Texas Abortion Ban

TW: Rape, Sexual Abuse, Pedophilia, Grooming

As Texas seems to push forward without challenge in enforcing a near-total abortion ban, young people are in grave danger. Known as Senate Bill 8, a law banning abortions after 6 weeks in Texas went into effect on Wednesday, September 1st. Although up for a Supreme Court ruling (as the law challenges the previous ruling in Roe v. Wade), the resulting 5-4 ruling refused to block the law. 

Other states continue to push a “pro-life” agenda while placing increasingly more restrictive laws on reproductive health and care. At least 12 other states have introduced bills restricting abortion, although all have been blocked or delayed by legal challenges. With a lack of governmental support, and in many cases, a lack of parental support, teens in the state of Texas face some of the most controlling laws currently in effect. 

Teenage Pregnancy

The impacts of the ban will be felt first-hand by younger people: those who do not have a steady income, means to travel out of state for abortions, or access to affordable healthcare.

As laws and social response to abortion quickly turn negative, the stigma against teenagers who need to get abortions heightens, leading to negative effects on their mental health. No one should be shamed for the right to choose what to do with their own body, least of all teenagers, who already face limited bodily autonomy and freedom. 

The view of abortion in the public eye needs to change from only being a heartbreaking, life changing decision. For many people, it is a simple, straightforward choice made in the interest of their own safety and health. 

Abortion Bans do not Stop Abortions: Only Safe Ones

Although it may not be legal in Texas to get an abortion after six weeks, there has always been other, more dangerous ways around restrictive laws. 

  • Back-alley abortions without proper and professional care results in pregnant people being forced into dangerous situations when there is an easier way. 
  • The law bans abortions after 6 weeks, meaning that there is only a 2 week window between simply missing a period and the cutoff. Under this law, people only have 2 weeks to realize they missed a period, take a pregnancy test, and make a potentially life changing decision about if/how to get an abortion. This does not account for the fact that many have irregular periods and it is not uncommon to realize a pregnancy after the 6 week mark. 

Turning to the Internet

Teens at home are incredibly scared about what will happen should they face pregnancy. With access to the vast web, they will likely turn to dangerous methods for terminating a pregnancy (which will not be listed for safety reasons). 

This can be extremely harmful as it places the burden on the parent to provide pseudo-medical care. Teens should not have to try “at home abortions” they find on sketchy websites: they should have equal and fair access to abortions, as it is guaranteed under Roe v. Wade. 

Citizens to Bounty Hunters

The law does not allow state officials to enforce the ban, as it would likely be ruled unconstitutional and legally challenged immediately. 

However, it does encourage private citizens to essentially tell on those who have abortions – regardless if the procedure were legal or not, or even if said person even intends to have an abortion. It encourages citizens to file lawsuits against anyone they know (or don’t know) who has an abortion or aids anyone in achieving such medical care (think whoever pays for the procedure, the Uber driver, the doctor, etc). Courts are required to provide the citizen plaintiff with $10,000 in “damages” for each alleged abortion obtained by or aided in by the defendant. 

Essentially, Texas has evaded the Constitution by not enforcing the ban through law enforcement, but its own citizens turned bounty hunters. 

Endangering Youth: Pedophilia and Rape

The language in the law makes no exceptions for cases of rape and incest, which more often than not affect young people, including teens and even younger children. The law only allows abortion in cases that endanger the parent’s health, although what qualifies as endangering their life is unclear. 

Forcing a potentially very young child to carry their rapist’s child is extremely harmful and damaging, which can lead to a plethora of negative effects on mental health. Anxiety, fear, depression, and panic can all result from a situation like this. The law is unsympathetic, harming young children and teens in more ways than one. 

Firsthand Experiences

Continued Control of Women’s Bodies

This law will disproportionately affect many groups, including people of color, low income people, and teens. Low income people must come up with the money to pay for an abortion (often upwards of $500) in the time between discovering a pregnancy and the 6 week cutoff. People of color, specifically Black women, face higher mortality rates during pregnancy. Undocumented immigrants may have a harder time traveling across or even outside the state to access a clinic. In Texas, minors must have parental consent to have an abortion, which can take weeks as many are forced to go through the court system to obtain permission. 

The law is not protecting lives or improving sexual education. Instead, the deadline of six weeks is specifically chosen to be able to control women’s bodies. In a state with open gun carry laws and no mask mandates, the question arises: why are women’s bodies the only things allowed to be controlled by the government?

The penalty for aborting a pregnancy resulting from rape is more severe than the penalty for rape itself

Resources


Sources

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/01/health/texas-abortion-law-facts.html 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/02/sonia-sotomayor-dissent-texas-abortion-ban-law-supreme-court

Hustle Culture Today

At precisely 6:30 a.m., you wake up. You check your phone for messages and rise out of bed to get ready for work that day. While on your commute to work, maybe you check your emails and eat a quick breakfast because you didn’t have any time to do so at home. Right before work, you stop by a coffee shop and order a steaming hot cup of coffee to last the entire work day. You go to work, do what you’re assigned, and attend some meetings. At 5 p.m. you get off work, but work still follows you. In your free time at home you are constantly scrambling to meet deadlines. When you are finally able to sleep, you wake up again to the sound of your alarm and repeat the same jam-packed schedule as yesterday. 

This is what hustle culture looks like: a constant social stress on work and productivity. Everyday, there is an emphasis on what more work could be done and how fast can you get it done. You try to catch a break from time to time, but it is exhausting. This sort of “workaholism” culture has been normalized in our generation, and  hustle culture promotes the lifestyle of putting work above everything else. Through this idea, people believe that in order to achieve their goals and dreams, they have to overwork themselves to the extent of burnout. 

The Toxicity Behind Hustle Culture

The common phrase “rise and grind” can easily be applied to what hustle culture is today. The constant need to overwork yourself can lead to harmful effects including stress, burnout, and other damaging mental health issues. When working tirelessly for long durations of time, stress builds in your body. This results in the release of the stress hormone cortisol in higher amounts (Headversity). The excessive amount of cortisol in your system can lead  to burnout. If you are burnt out, you no longer have the motivation or drive to continue working. Other side effects of high amounts of stress include anxiety, depression, heart disease, memory impairments, and more.

In addition, research shows parallels between increased stress levels and decreased work productivity. When you are only focused on mindlessly getting the most amount of work done, you will start to hate what you are doing. Your personal well-being is no longer your top priority. You start skipping meals, losing sleep, and ignoring the time that is needed to take care of yourself. This could lead to a downward spiral that would only hurt the quality of your work. On the other hand, there is a positive association between your well-being and productivity. When you are comfortable, relaxed, and enjoying the work that you are doing, you will produce quality work. In actuality, hustle culture impairs your productivity. 

Hustle Culture Effect on Youth

At a young age, you are taught to plan for the future. Students just like you are constantly working on our grades, extracurriculars, volunteer work, and more. Every student has heard of the notion that the more work you do, the better college applicant you will be. Students drown themselves with work hoping for a chance to be accepted into their dream college. This idea has become so normalized that the term “#hustle” is commonly used as teen slang to describe how busy life gets. People strive for a number on a piece of paper at the expense of their mental health, social life, and even learning.

It is so important for you to have a work-balanced lifestyle. Hustle culture has turned people into working machines. We are human and we need time to focus on ourselves and the people and things we love. Life is precious. Take the time to slow down, relax, and care for yourself. Remember why you are working, because that’s what matters at the end of the day. 


Sources


Written By: Amy Feng Zhang

Disney’s Legacy of Cultural Commodification

A deep dive into the Disney corporation’s long-standing history of appropriating minority cultures. 

What is Cultural Commodification?

Cultural commodification is the act of a group of people, usually colonizers or historically privileged people, picking and choosing parts of a minority culture to represent and profit off of. Ultimately, it is orientalism, a term that refers to Western artists demonizing Eastern cultures. In this process, they tend to whitewash, demonize and misrepresent large parts of a culture. Think of a Disney movie like Mulan, or Aladdin. If you ask anyone from the respective cultures that the movies are based on, they’ll tell you that the portrayal of their culture has been bastardized and appropriated. What’s worse, Disney, as a largely white, Western corporation, continues to profit off of these cultures while paying little to no homage to their origin. Sure, these movies may have nostalgic value, especially if you’re Gen Z, but that’s exactly the reason we need to look at them critically. 

Disney’s Aladdin: Orientalism at its Worst

The first problem with 1992’s Aladdin is that it is a misconstrued clash of cultures. While being inspired by 1001 Nights and being originally set in China, the movie draws from Indian, Syrian, and Islamic culture, among others. From a white lens, all of these cultures are a monolith, which is untrue. This portrayal of all brown cultures as interchangeable is responsible for dishearteningly harmful stereotypes. 

Beyond this, the film is chock-full of caricatures of Middle Eastern and South Asian people. Owing to the largely white production team, most of the background characters in Aladdin are either overly violent and barbaric bearded men or oversexualized brown women belly-dancing. And this action does not exist in a vacuum; Disney’s portrayal has influenced the way brown people are viewed for decades. 

Raya and the Last Dragon: Progress or Setbacks?

The most recent Disney movie based on a minority culture is Raya and the Last Dragon, a fantasy movie inspired by Southeast Asian culture. The three decades between Raya and Aladdin show significant progress – Raya had some SEA voice actors, artists and consultants, and the movie did pay homage to its respective culture. However, Disney’s status as a multinational corporation shows us that minority cultures will always be commodified when capitalism is involved. 

According to various SEA writers and critics, the culture in Raya was simply tokenized to sell to a more diverse audience. Sure, there are little nods to Vietnamese foods and Thai fighting styles, but the cultural connection only goes surface level. Raya isn’t connected to her culture at all, and the background feels superficial. It’s still a monolith of more than ten countries and numerous cultures.  As real representation, the movie has little value. 

Why does it matter?

You might be thinking – shouldn’t we take all the representation we get? Shouldn’t we be applauding Disney for making progress? The fact of the matter is that Disney has done the bare minimum. Without constant pressure to improve and do better in their portrayal of minorities, they will continue exploiting cultures and adding no nuance. It’s possible that even after criticism, Disney will always value profit over authenticity. This is where you ask yourself what’s more important: Gen Z continuing to enable these harmful portrayals for the sake of nostalgia, or Gen Z kickstarting an era of genuine representation in the media. 

So what’s the solution? How do we draw the line between representation and approproation? The answer is simple. As Gen Z begins to express our own stories and cultural heritage through various forms of media, from slam poetry to young moviemakers, it’s time to stop relying on Disney for representation. People of colour deserve to see their cultures from an authentic standpoint, and that’s where OwnVoices comes in. OwnVoices is a term that refers to marginalized groups writing about their own experiences, rather than someone from outside the group trying to. The market is full of young POC writing beautiful, vibrant stories that pay homage to their cultures.


Written By: Ashreya Mohan

Masterpieces: The Othering of Trans Bodies and Minds

TW: transphobia, homophobia, violence, suicide, discrimination

The trans body, as perceived by the cisgender majority, has become a piece of art on display in a museum. For most, being trans necessitates the body, and often the mind, to be critiqued like a craft by the crafter, a drawing by the artist. The average trans person is painted by themself with meticulous care to the perceptions of others for the main reason of safety; the protection of “passing” a priceless sculpture: the carved, collected, or lucky body has the privilege of assimilation, the threat of violence, discrimination dwindled. However, when the body does not “pass,” when the body is a work of art on display to be critiqued by the public, by men, it is a political statement like most art, a statement made, most often, against the will of the trans person.      

The trans woman, for instance, when not “passing” threatens the safety of patriarchy to cisgender men; her body, a statement that gender roles, and thus the privilege the man stands on, are fragile, the man becomes scared. Further, when the trans body conforms to requirements of cisness and “passes,” men frequently find themselves aroused by the trans mind and body. When the trans person informs the cis man of their trans state, the man will lash out. He finds his own attraction repulsive, disgusting in a way that mirrors his homophobia because he, even through his attraction, has ignited the veil of passing to flame and sees the trans woman as a man playing pretend, perhaps trapping him. Too often, male disgust, at the trans woman and himself, turns to emotional and physical violence, even murder. The man, within this scenario, fails to see trans womanhood as true womanhood, but rather, as “other,” a mutated attempt at cisness, a subversion of his power because his patriarchal privilege is loosened; he tightens his grip by performing violence: his reclamation of power lost, a reinforcement of gender roles. The man implies, “you are a man too, just like me; a man who has threatened my power over womanhood; I must get my revenge.”

The trans body being viewed as a statement against patriarchy, seen as an intentional act against manhood, results in the trans person being “othered,” as not being accepted into the heteronormative relationship of cis man, cis woman. The trans person, even when included as datatable options, is rarely, if ever, allowed to assimilate to the white picket fence family of the suburbs; cis people will never claim the trans person as a “life partner” but a fun excursion or an experiment. Even this negligible bar is uncommon. Moreover, 2020 saw the rise of the “super-straight,” or the individual only dating cisgender people of their desired gender. This declares the trans body as “other” than the cis body, which in some ways it is a diffrent body, but centering one’s sexuality, one’s entire romanic existence, around the exclusion of transness, if not directly violent, creates an antagonistic enviorment that maintains cisness as the unreachable standard. The majority, though, will say they simply will not include the trans person in their sexuality, or that they are open to dating trans people, but given the opportunity will never accept the trans person as dateable, even if they share mutual attraction. Again, this “others” transness, defines gender to the body, and claims the cis person as superior. For example, if a trans woman attracted to men is identitcal to a cis woman except in choromose, what is the man afraid of except a loosened hold on patriarchal power? Except a perception of emasculation? Additionally, this requires discourse about the genital “preference,” which is not a statement of “I prefer vagina to penis,” but is, in nearly every case, a requirement, a necessity even beyond the “passing” state. One is attracted to what they are attracted to, that is really not in control, but even given this, the persistence with which cis people advocate for their “preference” calls into question the motivation of their words. Gender is not the presence of a genital, gender is a collection of attributes, a dance, an art, or perhaps even in the absence of a single gendered act, it is a feeling; this is in burning friction with the commonality of the genital “preference.” 

These requirements, through othering their bodies, through forcing their bodies to become political statements, upholds the very norms that lead so many trans people into the cage of low self esteem. The lack of healthcare, the epidemic of poverty, the threat of violence and houselessness are the tools by which a white supremcist, patriarchal, capitalist society forces the political statement that is the trans person into a matrix of otherness, a system through which the cisgender majority can claim a diffrence to the trans person. The cisgender person implies, “you may be a woman, but you are not a woman like me, you are an other woman, perhaps an inferior me, I am what you try to be;” but I insist that “my womanhood is other, I reclaim the otherness you press upon my body, my mind; I am a different type of woman, a better woman. I fight against a constant storm and manage to sculpt myself into the masterpiece. I do not dream of “passing” by your standards because I am wild like the fields in wind, I am free in my femininity like freshly caught fish sent back to sea. You, my cisgender sister, are stale like ice, the title of woman to you is ordinary, to me it is the rise of the moon past dusk, it is everything. To the cisgender men who wish to make my body, my genitals a statement of pollitics, then I will be a work of art, a painting about the whisper in the forest, a haunting. What are you, have you even thought about it? Remember, I am a haunting and you should be afraid, I reclaim the voice you take from me, your tightening grip of violence does not scare me, I have the wild fields, the familiar moon.” 

My words, my ability to not care for “passing,” my existence as a woman is only possible because of Black Trans People and Nonbinary People as well. Black Trans People have faced practically all of the violence thrown at the trans community. Black bodies have always been categorized as “other,” as not normal. Their existence and their constant and cricual fight for liberation means that I, a white trans woman, am safer because of them. Nonbinary People, also, make my existance as a “non-passing” trans person possible. The political statements their bodies are forced to make are similar to my own, they aid in normalizing my existence even in the face of cisgender oppersion and erasure from the trans community, a place they have as much right to as me. As Gen Z continues the fight for Trans Liberation, remember that the Black Community has said all there is to say, it’s about time we listen.  


Written By: London Chastain

Sexism in Gaming Communities

Sexism against women is an enduring problem in video game communities, ranging from overly sexualized depictions of women in games to online harassment and threats. In June 2020, over 200 allegations of sexual misconduct were made against people in the gaming industry with many of them being streamers for Twitch, the largest game-streaming platform, as an extension of the #MeToo movement.

In addition, female streamers have described Twitch as a hostile environment as they experience harassment in the form of gender based objectifying and belittling comments.

What’s been happening in the world of live streaming can act as a looking glass to how sexism is a problem that affects women in the gaming community overall, not just public figures within.

“Misogyny is not just something that’s incidental to the gaming and streaming world, it’s inextricably linked.” -Erin Marie Hall, also known as YourStarling on Twitch while talking to Insider

The consequences

“Girls can’t play” / ‘Your aim is so bad, are you a girl?’

“Get back in the kitchen”/ ‘Put down the controller and make me a sandwich’

Women are more likely to receive harassment while playing games online. Marketing research company Bryter released a report that suggests around 40% of female gamers have experienced some form of abuse from male gamers while playing online and 28% have experienced sexual harassment from male or other gamers in the form of objectifying comments or death and rape threats. 

Sexism women experience in gaming environments may cut them off from the social benefits of playing video games, such as maintaining and making friendships, or discourage them from pursuing a career in video game development as well. 

It can also cause them to alter their behavior and how they present themselves online to avoid harassment. A survey conducted in the US, Germany and China with 900 participants found that 59% of women hide their gender to avoid abuse and sexism.

With Twitch becoming a powerful entertainment platform, it’s important to note how 41% of viewers are 16-24 and 35% of users are female because of how many young women who are on the platform, either as viewers or streamers, are exposed to sexist content and behavior. 

What has contributed to sexism in gaming exactly?

To further understand why sexism is such a problem, it’s integral to understand marketing history within video games. The video game industry experienced a recession in 1983 due to a saturation of low quality games and losing supporters they had previously as a result. 

It made the most sense for them to carve out a niche for themselves, thus narrowing your target audience in order to properly communicate with them to win them over. Companies like Nintendo at the time were researching and going to tournaments in cities to see exactly where they were playing their games. They found their audience when they saw more boys playing than girls.

For many men, their status and identity is rooted in the rejection of femininity. These patriarchal norms encourage misogynistic and sometimes violent behaviour, this will likely translate into gaming culture. With decades of gendered marketing, it has resulted in the unfortunate byproduct of men having “created the identity of the gamer as this exclusive property,” according to Kenzie Gordon, Ph.D candidate at the University of Alberta studying gaming in relation to sexual and domestic violence. This results in people who are perceived as outsiders, such as women, to experience backlash in the form of sexual abuse and harassment. The invisibility and anonymity of the internet is also considered a factor in encouraging this kind of behavior. 

It also leads to a feedback loop of video game companies catering after men since historically they’ve been their target audience and being reluctant to go against them, which is where we see common issues with how women can be portrayed in video games. 

Gaming’s Toxic Community

In this space, there is often a promoted belief that gaming and tech is naturally and biologically, the territory of men. This belief completely nullifies the fact that computer programming was originally a feminised profession. Programming was seen to be secretarial work, boring and repetitive, only in the 1960s when it was clear programmers had a lot of autonomy, it started to emphasise the fact that programming became something in demand thus men came into the picture.

Let’s take a look at the design and representation of female characters in video games, the representation of women in video games has been a debated topic for a long time. Many times, the way female characters are designed and depicted are sexualised, with exaggerated figures and tend to be visions of ‘male fantasies’; there is such a heavy fixation in making female characters ‘perfect’ or likeable by the marketed audience, whereas male characters are presented to be relatable, why is there such a double standard towards realism in characters? It is not far fetched to say that women have been DEVALUED in games and this devaluation translates to the real world. 

When enough is enough: Activism from women in gaming spaces

Even before the 200 allegations made in 2020, there have been activists in the space advocating for better treatment of women in video game communities for years now. 

Anita Sarkeesian created Feminist Frequnecy in 2009 as a way to make accessible media criticism through a feminist lens. In 2011, she went on to create the video series, Tropes vs Women in Video Games, which analyzes how women are portrayed in video games. In 2020, Feminist Frequency established the Games and Online Harassment Hotline. 

Those 200 allegations were able to be tracked and made public thanks to Jessica Richey who streams under the name “JessyQuil”, as she compiled and updated the spreadsheet with all of these public allegations of misconduct. 

While talking to the New York Times, she said: “I’m not casting judgment or asking anyone to witch hunt those who are named. I’m trying to give survivors of these issues a voice so they don’t feel alone or gaslit based on their experiences in this industry.”

Many female streamers have spoken candidly about the sexism and harassment they’ve experienced due to their gender while streaming, thus shedding light on important issues. 

Game designer Rosa Carbo-Mascarell created “A Woman Goes to a Private Industry Party” to shed light on misogyny she experienced while networking in the industry. 

Women have participated in organized labor movements in the industry as allegations of sexist and unfair work environments have come to light, e.g. the 150 person walkout against Riot Games’ use of forced arbitration in 2019.

What can we do? 

It’s important to call out sexist behavior and challenge it, when you see it occur. Even in your private lobbies, it helps set a precedent where sexism in gaming is not going to be tolerated. Yes, this includes that small discord server of yours. If you see a girl friend of yours being subjected to misogynistic behaviour by another friend, don’t hesitate, CALL IT OUT. 

Demand for better representation and conditions for women in video games. The over sexualization of women in video games has negatively influenced the way people perceive women in the real world. It’s also important to demand better for female streamers and game developers, as these spaces need to be better for marginalized people.

Video game developing companies and streaming platforms like Twitch hold immense power and it’s important they do their part in facilitating healthier environments in gaming through their hiring practices, projects, and public behavior. 

Encourage young girls’ interests in video games and STEM fields, especially since studies have shown that playing video games may provide easier access to STEM related fields and solve gender inequality in some of these fields, according to the paper “What is a True Gamer? The Male Gamer Stereotype and the Marginalization of Women in Video Game Culture.” By bringing in more marginalised groups into a larger male dominated space, it helps create better representation of those groups in video games. 

Some women twitch streamers to watch! (Youtube and Twitch)

  • Valkyrae
  • 39daph
  • Xminks
  • QuarterJade
  • Lilypichu
  • Kkatamina
  • Codemiko
  • Starssmitten

Sources

How Heatwaves Affect Low-Income Communities

    For the past two weeks, the northern and western United States have been facing an incapacitating heatwave. Temperatures have reached over 100°, and many people do not have access to the appropriate methods of dealing with this extreme heat.  These temperatures disproportionately affect low-income neighborhoods, BIPOC, and the homeless.

    The heatwave is murderous.  In British Columbia, Canada, over 230 deaths were reported due to the extremity of the heatwave. “Heat-related deaths have depleted front-line resources and severely delayed response times, officials said.” (CNN)  June was the hottest month on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Urban Heat Island Effect

Urban areas tend to experience higher temperatures than rural ones, due to infrastructure absorbing and emitting the sun’s heat. “Daytime temperatures in urban areas are about 1–7°F higher than temperatures in outlying areas.” (EPA) As cities tend to have more low-income and BIPOC residents, these communities are subject to higher temperatures due to their location. This disproportionate spread of heat changes how people experience the heatwave. As there are more low-income neighborhoods in cities, city residents will experience the greater impacts of the heatwave.

Risks of the Heatwave

Heatwaves can cause heat exhaustion, dehydration, muscle pain, or heat strokes. Low income neighborhoods are more prone to facing the severe effects of the heatwave as they have less access to air conditioning and other cooling methods. These neighborhoods also lack the infrastructure to protect their people. Many areas are left unshaded, exposing residents to direct harmful sunlight.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear loose-fitting, light colored clothing
  • Find shaded areas, or cooling centers
  • Limit physical effort, especially when temperatures are highest.
  • Look out for your fellow residents who may be struggling under extreme heat.
    • Children, elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions are at higher risk of heat illness

Donate to Help Others in Need

  • Give to community fridges.
  • Donate to GoFundMe’s for those who have been displaced or whose cars have broken down.
  • Hand out supplies or offer shelter to the homeless.

The Dilution of Academic Terms in Pop Culture

An Analysis of Social Media’s Role in the Overuse of Certain Words

    Normalization, romanticization, gaslighting, toxic, trigger: all of these words have something in common.  You are likely quite familiar with them, as you have likely seen them plastered over social media, being overused and diluted to the point where you are no longer sure what they mean.  These terms are often utilized out of context, used only to make the user seem smarter.  However, the meanings of these words are often changed as this happens, as the meaning becomes twisted by social media users.  In an excerpt of 1984, George Orwell references the idea that the overuse of words depletes the meaning of and the reason for using a word.  This is precisely what is happening to many academic and mental health terms.

    Academic terms that have been overtaken by social media are often used to make someone seem like they have more credibility by using bigger words.  Terms such as normalization, glorification, romanticization, and more, have been victim to this.  By falling prey to social media overuse, these words begin to lose their meaning.  Many people have realized this, and they humorously poke fun at those who overuse these terms.  The overuse of these terms simplifies their meaning, changing their true intent as words.  Social media, especially Twitter and Tiktok, have overtaken many of these terms.  Social media holds much power, but its power to devalue certain words is dangerous.  It is necessary to be careful with language.

It is not only academic terms that social media is overtaking, it is also mental health terminology.  An example of this is gaslighting, which has begun to be used as a comical term, such as within the phrase “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss.”  While many are likely using the phrase just to be funny, this is harmful because it depletes the weight of gaslighting as a form of abuse.  Gaslighting is a heavy topic, and it is not one to be joked about by people who have not suffered from it.  By continuing to use the phrase “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss,” society devalues the trauma of those who have been gaslighted.  It signifies that their suffering is simply a joke to many, as it is not treated with the careful weight that it should be treated with. 

Gaslighting is not the only mental health term that has begun to be thrown around casually. The word trigger, meaning something that upsets one’s emotional state to the point of distress, began to be used in common culture around 2018.  This desensitized people to the weight of actual triggers.  Triggers have since begun to be taken more seriously.  Trigger warnings are utilized in most places, specifically for heavy topics such as suicide, violence, etc.  The resurgence of trigger as a mental health term is good, as it draws attention back to its weight as a mental health term.

    However, many also find trigger warnings to be useless, as they are often not even used correctly.  To effectively use a trigger warning, the trigger must be signified — it is not enough to simply say “trigger warning”.  The hyperspecificity of some trigger warnings also renders them useless.  It is best to keep trigger warnings simple, short, and signified, lest they continue to lose their meaning.

This is not to say that conversations surrounding mental health themselves should not be normalized. It is certainly important to normalize conversations regarding mental health struggles and mental illness, allowing for people to have a safe space to heal. However, it is necessary to be careful regarding the language being utilized, and ensuring that psychological terms are used correctly, with the correct connotations. To act otherwise is to deplete their meaning, lightening the weight that comes along with discussions of mental health.

TikTok would be nothing without Black People.

Why the “Addison Raes” of the world are considered marketable, thus gain more popularity.

Surely, we’ve all seen the video of Addison Rae, a popular content creator performing some (low-energy) dance routines on Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show, many of which originated from Black creators’ choreography on TikTok. 

TikTok: Addison Rae's Jimmy Fallon clip drew backlash, Fallon responds
Addison Ray on the Jimmy Fallon show

Blonde, colorful-eyed, hourglass figure, lavish lifestyle, giggly and fun, and of course, white — in the eyes of advertisers and agencies, THIS is the girl they think everyone wants to be. And so, she’ll get the brand deals. She’ll get the exposure, the opportunities, the invitations to big Hollywood parties, and the overall spotlight, while Black dancers get paid nothing but dust. 

For centuries, white folks have established themselves as the ‘cultural baseline’ for various industries, specifically the entertainment space. They’ve paraded around and forced their lifestyles, speech mannerisms, and appearances into the mainstream media, and in turn, created the “fallacy that white culture is the only one worth emulating.” 

(words via Reddit user wasteofskin50)

On TikTok, the same notion remains. Black influencers get financially compensated at a notoriously lesser rate than White influencers. The platform’s For You Page tends to promote White creators’ content 

Despite Black people putting in valuable work throughout history, White people have erased their work in favor of White supremacist narratives and excluded them from speaking out in predominately White spaces, even in social justice movements such as feminism. This form of racism remains alive and well. While Black creators may get noticed for their efforts briefly, the press passes not long after. Meanwhile, White people have the most longevity, scoring new opportunities in media and branding.

Black Tiktokers: ON STRIKE

Black TikTok creators have opted out on choreographing the newest dance trend for white people to imitate and then skyrocket in popularity due to it.

They’re TIRED of having their movements stolen and not being given any credit for it. Black creators have chosen to NOT create dances to Megan Thee Stallion’s new single ‘Thot Shit’, previous songs by the artist garnered a lot of views from choreography made by Black TikTokers, ‘Savage’ has been used in more than 22 million TikTok, while ‘Thot Shit’ has so far only garnered 475k videos.

It’s obvious that Black creators have figured out the algorithm, the viral nature of MANY TikTok videos is built upon their hard work. The lack of Black creator’s videos on ‘Thot Shit’ have led to white TikTokers attempting to make their own, the results have been a target for ridicule with more people realising just how big of an impact Black creatives have in TikTok culture.

Black creators have to navigate white-centric society offline but the biases and prejudices also exist within social media and this proves to be a frustrating experience for Black users. One of the best known incidents of Black creativity being stolen is the Renegade dance trend started by Jalaiah Harmon, then 14, it would go on to become one of the biggest dance phenomena on the platform. However, the trend was popularised by white creators like Charli D’Amelio and others who initially DIDN’T EVEN credit Jalaiah for having choreographed the dance, showing that even having a “Black Lives Matter” profile picture doesn’t excuse you from racism. Only after the New York Times reported that Jalaiah created the dance, she began to get widespread recognition but by that time, the trend had been watered down. In that interview, Jalaiah stated, “I think I could have gotten money for it, promos for it, I could have gotten famous off of it, get noticed. I don’t think any of that stuff has happened for me because no one knows I made the dance.” The erasure of Jalaiah’s name as the creator while Charli capitalizes off of it and doesn’t pass the credit is an example of misogynoir, which is misogyny against Black girls and women. Had it not been for the criticism, the New York Times article on Jalaiah would’ve never been created. She wouldn’t have gotten to dance at the NBA All-Star game and would have remained uncredited. To this day, Jalaiah still hasn’t gotten opportunities to dance with celebrities, be featured on Youtube, and have endorsement deals like Charli has. In this case, missing out on opportunities wouldn’t have been and was not because Jalaiah was untalented. It was because of her being a Black girl and how White creators with a platform don’t give credit where credit is due to their fans, which leads to their fans not knowing who the original creator was.

“We have to remember TikTok isn’t just an algorithm. It’s not simply a platform. It’s a multibillion-dollar corporation. Like all major companies, diversity within boardrooms and offices make a difference, not only in the company culture, but the products and services created. We can’t continue to blame what’s happening on platforms on their users. It’s those creating and nurturing the platform who are to blame, and that squarely belongs to the ones who control it.”

– Tia C.M Tyree, a communications professor at Howard Uni 

Back in March 2021, Addison Rae performed several TikTok dances on The Jimmy Fallon Show, which raised controversy due to not crediting any of the original creators. A few of the dances performed and their original creators: Mya Johnson and Chris Cotter- “Up”, Dorien Scott- “Corvette Corvette”, Camyra Franklin- “Laffy Taffy”, Keara Wilson, “Savage.” To TMZ, Addison stated following the segment, “Was kind of hard to credit during the show. It was never my intention and they definitely deserve all the credit, because they came up with these amazing trends.” It is easy to say that this is just an excuse, because it is. 

It would not have taken but an extra second per dance to mention the original creators and even feature their TikToks with permission. If White creators like Addison truly cared about Black lives and thought that they mattered, they would give up some of their power to the Black creators. They would tell the press and their fans, “I did not create this dance, so and so created this dance, go follow their account.” They would allow Black creators to garner the press and gain different opportunities to further their careers however they please. The White creators have the power to turn attention to Black creators, but their refusal to even credit them from the jump proves their complicity to White supremacy, no matter how much they say “Black Lives Matter” on their platform. Good intentions are not good enough, and those like Addision should go beyond intentions and take actions.

It’s no secret that the TikTok algorithm favors White, cisgender, thin, and non-disabled people. In fact, the TikTok policy even stated that moderators suppress overweight, disabled, and people considered having non-attractive features from front page features. Creators and users have also observed that a non-White and/or queer creator can create one type of content and have their TikTok deleted for “violating the rules,” while White creators can do the same thing and get away with it. In fact, Lizzo fell victim to this when she noticed the videos of her wearing bathing suits being removed while videos of White women with bathing suits stayed up. She posted a clip on TikTok saying, “Tiktok keeps taking down my videos of me in my bathing suits. But allows other videos with girls in bathing suits. I wonder why? Tiktok… we need to talk.” 

The Source |Lizzo Slams TikTok For Removing Her Bathing Suit Photos
via Lizzo’s TikTok account

A TikTok spokesperson cited that “sexual gratification” was one of the reasons it was taken down, as well as the revealing of undergarments and insisted that Lizzo’s videos were not taken down due to bathing suits. Though make no mistake, Lizzo not being thin and light-skinned totally influenced the decision to take down her videos from the platform. It’s highly likely that had Lizzo been thin and light-skinned, moderators wouldn’t have deleted her TikToks. Considering that Lizzo has been body-shamed for her shape and slut-shamed for wearing revealing clothes, what TikTok did was damaging, regardless of intentions.

While this is not the first time Black creators have spoken out about TikTok’s lack of diversity and cultural sensitivity, this time around proved that very little things have changed. Black creators have been flagged or had videos removed for speaking out against racism and the disparities between BIPOC and White creators. Although TikTok made a whole apology saying that they hear and see the Black community and that they “stand shoulder to shoulder with the Black community,” it was not enough and words without action are empty calories. They claimed to be donating $4 million to help non-profits and contribute to combating racial inequity, but with their actions, it raises the question on if the money has really been used as advertised. The apology also stated about Black creators, “Without them, TikTok would not be the joyful and creative community we aspire to be.” If they truly stand by that statement, they need to start acting like it. Looks like they should’ve spent Blackout Tuesday writing a long-term plan to help Black creators earn the credit they deserve. And this doesn’t just go for dancers or activists, but for Black creators of all categories.

It’s especially important to #SupportBlackCreators.

Danessy Auguste
Danessy Auguste (specialg220) - Profile | Pinterest
Keara Wilson
Savage” TikTok Dance Creator Keara Wilson: Interview
Veondre Mitchell
Veondre Mitchell (Tiktok Star) Wiki, Biography, Age, BoyFriend, Family,  Facts and More - Wikifamouspeople
Gigi
u better believe me when I tell u #theseglasses @theseglasses
Sydney Mcrae
Skaibeauty - Bio, Family, Trivia | Famous Birthdays
Cat James
Robert Lucas
The Sweet Impact Cake Decorating TikTok Videos | POPSUGAR Food
Danni Rose
Cookbooks by Danni Rose - Stovetop Kisses
Abena
Travelling Tuesdays TV by Abena - YouTube

SOURCES

Resources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/pop-culture-news/months-after-tiktok-apologized-black-creators-many-say-little-has-n1256726

https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2021/07/02/tik-tok-black-creators

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2021/6/29/22554596/digital-blackface-megan-thee-stallion-song-tiktok-first-strike

https://www.businessinsider.com/tiktok-censorship-users-deemed-ugly-overweight-or-disabled-2020-3

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/05/lizzo-tiktok-body-shaming-censorship-social-media

https://newsroom.tiktok.com/en-us/a-message-to-our-black-community

No, mass imprisonment doesn’t actually improve society. in fact, it’s a public health crisis, and it targets POC.

Black and Brown individuals are being jailed for life while Derek Chauvin only got a 22.5 year sentence.

The Myth of Incarceration 

Most of us would expect that removing criminals from a community would result in an overall improvement and better development of the community. However, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that this may not necessarily be the case due to the effects incarceration and imprisonment has on individuals and their communities. 

Not only is incarceration an expensive way to achieve less public safety, there are reports stating that it may in turn increase crime instead. It does so by breaking down the social bonds that guide individuals away from crime, depriving communities of income, limiting economic opportunities, decreasing future income potential and causing the cultivation of a deep resentment towards the legal system.

empty room

Mass Incarceration by the numbers:  

Over the last 40 years, the US prison population increased by 500% due to changes in law and policy that led to an outstanding number of people being sent to prison, this is based on research done by the National Research Council. 

At least 1 in 4 people who went to jail will be arrested again within the same year. This demographic typically includes individuals dealing with poverty, mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. These problems that they face are only worsened and exacerbated by incarceration.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated as white men and Latinos are 2.5 times more likely. 

The Vera Institute of Justice found that the U.S spends roughly $33 billion on incarceration in 2000 for roughly the same level of public safety achieved in 1975 for $7.4 billion. 

How it become a Public Health crisis: 

The criminal justice system is a contributing factor of health inequity. Its impacts are far-reaching, not only does it affect the wellbeing of those incarcerated, but their loved ones too.

Prisons house many people who are in poor health, with around 40 percent of people in custody having at least one chronic health condition. The unsatisfactory prison environment only makes these conditions worse.

Overcrowding is a main contributing factor of the prison’s poor living conditions. These overpopulated correctional facilities create significant risks to the health and safety of those living and working in these institutions. The problems and impacts of overcrowding are particularly highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, prisoners lack access to vaccines despite the fact that many outbreaks occur in prisons. 

The effects of this could spread beyond prison walls. There is growing evidence that outbreaks in prisons can fuel community spread due to constant traffic of detainees, staff, visitors, vendors and law enforcement in and out of these facilities, as reported by Rod McCullom. These wider outbreaks may especially harm Black communities which are disproportionately affected by mass incarceration. 

Moreover, the detrimental effects of incarceration are further extended from physical health to mental health, as mental illnesses are much higher among incarcerated populations as compared to the general population.

Privatisation of Mass Incarceration 

Private prisons in the US privatize necessary services such as medical care, phone calls and commissary.

Despite less than 9% of incarcerated people being held in private prisons, prisons are unloading the costs of incarceration onto incarcerated families. Profit motives should have no place in decisions about incarceration. 

Privatisation of incarceration has also caused the privatisation of healthcare provision. This is concerning, since the needs of the prison population, regarding their physical and mental health, are seen as inferior to those of ordinary citizens. This means that they are less prioritised and can be easily overlooked and neglected, posing a dire risk to their overall health. 

A paper written by Washington State University researchers entitled “Do privately-owned prisons increase incarceration rates?” found that private prisons lead to an average increase of 178 new prisoners per million population per year. The length of sentences also increases when states turn to private prisons, especially non-violent crimes that would allow more leeway in sentencing guidelines. 

The ‘Kids for Cash’ scandal in Pennsylvania, where two judges were bribed by a private prison company to slap a harsher sentence to juvenile offenders instead of probation, helped the company increase occupancy at for-profit detention centres. 

We’ve got more work to do

Derek Chauvin has been sentenced to 22 years and six months for the murder of George Floyd. The average first-time offender convicted of second-degree murder in Minnesota is sentence 12 and a half years in prison. 

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, an associate professor of sociology at Brown University, agrees that long prison terms generally do more harm than good but in the absence of meaningful police reform, more innocent lives will be lost at the hands of law enforcement. 

Recently, lawmakers in Washington, DC, have reached a bipartisan agreement on police reform. The issue of reforming qualified immunity was a sticking point in negotiations. 

Racial Disparities in Sentencing

Despite the sentencing of Derek Chauvin to be ‘appropriate’ in the eyes of some advocates, it is hard to ignore the difference of sentencing for him and non-violent offenders. 

Timothy Jackson and Ronald Washington as examples of non-violent offenders being served life sentence without parole (add on: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/13/us-prisoners-sentences-life-non-violent-crimes )

The warden of Angola prison, Burl Cain, has spoken out in forthright terms against a system that mandates punishment without any chance of rehabilitation. “It’s ridiculous, because the name of our business is ‘corrections’ – to correct deviant behaviour. If I’m a successful warden and I do my job and we correct the deviant behaviour, then we should have a parole hearing. I need to keep predators in these big old prisons, not dying old men.”

Further reading 

The impacts of mass incarceration is a broad topic of discussion. We encourage you to read further into this topic to educate yourself beyond the scope of this instagram post!

  • Incarceration and Health: A Family Medicine Perspective (Position Paper) by AAFP
  • Prison Policy Initiative Publications by multiple authors 
  • A Multilevel Approach to Understanding Mass Incarceration and Health by Jaquelyn L. Jahn (American Journal of Public Health)
  • Incarceration and Social Inequality by Bruce Western and Becky Petit 
  • The Benefits of Rehabilitative Incarceration by Gordon B. Dahel and Magne Mogstad

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555719/

https://undark.org/2021/04/09/abstracts-prison-vaccination-lag/

https://www.pih.org/article/why-decarceration-vital-public-health-amid-covid-19

https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html

https://news.wsu.edu/2020/09/15/privatized-prisons-lead-inmates-longer-sentences-s

tudy-finds/ 

https://www.alternet.org/2013/11/man-was-sentenced-die-prison-shoplifting-159-jacket-happens-more-you-think/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/13/us-prisoners-sentences-life-non-violent-crimes

JUNETEENTH

Pay reparations. Honor the flag + history. Attend rallies. Advocate for laws and bills. Celebrate Black culture and life.
Malcolm X - Wikipedia

“The white man will try to satisfy us with symbolic victories rather than economic equity and real justice.”

Malcom X

On Thursday, June 17, President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day a US federal holiday commemorating the historic end of slavery in the United States.

Yet, what does recognizing Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday do, if we cannot teach about it in schools? If Black people are not paid reparations for slavery? If bills like the George Floyd Act and For the People acts are not being passed?

Pay reparations to Black People.

In 2020, the average white family roughly has 10 times the amount of wealth compared to the average Black family, this racial wealth gap is similar to the gap in 1968.

Making the American Dream an equitable reality requires the same U.S Government that denied wealth to Black people to restore this delayed wealth in the form of reparations. The government should provide capital and resources to help Black individuals be less vulnerable to economic shocks and help them to build inheritable wealth over the generations.

If you have the money to pay for brunch, to go shopping, and more, you should also try to fulfill community requests and help Black people survive.

You can send money to Black people’s Cashapps, GoFundMes, & Venmos. These can be found through your local community request and mutual aid IG accounts.

Call or write your representatives and Senators in Congress about H.R. 40 (116th): Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.

Rallies + Events

New York:

  • Juneteenth NY Celebration: Herbert Von King Park, Brooklyn @ 9am
  • “Summer of Soul Screening”: Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem @ 5pm

Los Angeles:

  • Leimert Park Rising Juneteenth Commemoration: Leimert Park Village @ 12pm
  • Freedom day Walk & Celebration: Loma Alta Park, Altadena @ 9am

Washington D.C.:

  • Juneteenth Bike Ride: Sadnlot Southeast @ 10:30am
  • Million Moe March: Black Lives Matter Plaza @ 2pm

Houston:

  • Concert in the Park: Hunters Glen Park @ 6:30pm
  • 42nd Annual Al Edwards Juneteenth Celebration: front lawn of Ashton Villa @ 10am

The Juneteenth Flag & History

On June 19, 1865, federal troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to announce that over 250,000 were free, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. A year later, freed people in Texas celebrated ‘Jubilee Day’ on June 19th.

In 1997, the flag was created by activist Ben Haith, founder of the National Juneteenth Celebration Foundations (NJCF). Illustrator Lisa Jeanne Graf refined the design and in 2000, the flag was first hoisted at the Roxbury Heritage State park in Boston by Haith.

Juneteenth Events 2021

The white star represents Texas, the Lone Star State, the place where Union Army Major General Gordon Granger read out loud: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” Additionally, the star represents the freedom of African Americans in all 50 states today.

The burst surrounding the star is inspired by a nova, an astronomical event that causes the appearance of a bright, new star. This represents a new beginning for the African Americans of Galveston, Texas and throughout the country.

The arc represents a horizon, promising new opportunities for Black Americans.

The colors of the flag: red, white and blue, echo the colors of the American flag, this symbolizes that all former slaves and their descendants became American citizens under the law

Opal Lee

The ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’

94 year old Opal Lee has been advocating for years to get Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. Lee, who is a retired educator, makes a symbolic two and a half mile walk each year on Juneteenth, this distance honors the two and a half years it took for news of freedom to reach all enslaved people in the U.S.

“You know, what I want those celebrating in other states to understand is that Juneteenth, in my estimation, should be a unifier. First of all, slaves did not free themselves. It took abolitionists and Quakers and all kinds of folks to help and lobby to get the slaves freed. … I truly believe that we can do so much more together rather than apart.” Lee said in an interview with Dianca London for Shondaland.

Advocate for these Laws + Bills in Circulation.

Contact your representatives to advocate for these bills through direct lobbying; educate, inform, and communicate your reasoning to your representative after you’ve done thorough Research.

John Lewis Voting Rights Act prohibits discriminatory voting practices and voter suppression by ensuring equal minority voting rights and removing many barrier to voting.

George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is a police reform bill aiming to combat systemic racism and police brutality by banning certain police techniques such as chokeholds, and improving police training.

The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act makes lynching a federal hate crime, the first time in U.S. history.

For the People Act: expands voting rights, changes campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.

Here’s how you can take action in your school against the laws banning critical race theory.

Check out Diversify Our Narrative for petitions to sign and other resources to push for reform within school curriculum.

Learn the key principles of Critical Race Theory and help educate your peers.

Find Critical Race Theory toolkits to incorporate into your school’s curriculum.

Email your teachers and administrators to make Race Studies more visible in your learning community.

Celebrate Juneteenth by DONATING AND LEARNING!

ORGANIZATIONS FOCUSING ON REPARATIONS AND H.R. 40

  • @NATIONALNCOBRA: National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America
  • @REPARATIONSFUND: “Building out the white lane of the reparations movement”
  • @MVMNT4BLKLIVES: Boosting reparations initiatives, link to collective fund called REPARATIONS MONDAY

BOOKS TO read:

  • Four Hundred Souls – Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
  • Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  • The Autobiography of Malcom X – as told my Alex Haley
  • Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Huston
  • Dear Martin – Nic Stone
  • Possessing the Secret of Joy – Alice Walker

Support Black owned businesses by using EatOkra to find black-owned restaurants or go to supportblackowned.com to find businesses near you.


SOURCES