinton’s top donors.

I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised by the injustice to democracy via mainstream media, however I am frustrated. It is the power of large corporations such as Time Warner, NBCUniversal, Comcast, and Google who will filter what the American people get to see and learn about the candidates. Information is at their discretion. I just hope that the momentum of change continues and that those who share this frustration will understand the obligation they have to inform those around us who may not realize how serious this issue is.

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My Dream Policy Paper to Positively Affect the Lowest 5th Quintile

Quintile Policy Vision: Anti-discrimination Job Hiring – Chelsea Collins- MSW Paper for Social Welfare, 2015. Marywood University.

United States employers will no longer be able to inquire about a prospective employee’s crime history on a hiring application. During the interview process a company may inquire about criminal history, but only if it directly affects the position applied for. For example, a person who has been convicted of a crime that has involved his license being revoked would be obligated to inform the employer if he was applying for a job that required him to operate a vehicle. The US Department of Labor will create a new division to audit businesses to ensure their compliancy to the policy and that they are not discriminating against people with a criminal background. The aim of this policy will be to end discrimination against ex-offenders and help this population gain employment.

The United States of America has the highest prison population in the world. Although the United States only makes up 5% of the global population, it is responsible for 25% of the global prison population. Currently, 2.3 million people are incarcerated. Roughly 3% of the US population, or 1 out of 31 adults, are under some type of legal supervision, whether that be incarceration, probation, or parole. (Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] n.d.) This broken system is multifaceted and needs its own set of policies and research to help aid in reform.

What often is not discussed is the case poverty that a criminal record can perpetuate. Ramakers et al.’s 2014 study reported that potential employers are only half as likely to call back a potential candidate who has a criminal record. In addition, the study found that those with criminal backgrounds earn on 10-15 percent less than their counterparts who do not have criminal records and have a slower earing rate over time.  If the subject of these facts were any population other than those with criminal records it would immediately be recognized as discrimination.

Institutional Racism can be seen when it comes to the demographics of prison population. Out of the 2.3 incarcerated, nearly 1 million are African Americans. African Americans are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites.  Hispanics and African Americans disproportionally make up 58% of prisoners as of 2008 even though they only make up a quarter of the population. 1 in 6 African American men had been incarcerated as of 2002. If this trend continues one third of black men born today will be incarcerated. (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP] 2015)

It should be noted that these trends indicate the presence of the “New Jim Crow”. African American’s history of slavery has been modernized into the criminal justice system. The shift to a new penology also has made prisons less of a place for rehabilitation, and instead an institution that focuses on controlling prisoners as a way of risk management. Although many prisons do offer some type of job training or educational programs to increase prisoner’s prospective human capital upon release, they are more focused at keeping the peace of the institution.

These statistics of African Americans and Hispanics in prison ties into the disproportion of these same populations in poverty, only cementing their place in relation to America’s social stratification. In 2010 the poverty rate for African Americans was 27.4 percent, which is almost 3 times higher than whites. Hispanics had a poverty rate of 26.6 percent. (Karger and Stoesz, 2014) By comparing these percentages to the percentages of African Americans and Hispanics incarcerated it is easy to see the correlation between race, poverty, and incarceration. A public policy that helps ex-offenders gain employment will positively raise the income and employment rates for those in the fifth quintile.

This policy will have substantial short term and long term effects on the US’ welfare state. It will directly help those with a criminal history and their family. It will also improve their community by the presence of less discouraged workers spending time idle, which eventually may lead back to criminal activity. The policy will also help fulfill state and federal workfare requirements, and the amount of social wage that people collect will be less, since less people will be on welfare due to unemployment. After time, and on a much wider scale, this policy has the possibility to increasing the United States’ Human Development Index since more employed people will have more income.

The policy will aid to developing the institutional conception of social welfare, since money that would otherwise be spent on aiding the unemployed with criminal records now can be utilized on improving other programs, such as public education. It is a curative approach to poverty in the idea that it will aim to end chronic poverty by helping people gain work, and therefore also help reduce the current rate of recidivism.

At the workplace, the policy will help end economic discrimination between workers who have a clean record compared to those who do not, since this information will not be obligated to be disclosed. It also will help employers gain the best possible workforce. A person with a criminal record may be the most qualified candidate for a position, but in the past would be looked over due to their history. This policy will also help break the cycle all too often observed of generations of family members who have trouble with the law. The current generation will have the opportunity to set an example for future generations by not returning to jail and finding employment after release. By observing this example, future generations will have role models that are not constantly stuck in the revolving door of the penal system. This can help reduce crime in years to come.

Of course there will be opposition to this policy, especially from neoconservatives. The argument can be had that this will help reduce America’s welfare state by producing job holding citizens as opposed to creating a caste of unemployables.  Employers may be less than happy to implement this policy out of fear of hiring criminals. However, it should be stressed through campaigns promoting this policy that people who have been convicted of crimes are not products of eugenics and are not inherently bad people. Instead they are people who deserve basic human rights, along with the chance to achieve the “American Dream”. If the public’s view on those with criminal history can change, then the discrimination this population has endured can finally begin to erode. Larger corporations should also recognize that employing people who normally would have a very difficult time of finding employment as a type of commonweal and part of their corporate responsibility. This policy should in fact please proppants of the residual conception of social welfare school of thought.

It is predicted that there will be some possible negative effects of this policy, such as more incidents of workplace related crime; however the policy should be implemented and molded until it can successfully break the barriers of those with a criminal history who want to work. As with all radical ideas, this policy will take time for the United States citizens to accept, especially because it involves the realization that there has been a large population which has endured discrimination quietly.  By helping those who cannot help themselves, and changing and creating policies to raise the economic prospects of those in the lowest quintile, the United States will become a stronger and more united country.

SOCIAL JUSTICE REFLECTION- My Person Response

The American prison population is one of the most marginalized communities. This can be attributed to the fact that the population is locked away behind thick walls, so the “out of sight, out of mind” mind-set can help ignore their existence. Another reason for their marginalization is that the majority of those effected by the penal system are members of the lower rungs of society; therefore their wellbeing it is not a priority of those in power. Although people who have criminal history have made mistakes, they should not automatically be denied the opportunity for success later in life. The fact that the majority of those who end up behind bars are poor and African American has something to say about how the United States cares about his population in general.  By not helping this population integrate back into society by the capability to find work is oppositional to social justice.

Social justice is a term which is defined best on an individual basis. My own idea of the concept is to do as much good for as many people as possible so that humanity is positively affected. Part of the NASW code of ethics is to work towards social and political policy in order to increase social justice. If a social worker losses sight of what the ultimate goal of the profession is, raising social justice, then they are not compliant with what it means to be a social worker.

In my professional life I hope to be a crusader for social justice. I hope to stay current with what is happening in the world around me in order to be aware of those who are in need. By working for a think tank or an NGO I hope that I will never lose sight of what it means to be a social worker and strive to consciously be aware of what my social justice mission is.

REFERENCES

Karger, H. & Stoesz, D. (2014). American Social Welfare Policy: A Pluralist Approach. Seventh

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (2015). Criminal Justice FactSheet. Retrieved September 28th, 2015 from http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet.

Ramakers, A., Apel. R., Nieuwbeerta, P., Dirkzwager, A., & Van Wilsem, J. (2014).

Imprisonment Length and Post-Prison Employment Prospects. Criminology, 52(3), 401-402. Retrieved from http://marywood1.marywood.edu:2125/Direct.asp?AccessToken=9I55QIM8X5JXDEKMQEM9M5DE5J458IQJ54&Show=Object

Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Mass Incarceration. Retrieved September 28th, 2015 from https://www.splcenter.org/issues/mass-incarceration.

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