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The state of this nation is intertwined with the state of unions. Societal progress is won and lost by the unions of America. As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in an address to the Illinois American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), “The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.”
The fields of medicine and science are not immune to the manipulation of prejudice. Etched into our American history are medical practices targeting certain groups under the guise of scientific justification. Without a wholesale rejection of empiricism, there must be an acknowledgement of the reality that implicit and explicit biases can drive scientific conclusions to legitimize horrific acts of degradation, dehumanization and social harm.
Her hijab was ripped from her head, torn from her and thrown to the ground. Her beliefs were the target of the attack, and her body and faith were the victims as she was beaten. Police have stated that a Muslim East Brunswick High School student was the victim of a biased attack and the assailant, another student, has been charged with “simple assault, harassment, cyber harassment and disorderly conduct.”
The economic reality of the common American family today is one of financial instability. One layoff and the house is foreclosed. One mistake and the chain of debt shackled to your ankle pulls you into the abyss. One misstep and you find yourself in a free fall. For the high school student working to help his family eat, the scholar with unemployed parents, the youth with parents who immigrated here and never attended college, the kid who feels walled in by familial debt, higher education seems like a remote, distant dream. But this nation must not allow this dream to be deferred.
The United States was not built on freedom and democracy for all, but rather a foundation of democratic values hinged on the ability to adapt and change. Throughout its history, America has amended its constitution and shifted its political direction to move toward the fulfillment of its commitment to freedom and democracy, and it is time to shift once more.
After leaving his village in Colonial America, Rip Van Winkle wandered up into the Catskill Mountains. Fatigued from his climb, he sits down to rest and fell into a long slumber. Rip awoke to a new world 20 years later. The longevity of his sleep has become the most memorable element in Washington Irving’s classic fable. Few readers recall a small but significant detail that is often overlooked and forgotten.
On Wednesday, April 3, hundreds gathered in West Windsor, New Jersey to mourn the death of Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old from Robbinsville, New Jersey who was kidnapped and killed in South Carolina after she had gotten into a car she had thought was her Uber. Her years left unlived were stolen, but her legacy remains in the lives she touched and the policies now proposed to make it harder for such tragedies to happen again.
For decades, they knew and did nothing. They did nothing and watched as cancer rates rose and lives were torn apart. Since the 1970s, a facility of the chemical giant DuPont polluted the groundwater of the Pompton Lakes area. The contamination seeped into both the soil and the lives of New Jerseyans as hundreds of households sat on top of an underground plume of toxic chemicals.
The tenure of President Donald J. Trump administration’s Department of Education has been marked by sporadic flurries of negative news coverage and national scrutiny. From Senate confirmation hearings to over two years in the position, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has represented the worst of corporate capitalism and its undemocratic, un-American crusade against public education.
A national reckoning, an awakening of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our exceptionalist image and an end to an America that ignores not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present: We must have a debate on reparations.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Justice Department began the prosecutorial process of the largest college cheating scheme in department history. Fifty people were charged nationwide with cheating on college admissions exams and securing admission to elite colleges through bribery and conspiracy. This is by no means simply a case of a few bad apples, but rather it is a glimpse into the veiled rotting of a broken ecosystem of inequality, bribery and disillusion.
A new day was meant to dawn. But the apparent rising sun of progress and reform seems more and more to be only a mirage of a society lost in a desert without the free-flowing waters of justice. We passed the First Step Act at the end of last year, a historic criminal justice reform bill meant to unleash the tides of change that was, in light of its namesake, the first step in addressing the inequality and injustices of our nation’s criminal justice system.
Anti-Semitism continues to bloom in the fertile soil of bigotry and hate as the long and ugly history of Jews in Diaspora winds into the hate of contemporary times. There cannot be a denial of the Jewish people’s oppressed and persecuted history, just as there cannot be a dismissal of the continued attacks and demonization of the Jewish people. America was not immune to Nazism, this nation is not invulnerable to intolerance and there needs to be discourse on the widespread hate, xenophobia and racism from the representative leadership of this nation to the people.
Brinksmanship over taxes and the state budget brought New Jersey within inches of a state government shutdown last year. Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), after winning a decisive victory on a progressive platform, looked to fulfill his campaign promise of raising the marginal tax rate on those who make $1 million in a year.
An eruption of applause and cheers from conservative activists, clad in “Make America Great Again” merchandise, followed President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that he will make federal funding for universities conditional on their support of freedom of speech. No further announcements or policy outlines have been publicly released after Trump said that he “will be signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars” at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
In 1982, the Supreme ruled in Plyler v. Doe that states did not have a compelling interest to deny access to kindergarten through 12th-grade public education on the basis of immigration status, and required states to extend the provision of public education to all students.
While hard-fought progress has been made for gender equality in America, institutionalized practices continue to hinder women in the workforce. The ordained ability to give birth has received patriarchal condemnation for the burden it places on companies. We have turned our backs on those who provide our future. We have stolen opportunity from those who give us the next generation. In the name of efficiency and profits, women face scrutiny in hiring for their potential to have maternity leave in the future, and if hired, they are neglected by society and government in the event that they require a leave of absence.
The era of indifference, of procrastination, of dense denial and soothing silence is coming to a close. We now find ourselves at the border of consequences, entering the era in which we reach the point of no return. The State Senate has proposed to amend our constitution to “recognize and protect an individual’s rights to clean air and water, and a healthy environment as inalienable human rights deserving of the highest constitutional and legal protection.”
Between the stars and stripes, swastikas hung heavily in front of thousands of saluting Americans. We want to remember ourselves as always being on the side of good in the fight against the evils of fascism that pulled the world into war, but this nation too witnessed the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.
Access to information and knowledge is the liberating force that enlightens and fuels the democratic energies of society. As Thomas Jefferson said, "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." But for democracy to breathe, the current stranglehold on academic information must be dismantled.