Tag Archives: social justice

Women in Office = Better Healthcare for Women

By now, every Republican-led move related to women’s health feels like a legislative subtweet directed at feminism and the female body—perhaps a thinly-veiled backlash to the perceived threat on male supremacy, or just a muscle-flexing reminder of the gendered power dynamic behind healthcare policy. (See, for instance, the all-male contingent reveling in the House’s passage of the American Health Care Act, and the Senate’s unveiling of its new healthcare working group of 13 white men.)

In theory, political representation shouldn’t determine political priority: Our elected officials should represent the interests of their constituents regardless of gender. But in reality, the gender of our public servants sets the women’s health agenda, and in the US, men control a filibuster-proof majority.

Full article on VICE

Why Weed Decriminalization Alone Won’t Fix Racist Drug Enforcement

Hidden amid the smoke clouds of last week’s National Weed Day was a decision by the city of Atlanta to put off a vote on marijuana decriminalization. Ordinarily, local legislative procedures wouldn’t warrant much attention, but for a city once at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, the issue has become a proxy for a broader debate about racist policing and the measures needed to change it.

The policy debate started three months ago, when two plainclothes Atlanta policemen smelled marijuana coming from the car of a young Black man named Deaundre Phillips. As documented on surveillance video, the cops proceeded to shoot and kill Deaundre on the spot, etching his name in local headlines and hashtags. Since then, activists have pressured the city’s lawmakers to soften penalties for recreational marijuana, hoping decriminalization would lower unnecessarily violent encounters with police.

Today (April 25) Atlanta’s Public Safety Committee is meeting to discuss the ordinance, setting up another possible City Council vote in the coming weeks. But in a city where more than nine in 10 marijuana arrests are of Black people—among the highest rates in the country—marijuana’s criminality (or lack thereof) may not be enough to fix racist policing.

Full article on Colorlines

Is This the End of Solitary Confinement?

Not that facts matter anymore, but back when they used to, they had a remarkable ability to drive policy change during public health emergencies, even among unpopular groups of patients. Look no further than famous fact-denier Mike Pence, whose solution of “praying the virus away” was failing to control an HIV outbreak among heroin users in Indiana. Eventually swayed by studies showing that distributing clean needles was the most effective infection-prevention policy, Governor Pence begrudgingly bowed to the altar of fact and lifted the state’s ban on needle-exchange programs, slowing the HIV crisis.

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon (or epidemiologist, as it were) to see how acting on basic public health knowledge can go a long way in keeping society healthy, even the parts of society we tend to cast aside. It’s no surprise then that our failure to act on the facts around solitary confinement has led to a mental health epidemic that reaches well beyond the prison walls. This is the central focus of VICE’s ongoing project streaming live from a solitary cell.

In the US today, there are nearly 100,000 inmates in solitary confinement, where they spend all but an hour a day in a six-by-nine-foot cell, in total isolation. While some solitary sentences—determined not by a court, but by a jury of one’s guards—could last a few days, many continue for years, and almost all produce an inmate in worse psychological condition than when he entered. Since most prisoners will eventually walk free, the current use of solitary has yielded a breeding ground for mental illness that affects millions of Americans.

Full article on VICE/Tonic

Reparations Require Identifying Slavery’s Victims First

Georgetown University recently acknowledged its historical role in slavery, offering preferential admissions status to descendants of 272 slaves it sold in 1838. Along with other measures, Georgetown updated its admissions policy to give the same advantage to the slaves’ descendants as it grants alumni, faculty and other “members of the Georgetown community.” While it is one of many U.S. institutions that was built and funded — at least in part — on the kidnapping, forced labor and sale of Black men and women, according to Richard Cellini, the Georgetown alumnus who spearheaded an independent search for the descendants, the school is one of the first to explore reconciliation beyond nominal changes and lip service.

The move highlights a critical need in bids to address reparations: As America grapples with whether and how to pay, this approach overlooks the fraught but essential process of identifying the unnamed victims and piecing together the family histories of millions of Black Americans living with and, in some cases, still suffering from the legacy of the country’s early sin.

Full article on Ozy 

The lingering stain after the flags come down

If you walk around campus at Washington and Lee University, my alma mater, you’ll see everything you’d expect from an elite liberal arts college in rural America: idyllic red brick buildings juxtaposed against a perfectly manicured green lawn, a mostly white student body exchanging laughs as they happily mingle on school grounds, a mix of old and nascent intellectuals debating the merits of “cultural relativity” in an interventionalist world. That is, until you stumble into Lee Chapel, the eponymous lecture hall, once a burial site, that honors the great Southern general and former school president, to find its walls bearing those pale stains that signal the fresh absence of a long-hanging piece of wall art.

Though not literal, these stains represent the Confederate battle flags removed two years ago this week by the university after decades lining its most cherished building. Installed four score and six years ago (just one year off from the ultimate irony), the flags proudly flew until the university’s president, Kenneth Ruscio, ordered them to be taken down despite widespread resistance from alumni, students and other groups. This bold move preempted the wave of Confederate flag controversy that has since confronted hundreds of Southern institutions, many of which share Washington and Lee’s nominal affiliation with Robert E. Lee.

But whether or not the flags are waving, Washington and Lee remains unwavering in its commitment to its latter namesake.

Full article on Washington Post

After the “Summer of Trans,” Is It Time for T to Break Away from LGB?

Seasons are, by their nature, transient  —  short-lived shifts in climate and lifestyle choices that rarely transform into something more important than their three-month transference of solar energy. But this past season was different; this summer  —  which ended on Monday  —  will be less known for its transience than its trans-ness. Yes, the summer of 2015 may henceforth be known as the Summer of Trans, culminating perfectly (as if on cue) with Sunday’s Emmy Awards and the triumph of Transparent — an Amazon series about a Los Angeles family’s hilarious and tumultuous experience with the gender transition of its p(m)atriarch.

Looking back, our societal transition toward greater acceptance of the trans community was not without foreshadowing. The summer began with Rochel Dolezal’s troubled attempt to identify as transracial, continued with President Obama’s equally troubled attempt to broker the Trans-Pacific Partnership and was dotted with countless other trans-moments — from this week’s revealing study about the human toll of trans-fat to the ongoing crisis affecting trans-continental Syrian refugees. But of course the only T word that will transcend this short-lived season is transgender, thanks to the very public transition of Caitlyn Jenner, whose emergence as a woman has propelled the term into the forefront of our national conscience.

Full article on Huffington Post

The Peaks Unclimbed: Former President Joyce Banda on the Unmet Goals for Girls and Women

Well, we made it. We’ve reached 2015. The countdown to the most monumental milestone in the history of international development has reached its final stretch as the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals quickly approaches. There has been no greater force of good in the fight against poverty and disease than the MDGs, having improved the lives of billions of people (yes, with a “b”) in one fell swoop of eight goals, thousands of committed partners and communities and billions of dollars in support.

But if the MDGs are Mount Everest, we’re currently sitting on a plateau somewhere halfway up: Progress is as undeniable as it is unprecedented, yet most of the goals remain unfulfilled. We are the climbers alternating glances at the outstanding summits and the path ascended. And as tempting as it may be marvel at how far we’ve climbed, Forbes’ Most Powerful Woman in Africa in 2014 believes that we will be judged by the peaks we couldn’t reach, and the millions of girls and women hanging in the balance.

“We’ve reached 2015 and it’s clear that great progress is being made,” former President of Malawi Joyce Banda recently told me (in a rare and eminently generous conversation). “But when we take stock of the MDGs, we will find that we’ve come up short for our girls and women.”

Full article on Huffington Post