The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: January 2019 Page 2 of 5

Unapologetically,Unconvincing Appropriation

I didn’t understand cultural appropriation until I found myself staring directly in the eye. The first few times I probably just ignored it, or maybe I didn’t even recognize it for the fear of being the creepy brown girl, sticking her nose in other people’s business. I let it go because I don’t have the privilege to claim other people’s business as my own and judge it, unapologetically.

I have heard arguments on the other side too, don’t get me wrong. I fully entertained them because I felt like I was obliged to be the bigger person, even if that meant letting other people walk all over me, as they plundered, looted, occupied, and enslaved what was not their business. There exists an argument that pulls at a “reverse appropriation” of Western culture by the rest of the world. It doesn’t convince me though, because I am well aware of imperialism, colonialism, and the Western-centric worldview that basically paved the path for this “reverse cultural appropriation” that became synonymous with modernity and development. I am unapologetically unconvinced because it has been pushed down our throats historically, in the name of being respected and noticed in a world that is obsessed with the idea of this version of modern development.

The reality of cultural appropriation hurts because there are sections of society that can afford to do/wear culturally associated things without ever going through the struggles experienced by the people from these cultures. We are supposed to “fit in” so we can prove that we are non-threatening as people and as cultures, while the people with whom we are supposed to be assimilating unabashedly dress “exotic” at our expense. If people were ready to acknowledge and learn from the history that affects the power dynamics around the display of a cultural “trend,” then they would be free to appreciate other cultures once they’ve had this learning experience.

Even when not being subject to explicit bias for our differences, fear has taken root inside our hearts. This insecurity and lack of confidence for just being ourselves is not our fault—it was etched upon us, and onto our very existence. This insecurity looks like the forgotten pieces of colorful clothing that lie in the back of my closet. It looks like the uncertain woman I see in the mirror who, just before she walks out the door, turns around and changes into something less conspicuous. It sounds like “well-meaning” compliments that refer to my culture as “costume.” It is the many questions I would get—if there was a special reason, some occasion, an event that I decided to put on “fancy” clothes? Clothes that I grew up in and around, but now rarely wear. It feels like the anxiety that comes with the attention I get—good or bad—makes me not want to stand out, but I wonder if I will have to burn the very back of my closet in hopes of that?

Now, in all honesty, I am a lot more privileged than a lot of my fellow people of color, either living away from their cultures or having had modernity creep up on them. I am a little more racially ambiguous, aware, in a more accepting environment and at a point where it’s getting easier to be unapologetic for being me; and yet this anxiety hasn’t left my side.

I don’t want to be called an angry-snowflake who is making an issue out of a non-issue. Working on bigger, more serious issues and speaking about this somewhat invisible but pinching experience are not mutually exclusive—and I don’t want to be told what is “more important” for me to focus on. I don’t want to be called “exotic” —I am not a different species, something rare, or for a show display—there are too many of us and we want to take our identities back.

Generation Action, Elections, and Printing: A Student Government Update

At the Student Government meeting on January 16, Budget and Clubs Board (BCB) and Generation Action met with the Student Government to discuss why Generation Action was not approved as a club. Because Generation Action was not granted club status, they could not book rooms on campus, table in Commons, or receive funding. When this happens and a club appeals, Student Government takes a vote and has the last say in the decision. BCB originally denied Generation Action this status as a result of their connection to Planned Parenthood. The constitution states that clubs cannot be affiliated with an organization outside of the college, as clubs must have local autonomy and therefore be able to regulate themselves without direction from an outside organization. BCB was concerned that Generation Action was too connected to Planned Parenthood, and BCB did not want to make the decision of robbing Generation Action of this affiliation with Planned Parenthood. BCB cited work at other schools, like Bowdoin, where there are clubs that advocate for reproductive rights but have no affiliation with Planned Parenthood. BCB also feared that, were they to make Generation Action a club, other outside organizations could try to make a club on our campus, potentially including hate groups.
Generation Action wants to become a club so that they can host more events on campus, and they are the only group on campus having these open conversations about reproductive justice. The organization does not receive any funding from Planned Parenthood, and any money they raise will not go to Planned Parenthood. One of the goals of Generation Action is to provide vending machines around campus with Plan B and similar health services so that students could have access to them on the weekends. They hope to mobilize students to work with the health center to make Plan B and STD testing free resources for students. Student Government took a unanimous vote to grant Generation Action club status on campus.
Additionally on 1/16, Student Government discussed the election system currently in place, since annual re-election may not allow students to learn the skills that make Student Government at Bates effective. We are hoping to develop restructural plans for this throughout the rest of the year.
At our meeting on 1/23, we discussed the continuous issues surrounding on-campus parking. Some suggestions included not allowing first-years to bring their cars and adding a warning system to the ticket process. If we were to prohibit first-years from having cars, we would need to expand the shuttle system around Lewiston to ensure that students can get where they need to go. We also discussed student concerns related to the gym hours at Bates, and many representatives argued that a 5:30am opening time would benefit students rather than the current 6am time in place. Representatives in Student Government plan to meet with the necessary faculty to discuss the plausibility of this change. We appointed two additional representatives to the Library and Information Services Committee, and discussed the difficulty students have had finding working printers this year. In order to address that issue, we talked about the prospect of
being able to look online to see which printers were currently working. Overall, we hope to be engaged in the conversations to improve the printing services.

The Mainstream Media Madness

The mainstream media in recent times has been described as out of touch, biased, and a factory for producing fake news. In this tumultuous era of politics, these labels fracture the sanctity of the “Fourth Branch of Government,” whose duty is indispensable. The media is supposed to be the watcher on the wall, observing, reporting and holding those in power to account. The question to be answered is whether the media is fulfilling its mandate or whether it has been corrupted and is being used as a tool for those who foster division and discord. From a Millennial’s point of view, the media seems to mistake neutrality for journalism, which results in it being out of touch and indirectly advancing harmful ideas.

In the halls of the great media giants, especially those who claim to be nonpartisan, there is a misconception that neutrality is objectivity. Let us look at the recent government shutdown, but through the lens of the pre-Trump years. Back then, CNN, MSNBC, and others would either portion more blame to the Democrats for a shutdown or use their favorite term “both sides.” This is a type of defense mechanism to shield them from the wrath of conservative outlets such as Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and the corrosive Breitbart News. For whatever reason, the actual journalists feel compelled to cower in some cases to the loud, mob mentality of the far right outlets because God-forbid if they were ever called biased or liberal. This was seen in a comical display after the second presidential debate back in 2012 when Barack Obama clearly won his bout with Mitt Romney. A CNN poll clearly showed Obama winning the debate by 7 percentage points, however, the fact that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer twisted his tongue when describing Obama as having a “slight, slight edge” is unbelievable. He then went on to say that once you look overall, it is “pretty much of a draw.” In political circles, a 7-point lead is substantial and in this particular case, when so many other polls confirmed a win, one wonders why CNN sought to be neutral.

They do it so that they are not labeled as liberal, because, for some reason, they care so much about what the extremes have to say. Oddly enough, they did the same thing during the 2016 Presidential election cycle and were still unfairly labeled fake, liberal, and “lamestream” news by conservatives. He-who-must-not-be-named stripped the mainstream media, minus his extremist friends at Fox News, of the air of trustworthiness and objectivity.

The disease to please has largely died with the ascension of the new president, as the mainstream media quickly realized that their duty and call to action has never been stronger. At the moment, they are one of the most important institutions in our society as we are on the precipice of slipping into a world where craziness is the order of the day. However, even with their increased attention to detail and a noticeably more vibrant urge to call it as it is, they still remain out of touch. The mainstream media has declined in popularity, as new media, powered by strong and outspoken online voices have taken root in the ear of an entire generation. Online sources such as The Young Turks, The David Pakman Show, and social media platforms in general, have filled a gap due to their accessibility and authenticity. The status quo is shaking in its boots as these vocal alternatives cut through corporate bias and establishment control. One of the reasons Hillary Clinton was defeated was because her opponent was able to get millions of views worth of free media coverage.

Ultimately, that fever and excitement is the same force that allowed Bernie Sanders to almost close a 60 point gap between him and Hillary Clinton, and it is the same force that pushed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the forefront of the Democratic Party. People crave authenticity, and whether you are boasting about sexual prowess, or calling for health care to be a right, it cuts through the mainstream media’s groupthink syndrome

Students Collaborate and Celebrate in SANG AI Asia

Every year, the student-run cultural evening Sangai Asia is organized by the club of the same name to celebrate Asian cultures and the students who represent them on Bates’ campus. The event’s title is fitting: the word Sangai is a combination of two Hindi words SANG and AI and translates to coming together to promote solidarity. This year’s performance took place on the 25th of January.

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Longest Shutdown in History: All for Nothing?

When I was settling upon my article topic on a late Thursday night, the most protracted partial government shutdown in US history appeared nowhere near resolution. Besides racking up at least $6 billion in cost to the economy, the 35-day showdown between President Trump and the Democrat-controlled House had resulted in sleepless nights across single-parent households worried about making rent payment, young professionals facing a new stumbling block to building their credit score, and chronically ill patients thinking twice about refilling a prescription. Luckily, the uncertainty for over 800,000 federal workers and their families came to an end on January 25, after Trump agreed to sign a stopgap bill to reopen the government and allow negotiations to continue. Yet, even as the lives of affected Americans start to fall back to normal, the future of DREAMers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, H1B visa holders, and aspiring immigrants remains just as unpredictable.

If there was one silver lining in the whole shutdown debacle, it is that millions of Americans awoke to the following somber realization: our immigration system is convoluted, inefficient, and dangerously unprepared for the 21st century. Politicians across the aisle are all too happy to engage in pious grandstanding and name calling on immigration-related matters. In reality, however, Democrats and Republicans share copyright ownership for the current mess.

Over the years, Republicans have railed against America’s family-based immigration model and called for a more meritocratic approach. But actions speak louder than words: every time push comes to shove, the GOP shows itself unable or unwilling to tame the recalcitrant House Freedom Caucus. When the ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill––a bipartisan piece of legislation that would abolish the nonsensical visa lottery, put undocumented workers on a path to citizenship, and usher in a merit-based immigration system––passed the Senate in 2013, the Freedom Caucus refused to even consider it because they would not stand for a vote on so-called “amnesty.”

Democrats, on the other hand, have repeatedly made clear that they would much rather stick to the status quo. The current system, which generally does not account for professional qualifications in selecting immigrants and makes one eligible for social security benefits the day a Green Card arrives in the mail, serves as a reliable source of Democratic support by bringing fresh voters to the New Deal Coalition.

Then there is a burgeoning notion in the most liberal of circles that immigrating to the United States is a right, not a privilege. Lady Liberty should welcome anyone and everyone, the argument goes, even if doing so clashes with security and economic interests of American citizens. No wonder the majority of Democrats have been oblivious to the idea of transitioning to a points system that would prioritize individuals with English skills, higher education, and employment prospects––the idea championed at different times by senators as ideologically diverse as Tom Cotton, Jeff Flake, and Chuck Schumer.

Trump did not get funding for the border wall. Democrats failed to secure protections for DACA recipients. Was the shutdown all for nothing? It does not have to be. Now that everyone has been reminded of the scope of chaos even a partial shutdown is capable of wreaking, it is time to put our partisanship aside and come together. Republicans should work to remedy the metastasis of populism and nativism across the highest echelons of their party. Democrats, who are increasingly adamant about adopting Canadian-style single-payer healthcare, German-inspired free tuition at public colleges, and New Zealand’s maternity leave standards, would benefit from learning a lesson or two from those countries’ merit-based immigration systems.

When President Reagan was asked why he agreed to a 5 percent tax cut when he had originally proposed cutting taxes by twice as much, he responded: “Half a loaf is better than none.” February 15, the new deadline to strike a deal, offers nowhere enough time to overhaul our 60-year-old immigration system through a comprehensive reform package. However, there is room for small progress. Perhaps we could extend DACA for a few years, replace the Green Card lottery with a scheme that prioritizes immigrants already in the US, and expedite the issuance of H1B visas and employment-based permanent resident permits, all while exploring more profound changes that would bring our immigration system in line with the 21st century standards. Trump is no Ronald Reagan. Pelosi is no Tip O’Neill. But the “half-a-loaf” strategy remains the best and only way.

Social Movements

As men, there is no question that we need to be talking about toxic masculinity, confronting its harmful influence within ourselves, and striving to be better to those around us. These conversations both with others and within ourselves are necessary, but difficult, as we are compelled to reflect on past actions that have hurt others. Men who refuse to have these dialogues may get defensive and angry when the topic is brought up. This refusal may explain why so many men have lashed out at Gillette’s recent commercial condemning toxic masculinity and urging men to hold each other accountable for their actions. In response, many have pointed out that the commercial brings up valid critiques of behavior that oftentimes is socially acceptable.

However, the debate around the Gillette commercial has sidelined discussion around a concerning topic: the Gillette commercial was, ultimately, an advertisement. Even though the advertisement’s impact on sales cannot be gauged yet, the controversy surrounding it has made the word “Gillette” more commonplace in everyday discussion. Search interest in Gillette reached an all-time high after the video’s release. Some may say that the intent of the message was not primarily to generate sales, but if this were true, then why not release it on behalf of Gillette’s parent company, Proctor and Gamble, instead? That name has much less brand recognition than that of Gillette. Use of a recognizable brand name and a modified version of Gillette’s slogan: “Is this ‘the best a man can get’” exposes Gillette’s financial motives in creating the commercial.

I can already hear the counter-argument as I write: “So what if Gillette had a financial incentive? They are being socially responsible by supporting the #MeToo movement!” Although I could respond by saying that it’s unethical to profit off of social movements, there are still serious issues of power and influence that bubble beneath the surface. We need to ask who is and who should be controlling the conversation surrounding not just toxic masculinity, but social movements in general. It should be people who are fighting against sexual violence, people who are fighting for a $15 an hour wage, people who are fighting against racism in the workplace. It shouldn’t be corporate elites deliberating in a Boston boardroom. If we allow corporations and elites to control the discussion around social movements, we allow them to steal the movements’ soul, to co-opt the movements themselves. If this should occur, movements will be unable to attain their goals because corporations are directly linked to capitalism and the power structures of patriarchy and white supremacy.

If social movements will only be harmed by commercialization, how do we confront and defeat toxic masculinity? Unlike what the Gillette commercial would have you believe, the solution is not individualism. Although this fact does not give us men a carte blanche to ignore our behavior, we must realize that the true solution is to confront the tangible institutions and the elites that perpetuate this economic system and its oppressive power structures. That means we must stand up to Bates for its homogenous admissions practices, to the police when they refuse to investigate sexual violence, and to Gillette for profiting off a movement that was started by and for women of color, 12 years ago.

Acceptance, Not Tolerance

“Political polarization” is often used as shorthand for the worsening state of politics in the United States. It’s simply assumed to be negative in connotation and in real life. Well, it isn’t. Politics is not a race towards bipartisanship; it is about survival and justice, and there are many instances where there is no middle-ground solution. In some matters, it is life or death, freedom or oppression, dignity or dehumanization, and people should be polarized against those who would marginalize them.

This is the state of our politics in 2019, and it is a fact we must live with. We should be polarized about locking Latinx children in cages, starving Yemen, and ruining our last hopes of mitigating climate change. These are not issues with which we can tolerate compromise; they can only go one way or the other.
Of course, polarization is much easier started than finished. Like it or not, we have to live together in the same country with large groups of people who enthusiastically support despicable policies. For some of people—as in those with much less privilege than me—this is an obvious reality. I have not faced any severe discrimination in my life, and far be it from me to claim any struggle that is not my own. Nonetheless, this dilemma has been weighing on me for years: how to live with entire states and populations who seem so diametrically opposed to justice?

The easy answer is anger and resentment, and both reactions are justifiable for many people. The labor of changing this country for the better should not and cannot be placed on the most vulnerable groups of people. Privileged people, like myself, thus need to start actually doing our part. That is where anger and resentment, in my opinion, are not optimum strategies. It is with this privilege that I must lift the voices of marginalized people and confront people within my own communities.

The question still remains as to what I do with such monstrous odds in a time of polarization. Realistically speaking, I can’t get anything done by picking fights with tens of millions of Trump supporters. With this dilemma, I have come up with a sort of guiding philosophy: acceptance that lacks tolerance.
I can only accept that I live in a country so diametrically opposed to what I can consider being justice, and that polarizes me. But polarization is not synonymous with animosity. The result of being diametrically opposed to the President and his surrogates is not antagonism, but activism. When I say I won’t tolerate Trump supporters, that does not mean I will refuse to try to persuade them to my side. Quite the opposite—we need working-class solidarity and the support of people from across the country if we want Medicare for All, affordable college, and green energy solutions.

But it also means that I won’t act as if I can look past their support for the Republican Party and its destructive ideologies. I can accept that they have different political views than me, but I cannot tolerate these differences and will actively work to change them. As an activist, I must work constantly and not compromise on matters that affect the existential and physical safety of marginalized people and the planet itself.

Once again, the burden of this admittedly broad call to action falls upon those of us who don’t have to actively fear for their safety when interacting with polarized parties. And sometimes, some groups cannot be persuaded and won’t be willing to join progressive causes, and those groups need to be defeated. We cannot let a lukewarm principle like “compromise” get in the way of real justice—we have to win.

Big Trio of Wins this Weekend for Women’s Squash

The no. 19 nationally ranked Bates Women’s Squash team has had a roller coaster of a season so far with five losses and five wins. This weekend, Jan. 25-26, was a big one for the Bobcats as they played against Tufts (L 6-3), William Smith (W 7-2), Mount Holyoke (W 8-1) and Amherst (W 5-4). This will be the last set of games before the NESCAC tournament begins on Feb. 8.

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MLK Day 2019: A Quick Review

Just last week, Bates College celebrated the legacy of one of history’s most iconic freedom fighters, Martin Luther King Jr., by giving students a platform to discuss issues involving race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and so much more. For three days I, along with most of the campus community, participated in events that not only reflected on issues marginalized groups dealt with in the past, but also examined how those systems were transformed into laws that restrict and take away people’s rights. More importantly, we also discussed solutions to dismantle these systems of oppression.

One workshop in particular had students imagine a society without prison systems. This workshop emphasized how the original idea for prisons was to protect citizens from “dangerous people.” However, due to American culture being white-washed, we have a very narrow lens for who we see as “dangerous.” Since Black people in the U.S. have been branded with negative stereotypes such as being inhumane or “ghetto” through media and laws, the automatic assumption is that there is always some criminal activity going on in the Black community. Thus, no one questions the mass incarceration of Black people. Not to mention how, because disability is seen as taboo in American culture, people with mental illnesses are thrown into jail instead of receiving the help that they deserve because no one wants to assist them. In short, the workshop highlighted how the prison system is a place to put people who aren’t deemed as socially acceptable. Instead of protecting citizens, we as a society are using prisons to take away the rights of so many innocent individuals. Students then found several alternatives that focused more on rehabilitating those who need it and not just because they don’t fit the status quo.

Now, you can’t talk about MLK Day without talking about Sankofa. Sankofa has always been an amazing addition to MLK Day because it highlights the talent in the people of color community, as well as the companionship they can find in one another. You get to see different styles of dance and hear people singing their hearts out to their favorite celebrities. I think that in a world that is serious most of the time, it’s nice to take a step back and realize the beauty in life. People of color are so much more than their skin tone, or gender, or sexuality. They are also dancers, singers, artists, poets, and orators. They have the ability to reach their goals just like their white counterparts, which is what MLK really wanted to make people see. MLK not only spoke about equity when it came to resources, but also about people bonding over common passions and loving one another for the talent they had to offer.

Overall, MLK Day gave me and many others the opportunity to sit back and realize that we as a society still need to grow. We have overcome so much, but it’s still not enough because people are still being oppressed. But we have the power to change that

Skosh’s Multi-Genre “Shaking the Ghost” Defies Convention

If you are looking for a fun, local, Phish-meets-Dave-Matthews-Band group, than look no further! Meet the band Skosh. Skosh is based in Lewiston/Auburn and has amassed quite a following from Bates students and in the greater Portland and coast areas. So, I jumped at the opportunity to listen to an up-and-coming local band and review their new album “Shaking the Ghost.”

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