USA 2020 Elections Activism Politics Race The World Inequality

Uplifting Black people is the best way to thank Stacey Abrams

Thanks to the efforts of Black organizers and activists, the state of Georgia has made many historical wins regarding their recent Senate races. Notably, it’s been almost 30 years since Georgia was a blue state. Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won in their respective races, on Tuesday night, to tie the United States senate 50-50 between Demoract and Republican seats. This means when the Senate votes on important political issues, Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will break ties if there is one, becoming the deciding factor on what policies get approved or thrown out.

Additionally, Rev. Warnock will be the first Black senator to represent Georgia, the eleventh Black senator overall to serve in America, and the second Black senator from the south since The Reconstruction Era. In his victory speech, Warnock acknowledged the historical significance of his win stating, “The other day, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.” In addition, 33-year-old Ossoff will be the youngest person to hold a seat in the senate since Joe Biden won Deleware in 1973 at 30-years-old.

Needless to say, Black women came through for the Democratic party. Again. As has been highlighted many times, Stacey Abrams has been fighting against voter suppression since her governor loss in 2018 and has since registered an estimated 800,000 Georgia citizens to vote. Stacey Abrams’ organization Fair Fight that emphasizes voter empowerment for Black people along with others such as Black Voters Matter, The New Georgia Project, and The People’s Agenda carefully and tirelessly strategized to advocate for Black voters in the south. 

So, these monumental Democratic wins for Biden, Harris, Ossoff, and Warnock are a result of the groundwork Black people did, fighting to take back our democracy since Donald Trump’s unsavory presidential win in 2016. These major wins also further highlight how Black women are indeed the backbone of the Democratic Party as well as the importance of political groundwork, in-person interaction, and community care to progress the political framework of the American government. 

Black organizers have been focused in Georgia for years before the rest of America invested attention in the state after it became a battleground in the 2020 presidential election. However, it’s been noted the way Black female political figures tend to become idealized by white Americans after the rest of the country can reap the benefits of Black women’s work. 

For example, people praised Kamala Harris during her vice presidential debate with Mike Pence last October when she continuously asserted her will by not allowing him to speak over her. And people are now praising, in a hyper-romanticized sort of way, Stacey Abrams, similar to the way they did Kamala, for all of the work she’s done for the Democratic Party. The praise in itself isn’t the problem; however, it is uncloaking a pattern of behavior rooted in misogynoir.

It feels as though white people will only allot praise to Black women when our efforts are beneficial to them. Whereas Black women elsewhere still tend to get talked over, overlooked, and accused of being angry, difficult, or combative when we advocate for or defend ourselves. Abrams herself has denounced this sentiment of being a magical savior for the Democratic Party in a New York Times article stating, “I chafe at this idea that we then objectify one group as both [the] savior and as [the] responsible party.”

Democrats won those senate races in Georgia because Black women organizers and activists fought hard through voter suppression and historical disenfranchisement to ensure Black people’s voices were heard. Political efforts on the ground from Stacey Abrams, Felicia Davis, Helen Butler, Nsé Ufot, and other Black women across Southern states aided in numerous crucial Democratic wins. White liberals were ready to give up on Georgia when Abrams lost in 2018, but she stayed to fight the suppression that cost her the governor seat.

The many successes for Democrats are after years of racism, disenfranchisement, and oppression on the Black community. So, don’t romanticize our work, offer to support us instead. 

Black people are often forced to move mountains with little resources. People must seek to financially support Black grassroots organizations, create or donate to scholarships for Black youth, and/or aid in investing in community care benefitting the Black community. Also, head how the Black women in your lives are treated. Uplift the voices of your Black female colleagues or friends when they need it. It’s likely that as you praise the likes of Abrams and Harris on social media for their strength, the Black women in your lives are being chastised for the same reasons.

Furthermore, Black women continue to do standout work in American politics, but we are also not your political work mules to be praised only when it benefits others. Rather, we are people who are oppressed and in search of freedom however we can get it. The best way to thank Stacey Abrams and other Black female organizers for their efforts is by continuously showing up and being an ally for Black people everywhere and in anyway way you can. As I’ve said before, the work of achieving true equality continues, and the road towards liberation will be made easier if and when we are all engaged in this work together.

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Trump concedes victory to Biden after the assault on the Capitol, but is it enough?

A day after the assault on the US Capitol that could’ve belonged to an apocalyptic movie, and two months after the 2020 US election was called, President Donald Trump has admitted defeat and accepted a transition of power.

But can we believe him? Probably no.

In a statement released overnight, Trump said: “Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless, there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again.”

If we are able to ignore the fact that he still maintains his false belief that the election was rigged, and that he described his term as “the greatest first term in presidential history” despite the 361,000 COVID-19 deaths and the major social justice upheavals that occurred during his presidency, then yes, he did, for the first time, state that there would be a peaceful transition of power.

Yes, he conceded the election; but he never said he lost it.

Only two hours after the Senate and the Congress met at the US Capitol to certify Joe Biden’s victory, Trump held a rally where he encouraged his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol” and “show strength”, stating that “you will never take back our country with weakness.” He told them the election was being manipulated and stolen before their very eyes. All blatant lies that he knew would light the fire that he had been building on for months, even years. Moreover, before the president took the stage, his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani publicly called for “trial by combat” against the Democrats to win the election.

White supremacy is on display in the US Capitol

Encouraged by the President (or, at least, not discouraged by him), rioters marched up and into the US Capitol building, vandalized the whole place, draped a Trump flag over the Capitol balcony and paraded, for the first time in history, confederate flags around its corridors. The situation reached a crisis point, where police guards had to draw guns, and four people were killed.

Despite this brutal attack on the US institutions, and on democracy itself, 80 members of the House of Representatives, led by Senator Josh Hawley, still challenged the election results from Pennsylvania, unsuccessfully.

Nonetheless, some Republicans did stand up to Trump. Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was originally planning on objecting to the certification of the results from Georgia, changed her mind when the session was recalled. “The events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors,” she said. Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweeted after the assault: “What happened at the U.S. Capitol today was an insurrection, incited by the President of the United States.” Ex-Republican President George Bush, also condemned Trump’s conduct, although he did not name names: “I am appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election and by the lack of respect shown today for our institutions, our traditions, and our law enforcement. The violent assault on the Capitol — and disruption of a Constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress — was undertaken by people whose passions have been inflamed by falsehoods and false hopes.”

Several members of the Trump administration have also resigned in the last few hours including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottingerthe First Lady’s Chief of Staff Stephanie Grisham, the Commerce Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Security John Costello, along with a press aide and the White House social secretary. No word from higher officials, nonetheless.

Eventually, Biden’s victory in the 2020 US elections was certified, and democracy was protected. Or was it?

At the moment the United States is facing two questions: Will Trump be impeached? And will he leave the White House peacefully, as promised? In summary: will a President that promoted a coup face any consequences for his actions?

Following the events on Wednesday, multiple Democrats wrote a letter to Vice-President Pence urging the invocation of the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office. Several media outlets have supported the decision.  At the same time, Ilhan Omar has presented a resolution of impeachment and called her colleagues to introduce the resolution.  60 of them have already signed it. “Every single hour that Donald Trump remains in office, our country, our democracy, and our national security remain in danger,” she wrote. Later in the day, Nancy Pelosi stated that the impeachment process will begin if the President is not removed under the 25th amendment.

If anyone expects Trump to resign, wake up; where do you think you’ve been for the past four years? No, Trump will not resign, nor he should.

If the United States and, in particular, the Republican party, wants to show that the respect towards its laws and its democracy is still intact, it should force the President out of office in the next two weeks.

In order for that to happen, Pence and the majority of Trump’s cabinet would need to declare that Trump is unable to perform the duties of the presidency and remove him under the terms of the 25th amendment, according to Paul Campos, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Colorado. Pence would then become President until January 20th. However, Trump would still have a chance to declare that he is capable of resuming the job, and the matter would be taken to Congress. Although Congress would need a two-thirds majority of both chambers of Congress to maintain the impeachment, Pence would be President until the issue is voted on, so the House could delay the voting until after Biden’s swearing.

In contrast to the process of impeachment, this process would immediately remove Trump from office, should Pence be brave enough to enact it. If he doesn’t, the fate of the United States will rest upon that feared 20th January, and the hope that the President is willing to leave without a tantrum.


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White supremacy is on display in the US Capitol

As I am writing this, the Capitol of the United States is under siege. During the certification of the electoral college vote, thousands of ‘Proud Boys’ and Trump supporters have descended on the hill with two goals in mind: to stop the vote and cause chaos. The rioters breached the building by breaking through windows with shields and climbing through. Many of those who joined the mob were heavily armed and have reportedly pulled out their guns and fired shots.

Watching this play out is a surreal experience. The past four years of the Trump presidency has been marred with police brutality and blatant racism. The KKK has resurged incomprehensibly all the while the President himself has consistently used decisive and dangerous rhetoric which encouraged the kind of visceral we are seeing today. Joe Biden’s win in November incited a catalyst in which Trump objected to the integrity of Democracy and has used Twitter as well as his base to argue that the election was stolen from him and, in effect, America has been stolen from the people. The events that we are all currently watching are what white America does when it doesn’t get its way. It is an eleventh-hour attempt by the MAGA militia to give the election back to ‘the true winner’ and away from the “liars.”

In reality, however, this demonstration is a disorderly assault on American Democracy and one of the largest domestic terrorist threats of our time. 

What has really struck me is the lack of work and preparation from security forces, particularly in contrast with the civil rights protests from the summer. The Black Lives Matter protests were met with riot shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, and oftentimes military forces. At the time, streets were filled with tear gas to a point where a fog had descended and protestors could barely see through the smoke. Some activists even lost an eye after being severely pelted with rubber bullets.

This demonstration is a disorderly assault on American Democracy and one of the largest domestic terrorist threats of our time. 

In sharp contrast, only the Capitol Police, who in hindsight did the bare minimum, were present when unhinged terrorists stormed onto and raided a building that is meant to be a beacon of Democracy. In fact, there are live images of them watching the rioters from the balconies in minimal gear. If these were Black people, many would have been harassed and brutalized 20 minutes in with the police wearing military-grade protection. This doesn’t just show white privilege but white power. Law enforcement is certainly at fault for much of what took place today, and speaks to its level of complicity with this behavior.

Such lack of action paints a sobering picture of who those in power deem a threat. On Capitol Hill today we saw an overwhelming number of white armed bodies, mainly male, who were widely not viewed as a threat even after weeks of organizing and making their intention to be violent clear. Meanwhile, when peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors, mostly consisting of Black bodies, took to the streets over the summer to denounce white supremacy, police brutality, and the state violence, they were attacked and berated. The harsh reasoning behind this contrast and ultimate inaction is the seed of white supremacy which has been planted irreversibly at the root of our society. The rioters on the Capitol are fighting a legitimate election that has been counted multiple times during which the US President consistently held that the votes were fraudulent – a claim that many courts have thrown out. They are domestic terrorists emboldened by Trump’s inflammatory, seditious and false rhetoric. This was not a spontaneous coup, in fact the hate it so vehemently and deeply projects has been brewing for centuries.

This was not a spontaneous coup, in fact the hate it so vehemently and deeply projects has been brewing for centuries.

The biggest question I have been reflecting today is what is the result for American democracy? The US itself has openly and proudly invaded other countries which have had similar events take place, claiming the urgent need to preserve democracy. If this was any other state, the US would have surely invaded, and denounced the demonstrations as anti-democratic, vicious, or uncivilized. If the bodies ‘protesting’ weren’t white, then blood would be dripping from Capitol Hill. But the question remains, if this is the democracy the US wants to transport to the rest of the world, why should we accept it?

Thinking back again to the protests around BLM and more specifically police brutality, the call for the abolishment of the police was met with the slogan #BlueLivesMatter. Of course, the implication being that police officers are also victims, and the BLM protests failed to recognize their sacrifice. The very same people who so proudly shouted Blue Lives Matter then, are committing acts of violence against the Capitol Police today. They argued that people should ‘respect the cops and you won’t get killed’ but are now fighting, punching, and kicking those same officers. The BLM protest had nothing to do with disrespecting the police and everything to do with Black people demanding actions which would ensure human rights. This makes clear that what was seen as offensive to the white population had nothing to do with lack law and order, and everything to do with race.

The harsh reasoning behind this contrast and ultimate inaction is the seed of white supremacy which has been planted irreversibly at the root of our society.

Perhaps one of the most sobering images I have seen from todays events was the Confederate flag being flown in the Senate Chambers. This horrid flag stands as a personification of white power and white control. No one who cares for racial equality looks to the Confederate flag with anything but disgust. The message the flag bearer, who was surrounded by anarchists claiming to be ‘real Americans,’ intended to send was clear: white supremacy is alive and well in the United States, and they will go to great lengths to restore dangerous ideologies they so passionately believe in.

These events aren’t new either. Coups have taken place all over the world when citizens and in some cases the military have been dissatisfied and taken over the government. The US has always flown in as the beacon of liberty and democracy and, with its military force, attempted to solve the issue. Time and time again we have heard ‘this isn’t America’ – but it IS America. When white America has been unable to get what it wants it historically responds with violence. Think of the Tulsa Race Massacre or the Massacre at Wounded Knee as examples.

After much time and convincing, and after most of the damage had taken place, the President went on TV and asked the rioters to return home. He did so while reiterating that the election was stolen, stoking more violence, and called them ‘special people’. He also told the terrorists that he ‘loved them.’ There was no denouncement of their actions nor did he oppose any future action. The statement was pathetic. Throughout the height of the violence, he sat and watched. Fascists will not stop fascist movements, however, so I am not surprised that authorities allowed this coup to continue for as long as it did.

The wrong use of language hasn’t helped either. Many news outlets and tweeters have referred to the rioters as protestors; this is intentional. When we hear protesters we automatically tend to support them because protests largely happen against oppressive regimes. Let me be clear: these are not protestors but domestic terrorists. They refuse to accept a legitimate election and have chosen to attempt a coup and to destroy the democratic system. As one would expect, BLM was referred to as a riot. This automatically painted people peacefully protesting for equal rights as criminals and vandals. Language is important in the way we interpret a cause. In this way, white people are again falsely seen as a beacon of civility against the Black criminal rioter due in large part to language.

The last time the US saw this level of attack on government was in 1776, the same year it gained independence from Britain. Not even during the Civil War has democratic buildings been attacked in such a manner as we saw today. If today’s events have shown anything it’s the extent to which white extremists will go to voice their concerns. It highlights the importance of carrying on the fight for equality. The day Biden won, people cried. It was finally over, it felt that they were no longer at war for the basic right to live. We should look at the events of today and begin to dismantle the white supremacy which infects America like a plague and start to bring justice to people who have been ignored and brutalized for so long.


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Dr. Jill Biden is not “flaunting” her title

On December 11th, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece by Joseph Epstein, titled “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” that received a generous amount of feedback, to say the least. In his piece, he referred to the future First Lady as “kiddo.” He also indicated that her professional title, Dr. Jill Biden, as fraudulent and comedic. As you can see, the overall tone of the piece was misogynist, demeaning, and disrespectful.

Dr. Jill Biden has been an American educator for over three decades. She is not just a wife, mother, or grandmother. She also is certainly not your “kiddo.” Dr. Biden received her undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware in 1975. She went on to earn a master’s degree from West Chester University and Villanova University. Lastly, Dr. Biden earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware in January of 2007. Her dissertation was titled, “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs,” and focused on maximizing student retention in community colleges, which Epstein called unpromising.

Although people are not fainting and passing out anymore to receive their doctorates like was mentioned in Epstein’s article, it does not mean they are meaningless, or those doctorates have not been earned. While earning my undergraduate degree in Media Studies at the University of Virginia, I worked on my thesis for two years and stayed up many nights to get it done. I cried a few times from stress during the progress, but I pushed through.

Most of all, I gained a deep appreciation and respect for my professors and the professionals that have pursued this path. I received a small glimpse of what it is like to do the work to earn a Ph.D. or a doctorate, and I can assure you that it takes a lot of time, dedication, commitment, and sacrifice.

It is clear from the title and the tone of the article it was structured in a way to grab readers’ attention.  Epstein wanted a reaction.  He wanted his opinion on Educational Doctorates and the prestige of doctorates to be heard. But is this an excuse to be misogynist and sexist in the process? Is it also an excuse for him to undermine her work on maximizing student retention in community colleges?

No, it is not.

Additionally, would Joseph Epstein have said the exact same things if Dr. Jill Biden was male? Do you think he would have written this piece that specifically mentions Dr. Biden if she was not going to be the First Lady of the United States?

I have a feeling that the answers to these questions would also be no.

Of course, academia and institutions need to be critiqued and questioned. Research and dissertations are allowed to be critiqued and questioned as well. However, this opinion piece is not the way to do so. I doubt that we should be simply listening to the wise man that said no one should call himself “doctor” unless he has delivered a child. It is 2020, not the 1700s.

Also, if we want to get technical here, the word doctor is actually derived from the Latin root verb “docēre,” which means “to teach.”  The term was originally used by a select few theologians. It was not until the 14th century that physicians began calling themselves doctor. In the Renaissance qualified academics and medical practitioners both used the term. Both can rightfully claim the title of doctor.   

Epstein claims that asserting advanced degrees titles within humanities and social sciences are now pathetic, bush league, and meaningless. He tries to begin a larger conservation within higher education. But his language and use of Dr. Biden to “introduce” his point make it clear that he has never had to think of the value and significance of these titles and the work to earn them from the perspective of a woman. What bothers me the most is that the article was clearly written from a place of male privilege.

Historically, women have been denied opportunities to receive an education, and in many countries around the world, they are still denied that opportunity. Women were mostly excluded from attending college in the United States until the 19th centuryThe University of Virginia, where I attended, did not even begin full coeducation until 1969.  

Additionally, women still face discrimination, harassment, and gender biases in academic spaces today. Several studies have been done in university settings that document gender biases against women in teaching evaluations. A recent study conducted by Emily Khazan, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology at the University of Florida, demonstrates the tendency of female professors and teachers’ assistants (TA) to receive more negative reviews than their male counterparts due to students’ perceptions and gender biases.

In Khazan’s study, she split her virtual asynchronous online class of 136 students in half and assigned the students to a male TA or female TA.  What the students in the class did not know was that Khazan was posing as both the male and female teachers’ assistants. In the study, out of the six negative evaluations reported in the study, five of them were for the female TA. This means that the female TA was given five times as many negative reviews as the male TA, despite them being the same person.

The degree of gender bias and discrimination in academia cannot only render and have implications on the careers of women but also discourage and cause a lack of motivation for women in those spaces.  In college, I read an article by Minh-Ha T. Pham called “I Click and Post and Breathe, Waiting for Others to See What I See”: On #FeministSelfies, Outfit Photos, and Networked Vanity that taught me about the narrow connotations of vanity and the important role vanity has when it comes to the “social visibility and social recognition” of marginalized and unrepresented groups. It is important for women to not downplay their experiences, accomplishments, achievements, and who they are for the sake of others. Showcasing the work of a woman is important and academia needs more women. The American Association of University Women that only 27 percent of tenured faculty at four-year institutions are women in the United States.

Women are right to assert their earned titles. You claim that her title is comedic and fraudulent, but is actually encouraging and uplifting for other women to see.  It can actually inspire other women to pursue careers in academia and women already pursuing a similar path. Dr. Biden is the professional title that she earned, and she certainly does not need to drop the “doc.”


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Georgia’s elections for Senate will shape the Biden administration

You might be thinking, ‘At least all of that US election stress is over.Well, do I have some news for you: Georgia is still in the throes of the election. In November, two Senate seats were up for election, previously held by Republican Senate incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. However, in both races, no candidate won a majority (50 percent + 1 percent).

Perdue only narrowly missed the mark with 49.7 percent and is now running off against Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff who received 47.9 percent of the votes. The second race, a special election to fill the seat of recently resigned Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, was also divided. Democratic candidate Reverend Raphael Warnock received 32.9 percent of votes, but the Republican party split between Loeffler who received 25.9 percent, and Doug Collins who received 20 percent of the votes. As a result, no one candidate qualified.

Since Georgia’s elections use a run-off system between the top two candidates of each race, we are still awaiting the final showdown of Perdue v. Ossoff and Loeffler v. Warnock. Make no mistake, the election candidates have continued to aggressively campaign across the state. Early voting began on December 14 with over 1.6 million Georgia voters already turning in their ballots. January 5 is the official election day for the runoffs.

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Georgia has been breaking all types of expectations this year. In November, there was a record in early voter turnout with over 1.1 million votes by mail and over 1.2 million in person. The state also flipped from its traditionally Republican-leanings and voted for President-elect Joe Biden, giving him 16 electoral college votes. The results have been largely attributed to the success of early voter turnout and persistent on-the-ground campaigning by organizers like Stacey Abrams, who helped mobilize Black voters for the past several years. 

But Georgia voted for a Democratic president, so what does the Senate matter now? 

While Georgia’s red-to-blue flip for a Democratic president was significant—and frankly, pretty dramatic—the upcoming Senate elections are just as, if not more, important. These Senate seats determine the ability of the upcoming Biden administration to run some of its most ambitious plans. Currently, the Republican Party holds the majority of incoming Senate seats. If either Loeffler or Perdue wins their respective races, then the Senate remains a Republic majority. However, if both Ossof and Warnock win, then the Democratic and Republican parties would be tied in the Senate. Ultimately, any ties that might occur in the Senate would be broken by vice president-elect Kamala Harris. 

Georgia’s Senate elections would have huge implications for the promises that the Biden administration made on the campaign trail. With a Democratic majority in both Senate and House, it would give more leeway for the president-elect to not only work on his long-term promises but also fulfill his immediate goals for the first 100 days in office. This will likely affect cooperation for future stimulus bills during the pandemic, considering how the current one under Republican Senate leadership has struggled to get off the ground. 

Moreover, Republican Senator incumbents Loeffler and Perdue have both refused to acknowledge Biden as president-elect, even after the electoral college has voted. Earlier this month, Loeffler refused to rule out a formal protest of Biden’s victory in Georgia’s November elections. Perdue also reaffirmed his allegiance to President Donald Trump, stating, “I have fought alongside President Trump since day one to get our agenda accomplished, and I continue to stand with him now.” Both candidates’ statements continue to highlight a partisan divide that has and may continue to plague Congress.

With the voting day for Georgia’s elections rapidly approaching, it’s important that we don’t forget how significant the role of individual states and votes are. Keep in mind, Biden only won Georgia by a narrow margin over Trump: 12,670 votes.

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Black women deserve more from the Democratic party

Throughout the course of an excruciating election week, many Black activists, community organizers, journalists, and political commentators, on social media highlighted the vital contribution of Black voters in key states like Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. Notably, and more specifically, it was the all-too-often thankless work from Black women providing substantial amounts of support for the Democratic party that helped Biden pull out a win in this election.

In her debut for the Washington Post, Taylor Crumpton wrote of Black women’s saving grace for the Democratic party- once again. Regarding Black women’s continued overall contribution to liberation efforts Crumpton states, “Black women’s civic and political engagement extends beyond the polls — we’re organizing for a future where Black women don’t have to vote for the “lesser of two evils,” but none at all.”

The “lesser of two evils” narrative has been a reoccurring one amongst American elections; correspondingly, Joe Biden was dubbed the lesser evil compared to Donald Trump in this presidential race. Many democratic voters, especially Black women voters, supported Joe Biden despite his shortcomings as a candidate. Namely, Biden’s many sexual assault allegations, his treatment of Anita Hill during her testimony before congress in 1991, and his history with oppressive crime reform.

Nevertheless, regardless of whatever reservations we had about Joe Biden as a candidate, Black women didn’t just simply vote for him, but rallied behind him. In addition, Black organizers and activists across the United States strategized and mobilized to advocate for marginalized communities and fight against voter suppression, often with less resources and funding than establishment run organizations. 

Even more, it was the combined efforts of Black Lives Matter, the cosign Joe Biden received from highly respected social justice activists within the Black community like Angela Davis and John Lewis, and community organizers across the country – especially in the south – that provided Joe Biden the opportunity to claim victory in such a crucial presidential race. Not to mention the efforts of Stacey Abrams, who registered an estimated 800,000 Georgia citizens to vote since her governor loss in 2018, that changed the dynamic of Georgia’s voter turnout and party support.

It’s time the Democratic party rightfully acknowledges the persistent work Black people are doing for their party. A party which notably continues to center white, moderate political figures and centrist politics that simultaneously condescends progressive and grassroots movements.

Some of the largest and most influential movements have been created from the labor of Black women and Black queer individuals. Therefore, if we collectively decided to reserve our right to be selfish, advocating only for ourselves, civil rights progress would be nearly non-existent. Of the many societal short-comings highlighted this year, it’s been noted that despite our consistent efforts towards equality and equity, Black women and queer folks are still the most marginalized and at risk demographics in the world.

The recent cases of Megan thee stallion, Oluwatoyin Salau, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade (a Black trans man killed by police this year), and so many more, illustrate how much work still needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable within the Black community.

During Biden’s first address to the American people Saturday night after his win, he recognizes how “The African American community stood up for me. [They’ve] always had my back, and I’ll have [theirs].” It’s true, Joe Biden has a lot of work to do in advocating for the Black community earnestly. In fact, showing up for the countless and nameless Black organizers is imperative going forward. Most of the time, Black grassroots organizations are underfunded. So, here are some organizations that do direct groundwork in urban and rural parts of America for under-privileged communities to support, donate to, or amplify:

Additionally, the state of Georgia is having runoff races for essential senate seats. Democratic nominees Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock need to win their election races to tie the senate with republicans. This would mean a Republican majority senate couldn’t immediately dismiss Joe Biden’s policies towards environmental justice and repair, affordable healthcare, and more.

Click here to directly support organizers in Georgia. Similarly, click here to donate to Ossoff’s campaign and here to donate to Warnock’s campaign.

Going forward, there needs to be more of an emphasis on community care, progressivism, and protection for those who continue to show up for everyone else. Trump is out of office, and the democrats pulled off an impressive victory; however, the necessary fight for true equality persists.

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Here’s a list of historic wins we should be celebrating after the 2020 election

The US presidential election has shown us how large a number of citizens want and approve of a President like Trump. Having gained a little under half of the majority votes, it is disheartening just how many supporters he has. However, local and state elections have sparked hope. American citizens have chosen diversity, have accepted the importance of representation, and are willing to take a stand for it. State governments across the country ahve welcomed a growing list of strong-willed individuals who are ready to speak up for all people. Having representatives that accurately match the nation’s diverse population is vital for growth and for ensuring that every voice is heard.

Women across the country in particular are taking a stand and running for government positions, taking steps to create a US government that accurately represents its people. An unprecedented 318 women were running as Democratic or Republican candidates for the 470 seats available, across the House of Representatives and the Senate. Out of these, 117 are women of color. Here are some winners who made history this past week.

Cori Bush

A photo of Cori Bush, a representative from Missouri, giving a speech.
[Image Description: A photo of Cori Bush, a representative from Missouri, giving a speech.] Via Getty Images by Michael B Thomas.
Cori Bush was just elected to Missouri’s 1st Congressional District, making her the first black Congresswoman in Missouri’s history. Her platform includes Medicare for all, criminal justice reform, and a $15 federal minimum wage. A vocal supporter of the BLM movement, she cast her vote while wearing a mask with ‘Breonna Taylor’ printed on it. Her tweet on November 4th reflects her intention to take the BLM movement forward, from the streets to the Congressional halls.

Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones

Left - Ritchie Torres, Right - Mondaire Jones, council members for New York.
[Image Description: Left – Ritchie Torres, Right – Mondaire Jones, members in Congress for New York.] Photo of Ritchie Torres via Getty Images by Noam Galai. Photo of Mondaire Jones via Washington Post by Michael Noble Jr.
In New York, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones defeated their Republican challengers to become the first openly gay Black members of Congress in their respective New York districts. Torres will also be the first openly gay Latino member in Congress. Jones’ district covers Rockland County and parts of Westchester, while Torres’s district is in the Bronx.

Jabari Brisport

Jabari Brisport, State Senator for New York.
[Image Description: Jabari Brisport, State Senator for New York.] Via NYC Campaign Finance Board.
Jabari Brisport is the first openly queer person of color to join the New York state Legislature, after running unopposed. After declaring victory in the Democratic primary in June, he ran unopposed on Election Day. His first interaction with the New York State Senate was around 11 years ago, when he tried to get them to pass same-sex marriage. His election is another step forward in representation for people of color and for the LGBTQ+ community.

Shevrin Jones and Michele Rayner-Goolsby

Left - Shevrin Jones, elected to the Florida State Senate, Right - Michele Rayner-Goolsby, elected to the Florida House of Representatives.
[Image Description: Left – Shevrin Jones, elected to the Florida State Senate, Right – Michele Rayner-Goolsby, elected to the Florida House of Representatives.] Photo of Shevrin Jones via his Facebook. Photo of Michele Rayner-Goolsby via Getty Images by Paras Griffin.
Florida has also made history by electing two Black queer politicians to serve in its state legislature. Shevrin Jones has become the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to the state senate. He claimed his victory in the race in Miami. Though he didn’t face a Republican, he triumphed over his anti-LGBT+ opponents in the Democratic primary. Michele Rayner-Goolsby will become the first openly LGBTQ+ woman to serve in the Florida house of representatives. Her victory was a huge step forward for women of color, in addition to the LGBTQ+ community. She’s the first openly Black queer woman ever elected in Florida at any level. Thanks to a team anchored by men and women of color, she secured a victory by simply being herself. It’s a fantastic message to send to America’s youth, and I am here for it.

Taylor Small

Taylor Small, newly elected member of Vermont state legislature
[Image Description: Taylor Small, newly elected member of Vermont state legislature.] Via VTDigger by Glenn Russell.
Meanwhile, Vermont has elected their first openly transgender member of the state Legislature. Taylor Small was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives. She’s hopeful that her election will guide the way for other young queer and trans people, and show that there is space in leadership and in politics for their voices. 

Kai Kahele

Kai Kahele, the newest Congress member for the state of Hawaii.
[Image Description: Kai Kahele, the newest Congress member for the state of Hawaii.] Via Getty Images by Bill Clark.
Hawaii’s newest member of Congress will definitely bring in new views to the U.S House of Representatives. Kai Kahele, the 46 year old state senator won the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Tulsi Gabbard, late Tuesday night. Raised in Miloli, a fishing village in Hawaii, Kahele is a grounded Native Hawaiian, and a proud American. Joining Ed Case, the two men will help serve Hawaii’s interests in Congress. 

Mauree Turner

Mauree Turner, the new state legislator for Oklahoma.
[Image Description: Mauree Turner, the new state legislator for Oklahoma.] Via Mauree Turner’s campaign website.
Oklahoma, too, has taken steps to ensure all voices are heard. Mauree Turner became the first nonbinary state legislator in US history, and the first Muslim lawmaker in Oklahoma. Turner identifies as non-binary, and uses both they/she as pronouns, according to their Twitter profile. As an activist, community organizer, and Oklahoman, Turner has spent most of their life fighting for issues like immigration rights, racial justice, and social justice. On their campaign site, they write about their experiences as a Black Muslim American Queer Womxn in Oklahoma. Feeling like they weren’t seen or heard by lawmakers, their campaign ran on a platform of driving conversations on what inclusive representation looks like.

Deb Haaland, Yvette Herrell, and Teresa Leger Fernandez

Left - Deb Haaland, Representative for New Mexicos 1st Congressional District; Centre - Yvette Herrell, representative for New Mexicos 2nd congressional district, Right - Teresa Leger Fernandez, Representative for New Mexicos 3rd Congressional District.
[Image Description: Left – Deb Haaland, Representative for New Mexicos 1st Congressional District; Centre – Yvette Herrell, representative for New Mexicos 2nd congressional district, Right – Teresa Leger Fernandez, Representative for New Mexicos 3rd Congressional District.] Photo of Deb Haaland via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Yvette Herrell via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Teresa Leger Fernandez via Albuquerque Journal. by Megan Bennett.
New Mexico also embraced much-needed and much-welcomed change this year. It’s become the first state to elect all women of color to its House delegation. Democratic incumbent Representative Deb Haaland, a member of the Pueblo Tribe, won reelection to her House Seat. She also made history in 2018 as one of the first Native American women elected to Congress. Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez also won the state’s 3rd Congressional District. Republican Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee nation, won her challenge against the Democratic representative, Xochitl Torress, in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. “Tonight the people of New Mexico have chosen hope over fear, love over hate, community over division”, Haaland tweeted.

The Squad Gets Reelected

Left - representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Left-centre - Representative Ilhan Omar, right-centre - representative Ayanna Pressley, right - representative Rashida Tlaib.
[Image Description: Left – representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Left-centre – Representative Ilhan Omar, right-centre – representative Ayanna Pressley, right – representative Rashida Tlaib.] Photo of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Ilhan Omar via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Ayanna Pressley via Flickr by Elizabeth Warren. Photo of Rashida Tlaib via Wikimedia Commons.
Another sweeping victory for women of color is the re-election of the Squad – Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. The four lawmakers have lit up the left’s progressive base and social media, and their strong stances have attracted controversy and President Trump’s ire. None of the incumbents faced significant challenges in their reelection bids this year, cementing their popularity and continued work in politics.

Sarah Mcbride

Sarah McBride, the new elected state senator for Delaware.
[Image Description”Sarah McBride, the new elected state senator for Delaware.] Via Wikimedia Commons by Ted Eytan.
Another big step for the transgender community took place in Delaware recently. Democratic activist Sarah Mcbride will become the first openly transgender state senator in US history after her election in Delaware. Working as a former spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, she beat the Republican candidate Steve Washington in Delaware’s 1st District. This also makes her Delaware’s first out LGBTQ+ person elected to the state’s legislature. 

Nikema Williams

Nikema Williams, the new representative for Georgia's fifth congressional district.
[Image Description: Nikema Williams, the new representative for Georgia’s fifth congressional district.] Via Wikimedia Commons by John Ramspott.
In Georgia’s fifth congressional district, Democrat Nikema Williams, a Black woman and chair of the state’s Democratic party, beat her Republican opponent, Angela Stanton-King. She is the first woman to serve as a representative in Georgia’s fifth congressional district. Her victory is in a district once held by the civil rights activist and icon, John Lewis.

Cynthia Lummis and Maria Elvia Salazar

Left - Cynthia Lummis, Senator-elect for Wyoming, Right - Maria Elvira Salazar, representative for Florida's 27th Congressional District.
[Image Description: Left – Cynthia Lummis, Senator-elect for Wyoming, Right – Maria Elvira Salazar, representative for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.] Photo of Cynthia Lummis via Wikimedia Commons by Gage Skidmore. Photo of Maria Elvira Salazar via Wikimedia Commons by Dora Franco.
Republican candidate Cynthia Lummis won the Senate race in Wyoming, and Maria Elvira Salazar winning the race for Congressional District 27 in Florida. Maria was a longtime broadcast journalist and is a Cuban American. Women, especially women of color, are joining the political line-up across the board, inspired by those that came before them. We’re seeing actual waves of change over the years, and we can see a significant uptick in women working in politics, in either party. 

Torrey Harris and Eddie Mannis

Left - Torrey Harris, Tennessee State Rresentatives, right - Eddie Mannis, Tennessee State Representative.
[Image Description: Left – Torrey Harris, Tennessee State Rresentatives, right – Eddie Mannis, Tennessee State Representative.] Photo of Torrey Harris via his campaign website. Photo of Eddie Mannis via his campaign website.
Two new state legislators made Tennessee history with their victories. Harris and Mannis will be the state’s first openly LBGTQ+ representatives to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly. Until Tuesday, Tennessee was one of just five states in the US to not have an openly LGBTQ+ person in their state legislature. Democrat Torrey Harris will represent a Memphis district, and Republican Eddie Mannis will represent a Knoxville district.

Broward County turning key offices to Black candidates

Left - Harold Pryor, the Broward state attorney, centre - Joe Scott - Supervisor of elections, right - Gregory Tony, Broward County Sheriff.
[Image Description: Left – Harold Pryor, the Broward state attorney, centre – Joe Scott – Supervisor of elections, right – Gregory Tony, Broward County Sheriff.] Photo of Harold Pryor via campaign page on Facebook. Photo of Joe Scott via campaign page on Facebook. Photo of Gregory Tony via Broward County Police page on Facebook.
Florida’s bluest county, Broward, also made history this election cycle. Harold Pryor became the state’s first Black attorney. He is an advocate for criminal justice reform, which is perfect for a time when protests surrounding the issue rocked the nation. Democrat Joe Scott won the election for supervisor of elections, and Gregory Tony was elected as the Broward County sheriff. Black candidates won every county-wide race in Broward County, Florida. Despite the fact that only 20 percent of the county’s population is Black, the people of Broward voted for change and for a new way of thinking.

It’s heartwarming to see that American citizens are ready to take steps forward. The people are ready to accept diversity, and welcome changes at the local and the state level. The US presidential election has shown us that lot of people still prefer a president who is crass, racist, sexist, misogynistic, anti-science and frankly, immature. The local and state elections, on the other hand, have shown us that Americans are letting go of prejudice and walking toward a more inclusive future.

Charles Dickens once said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” American politics is a reflection of this – they’ve made great strides forward and yet half the people want to take a step back at the same time. These representatives stand for hope and change. It’s inspiring to see representatives from all walks of life step into politics and help their fellow people, despite the hatred that came from the White House for four years.  I’m grateful to know that America hasn’t fallen to the dangers of nationalism and prejudice yet, that fairness can prevail.


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2020 Elections Race Policy Inequality

9 things you need to know about Vice President elect, Kamala Harris

With the triumph of Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential election, Kamala Harris assuming the role of Vice President marked the history of astounding firsts. She became the first Asian American, the first African American, and the first female to become Vice President-elect. After this historic win, pictures of a jovial Harris made appearances on many social media accounts belonging to people of color who exclaimed: “Finally a leader who looks like us!” Hailing from a multiracial heritage, she suddenly embodied an aspirational appeal for millions of Americans of color. But Prosecutor turned Senator turned Vice President, Harris has a legacy of being a trailblazer long before this week.

Let’s read on to unravel the identity and more importantly, policies of this figure who sits on the cusp of history, one heartbeat away from Presidency, and the long-awaited shattering of the infamous glass ceiling:

1. She is biracial

[Image Description: Kamala Harris with her parents, Shyamala Gopalan (left) and Donald Harris (right), with her as a baby (Courtesy of Kamala Harris)] via Mercury News
Kamala (named after the Sanskrit word for lotus) was born as a second-generation immigrant to Jamaican born Donald J Harris who had migrated to study at Stanford and to Indian born Shyamala Gopalan, a biologist, and researcher. In her upbringing, strands of Indian and African heritage intertwined resulting in a racially diverse experience. Harris, herself, claimed, “All my friends were Black and we got together and cooked Indian food and painted henna on our hands, and I never felt uncomfortable with my cultural background.” She’s struck an interesting balance of celebrating her identity, whilst reconciling it with the melting pot of American sensibilities as she evades binaries and refuses to be cast away in neat and labeled boxes, claiming “people exist through a prism”.

2. She was a child of resistance

[ Image Description: A baby Kamala Harris with her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, and her paternal grandfather, Oscar Joseph, during a visit to Jamaica (Courtesy of Kamala Harris).] via Mercury News
“And that’s how they (her parents) met, as students, in the streets of Oakland shouting for this thing called justice,” Harris explained at the Biden/Harris event at Wilmington, Delaware this year. She also told the Washington Post that she “grew up in a hot spot of the civil rights movement” and had a “stroller eye view” of the struggle for equality. With her parents divorced at the age of nine, Harris and her sister, Maya were raised predominantly by Shyamala whose only goal in life, as per Harris’ own words was to “end breast cancer as a researcher” and “raise her two daughters”. Her mother’s legacy and words have been immortalized through her motto: “You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.”

3. She is a lawyer by nature and by profession

[ Image Description: Kamala Harris, right, after graduating from UC Hastings law school in 1989, pictured with her mother Shyamala, center, and her first-grade teacher, Frances Wilson (Courtesy of Kamala Harris)] via Mercury News
Her Alma Mater is Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington D.C where she pursued her double major in Economics and Political Science. She was also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, along with academic entities where she discovered her knack for witty conversation and gritty debate. Her peer and friend Rosario-Richardson at Howard claims she “noticed she had a keen sense of argumentation” and they “bonded over an aptitude for energetic debate with campus Republicans.” She completed law school at the University of California after which she became a prosecutor.

4. She is a woman of many firsts

[Image Description: Kamala Harris takes oath of office as Senator of California.] via Kamala D. Harris
After she began work in Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, for San Francisco in 2003, Kamala Harris was elected as California’s first female and first Black attorney general. In 2017, Harris became the 45th Senator from the state of California, making history as the second black woman and first American of Indian descent to serve in the body.

5. She’s got major sass, and delivers some unbelievable zingers

The rhetorical skills she acquired at Howard have become part of her signature style of interrogation. In fact, many claims that she has made a greater mark in the hearing room as opposed to through legislation. Her perseverance in getting the truth out of people not being forthcoming with facts has resulted in many viral moments online. Her incessant questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the Russia investigation (in 2017), lead Sessions into conceding: “I’m not able to be rushed this fast! It makes me nervous.” Similar was the case for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearings on the Mueller investigation (2018), where her persistent fight for the truth left her opponent speechless.

6. “Momala” is a part of a highly functional modern family

[Image Description: Harris pictured with her husband and stepchildren- with Cole, Doug, Kamala, and Ella (from left to right). ] via Marie Claire
In 2014, after her marriage to Doug Emhoff, she became a stepmother to Cole and Ella. But her pursuit of motherhood like everything else was unconventional. She rejected the title of “stepmom” and instead settled with “Momala” with her children. Currently, she has maintained a cordial equation with the children’s biological mother Kristen and even stated in a column she penned for Elle magazine that their “modern family is almost a little too functional”.

7. She has been called out for her lack of consistency

Many critics have called her out on her contradictory statements and her lack of consistency in policy approaches. For instance, in 2004, she promised the people of San Francisco that she opposed the death penalty. But when a federal judge ruled California’s death penalty unconstitutional, Harris appealed against the decision. Similar was her stance on health, where she backed Bernie’s rather leftist Medicare For All, only to abandon it in favor of her own more centrist healthcare plan. Much of this was viewed as political opportunism, to garner power.

8.“Kamala is a cop”

Harris’ 13-year law enforcement career is the greatest bone of contention for her opponents, so much so that they forged a title out of it: “top cop”. She has paid lip service for dismantling systemic racism and against police brutality, but her track record suggests the opposite. During her tenure as district attorney in San Francisco, the city oversaw its conviction rate jumping from 52 to 67 percent. Tulsi Gabbard, a member of Congress, attacked Harris saying: “She put 1500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed when asked if she ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence that could have saved an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison to use them as cheap labor for the state of California. She fought to keep the cash bail system in place”. Bazelon also spelled out her concerns on Democracy Now, including that Harris’s “office fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions, that in some cases kept innocent people in prison”.

9. Her stance has been criticized for being contradictory

[Image Description: Kamala Harris signs a paper.] via Newsweek
Over the years, her policy inclinations have dwindled between leftist to centrist on the political spectrum. Straddling the lines between leftist liberals and moderate progressives, she has appealed to neither according to BBC. Where Climate Crisis is concerned, she has adopted an aggressively proactive stance. But where the issue of US military dominance overseas and the war on terror is concerned, she appears to be on the extreme right within the party. Just this year, she voted against cutting the $740 bn annual military budget by 10%. This means that Trump’s departure from the White House may take with it the blatant Islamophobia, but it will leave behind the same mission cloaked in a different fabric- this time called war on terror. Hence, for folks like me who are part of the “Islamic world” so vehemently denounced by the American government, it won’t matter who is sending the drones.

Harris’ win is indeed a victory for racial representation in the White House. But, I hope that people’s intoxication with anti-Trump sentiments does not put her up on a pedestal where she enjoys impunity. I hope the diversity she adds to the office is not just a token. I hope our political amnesia does not make us forget all that was exposed with the Black Lives Matter movement.


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USA 2020 Elections Inequality

Big wins for decriminalization and legalization in the U.S. this election

As of Tuesday night, 38 states have put into motion the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. Tuesday also marked a momentous day for radical decriminalization; Oregon became the first state to fully decriminalize hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. 

Supporters of legalization and decriminalization have pointed to how these policies could benefit substance use treatments and end the War on Drugs

Overdose deaths have risen amid the pandemic, and states are trying new techniques to combat this epidemic. Oregon is spearheading this historic charge for decriminalization.

The Oregonian strategy

Oregon has always been a pioneer for the legalization and decriminalization of substances. In 1973, it became the first state in the union to decriminalize marijuana, later legalizing the substance in 2014. But Oregon is facing some major issues relating to drugs: currently, one in 11 Oregonians live with substance use disorders.

While Oregon has made strong efforts, such as implementing drug courts and safe injection sites, the state still has high rates of overdose deaths. The opioid epidemic has hit the state particularly hard. Each day Oregon sees the death of nearly two residents due to overdoses. To combat an epidemic that is plaguing their community, Oregonians took a page out of Portugal’s book.

Portugal decriminalized hard drugs in 2000 and experienced a 20 percent increase in individuals seeking substance abuse treatment over the next decade. What Portugal did not see was an increase in drug use or overdose deaths. This is a trend that Oregon hopes to mimic in the coming years. Oregon’s program will give anyone who is caught with an illicit substance the choice to pay a $100 fine or enter a state-subsidized addiction recovery center.

Backers of Oregon’s new strategy point to the failure of conventional methods. The co-chief petitioner of the Oregon measure, Janie Gullickson, spoke about the prospect of decriminalization, “This is such a big step in moving to a health-based approach instead of criminal punishment, and we’re devoting significant new resources to help Oregonians who need it.”

Conventional methods to address drug possession or use have been jail time or probation. But voters in Oregon believe that those methods are not healing the core issues surrounding addiction, and voted for a different path Tuesday night.

State of legalization and decriminalization of marijuana across the U.S.

Map of US states showing status of marijuana legality either fully illegal, decriminalized, medical, medical and decriminalized, or legalized
Map of US states showing the status of marijuana legality Via Vox News

Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Montana all voted to legalize marijuana for adult consumption Tuesday night. They join the now 15 states that have legalized marijuana across the country. Some states are not ready to fully legalize the substance but are willing to explore the substance’s medical benefits. Additional states such as South Dakota and Mississippi have passed initiatives to permit medical marijuana.

Magic mushrooms

While many surprises arose Tuesday, an issue that unexpectedly seized the night was the legalization and decriminalization of psilocybin or magic mushrooms. This matter flew under the radar before the election but saw major strides with ballot initiatives.

Breaking the mold once again, Oregon became the first state to legalize the personal use of magic mushrooms Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Washington, DC joined the cities of Denver, CO, Oakland, CA, and Santa Cruz, CA in decriminalizing the substance.

Proponents of Decriminalize Nature DC argued for the possible health benefits for the substance, as well as “ending the failed War on Drugs”.

Ending the War on Drugs

War is not something foreign to the United States; it’s enshrined into the history of the country. But in 1971 the United States declared war on an inanimate object: drugs. As it is generally hard to prosecute a drug, this “war” resulted in the criminalization of mental illness and the imprisonment of people in marginalized communities. 

The hardest hit by the war on drugs are communities of color. While marijuana usage is similar across racial lines, specifically between Black and white teens, Black people are 4 times more likely to be arrested and charged with marijuana possession. This is not a coincidence. The War on Drugs was fabricated by President Nixon to heavily impact minority communities in particular. President Nixon needed to turn the country against protesters, so he used racial bias and the US criminal justice system to do so

To rectify the injustices committed by the War on Drugs activists argue for decriminalization. Rev. Alexander Sharp of Clergy from a New Drug Policy said, “What is really going to end the war on drugs is decriminalization.” He then plugged the Oregon decriminalization initiative as a blueprint for ending the war on drugs in his interview with the Chicago Reporter.  

Decriminalization would turn drug possession into a single fine or acceptance of substance abuse treatment. This  allows for an increased number of individuals to get treated for substance use disorders, instead of receiving a criminal record. While there is evidence that BIPOC are more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for drugs, some have questioned how decriminalization of all drugs will positively impact minority communities. 

One of the big questions surrounding the magic mushroom debate is its prevalence in minority communities.  Neighborhood advisory commissioner Perry Redd asked about mushroom decriminalization in DC, “How many Black people get arrested for mushrooms?” These numbers, specifically in DC, have not been made available to the public, but some studies have shown a large racial disparity with the drug. Yet, in 2017 data displayed that twice as many white teens have used magic mushrooms than Black teens. This hesitation is further supported by marijuana arrest data in Colorado.

After marijuana became legalized in Colorado, arrest rates of Black teens soared while their white peers went unpunished. The Colorado Department of Public Safety found that arrests of Black teens rose by 58 percent between 2012 and 2014, while arrests of white teens fell 8 percent. Trends like that cannot continue. If they do the only people benefitting from decriminalization and legalization will be communities that were never targeted to begin with.

Men hold signs that say
Protestors against the War on Drugs via The New School

The legal system is not always universally or fairly applied, and drug arrests portray that. A spotlight has been put on the issue of unjust policing in the last year, but racial disparities in arrests have consistently been a problem. The War on Drugs accelerated the deep-rooted issues of injustice and racism in America. It also resulted in mass incarceration and the further criminalization of mental illness. This “war” has plagued America since 1971, with the most recent solution being decriminalization. Oregon has been the first state in the nation to fully enact this plan, and in order for other states to follow, there will need to be noticeable results. In the meantime, activists have to continue to try to rectify the problem and bring awareness to the implications of brutal and discriminatory policing surrounding such substances, as they have for decades. 


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USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections Politics The World

The Democratic Party owes its Presidential election victory to BIPOC organizers

This is it, folks. After a nerve-wracking and close race, Joe Biden has won the presidency, with Kamala Harris as the Vice President-elect. Biden also received the most votes ever cast for a U.S. presidential candidate, in a race that saw a historically high voter turnout. As we look back upon a polarizing election season and the bitter years that preceded it, it is important to acknowledge the hard work of grassroots organizers, youth leaders, and volunteers who ultimately flipped the vote in critical swing states. In particular, Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour (BIPOC) played a key role in mobilizing communities and countering disinformation and voter suppression to make every vote count.

Grassroots BIPOC Organizers made a huge difference 

Key electoral gains in states like Arizona – which hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1996 – Michigan, and Pennsylvania can be largely attributed to meticulous grassroots organizing at the county-level, challenging the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to delegitimize votes, declare premature victory, and cast doubt even as ballots were being counted.

Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour (BIPOC) played a key role in mobilizing communities and countering disinformation and voter suppression to make every vote count.

Across southern states, organizers and community leaders worked hard for years to build power in marginalized communities. Biden’s win in Georgia is significant – the state hasn’t supported a Democrat since 1992 – many credited his lead to Democratic Party’s Stacey Abrams and her lifelong work to address voter suppression. In 2018, Abrams became the first Black woman chosen as a major political party’s nominee for a state gubernatorial election in the country. Abrams lost the election to Republican opponent but her campaign then founded Fair Fight Action to empower marginalized voters in the state. Abrams worked alongside a host of other groups like the New Georgia Project who registered thousands of BIPOC voters and empowered them to exercise their political rights in and beyond the electoral cycle. 

Stereotypes about Republican-leaning southern states undermine how Black organizers – especially women – have fought for and engaged historically overlooked communities. The political and cultural shifts due to the hard work of these organizers may or may not translate into statewide electoral wins for the Democrats, but a blue wave in the elections cannot be the only indicators of progressivism in a state – community-level changes are just as important as national elections.

Reflecting on the importance of community organizing in southern states, Yasmine, 23, a volunteer with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) said,  “Historically, the South is ignored and written off because of stereotypes. But it’s important to realize that the racist white people don’t define what the South is. It’s the BIPOC communities that have created environments for themselves where they care for one another, dismantle barriers to civic engagement, and advocate for everyone’s liberation.”

It’s the BIPOC communities that have created environments for themselves where they care for one another, dismantle barriers to civic engagement, and advocate for everyone’s liberation.

Progressive BIPOC-led organizing invested long-term in community coalitions and young voters, foregrounding critical issues like criminal justice reforms, mass incarceration, ICE detentions, climate change, and COVID-19 relief. Dream Defenders, a BIPOC youth-led power-building organization that was formed in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, are one of the many groups in Florida that worked to increase voter turnout, championing causes like defunding the police and minimum wage reform. In counties across Arizona, BIPOC groups helped Biden gain a lead in the state, despite being historically marginalized by the Democratic Party and the GOP. This was made possible by the advocacy of member-led grassroots organizations like Living United for Change in Arizona which have consistently mobilized working-class families and fought for social, economic, and racial justice. Mi Familia Vota engaged Latinx and immigrant communities in different states and advocated for stronger infrastructures for civic participation. 

In Arizona, Indigenous women community leaders fought to challenge years of voter suppression. Leaders like Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, ran to be the county recorder and co-founded Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots organizing group which made the voting process more accessible. 

lhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who were re-elected to Congress in Minnesota and Michigan respectively, tirelessly rallied voters at the local level and ensuring Biden’s victory in their states. Community activist and nurse Cori Bush – who became the first Black woman elected to Congress from Missouri – was endorsed by the Sunrise Movement progressive political action committee Justice Democrats who previously endorsed Congress members Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others. Run for Something, a political organization recruiting young progressives running for down-ballot offices, endorsed young progressive candidates like Mauree Turner who became the first Black Muslim nonbinary state legislator from Oklahoma. 

The summer’s Black Lives Matter protests should be credited for sparking conversations about structural injustices, and the importance of showing up to vote.

Black Lives Matter protests politicized the electorate

The summer’s Black Lives Matter protests should be credited for sparking conversations about structural injustices, and the importance of showing up to vote. Some studies even suggested that the protests were responsible for an increase in voter registrations. The protests also politicized many, particularly young BIPOC first-time voters, empowering them to understand the interconnected nature of oppressions that maintain the status quo in an unjust society. 

In Philadelphia during election week, protesters took to denounce Trump’s premature declaration of victory in the state. The protests converged with simultaneous BLM protests in response to the murder of a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr., by the Philadelphia police. Other protest organizers also called for the release of Philly for REAL Justice activist Anthony Smith. In this context, the demand to count all votes was framed as one of the means to the greater ends of protecting civil rights, challenging police brutality, and authoritarianism, and holding a racist criminal justice system accountable.

Volunteers and poll workers saved the day

In between social distancing laws and divisive political struggles, thousands of volunteers for the Democrats utilized digital resources and low-risk physical outreach methods to connect with voters. For Laura, an organizer working with the Chicago chapter of NAPAWF, information access for diverse communities was critical: “We put a lot of emphasis on making information accessible in multiple languages and canvassing. In Georgia specifically, we were able to get older South Asian women to help us phone-bank within their community. This was effective since most of them don’t speak English.” In many swing states, almost 200 NAPAWF volunteers for the Get Out the Vote campaign reached out to AAPI women voters in more than 15 languages, made over 40,000 calls and sent out over 12,000 texts. 

Elsewhere, during and after election day, poll workers risked their lives to count every vote. In Maricopa County, Arizona, poll workers were harassed by Pro-Trump supporters spurred by conspiracy theories of voter fraud and stolen votes, driven by merit-less claims peddled by Trump. Nonetheless, the workers persisted, and the county voted blue. 

It is undeniable that the bulk of progressive organizing was led by BIPOC leaders, but this labor, which is typically not compensated proportionally, should not be romanticized.

Organizers put in the work, what about the Democratic Party?

One of the most significant victories of this election cycle belongs to Kamala Harris, who became the first woman and Black and South Asian-American person to be elected Vice President. However, as many have noted, representation does not guarantee transformational justice. She has been critiqued at length for her controversial track record as district attorney. It is also ironic, that she was elected alongside Biden who, as a Senator, actively caused harm to poor Black communities through legislation.

All of this is to say that despite the impending end of the Trump presidency, the Democratic Party must address its own conservatism and how it continues to uphold oppressive structures through governance. If the Party wants to honor those who won them the election, it must take the voices of BIPOC communities seriously and commit to radically progressive agendas in policy-making. It is undeniable that the bulk of progressive organizing was led by BIPOC leaders, but this labor, which is typically not compensated proportionally, should not be romanticized.

Martha, 23, a volunteer with Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Sunrise Movement, stressed that political leaders and white voters should dismantle white supremacy: “Young organizers turned out the huge number of young Democrat voters in this election. But we also saw that more young white voters voted for Trump than any other young demographic. White people must reflect and actively work against our own roles that uphold white supremacy… Organizing without challenging this will only reproduce the racist systems of the past.”

A Biden Presidency is just the start of a long and difficult road towards such liberation. Perhaps the movement will pause and take a break to celebrate, perhaps it will shift and manifest in new and more powerful forms. Perhaps a better future is indeed closer than it seems. In the meantime, organizers will continue to hold space for the most vulnerable, reminding us that the fight goes beyond one election cycle.

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USA 2020 Elections Politics The World

The depth of Trumpism is here to stay, even under a Biden Presidency

If we’ve learned one thing during this election, it’s that Donald Trump has defied the expectations laid out by polls and political pundits in the lead up to the national vote. He’s managed to seize 48% of the popular vote and gain more votes than he did in the 2016 election, reflecting the firmly rooted support for Trumpism ideology by Republican voters in the U.S. Trump’s political doctrine and style of governance has helped coin the term Trumpism we recognize today. Proudly spearheaded by the 45th U.S. President, his populist, personality-driven agenda will continue to dominate the Republican Party. The 2020 election has shown that even under the Biden Presidency, Trumpism will outlast Trump in the coming years. 

In the immediate aftermath of the election, Trump desperately tried to control the narrative around the election – prematurely declaring victory, complaining of corruption, claiming there were “tens of millions of unsolicited ballots” and announcing an investigation into the states Joe Biden won. His frantic attempts to hang onto political office undermines the election process and the very democracy he is president of. 

The 2020 election has shown that even under the Biden Presidency, Trumpism will outlast Trump in the coming years. 

Despite Trump losing his second term in office (and his subsequent unwillingness to accept defeat), he lost by a razor-thin margin, signifying that the power of Trumpism can and will be prolonged. His core support will undoubtedly remain a huge force within the U.S. and within the ranks of the Republican party. To voters, the GOP is synonymous with Trump. For the Republican party to hold onto the support gained by Trump, they will be reluctant to break away from the Trumpism agenda. Trump’s style of politics executed during his tenure in office is what Republican voters want in their leader – enforcing strict measures on immigration, aversion to trade deals, divisive foreign policy, cuts to foreign aid, ignoring budget deficits and attack on the media. His policies, statesmanship style, and white-identity politics are heavily affiliated with the Republican party, whether the party like it or not. 

What is more startling is that despite Trump’s diabolical handling of the coronavirus pandemic; (with over 230,000 deaths and 9.7 million cases at current count); mass unemployment and blatant exploitation of presidential power for his own political gain, 48% of voters still consider him worthy of serving another term in office. Trumpism has held firm in the U.S. and is more embedded in society than we realized. 

Trump’s power to the top has also validated and given authority to white supremacist ideologies. During September’s presidential debate, Trump refused to condemn one neo-fascist group, Proud Boys. The Anti-Defamation Group describes Proud Boys as misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration with ties to most states, Britain, Norway, and Australia. Instead of condemning the group in the debate, Trump addressed them directly:  “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” 

Trump’s extreme right-wing beliefs have seeped through his immigration policies

Trump’s right-wing convictions have shaped policy areas. His aggressive opposition towards U.S. immigration policy led Trump to sign several executive orders that would diminish the U.S’ standing as a country that proudly stood for family reunification, asylum, and safe harbor of refugees. Trump signed executive orders on banning refugees, prohibiting citizens from Muslim countries travelling to the U.S, replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) which was later rejected by Congress and reviewal of the H-1B Visa Program granted to foreign workers. Under Trump’s “zero tolerance” directive, his administration ordered a clampdown on undocumented migrants crossing into the U.S, enforcing the separation of children from their parents. The heart-wrenching images of children being taken away from their parents at the border horrified the U.S. and world. These images affirmed Trump’s extreme right-wing beliefs which have seeped through his immigration policies, allowing crying children to be separated from their parents at the border and confined in detention centers.

Abortion is another policy area where he has enacted right-wing control. Before his presidency, he declared that women should face “some form of punishment” if they have abortions. Last year Trump banned federal funds going to organizations that provide abortions or refer patients to abortion clinics, resulting in Planned Parenthood losing millions in funding.

His four years in office has enabled Trump to appoint three Supreme Court judges, with the most recent appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett hurried through a week before the election, securing a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court. For decades to come, Trumpism will live on in the Supreme Court when it comes to the Court reaching judgments on politically divisive cases.

The extreme right-wing sentiment is entrenched within Trumpism. It’s out there in black and white through Trump’s policies and statements and cannot be overlooked. If the Republican party standby Trumpism ideology post-Trump era, they are allowing this sentiment to continue to thrive and evolve within the party. 

The disturbing reality is that Trumpism has triumphed, and it will affect the American life forever. 

So will Trump make a return to the presidential race in 2024? There’s a strong possibility that he will given that back in 2017, Trump filed to run for reelection on the day he was inaugurated. It’s safe to say that the Trump family will be with us for years, and Trumpism will last even longer. American citizens will continue exhibiting Trumpism, even under the Biden Presidency. Trumpism will truly divide the nation through its homes, classrooms, workplaces and social spaces. Trump’s re-election loss will trigger an outraged response by his loyal followers who firmly believe he has been robbed of the presidential office that was meant for Trump. They will obediently follow Trump and hang on to his every lie in the hope of delegitimizing Biden’s win. The disturbing reality is that Trumpism has triumphed, and it will affect the American life forever. 

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The Internet 2020 Elections Pop Culture

The best memes from the rollercoaster that was Election Week

The past few days, the world held its breath as the United States embarked on a nail-biting election week. Punctuated with an anxiety-inducing number of twists, the 2020 American election ended in a win for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Now, as we all sit back and relax, here is a roundup of some of the best memes from election week.

1. One of the few things that kept us going:

Anyone else’s screentime up 110% this week? Just me?

2. Literally everyone else in the world:

No matter where we’re from, we all put our lives on hold this week. I know I canceled all my appointments and got no sleep at all to obsessively check polls.

3. Election anxiety might’ve been getting to us juuuust a smidge:

I am walking anxiety at this point, but working on becoming a person again.

Get rewarded for everyday activity. $10 sign on bonus.

4. Meanwhile, this was happening and several points were made:

Honestly, poor Count Dracula. He gets enough bad rep without Trump weighing in.

5. Honestly this sounds good to me right about now:

I’m not an American citizen but do I qualify to get one? Please, Canada?

6. Unpopular opinion – Jake Ryan was the real visionary on Hannah Montana:

I confess I was Team Jesse back in the day, but I may be rethinking my stance all these years later.

7. Yeaaaah, Nevada’s not going to live this down for a while:

I guess they took “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” a bit too seriously.

8. I think we can all agree that Miranda Priestly would have wrapped this whole thing up with days to spare:

Miranda would’ve had Nevada running for her life.

9. #Knope2024 :

It’s happening!!!

10. UM, chills. Literal chills.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe just got a whole lot more interesting.

11. It’s the 100% accuracy for me:

It’s a coping mechanism, guys.

12. You and me both, Ben Schwartz. You and me both.


13. Until next time, Steve Kornacki:

If you have developed an irrational obsession with our boi Steve here, know that you are not alone.

14. They say a video compilation speaks a thousand pictures:

Good one, Daily Show.

15. And finally, the meme to crown them all:

This one just speaks for itself.

So we can breathe for a bit for now, but the fight is not over. Tomorrow we will wake up and we will continue to evaluate the work of the US government. But for now, we sleep (and laugh a bit more).

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