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In both life and death, American society is desperately disparate. There are multiple factors that drive inequality, but the inescapable crux is that those who live ensnared by a society that impairs, injures and undermines will also drown in that same disparity. The guarantee of an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is hollowed by its unequal distribution as Black women and babies are dying at an alarmingly harrowing rate.
Reflecting the strained reality of America, on Friday, tense videos of a white teen wearing a Make America Great Again hat, staring at an older Native American man singing and playing a drum at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. saturated social media. The complicated conflict shown in the video depicting the crowd of students from Covington Catholic High School surrounding the man who was later identified as Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Vietnam War veteran there for the Indigenous Peoples March, has only grown more uncertain.
Policy differences have formed a seemingly insurmountable wedge locking the rusted democratic cogs of governance in place as the populace bears the brunt of the government shutdown. Bleeding in to day 33, the longest government shutdown has left open wounds across the nation, while also revealing the problematic realities of many Americans.
We must bear witness to the hollowing of his prophetic words of liberation. The regressive sanitation of his messages emerge in the speech of those whose actions diminish the progress of the past and obstruct change today. The legacy of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. has been distorted to further antithesis goals of hate, injustice and inequality.
Politicians, economists and political pundits have touted the fall of joblessness and the growth of economic stability as the nation continues to recover from the Great Recession. While the used statistics and anecdotes depict an economy resuscitated and growing, the deep wounds of debt and economic immobility stretch across the country.
The partisan practice of manipulating district lines is an undemocratic crack in the foundation of America since the nation was first formed. From the rotten boroughs in England, to Patrick Henry attempting to gerrymander James Madison out of Virginia, to the cracking and packing of 2010, redistricting is one of the oldest continued abuses of power in our democratic experiment.
Born in this nation of promise and progress, civic and political power are inalienable birthrights that require provision and nurturing. Yet they are placed in the hands of some and beyond reach for others. Institutions of learning are designed to be the grand guardians of democracy, wielding education as a great leveler of inequities. They function as ladders descending down to those born into circumstances beyond their control, ready for their ascension. Yet “our education system routinely fails urban, rural, low-income and minority students,” according to The Civic Mission of Schools.
On the night of Jan. 23, 2018, networks of organizations and members of various communities took to the streets of New Jersey with Monarch Housing Associates to conduct the 2018 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of homeless men, women and children across the state’s 21 counties. The 2018 report counted 9,303 homeless people on that night, which was a 9 percent increase from the 2017 report. This increase was smaller than the reported increase from 2016 to 2017, which was 20 percent, but still undeniably disheartening.
Unauthorized immigration in to the United States peaked in 2007. A decade ago, the total number of unauthorized immigrants hit its precipice and then declined, continuing to fall for the next 10 years. The drop in illegal immigration to the lowest level it has been since 2004 is connected to the large decrease of 1.5 million people in the number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants from 2007 to 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. The reality of immigration is felt in New Jersey, which has one of the highest undocumented immigrant populations in the country.
On Jan. 1, 2019, New Jersey’s minimum wage will increase. While the increase is by no means the act of state legislators or Gov. Phil Murphy (D) upholding his campaign promise, it is the result of New Jersey’s constitution, which requires the state’s minimum wage to be adjusted to consumer price index data. The minimum wage ought to be raised as the prices of goods and services increase, but it must also be set at a livable rate that is reflective of the realities of the economy.
The Rutgers community is full of kind and caring people, and for specifically the past two years it has shown those qualities by donating for Giving Tuesday. Each year, Giving Tuesday takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and this year’s focus was on Rutgers’ student food pantries. On the New Brunswick campus, the student food pantry is located at 39 Union St. It opened in 2016, and is stocked by way of donations from organizations like Rutgers Against Hunger, Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services, as well as private donations. While many students will go through all four years at Rutgers without even thinking about utilizing the University’s food pantry, hunger and lack of access to nutritious foods affects more members of our community than one might think.
Same usage rates, but different enforcement. The racial targeting in the policing of cannabis use has resulted in Black New Jerseyans being arrested at a rate three times higher than whites between 2000 and 2013, according to an ACLU-NJ report.
Many major complaints that Rutgers students have seem to stem from administrative insufficiencies, where attempting to solve problems with financial aid, parking, scheduling and other related issues are much more difficult than they ideally should be. Students often run around looking for the right office or the right person to help them. But there is hope, because relatively soon the University will be implementing a “One-Stop Center” where the aforementioned, highly sought-after offices and people will be located. Offices will possibly begin to open on location by this coming summer, though the entire Center will not be complete
Rutgers has found that James Livingston, a professor in the Department of History, did not violate the University's Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment, following University President Robert L. Barchi calling on the Office of Employment Equity (OEE) to re-examine its original findings, according to The Daily Targum.
It can go without saying that the United States has a serious gun-violence issue. Every year more than 36,000 people are killed by gunshots in this country, which makes gun violence one of the leading causes of death.
A recent Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) Town Hall was focused on sexual violence and education. Four panelists, who are leaders in Rutgers’ sexual violence education and support community, were brought in to discuss the issues on how to mitigate the occurrence of sexual assault. Brady Root, the prevention education coordinator at the Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, said in an interview with The Daily Targum that the ultimate goal of her office is to eradicate sexual violence before it occurs.
While countries around the globe have moved toward authoritarianism and the trend of democracy continues to decline, it would be naïve to neglect America’s role and the inches it has moved, as well. According to Freedom House, the suppression of journalists and independent news media is at its worst point in 13 years. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that the number of journalists imprisoned for their work is at its highest level since the 1990s. Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index in April, which ranks 180 countries from highest to lowest levels of press freedom. The United States fell in ranking, as it did last year.
One of the less immediately tangible but heartening things that came out of Tuesday’s midterm elections was the fact that more than 60 percent of Floridians voted “yes” on Amendment 4, which will restore voting rights to citizens that have been convicted of felonies other than murder or sexual offenses after having served their sentences. That means that approximately 1.5 million voters will be added to Florida’s electorate, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of Florida’s adult population — something that may very well change the future political landscape of the state, considering its often very close voting outcomes.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Since his 2016 presidential campaign, President Donald J. Trump and his constituents have seemingly used fear as an effective tool to persuade voters. Anti-immigration rhetoric, and arguably propaganda, have been used to fabricate an irrational fear of a non-existent danger. The bolstering of the perceived danger of immigrants and foreigners has been preyed upon most recently in an advertisement put out late last week by the Trump campaign, which attempted to conflate a convicted murderer, the “caravan” of Central American migrants walking toward the United States and the Democratic Party.