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Don’t Be A Bootlicker

By: Sheyenne White

On July 24, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “Another stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people.” Not only is this tweet glaringly ignorant but it comes not long after the U.S exceeded four million Coronavirus cases. Although this tweet may appear innocuous, it’s anything but—as it blatantly disregards the millions of Americans suffering financially amidst the global pandemic. While millions of Americans face poverty, Musk’s wealth has grown $20 billion during the last four months alone (Forbes).

However, Elon Musk’s remarks hardly make him unique, considering he’s just one of the many billionaires that lobby, pressure and dangle donations in front of politicians in order to bring down taxes on the rich yet disparage federal welfare for the working and middle classes. Given the staggering 79% nosedive in billionaire taxes in the last four decades, it is questionable if plutocrats’ entirely predictable declarations on economic issues are even news at all (Institute For Policy Studies). Nonetheless, the jump in the sum total of U.S billionaire wealth from $240 billion in 1990 to nearly $3 trillion today demands further examination as it brings attention to the failure of American capitalism (Americans For Tax Fairness). Simply put, capitalism is dependent upon a foundation of economic subordination rooted in class inequality and social discrimination along the lines of gender, race, and citizenship status.

 The absence of institutional safety nets within American neoliberal financialized capitalism work to exacerbate such wealth disparities. In particular, many state unemployment systems are designed to make it difficult to apply for and receive aid through complicated eligibility requirements. It must be pointed out that every person a program fails to help is a reduction in the cost of that program for the state. Such needless complexity undermines the efficiency of social programs, incentivizes dysfunctionality, and offsets the cost of tax giveaways to the rich. With this in mind, we can no longer allow ourselves to be placated by empty promises of reform from establishment politicians and instead accept that the inadequate welfare infrastructure is intentional. Afterall, capitalism is an elitist political-economic system favored by both mainstream political parties.

A capitalist economy is driven by a free market in which both prices and production are dictated by corporations and private companies in competition with one another. The irony lies in the fact that capitalist innovations are publicly funded but the profits are privatized, making the exploitation of marginalized and vulnerable communities inevitable. Behind the widespread misconception that “immigrants steal American jobs,” is the sad truth that migrant labor is preferred because it coincides with neoliberal business strategies to lower costs and diminish union power. The lack of social mobility afforded by destructive capitalist forces is atrocious to say the least. With this in mind, no one can become a billionaire without exploiting other people’s underpaid or unpaid labor—making capitalism organized crime. 

It is important to note that anti-capitalism perspectives are often uncomfortable and unpleasant for Americans to consider given the capitalist propaganda we have been force fed. Afterall free-market capitalism fuels the notorious but elusive “American dream.” The idea that all Americans are provided the same opportunities for success and upward mobility given they work hard. However, in Corporate America workers are working longer hours for less pay and benefits while CEO salaries and corporate profits soar. Yet the exploitation of the working class has become normalized as many scramble to be in false class solidarity with billionaires in the desperate hopes that they too can accumulate billions. Although we’re told by the ruling and political elite that the American dream is incompatible with federal welfare for the working and middle classes, it’s the contrary. As the connotations of equality and equity behind the American dream clashes with the privatization of wealth.

As a class, billionaires exert an insidious influence on party politics and the economy as their “generous” contributions allow them to mold legislation in their favor. Considering their astute ability to protect their wealth from taxation, the burden of paying for public goods— be it healthcare, education, or housing—is increasingly shouldered by average taxpayers. It’s institutionalized theft. Upon reflection, the billionaire class is a moral abomination and must be abolished. Nonetheless, the hierarchical economic structure of capitalism remains the culprit and therefore we must first change the way our economy is organized. Capitalism derives wealth from a system of labor exploitation and concentrates wealth and power within privileged subsets of the population. The obscene hoarding of wealth in the hands of a few imperils the sanctity of our democracy as we know it. Ultimately, justice will only prevail once the laboring class reclaims the means of production.

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The Mythology of Black Criminality

By: Sheyenne White

The U.S population accounts for less than 5% of the world population but almost 25% of the world prison population. Over the past four decades, incarceration rates have soared and the United States now has the highest prison population in the world, at 716 per 100,000 people. In light of the cries for racial justice around the world, we must re-evaluate the role carcerality plays in perpetuating racial hierarchies.

Carcerality, as a system, is entrenched in a racial framework underpinned by neoliberal capitalism. The expansion of carcerality along the lines of race can be traced back to Nixon’s “War on Drugs” which doubled as a rhetorical war on poor communities of color through an amplification in policing and penalties. It is important to note that the War on Drugs was nothing but a political tool designed to protect Nixon’s fragile presidency amidst a controversial war abroad and a civil rights movement. In fact, Nixon’s former domestic policy advisor admitted, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The Nixon administration’s success in racializing drug dependencies exploded into an era of mass incarceration and brought upon a “tough on crime” wave for the next few presidencies. Republicans and Democrats alike created a political environment driven by fear of crime. Interestingly, Bill Clinton’s infamous Three Strike laws and mandatory minimums proved to be the most destructive in their production of hyperincarceration. Although such policies were paraded to the public as efforts to free communities from crime, they had little to no effect on official crime rates. This leaves many to wonder why politicians across the political spectrum would push for such draconian criminal justice policies. Given the saturated history of racism in this country, it is unsurprising that remnants of systemic and institutional racism pervade both mainstream political parties. Considering the unbridled capitalism and avaricious neoliberalism salient in the United States, racism is guilty of triggering the growth of the private-prison industry.

To say that the privatization of punishment yields financial gain would be a gross understatement, as hyperincarceration generates massive profits for private prison companies. While the private prison industry reaps the lucrative rewards, governmental, communal, and taxpayer resources are being depleted. The for-profit bail bond industry fuels mass incarceration and contributes to racial and economic inequalities. In the United States, millions of people are forced to pay cash bail after their arrest or face incarceration before trial. This flawed system fails to consider that such individuals are presumed innocent and have not been convicted of a crime. In order to avoid imprisonment, people who can not afford bail must pay a non-refundable fee to a for-profit bail bond company. This financial burden disportionately affects BIPOC and low-income communities. The culprits are the large insurance companies who sit atop the two-billion dollar for-profit bail bonds industry, which is both unaccountable to the justice system and unnecessary to justice itself. Although the U.S regards the for-profit bail bonds industry as an inevitable and permanent feature of society, it is quite the contrary. In fact, it is a global anomaly used only in the Philippines and the United States. Considering this, we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent.

However, the destructive forces of capitalism are not excluded to the legal processes that take place before incarceration, as the loophole in the 13th amendment reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. This exception clause can only be seen as an extension of slavery as it strips the humanity of those convicted without taking into account the implicit biases riddled within the justice system. Nearly 900,000 men and women are exploited by a $2 billion a year industry that pays them a few cents an hour in some states, and nothing at all in others. Given that the 13th amendment maintains the practice of slavery, we can no longer regard slavery as an instiution of mere cruelty but the driver of broader American prosperity. Simply put, racism and slavery may only come to an end upon the destruction of the political-economic system of capitalism.

Nonetheless, many disparage mass incarceration as a byproduct of Black criminality and therefore justify their dismissal of the other injustices at play within American carcerality. Along these lines, the notorious Black-on-Black crime fallacy is used to derail conversation. Although this is a tired and banal argument, it’s pernicious in its fabrication of Black criminality. A mythology that marginalizes and de-victimizes the Black community. After all, the Black community is subjugated by the very systems in place sworn to protect them. The carceral state  perpetuates racialized violence and therefore, must be abolished.

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The Reconfiguration of the Presidency

By: Sheyenne White

During the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump was quick to hold up the Washington Post with the screaming headline, “Trump Acquitted.”  His look of haughty disdain was insatiable to surrounding photographers and thus, this image infiltrated news outlets everywhere.

The event encapsulated the hyper partisan politics that have been at play through the entirety of the Impeachment proceedings, revealing the polarity of our country and leaving many of us to wonder what the future of American politics holds. Under the current administration, party divisions within our Congressional branch have instilled a distrust among Americans. America’s hope in political institutions has dwindled as a direct result of this politicization of our legislative process. Simply put, the heightened polarization has had profound effects on the electorate, leading many to observe the whirlwind of Trump’s Impeachment in a narrowly confined partisan manner. Along these lines, the House Impeachment charges and the Senate’s acquittal have both been stripped of their credibility and deemed performance politics by both ends of the political spectrum.

In the aftermath of the Senate absolution, Trump took a boldly unprecedented victory lap that demonstrated a stark shift in Presidential conduct and behavior. While former President Bill Clinton was “humbled” by his conviction of Impeachment, Trump was quick to denounce political adversaries and declare the Impeachment hearings to be a “disgrace.” Whereas Clinton emphasized to the “American people how profoundly sorry [he] was,” Trump apologized to his family for having to undergo the supposedly “phony, rotten deal by some very evil and sick people.” Additionally, Clinton acknowledged the “great burden [he] imposed on Congress,” and the “constitutional responsibility [of Congress] bringing the process to a conclusion.”  

The President’s retribution began with Mitt Romney, the only Republican Senator to vote to convict him on abuse of power. Trump and members of his family were quick to lash out, calling for his expulsion from the Republican party. This seemingly pugilistic approach was not excluded to mere public commentary, as Trump fired aides he deemed were disloyal, particularly two high-profile Impeachment witnesses. Trump’s harbored resentment was directed towards Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (a Ukraine expert from the National Security Council) and Gordan Sondland (an ambassador to the European Union). This political retaliation mirrors the etiquette of authoritarian regimes as Trump’s actions promote and prioritize party loyalty over the sanctity of justice.

Although Trump’s campaign rests on the foundation of small government, his words and actions suggest the contrary. This is exhibited by his recent statement claiming that he is the “Chief law enforcement officer” of America. Under this guise, he unabashedly took to Twitter to publicly intervene on behalf of his friend, Roger Stone in his pending legal case. He deemed his original sentence recommendation a “miscarriage of justice” and exerted pressure on the Justice Department to reduce it. Attorney General William Barr was quick to comply with the President’s request and weaponized the Justice Department in order to demand a lighter sentence. Despite Barr’s complicity in this gross display of political interference, it has created tension between himself and the President. Therefore, entangling two spheres of government that were intended to be independent of each other. 

While many presidents, Democratic and Republican alike, have pushed the limits of their constitutional authority in order to appease their party platforms, Trump seems to be solely operating on the basis of self-interest. His recent pardon palooza of eleven high-profile white collar criminals and insertion in the judicial process can only be interpreted as autocratic.

By arguing that “This [impeachment] should never ever happen to another president ever,” Trump suggests the executive branch does not lie within the scope of the legislative branch and should not be subject to congressional oversight. Considering this, Trump’s acquittal can only be an indication of an expansion of executive power that will reshape presidencies for decades to come. Following this extraordinarily precarious augmentation, it is imperative to remember that unchecked executive power poses a threat to our democracy by disrupting the Framers’ carefully designed system of checks and balances.

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Women’s Insatiable Ambiguity

By: Sheyenne White

Women are often given very little freedom to devote themselves to authenticity. Considering this, what exactly defines a woman?

Is it her beauty? The way her eyes light up when she is talking about something that either fascinates or infuriates her. The way her smile transforms into a laugh when she cannot stifle her joy. The soft skin and curves that adhere to the artifice that plagues society.

Is it her scars? The marks that linger on her skin that beg for their stories to be told. The freckles from hazy days spent under the eye of the sun. The stretch marks that adorn her body and glitter in the sunlight.

Is it her intellect? The paradox of her loud mind and controlled demeanor. The bursting enthusiasm that refuses to be contained. The fortress around her mind that implores to be treasured. The thoughts that make up the fabric of her soul.

Is it her dignity? Her careful composure. Her unwavering confidence. Her disregard of propriety. Her unbending principles. 

Is it her empathy? The beautiful acts of compassion that reveal her character. The kindness that is firmly tethered to her consciousness. 

Is it her sex? Women are not confined by something as trivial as their biological anatomy. Being a woman is more than possessing female genitalia.

Is it her resilience? Her quiet strength behind her vulnerability. Her stubbornness to carry on despite doubts. Her ability to overcome the unexpected.

Is it her femininity? Her triumph over the assumption of weakness. Her refusal to believe in the incompatibility of femininity and intelligence. Her evolution of the word itself.

Is it her ambition? The ruthless pursuit. The unapologetic tenacity. The passion that fuels her drive. The steadfast conviction that paves her path into the possibilities of the unknown. 

A woman is all of these things and none of these things. Womanhood transcends the banality and conventional parameters of language. Rather the composition of a woman is boundless. Womanhood is ineffable. 

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Electability

By: Sheyenne White

In a society saturated with the remnants of prejudice, women are still fighting for a seat at the table. Under the current administration, women have been subjected to the normalization of misogyny; with many arguing that Feminism is an archaic ideology of the past, instead of a diagnostic tool of the present. For too long have women been dismissed, forgotten, and ignored; constraints that have kept women misrepresented, marginalized, and meek. Throughout history, passivity and powerlessness have gone hand in hand, but Feminism has given the voiceless a voice. 

The movement of Feminism was instrumental in the 2018 midterms, helping women shatter historic glass ceilings; bringing a surge of women into state offices, congressional seats, and positions of authority. The afterglow of the 2018 midterms positioned 2019 as the “year of the woman.” This progressive mindset only intensified following the  record breaking female announcements of the 2020 electoral cycle— Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), and Mariane Williamson — appearing for a moment, that the future might, in fact, be female. But that moment has proven to be fleeting.

 Recent pollings exemplify the disparaging effects of sexism onto the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates as Democratic voters have prioritized the elusive notion of “electability.”  A feat that holds implications of familiarity and precedence, making the path to political success for traditional White men much easier than for their female counterparts. Simply put, women aren’t being judged necessarily on their qualifications but perceptions of their authenticity.

Elizabeth Warren, now a leader in the polls, had accusations of artifice thrown at her in her very first week as a presidential candidate. During a social media livestream video, the Massachusetts Senator paused mid-sentence to declare, “I’m gonna get me a beer.” While this declaration may seem inconsequential, she faced backlash across the country, condemning her of inauthenticity. Since then, her campaign has had to exert additional attention to her bona fides.

In addition, the inherent sexist stereotypes and stigmas, the culprit behind misogny’s endurance, are critical in creating resistance to women’s leadership. This is displayed through the differing standards of likability women in positions of leadership and influence are held to. On the debate stage, female candidates are scrutinized for trivial qualities that men are not: such as, their tone of voice, clothing choices, and physical attractiveness. However, these petty qualities seem inconsequential to the disastrous effects ambition, confidence, and assertiveness can have for women. 

Considering that our country has not had a woman president, it is pertinent to reexamine Hilary Clinton and her role as the only existing archetype. Clinton was a woman plagued with criticism, infamous for her cold, stiff, and emotionless exterior. This very persona profoundly contributed to her loss in 2016, implying gender may be more salient than one’s qualifications. This only continues to undermine female presidential candidates’ potential for advancement in the 2020 primaries, revealing electability to be thinly veiled sexism.

 Electing women does not mean belittling or emasculating men; rather it demands that women be judged for their strengths and capabilities as human beings, not the strengths and capabilities assumed of their gender. The fact that a woman has not won does not mean a woman cannot; contrary to popular belief, presidencies have no gender.