The Next Step

With graduation on the horizon, I’ve been reflecting on my college career and the development I’ve gone through at SUNY Plattsburgh. When I first came here I was unsure of what I really wanted to do. I knew I had an interest in the legal/political realm of study, but beyond that I had no course of action. More than anything, I was incredibly unsure of myself. My sexuality, my ideas, my appearance– everything. I wouldn’t claim to be an ultra-confident graduate at the end of it all, but I am certainly much more sure of myself now than I’ve ever been.

I don’t have everything figured out in terms of post-graduation plans, but I do know that I plan on studying law. Before college, I didn’t really have tangible goals, and so I felt lost in translation. I may not have every facet of my future mapped out, but the goals that I once longed for seem much closer now. I also have reflected on the friends I’ve come to make here as well as the memories. It’s been a long four years, but I know that when I look back on this moment it will have seemed a hasty tenure.

There isn’t much of a point to this blog post, other than a small reflection for myself. It’s surreal to know that I will be a graduate in a few short days.

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Sanders as an Independent?

Typically running as an Independent in the general election is not something I’d recommend a liberal candidate do. It has the potential to hand the opposing party the nomination come November. However, if this election has proven anything- it’s that it is unlike previous contests. Clinton and Trump both have historically high unfavorability ratings, and Clinton’s indictment is still an ominous possibility. Top that with the surge of young voters and independents that have coalesced behind Sanders, and an independent run might not seem as impossible as before.

This post doesn’t aim to count Sanders out yet; the contest isn’t over and Sanders has asserted that he will fight until the DNC this summer. I encourage supporters to continue voting for and working with the Sanders campaign. However, we should also be honest in acknowledging that Sanders has an incredibly narrow path to victory. I think that a Sanders vice presidency might help to sway Clinton on several issues, but I’m not entirely sure that she’d take Sanders as her VP pick (even if she should). As previously stated, with the potential of indictment looming overhead it may perhaps be safer for Sanders to run as an independent.

Even if Sanders were to lose the general election, if he does well enough, he would inevitably start a dialogue (in many ways he already has) about independents and the problems with a two-party structure. For now, the idea of Bernie as an independent candidate is far off, but it’s certainly something to think about if he can’t clinch the nomination come this summer.

Something Different

So I decided to try something a bit different for this post. I’m going to share some poetry that I’ve been working on. It’s nothing final, but I thought that it would be interesting to share something. The piece (untitled for now) is meant to represent political weariness and social consciousness. It feels a bit weird to introduce my own poem, as I don’t typically write poetry, but here it is:

I am the free man
An apostate of my convictions
With eyes sewn open, body bound, and mind entombed
I am free

I am the free man
Sipping words that slither from opulent carafes
Finding contentment in disillusion
I am free

I am the free man
Sinking deeper into velveteen
Plunging hastily into scarlet comfort
I am free

I am the free man
Mixing ferocity with ivory tablets
Dulling insatiable self-loathing
I am free

I am the free man
Hearing whispers in the wind
Seeing cracks in stone pillars
Tarring rose-sequined lashes
They fear the man that proclaims
I am free
But knows it to be false

 

Dividing the Church and the State

One of the fundamental principles put forth by the United States Constitution is that it is important for the church and state to remain completely separate. The First Amendment is often regarded, particularly by the religious right, as a protection for religion. It, of course, does protect religion- however it also protects others from religion. It also asserts that government should not establish any one religion over another. When “strict constitutionalist” politicians like former presidential candidate Ted Cruz argue that the United States is a Christian nation, I find myself at a loss.

This post isn’t an attempt to dissuade religious people from their faith. Rather, this post seeks to set the record straight regarding religion, particularly Christianity in the United States. The Constitution isn’t based on religious tenets; in fact, many of the founders of the document were strictly secularist. Establishing a religion can create a de facto theocracy which as a governmental system has historically failed in upholding human rights. We’ve seen Christian doctrine affect laws in contemporary politics with states like North Carolina and Mississippi, and this has been the case throughout American history.

Religion is a personal value system and a communal establishment, but it shouldn’t interfere with government. Many religious groups are heavily involved in politics while churches remain tax free, religion influences policy, and political office holders are expected to be religious. It is my opinion that a true division of church and state is necessary in order to work towards true progressive values.

Pro-Blackness ≠ Anti-White

So often do I see posts that chide the Black Lives Matter movement as a “racist organization.” Whether or not you agree with the political stances of the movement, it is rather perplexing that anyone could find them to be a racist (or even terrorist, as some have suggested) hate group. I could point to the lack of a strong central leadership or the lack of violent acts being committed in the name of the group, but instead I’d like to focus on the heart of this issue. For many, it seems, pro-blackness has become synonymous with anti-white. As a child of mixed-race, someone’s who’s grown up with a black and white parent, I can say that pro-blackness isn’t inherently anti-white. There are no doubt radicals in any movement, but I would assert that this isn’t the case for most black activists.

Turns of phrase and cultural expressions like Black Lives Matter or pieces that bring to attention black beauty don’t seek to tear down white lives or white beauty. Instead, they seek to empower black people and encourage discourse about black lives and racist institutional biases.  It’s important to recognize that race and racial tensions don’t exist in a bubble. Rather, they exist in a culture riddled with historical contexts that have helped to create the underlying societal tension that we have seen spill over in the last few years.

About a week ago I was having a conversation with a few of my peers. We were discussing skin bleaching and Lil’ Kim. One student sought to compare skin bleaching to black face. She was confused as to why people would be offended with the latter but not the former. I argued that there was historical and bigoted context to black face- where the intent was to ridicule black people. On the other hand, Lil’ Kim’s skin bleaching was her attempt to look white because of insecurities she felt about being black.

The point of this series of rambling is that race relations and race don’t exist in a vacuum, and that the intention of black people when we acknowledge blackness is to challenge systemic oppression and bias cultural standards. There’s no problem in taking pride in your heritage, but it’s essential that we allow black people- a people who have been historically discriminated against throughout the history of this country and abroad- the same space.

Male Survivors

Content Warning: Discussions about sexual assault.

A few weekends ago I hosted a workshop that focused on male victimization, particularly in cases of sexual assault. I thought that discussing it would behoove potential readers on here, as well. Male victimization is a horrendously underrepresented field of study, and thus there is very little contemporary data on the subject. Additionally, men face stigma and legal double standards when they report their assault. This prevents men from reporting, and has left rates of under-reporting among male victims  incredibly high.

A RAINN study showed that 1-in-6 men have been sexually assaulted before the age of 18. While sexual assault doesn’t particularly mean rape, this figure is still quite alarming. Is it possible that societal pressures and ideas about masculinity keep men from feeling comfortable with reporting? Homophobia has certainly played a part in under-reporting, as men who are assaulted by other men face even worse stigma. Keeping this in mind, a Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 46% of sexual assault cases against men were carried out by women.

So how can we work to increase awareness about sexual assault against men, and increase reporting rates? It is essential that we validate a survivor’s experience. This doesn’t mean we must throw “innocent until proven guilty” out the window, but it does mean that we should respect a survivor enough to validate their claims and work to find out the truth. Respecting a survivor also means respecting their decisions and autonomy. We shouldn’t force people to report or to remain silent. Instead we should serve as a support system for those who confide in us. We should be patient, kind and understanding when supporting a survivor of trauma. Last, we should urge activists and political leaders to discuss sexual assault carried out against men (especially in prisons), and we should engage in these conversations (at our own comfort levels, of course).