Now that I’ve started this blog, I guess I should tell you all a little about myself. I’m a senior at the University of Florida studying anthropology, spanish, and latin american studies. I’m currently studying abroad in Valencia, Spain, and when I get back to the states in May I’ll start my thesis on global economic structures and labor rights in Latin America. I plan to get my masters in Human Rights Studies once I graduate this December. I have a soft spot for stray animals (not always appreciated by my family or my wonderful boyfriend, but they humor me), books, and canceling plans to watch Netflix with my cat.
I’m a white cis female and I am aware of the privilege that comes with that. I was born into a middle-class family living in a safe part of town with access to almost unlimited resources. My parents are two of the most intelligent, thoroughly good people I know. I have never experienced true adversity or been the victim of structural violence. Being female of course brings a certain set of disadvantages (e.g. being groped, dismissed, and otherwise harassed), but considering that I am otherwise extremely privileged I don’t feel that I have been held back.
I am particularly interested in structural violence and mental health issues. Though I have never been victimized I have struggled with mental illness my entire life, which I attribute to faulty wiring and a (perhaps unfortunate) awareness that that the world is really messed up. I have been diagnosed with OCD (resolved), generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks, chronic depression, insomnia, and inattentive-type ADHD (that face you’re making is the same one my therapists make). I firmly believe that medication and family support have saved my life. Had I not grown up under the circumstances I did, with parents who loved me enough to get me help when I needed it and supported and empowered me endlessly, who could afford to get me treatment and had the luxury of time to spend supporting me, and had I not been given the best education possible, I would not be here today.
This is why I am so devoted to structural issues. I understand that my own success is almost entirely due my location in a highly discriminatory, corrupt structure, and as such I see the influence of structure on every aspect of our lives. I intend to spend the rest of my life using logic and compassion to dismantle discriminatory structures. I also know that there is no way for me to possibly understand the experiences and subjectivities of others without being told. So please tell me. I vow to use my whole heart and mind to challenge discrimination wherever I see it, but first I must be able to see it. Help me see the world for what it is, shatter my rose colored glasses, I do not want them.
I am so pissed off about this right now. Like, furious. This is supposed to be a nation of opportunities yet WHERE are the opportunities for POC??? #structuralviolence #injustice #fuckingbullshit #weneedarevolution
The strangest thing I found about Uganda was the silent lightening. There was no sound of thunder or rain, only the flashes of light falling down to the ground. Many people do die from these lightening strikes. Sudden, silent deaths by violent flashes of light.
But these people suffer from other forms of silent violence.
The corruption within their government is repulsive and blatant in front of the whole global community. The government denies them basic health services because they are too interested in the profit of selling the supplies. The police rarely achieve justice as the party that can give them the highest bide wins the case. Silent acts of violence striking these people at any moment is a common part of their lives. They have accepted it, so they go on with their lives inflicted with this injustice. The acceptance and commonality of this violence makes it silent and goes unnotice. Yet, this is what makes this violence so dangerous and ever present.
“The gap between aspiration and reality could hardly be wider. Today, the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity. This is especially tragic: While Americans may differ on the desirability of equality of outcomes, there is near-universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible. The Pew Research Center has found that some 90 percent of Americans believe that the government should do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity.“
why i don't support charity: the case of the laminated negro child.
Rant of the week # 2: Charity (and the case of the laminated negro child)
1) the problem: Skinny NGOnick with shabby beard and bad posture corners me by my house door. “what are you selling?”, i ask. “oh i am not selling anything” he says, “i am here to save children”. I don’t condone violence, so a full-fledged punch in the face would have been over the top. But perhaps a light slap was in order. Or a light kick in the shin. I did nothing. Shaggy’s on a roll, and he shoves a laminated picture in my hand: a sickly, photogenic, undernourished negro child. Here we go, i think, but i still say nothing. he repeats the sales pitch: “i am here to save children. Do YOU like children?” tough one. I can only mumble a half retort: “well if you phrase it like this, you make us sound like horrible people when we tell you we’re not interested”. The rest is kind of blur. He left. Then it’s like an imaginary girlfriend rescue scenario, or the ten years we spend replaying how we could have faced the bullies in grade school. What i could have said:
2) what it really is: Charity is the ultimate form of sugar-coated violence. Which is what makes it so violent. It is THE most convenient and perverse way to legitimize oppressive class systems and global inequalities. the rich dump their junk on the poor and expiate their guilt, and the poor can be oh-so-thankful to have pittance junk dumped on them (without any systemic changes ever addressing the conditions that produce and maintain poverty, that is). At best, the mediocre get to feel rich and grand by surrendering a pittance to the idea of a—never explained—vulnerable other who needs them. It’s usually a sickly negro child on a laminated photo. You get to keep it and put it on your fridge. It makes you look awesome, and the black skin and red earth on the photo go really well with your new, warmer kitchen redecoration project. And now that we feel awesome about helping the poor, we never have to think about what collective responsibility actually entails. Hey! We’ve done our part.
3) you want to help the (idea of the) sickly african child? You could really go out of your way to “help”. Like use your globally scavenged free time and disposable cash to go to Africa. But wait. Please don’t go to Africa to teach and preach. Don’t just sacrifice your white ass for three months of “adventure” and “hardship” and expect the sickly little negros in the mud classroom that will become your Facebook background photo to be oh-so-thankful for your superior knowledge and the good news about your friend Jesus Christ. Don’t write a blog about it, and don’t write a fucking book about your three months saving the negros. You could go out there and learn. Or you could really help. You could wash clothes and dishes for a family, or walk 10k per day to get water for them. Wait….water got privatized?….shit…ok. So the well scenario with people in colourful robes was from an old national geographic volume. Ok, so once you’ve really made friends, and once they have told you they can’t afford the dialysis for their father because all the hospitals are private, then yes, maybe dip into your globally scavenged savings and pay for it yourself. Why not. But you’re not helping on any kind of systemic level, are you? You could go sabotage the Canadian gold mine or the British sugar plant that are exploiting workers and dumping toxic waste without paying any taxes in your photogenic country of choice. But once you’ve gotten arrested, extradited to your gated-community-country, once your youtube video has gone viral, you’ve been all over the news, and your are being hailed as a humanitarian hero and given a book deal, your brown friends who did all the sabotage work for you are being held without trial somewhere, and others have been killed. You get even more cachet from your public show of mourning your “friends”. You might have chickened out of the sabotage plan and tried to get your mine-worker “friends” to unionize or strike, and the same thing will have happened. You will have your viral youtube video and your book deal, and your friends will be in prison or dead. So don’t do that. Now it gets really complicated and postmodern. You can lobby your government so they lobby their lobbyists to lobby their transnational CEOs to actually pay taxes and fair wages in Africa. But that doesn’t even begin to address the issue does it? Should it be up to CEOs and TNCs to “save” Africa by only marginally (infinitesimally, really) reducing their profit? No. You could certainly lobby your government to stop endorsing corporately sponsored dictators, or to stop the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror”…..or to close Guanatamo Bay. You could also get your local Walmart to unionize and shut down. Or stop shopping at walmart. Or buy local and union only. How does buying local help “developing” nations? You don’t think there is a connection? What’s the point if it’s only you and few goateed rich hippies doing it anyway? And don’t most unions have such bad collective agreements they might as well work for HR? Ok. maybe “sponsor” that child and put his picture on your fridge. You are a good person.
May I tell you something that really bothers me.
The news about Ebola.
Coming home I see on the news all about this Ebola outbreak in western Africa that has killed about 1,000 people. This a terrible outbreak , and all the world is absorbed in it, I know. But where has all this attention been for the tuberculosis epidemic in the past decades? The HIV epidemic, the malaria epidemic?
Tuberculosis has killed millions of people over many years, and is becoming worse as new strains emerge that are resistant to the drugs we have to treat it. This is not another disease that Americans can watch from afar and say, ‘oh no that’s terrible.’ This epidemic is happening in Harlem. But you wouldn’t know that because the news has little interest in that kind of story.
Why is it of little interest you ask? Because it affects those that are inflicted with poverty.
Let’s be honest, no one is really interested in the problems of those with little income. This is incredibly evident in the policies of the very companies meant to make drugs to cure this disease. Pharmaceutical companies call drugs that treat tuberculosis 'orphan drugs’. 'Orphan drugs’ are drugs that are meant to treat rare diseases that affect only a small portion of a population. But tuberculosis drugs are needed by millions of people internationally. These drugs are 'orphan drugs’ because they don’t make a massive profit as making a drug like viagra.
Do you see the problem?
This disease is becoming worse due to structural violence. Funding for tuberculosis treatment in Harlem was reduced causing the availability for treatment to deminish. Consequently, the spread of the disease has increases. But only among those living in poverty, so who cares right?
The DOTS program run by the World Health Organization was meant to help fight the spread of the disease. However, the program does not check for drug resistance tuberculosis. So, people that already had the disease and relapse are given the same drugs as the first time. So these patients don’t take the pills because they are not improving since their tuberculosis is resistant. Consequently they are deemed by the DOTS program as uncooperative. But really the DOTS program was treating them ineffectively.
Ebola is not curable and needs a vaccine to prevent this type of crisis, that is also important.
But tuberculosis is completely curable. Yet, the global community turns a blind eye to the millions of deaths by this disease.
My friend, do you see the problem, do you understand the injustice?