The Game

Dylan Benitez

Round 1

Someone who is dead now once asked my mom, “Why do they even want to come here?” “Here” meant America, and “they” meant immigrants, specifically Mexican immigrants.

The answer is simple, and is our introduction to the game. Why do people come to America?

You can answer this by adding any of America’s usual litany of suffixes. America: land of the free. America: home of the brave. America: land of equal opportunity. America isn’t a country, it’s a promise, a dream—a place of hope and of opportunity, where anything is possible. Why wouldn’t people come to America?

Round 1 of the game is all about establishment. It should be stated right off the bat that no individual or family plays the same game, nor do they have the same struggles or advance at the same rate. It all depends on their individual skills, their backgrounds, their English, their past education, where they ended up in the States, if they already had friends or family here, etc.

For me, Round 1 was fought by my grandparents. My mom’s dad came from Mexico as a small child, and met my grandma (who was born here) somewhere along the way. My dad’s parents both came from the Philippines, also meeting in the States. They rooted down in San Francisco, a city ripe with diversity. Today they can be found in Pacifica, helping out with their daughter’s (my aunt’s) candy shop and taking care of their three grandchildren (my cousins). My mom’s parents were in LA until two years ago, when they moved up to Washington state.

Establishment means that the people who come here must remain here and grow roots. This gets tricky, fast. Immigrants who come to this country face a workforce that automatically relegates them to the jobs with the lowest wages, despite their past occupations or experience. They are exploited for their labor in some of the nation’s the most corrupt pay structures and inhumane working conditions. Besides this, they are met with profound nativist sentiments, epitomized by the phrase, “Go back to your country.”

Three things on this.

  1. Besides the Native Americans, everyone in this country comes from a different one. Our nation is one made up of immigrants, and we shouldn’t expect anyone to “go back to where they came from.”  
  2. Some who come to this country aren’t simply immigrants, but also refugees, fleeing somewhere out of fear for their lives and safety. Thus they cannot in fact return to their previous homes.
  3. “Go back to your country” belies a complete disregard for the perspectives and reasons of those who come to this country. The phrase challenges immigrants’ autonomy, belittles their motives, and assumes that uprooting their entire lives and permanently moving is a trivial endeavor.

Despite these three things, the invitation to leave may be enticing. Any number of factors are valid reasons to leave the States, some of which are mentioned previously. Home countries are familiar, and in general people tend towards the familiar, even when it’s at odds with the favorable. Home countries are filled with people who look like you and speak your language; you aren’t an outsider, you’re not irrationally feared, and for all intents and purposes you’re seen and understood as just a normal human being.

However, immigrants are some of the toughest and most resilient people you’ll ever meet, and they aren’t ones to quit, even if they have the option. No, while Americans espouse all of the many promises of their country, the immigrants are hard at work enduring all of the unmentioned oppressions and injustices in order to obtain those promises. To make up for their lost home communities, they form diaspora communities, sticking together and sharing opportunities. They learn the rules of the capitalist game and how to maximize income and profits in an American company. They learn how to become full-fledged, law-abiding, and participatory citizens. They have children and send them to American schools, where they learn more about America than their parents can teach them. It’s indisputable, inevitable, irrefutable: immigrants stay. And thus concludes Round 1.

 

Round 2

Round 2 of the game is about assimilation. It’s about learning all the ways American culture is different from your parents’ culture, and often having to choose which one you value more. In different ways, this means choosing between culture and opportunity, belonging or a future, community or financial well-being. This is the round in which the game is about stretching yourself between two irreconcilably different worlds (and it should be noted that this difference is intentional and systematic), both of which you need, and neither of which you can have fully.

Again, no family or individual plays the game the same way, but typically the players of Round 2 are the second generation, the kids of immigrants, many of whom were born in the States and thus are full-fledged American citizens. Round 2 was fought by my parents.

A successful Round 2 finds a “well-adjusted” individual, fully fluent in the norms and standard operating procedures of American life while at the same time proud of their own family’s culture and heritage. Success is navigating two separate and overlapping places called “family” and “society,” letting neither leak over to reveal hints of itself to the other. It’s finding out how to play the American game better than your parents, because they could only help you so far. It’s inventing new strategies, paving new roads, seizing new opportunities. It’s leaving your family behind.

Round 2 is about hearing the words, “Go back to your country,” and responding, “What, you mean my parents’ country? I never belonged there; I was born here,” yet not knowing how to belong here. It’s leaving your household each day as a child with a confused understanding of what “America” is, of what “American” means, struggling with basic definitions that come naturally to others.

 

Round 3

Round 3 is about education. This is where the lines blur and my history gets tricky. Both of my parents went to college, so basically they already took care of rounds 2 and 3 for me. When I say education, I mean a couple distinct things. First, I mean a degree, be it a GED or a BA or a PhD. This is something that gets you somewhere, a piece of paper that says, “I am a competent learner.” Education is a diploma and the paycheck you get because of it.

Second, education is words. Thousands of students across the country go to college still believing that America is a perfect meritocracy. That is, if you work hard and work smart, you can achieve just as much as anyone else, and just as fast. Immigrants have no such delusions. However, they may lack the vocabulary and historical knowledge with which to articulate their viewpoints. Education provides this, along with a plethora of critical thinking skills which enable them to advocate for themselves and convey their perspectives.

The third part of education is what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “the receipts.” These receipts are historical, well-evidenced examples of systematic discrimination and oppression of any number of groups throughout American history. These receipts, from redlining to housing segregation to Jim Crow to Japanese Internment to critical race theory, help us to understand the dynamics and the realities of systematic oppression and all the forms of bigotry that have existed and continue to exist in our country.

It should be noted that these receipts and their acquisition aren’t a form of hatred or disrespect towards the nation. Instead, they are perhaps the most important part of our roles as informed and enfranchised citizens, enabling us to look critically at our nation and what can be improved, because there is always, always room for improvement. Amendment, revision, and constant change are woven into our national fabric. We are and should be a nation designed to look intelligently forward towards a “more perfect” future rather than nostalgically backward towards a corrupt yet convenient past.

Specific to the game, the receipts allow us to understand sentiments such as, “Go back to your country,” not as esoteric, contextless outbursts but rather as parts of larger historical trends. Yes, the receipts are often small comfort, but they also enable unique knowledge about vectors to look out for and ways to avoid propagating oppression against others.

 

Round 4

Why is there a fourth round? you may ask. After education, it seems like you’ve made it. You’re successful, by the terms of the game. You’ve met your objectives – financial stability, a degree of cushion from oppression, potential for a happy family and a successful career. What could possibly be next?

Round 4 is called memory. Memory is the world after the story, rich with the lessons of the past and the trajectory of the future. You’ll find it from your elders, the people who have lived a little longer than you and have seen more of the world.

I forget what I initially asked my dad, if it was something about money or success or diaspora communities, or if it was anything at all. We were walking through downtown Seattle, from one place to the next, not particularly pressed for time, yet jumping “Walk” signs and weaving through slow tourist groups nonetheless, how my dad taught me to walk through cities. He began to talk about families, about how the generations build off of one another, how each is faced with different sets of challenges that enable the success of each successive generation. He talked about learning the rules and how to play, how to navigate the complex terrains and intricacies of America. “So it’s like a game,” I said. “Yeah, like a game.”

He stressed to me that, for the most part, first, second, or even third-generation immigrants worked not for themselves, but for the next generation, and so on and so forth, each passing a new level of hard-earned progress onto the next person carrying the family name. Thus it’s important to not forget all of the hard work that was done just to get an individual to a certain level of opportunity. Basically, his central thesis to me was, “Don’t blow it.”

Not only is memory important for this reason; it’s also important to ensure we don’t lose empathy and understanding for other, newer immigrant families. I’d argue that the only reason nativism and xenophobia continue to exist in this country is, well, white supremacy, but also the sheer separation that individuals have from their family’s previous struggles as immigrants. Too often, we forget that we are all immigrants, and thus fail to understand individuals who are playing the same game that we play, just working through earlier rounds.

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Counting Ahead

By Erika Lorenz

I am one of few,

the few of us, in an ensemble of many.

The numbers against us,

but we fight and hit back as hard as we can.

 

Hitting is what we do,

we rehearse and strike.

Reaching double forte and our potential.

 

They try not to doubt us,

but I’m never sure if they believe in us.

Creating flams,

because even together we’re still unbalanced.

 

We try to harmonize their bars of music,

but sometimes we ascend, notes high above the staff.

Composers didn’t include us in their drafts,

we buzzed in anyway.

 

I won’t conform to the harness,

why shouldn’t mold around me?

I may seem small,

but if you believe that makes me weak,

you are naive.

 

I will construct new rudiments for more like me,

to write their own music,

instead of following the conductor.

 

There is power in the few of us,

just like the force in the head of a drumstick.

Used only when we tap into it.

 

I’m a sharp not listed in the key signature.

Sight reading my song,

hoping that those next in the line,

will note that I’m still part of the music.

How is Social Inequality Shaped, Represented, Experienced, Negotiated and Challenged in Everyday Life

By Nicola Thornton 

When first beginning to study a concept such as social inequality, which is as extensive as it is inextricably interrelated with the experiences of every human being in their day to day lives, it is easy to become overwhelmed and struck by both internal anger at the world and at ones perceived helplessness in challenging such inequalities. The topic of social inequality is perhaps the most directly influential and personally relatable concept I have studied throughout my sociology degree, yet this paper is the first I have come to consider this connection between theory of social inequality and my own life and role. Perhaps the two pillars which prop up the ongoing continuation of social inequality is that of the structural underpinnings of society which create the conditions for its existence but also, of equal importance and important discussion is the role of the individual and meritocratic factors when it comes to the perpetuation of an unjust system. Far too prevalently is the issue of social inequality studied from a lens where one removes themselves from the equation. Social inequality is presumed to be an unjust factor fundamentally embedded in the structural make-up of society and therefore one finds peace in keeping the debate at arm’s length. This is not the case. This is an abdication of personal responsibility to recognize the role we each play in the maintenance and sustained structures and social interactions which perpetuate the deeply ingrained injustices and inequities which systematically subordinate and limit entire social groupings within our society. Many researchers have criticised this abdication of personal responsibility and called on the importance of action and a micro and practical, tangible level to combat the survival of a system marked by segregation and oppression.

 

There are arguably three fundamentally important aspects which form praxis. Firstly, it is crucial to have a continuously developing theoretical framework of the social world we live in. Secondly, for there to be progressive action towards a more just and equitable society it is unequivocally essential for each and every member within society to engage in critical self-thought and understand and question their position within society and how their ways of thinking and their actions are fundamental crucial to inequalities continuation or reform. Lastly, and perhaps the main reflection of what praxis is, is the question of what we are going to do with our understandings of the social world from the theory and critical self-thought. I have already examine each of these respectively.

 

The importance of theory

Paulo Freire can be recognized as one of the founding thinkers in the important relation between understanding the theory of how inequalities within society exist but going further and using this understanding by practice and actions which work to combat it (Freire, 1970). This notion is denoted: praxis. I appreciate having through this Social Inequality class been introduced to a term and theorist who puts into words my frustrations with realms of theoretical disciplines and frameworks which investigate and research the social world, finding problems and inequalities and yet this is where it ends. Social psychology, cultural anthropology and sociological frameworks are each marked by this flaw and though many work to act and challenge the inequalities they find it as not nearly as frequent as it should be. Freire understood this (Freire, 1970). Freire wrote on the importance of both consideration and action targeted at reaching a transformation consciousness to reform the structures of society discernible by inequality (Freire, 1970). With praxis, oppressed groups within society can critically aware of their existence within society and thus struggle for equality (Freire, 1970). Theory and action need to be inextricably related with one another. Freire wrote of the importance of education in regards to being the means to transform peoples consciousness into one which would revolutionize their conditions and existence in the social world and the importance of fighting against the prevalent ‘culture of silence’ (Freire, 1970). He argues education is too often a means of simply reinforcing the status quo through socialization and that it must recognize its role in the importance of supporting revolutionary social and structural change (Freire, 1970). The significance of education will be further developed at a later stage of this essay.

Antonio Gramsci is another founding theorist on the relationship between theory and praxis (Salamini, 1981). Gramsci was a marxist thinker whose undertaking was to re-unite marxist theory and praxis (Salamini, 1981). Gramsci highlighted how theory was indisputably at the foundation of revolutionary change but that nothing could be achieved if this theory is not made use of in informing the revolutionary classes’ actions (Salamini, 1981). Gramsci’s writings of the revolution within Italy can be applied to what Freirie illustrates as fundamentally necessary for trans formative change. Gramsci writes that it is via political praxis that revolutionary ideas become hegemonic (Salamini, 1981). Hegemony is one of Gramsci’s central ideas which refers to the ideologies, cultures and policies which are dominant within a society (Salamini, 1981). Through the unity of theory and action within the realm of political praxis, reformist ideologies can become dominant  and widespread allowing for the underclasses to reform their societies and establish a new social order marked by a fairer and more just systems and structures (Salamini, 1981).

Many researchers and theorists do attempt to turn their research into practice, but it is not an easy task (Stanley, 2013). Feminist praxis within the realm of sociology can be seen as a particularly prominent example of theory informing transformative action (Stanley, 2013). With the existence of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and what can be potentially seen in today’s society as 4th wave feminism is a strong argument for the important and revolutionary challenges to the structures of society. Of course society is nowhere near being just and equal for all, but feminist social scientists have had a remarkable impact in challenging the oppressive structures and ideologies which exist in society. This should inspire and motivate researchers to understand how fundamentally important and profoundly influential there work is and can be. Feminism stresses the importance and need for practical knowledge and theorizing and it not being enough to just understand the world, but we need to change it (Stanley, 2013). Feminist thought rejects the decision between theory and research and that we need to use our growing knowledge of inequalities to combat their prevailing existence (Stanley, 2013). Feminist social theory also mentions the importance of teaching and education and how it has largely been unthought of as a significant contributor to the culture of society, and importantly, its transformative power (Stanley, 2013).

 

The importance of critical self thought

It was in this class that I first was prodded into really questioning how my life and standing within society is directly related with the reproduction of inequalities within our society. It angers me that it was in my third and final year of tertiary study that I am only just being challenged to make these connections between myself and critically examine my role in the continuation of social inequalities. This form of critical self thought should not be confined to a particular school within tertiary level education, it should be a fundamental skill taught to all members of society. Questioning oneself, and critically examining their role in relation to wider society is fundamentally important if we are going to not only recognize the inequalities which exist but work towards creating a more equitable and equal society characterized by justice as opposed to inequality.

The over-arching goal of sociological and theoretical research into society needs to centre on the notion of justice for all, which is inextricably connected with equality and inequality. Equality can be defined as the sameness for all in regards to resources and opportunity (Brayboy, Castagno & Maughan, 2007). This sameness is the long-term goal which would characterize a just society, where individuals have access to these same resources and opportunities regardless of their socioeconomic status, their race, their gender, or other ‘social categories’ (Brayboy, Castagno & Maughan, 2007). In specific regards to the current education systems, equality of resources and opportunities clearly do not exist (Brayboy, Castagno & Maughan, 2007). This is illustrated through test scores, education provider facilities and life outcomes for different members of society (Brayboy, Castagno & Maughan, 2007). The principle of individualism can be seen as fundamentally problematic in the sustained existence of social inequalities (Brayboy, Castagno & Maughan, 2007). The mind-set of individualism has provided individuals with social standings marked by privilege in society to believe that their positions high up in the hierarchy of society is due to them earning it through both means of hard work and talent (Brayboy, Castagno & Maughan, 2007). Justice and equal opportunities for all students cannot be achieved if society continues to reduce the existence of social opportunities as being purely at the responsibility of individuals (Brayboy, Castagno & Maughan, 2007). Policies must be ingrained with the ideas of equity (Brayboy, Castagno & Maughan, 2007).

Robin DiAngelo has been a pivotal theorist and researcher into the significance of individualism in maintaining a society characterized by inequalities (DiAngelo, 2012). She writes of the binary of  ‘racist = bad, not racist = good’ which is forms the grounds by which white people feel personally defensive at any suggestion they have with being racist (DiAngelo, 2012). This binary makes the multifaceted ways in which racism exists in society difficult to see or understand – if one sees themselves as on the ‘not-racist’ side of the binary then it removes themselves from seeing their role in needed to engage in any further action to combat racism (DiAngelo, 2012). Members of the dominant social group are keeping themselves at arms length from engaging in conversations or actions to challenge racism and abdicates their personal responsibility as members of society in reforming our unequal society and prevents positive steps in the right direction (DiAngelo, 2012). Individualism is an ideolgy which sets up the mindset that if I don’t see myself as personally engaged in racism then I am therefore exempt from it (DiAngelo, 2012), it is the idea that we are all unique and that social categories have little effect on the opportunities/successes/failures of members within a society (DiAngelo, 2012). Emphasis and blame is placed on the individual and removed from the social structures of society which systemically oppress and limit the opportunities of certain social groups (DiAngelo, 2012). The reality is that we all reside within distinctive race, gender, class and other positions which have significance and direct relevance to the opportunities and chances available throughout our lifetimes (DiAngelo, 2012).

In a speech DiAngelo made on white fragility at a graduation ceremony in the United States she called on each and every graduate to recognize the important positions they now have as they enter society (DiAngelo, 2017). She stresses the importance to try not forget to use their voices which have added strength to it whilst they sit at the table making important and influential decisions for countless individuals who are not benefited with opportunities to speak for themselves and affect the most vulnerable (DiAngelo, 2017). She reiterates the importance of not separating ourselves from the societies we live in and that we all play a role and each have a piece of the oppressive nature of society deeply rooted within us (DiAngelo, 2017). She argues that the default of our society is the reproduction of inequality and that despite the best intentions if we remain silent then the deeply rooted issues like racism will not be challenged as it so crucially needs to be (DiAngelo, 2017). She calls on humility, the importance to consider oneself as a life long learner and to always question the nature of society and for each of us as individuals to recognize our role in the continuous struggle for justice (DiAngelo, 2017).

 

The importance of action

This self criticism can result in very heated feelings of anger and resentment and they are difficult to place. It is very easy to be angry, but where to direct this anger and how to channel it poses a significant challenge for those whom engage with this critical self thought. Sonia Nieto in her book What Keeps Teachers Going writes of the importance of teaching in challenging the deeply rooted social inequalities within society and that anger and hope are crucially important to this (Nieto, 2003). She writes of the importance of having passionate teachers who are informed of the issues and challenge the structures which sustain the inequalities within our societies (Nieto, 2003). Nieto’s focus is in the freedom and liberation of members within a society and to challenge her students to question how society could be structured in a way different to what they know and are accustomed to (Nieto, 2003). She acknowledges the fear that there is a danger in that if progressive education doesn’t engage in teaching and correcting the unfair systems within society that mainstream education will merely contribute to the continuation of the acceptance of a status quo which systemically disadvantages certain members of society (Nieto, 2003).  

Teachers are angry about the injustices their students suffer and their anger can be seen as an important motivation for working towards how society could be transformed (Nieto, 2003). Sonia Nieto worked with a number of other interdisciplinary scholars and researchers to form a multi-cultural panel to discuss education, its importance and its role in combating social inequality (Banks et al., 2001). The panel developed a program which examined the ways schools and teachers should be organised in a way which best sets its students up to be self critical and critique the nature of the unequal society they exist in (Banks et al., 2001). Things such as the importance of helping teachers understand the complex nature of social and ethnic characteristics of their students and the ways things such as race, ethnicity or social class interact and influence student behaviour is often important significance (Banks et al., 2001). They also explain the importance of teaching students about the biases which exist in society and the unquestionably prevalent stereotyping which exists and have negative effects on social relations (Banks et al., 2001).

Oliver Quinlan (2012) writes of the importance of this interrelating nature between one’s theoretical framework and an individual’s teaching or learning. It is within ones theoretical framework that an individual articulates their intellectual purpose which in turn shapes the way they think, their decisions and how they teach – and consequently the path their students take (Quinlan, 2012). It is important to note that this theoretical framework is not set or rigid, that it is by necessity open to constant reflection and re-thinking as the society they engage with and are subject to continuously changes and develops (Quinlan, 2012). The practice of informed action (the notion of praxis) defines the unity of both theoretical understandings and consequent action provides teachers with a powerful responsibility to teach through a means of critical thought and constant reflection (Quinlan, 2012). Having teachers imersed in the undertakings of praxis means that with every decision they make they are influenced by the existence of their theoretical framework and consequently the decisions and actions they bring into the classroom are encouraging students think critically about the structures of society which support a system marked by inequalities but also their own individual role in sustaining this system.

Understanding the interconnecting ways in which a society plagued by inequality comes to exist and is systemically maintained it is undoubtedly important. However this theorizing is not enough. Individuals need to critique themselves and their individual roles in contributing to this system of inequality. Then, it is fundamentally essential to use this theorizing and critical self-thought to then challenge the status quo and do something about the ways different social inequalities which are deeply rooted within our societies. I believe teaching and the education systems within our societies to be at the foundation of the transformation in dominant cultural and structural systems marked by inequalities. We are a long way from a society which is just and offers equal opportunities and life chances, but with the development and growing spread of praxis through progressive education systems we are making positive, progressive steps in the right direction.

 

References

 

Banks, J. A., Cookson, P., Gay, G., Hawley, W. D., Irvine, J. J., Nieto, S., Schofield, J. W., and Stephan, W., G. (2001). Diversity within unity: Essential Principles for Teaching and Learning in a Multicultural Society. Seattle: Center for Multicultural Education.

 

Brayboy, B., Castagno, A., and Maughan, E. (2007). Equality and Justice for All? Examining Race in Education Scholarship. Review of Research in Education, 31, 159-194. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20185105

 

DiAngelo, R. (2012). Chapter 10: What Makes Racism So Hard for Whites to See? Counterpoints, 398, 167-189. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42981490

 

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th Anniversary Adition ed.). (M. B. Ramos, Trans.) New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc .

 

Lewis & Clark Graduate School. (14 June, 2017). 2017 Commencement Address: Dr. Robin DiAngelo on White Fragility. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOxIgNYj_uc.

 

Nieto, S. (2003). What Keeps Teachers Going? Educational Leadership, 60(8), 14-18.

 

Quinlan, O. (2012, October 23). Praxis: Bringing theory and practice to teaching. Retrieved from oliverquinlan.com: http://www.oliverquinlan.com/blog/2012/10/23/praxis-bringing-theory-and-practice-to-teaching/

 

Salamini, L. (1981). The sociology of political praxis : An introduction to Gramsci’s theory / Leonardo Salamini. London ; Boston: Routledge.

 

Stanley, L. (2013). Feminist Praxis (RLE Feminist Theory): Research, Theory and Epistemology in Feminist Sociology. Routledge Library Editions: Feminist Theory.

 

How to Become the Hard of Hearing Person People Always Wanted You to Be

By Sarit Cahana 

The other day I raised my hand in class and said “would everyone please speak up? I have hearing loss.” Silence. Mentioning my disability sparked such uncomfortable silence that stretched 30 seconds into 30 minutes. So I’ve now made a vow to bring it up at least twice a class. Really milk it, you know? Next class I’ve planned to start yelling about my hearing loss in agony. You know, “WOE IS ME. WOE IS ME!” all that good stuff. I’ve really begun to lean into this. I started carrying around videos of babies who get fitted for their first hearing aid or cochlear implant and learned how to cry on demand so I can talk to strangers about how “inspiring” it is that these babies will learn to grow up in a world where they can suppress their hearing loss and pretend it doesn’t exist. I know what you’re thinking.You can’t believe I get out of bed every day! Since my journey of navigating my hearing loss has begun, I’ve come up with some important tips for other people with hearing loss to teach them how to be a REAL person with hearing loss.

The most important thing is that when people say they’re going to try to accommodate you, believe them! Even when they never do anything different. Embrace the fact that they don’t understand your hearing loss. One day tell them, “hooray! Your hearing loss has been cured!” The next day tell them “oh no! It’s back again.” Flip flop like this every couple of weeks. Every time you tell them all your hearing has been gained, request a party be thrown in your honor. You can now rejoin society with open arms.

Don’t forget about your sob story! Make this one good, folks. I like to start with the fact that I was in a car accident. Then a tree fell on me and injured my ears. Car accidents are the leading cause of hearing loss in United States! Avoid cars and your hearing will be saved! This is a good story because it puts the blame on an often unpredictable force. I especially enjoy telling this story while intermittently blowing my nose, taking dramatic pauses, and cutting an onion in order to let the tears flow. The only way you know you’ve told this story right is if the other person starts crying as well. Then you can both hold each other and can tell each other how strong you both are.

Let’s not forget my favorite thing about hearing loss: avoidance. Pretend like you don’t have hearing loss. It’s just best to never mention it. The best way to do this is to nod your head… a LOT! Nodding your head is good for most stories. Nod your head when someone tells you a sad story, a happy story, a neutral story. Nodding your head prevents verbal reactions. However, if you need one a simple “wow” or “hmm” or “ok…hmm…ok”, it works great. These can be applied to many different circumstances. Let’s say someone is telling you a story about how their dog died. BUT you have no idea what they’re saying. Hit them with a good ol’ head nod and a hmmm. Or a “hmm…wow.” Works. Every. Time. You will never have to mention your hearing loss again!

The best way to deal with not hearing things is by just sitting through it. Listen to every other word and go through life generally confused. The state of general confusion is the best state to be in. No one will have any expectations of you. AND if you’re lucky you won’t even get a job! The best part about this is that you can spend all your days watching “Friends”, but it won’t be captioned and you will half understand that too! Ehh…let’s be honest here, you’ve seen every episode a million times and you know what each episode is about off the top of your head. Anyway, it’s fine! You can hear enough. You can kind of hear. Like you can hear some things, but not other things… and it kind of makes sense, but you’re not totally deaf. How about a sign language interpreter? No…uh…right… You don’t know sign language… Really? Because I was talking to…Ok…uhhh… This is for you to figure out. Not me. Sorry, just ignore your hearing loss and then you’ll feel better. Good luck. You got this, kid. Equal access and all that. Just like…try to enjoy things… Oh! I got it! Become a MIME!

 

Last Call for Submissions!

February 12th is the FINAL DAY to submit to the 2015-2016 Journal for Social Justice!

Fall 2015 was a moment of radical energy at Lewis & Clark College to assert that#LCBlackLivesMatter. Not the first, and hopefully not the last. Continue the conversation, put it in print. Change is happening and history is in the making: what do you have to say about it?

Subject matter from far and wide also encouraged!

Email submissions to socialjustice@lclark.edu

JSJposter_lastcall_HQ.005

 

Protesta Chilena

By Caterina Zischke-Rincon

DSCN0666

On October 12th, 2013, hundreds of people gathered to protest the            impending construction of a thermoelectric plant in Concón, Chile, a beach town just north of the port of Valparaíso. Protesters were concerned that dangerous levels of electromagnetic radiation from the power plant would harm human health, and that toxic waste dumped into the sea would threaten local marine life. Funding the project was Chile’s state-owned oil company ENAP, which had plans to build the plant at the edge of Playa La Boca, a popular surfing destination for generations of local residents and visitors alike.

Define American

By Pluralism and Unity Board

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On October 22 and 23 of 2014, as part of an advertising campaign for the on- campus screening of Jose Antonio Vargas’ Documented, five members of the Pluralism & Unity Board hung an American flag on the foyer wall of J.R. Howard Hall and asked passerby scrawl their definitions of “American” on a small whiteboard before being photographed in front of an American flag. Though a seemingly simple request, it spurred a number of different and often conflicting responses. Each was laden with nuance, reflecting both strongly held beliefs in American ideology and critical examinations of the United States of America.

To the Pluralism & Unity Board, this activity was more than just an exercise in freedom of speech. It was a chance for students to reflect on their own values, as well as to engage in discussion about who is able to define “American” and about the stakes of each possible definition. Such instances of reflection and discussion are exactly what social justice means to PUB. As a student-led organization, PUB strives to bring social justice into the Lewis & Clark cultural consciousness by offering opportunities for community dialogue. While this may seem like a menial task, we believe in the importance of creating discursive space where beliefs and ideologies are aired and questioned. It is our hope that we can inspire students to take initiative beyond our own programs, to work toward social justice in the Lewis & Clark community and beyond. In the following vignettes, PUB members reflect the experience of asking themselves and others to define “American.”

Gaby Seltzer: I arrive early, around 9:30, to set up our table in JR Howard. The logistics of this plan had seemed simple the week before—I didn’t have class until afternoon, so I would take the whiteboard, pens, tape, fliers, and flag to Howard and start tabling on my own until the others arrived. But now, as I stand in Howard’s oddly silent foyer, I feel awkward. I am still in an area that usually bustles with activity; I am dressed as usual, but instead of notebooks I carry a properly folded American flag in my shoulder bag. Usually this flag, which belongs to my roommate, is on display in my apartment living room—a decoration I would never choose of my own accord, but one that I tolerate by avoiding mental attribution of meaning to it. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t give me some pleasure to remove the flag from the wall, but I don’t know why. I intended to fold the flag like a bed sheet for its short journey to Howard, but at the last minute I reconsidered. A few unsure thoughts ran through my head. What if this flag actually means something to my roommate, and I offend her by folding it improperly? – I should probably appear unbiased when I’m tabling, so people with diverse opinions feel comfortable contributing. I don’t want to offend anyone when I’m working under PUB’s name. – How do I want to fold this? – Is this flag real? Unable to give myself satisfactory answers, I hearkened back to Girl Scouts and folded the flag the proper way.

Now that I’m here in Howard, I’m grateful for the extra five minutes I spent folding the flag. Only one or two people amble through the foyer, but I feel invisible eyes on me. I place my miscellaneous materials on the table, and proceed to unfold the flag, hurrying a bit because I’m uncomfortable. A student walks by; I am exceedingly aware that he can’t tell I’m affiliated with the Pluralism & Unity Board. I could be any random person, taping a flag to the wall in an academic setting. Is it disrespectful to use tape on a flag? It’s difficult to hang the flag all on my own, but I don’t dare lower my arms for fear of a corner of the flag brushing accidentally against the floor. Luckily, an acquaintance of mine walks by at just the right moment, and I ask for her help holding up the flag. In case she’s judging me, I release a mouthful of explanations as we secure the flag with tape. “This is for a PUB event, but it feels so strange! I hope people aren’t getting the wrong idea about me. I never realized what a powerful symbol the American flag is.”

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Finally the table is arranged, and I position myself so that the flag is behind me. A paper sign hangs off the front of the table, reading: “PUB asks: What does ‘American’ mean to you?” Protected by the name of my organization and our social justice mission, I feel safe to reflect on my discomfort. I helped develop the idea for this event; therefore I must have known that America, as a country and as a concept, carries different meanings for different people. The whole point of asking for definitions of “American” was to highlight this fact. But I somehow hadn’t expected to feel the weight of this symbol myself. The flag seemed so domineering, so impactful, and I felt a legitimate fear that by hanging it here I was employing a power too gigantic for me to rightfully wield. Who was I to force people to look at a symbol that could trigger them, could make them feel less-than, or worse, one that could reinforce righteous or narrow-minded self-images? Why was I doing this?

I forgot, though, that carrying around the American flag is no new experience in my life; in fact, I carry it all the time. I wield the power of the flag every day, by being American, by being white, by living here and being myself, and no amount of social justice work I do will take this away from me. Nothing will take this power away from me, and that is terrifying. I am everything that the flag is; I am dominant, I am power, I am stars and stripes, and I am a claim to liberty and equality that may or may not exist. I am every definition that every student wrote on our little whiteboard in response, from “bald eagles and freedom” to “color and community,” from “winning” to “stolen indigenous land” to “something forced on my people.” Every answer is valid; every answer is true; every answer is I, regardless of what I say and do. Here I am trying to define America, when ultimately it is defining me.

I still want to change what America means to others and to me. I want it to be a personal identity that I can unabashedly take pride in, one that implies humble and compassionate leadership, equity, freedom, and justice. I don’t want to oppress, to kill, and to forget, but still I am American and these associations are mine. Confronting the implications of my American identity is overwhelming, scary, and uncomfortable, and that’s how I know I experienced something important. I have heard again and again that social justice work is about confronting discomfort and letting it be, and I’m sure that this ideology is partially what drove me to carry an American flag into JR Howard early in the morning. Now, I take this belief as my own. Social justice in my life is activism and reflection, but above all else it is the discomfort that comes when I begin to take ownership of my identity.

Jose Huape: I am reminded every time I return to my family of the situation that they and I face. For the past two years, I have often felt lost, alone, and like I made a mistake by coming to college. The person who left home began to change, to fit a certain mold made for me, to feel out of place and like nothing more than a color. Some know what I mean by this description, but based on my experience, few can relate. My time here has been an interesting ride to say the least, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I’ve learned much about the boy who left, and the one who goes back. At home, I am me. I am everything that life has shown me and more. It’s quite a shame to realize that the place I worked so hard to get to all my life is the same place where others are allowed to dictate who I am, but without this experience, I would not know my true self.

Luz Aguirre: Documented is a film that opened my eyes. For an undocumented individual to share his status with acquaintances friends, and family is one thing and to share it with the world is beyond courageous. Listening to Jose Antonio Vargas speak about his personal life unfolded a series of memories surrounding my life. How many times have I heard individuals tell their stories about crossing the border, about being deported or facing deportation, and about feeling emotionally tied to their homeland? How many times have I not seen families disintegrate, men and women work endlessly under the hot sun, and suffer from the consequences of immigration? All this suffering in order to live the American dream.

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I had heard about Jose Antonio Vargas before, but not his full story. As a Mexican who knows many undocumented individuals, it is sad to realize that in reality I do not know enough about the topic. I know what many individuals experience but nothing beyond those lines. The lack of knowing has stopped me from joining the cause and promoting awareness in the way I personally want to be involved. Vargas and other individuals who fight for the justice of all Americans, despite having much to fear, inspire me.

I’ve never given much thought to how I define “American,” but I am able to thoroughly explain what America means to me. I define America as the land of choice. Everything I’ve ever learned, heard, witnessed, and taught has been focused on one foundation; the right to be free. America stands for individual freedom and for the right to express that freedom. I have chosen to express my freedom just like other individuals in America. My question is how can everyone else that identifies as an American safely express his or her freedom?

Tuba City, AZ

By Aspen Johnson

OVERVIEW: I spent 7 days in Tuba City, Arizona on the Navajo/Hopi Indian Reservation in 2012 and another 7 days in 2013. Featured here are 3 pictures of the family I was staying with. While there, I bonded the most with Lucas. He was five years old in 2012 and still had trouble speaking. He had a large class at in school and didn’t get enough vocal interaction throughout his day. However, he is brilliant and became a guide for me in Tuba City. I would carry him around on my back and he would point to objects or people for me to photograph. In this way I got to see how he was seeing and what he wanted to show me. The first photo is of him, the next two were taken with him by my side_MG_3018

Pictured here are Lucas’s grandparents. They have lived on the reservation their whole lives. Some elderly folks wouldn’t let us take their picture. Lucas’s mother told me they believe each photo taken takes away a part of the soul.

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Lucas’s brother chews food, taking a quick break from playing video games with Mitchell, Lucas’s other brother. Mitchell is 21 and says playing video games is the best way for him to stay out of the trouble most of his friends are getting into these days. He alluded to alcohol, drugs, and girls. The shadow on the wall is Taylor’s, their mother, sweeping the floor in another part of the room.

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Lucas rides his tricycle in front of their house. The object in the top right of the frame is a barrel attached to a spring that his father Evan has built. Evan was an accomplished bull rider and that is what this toy simulates. The shadow in the bottom left is their trampoline that I am standing on. The rest of the space around them is littered with broken toilets, old pipes, wires, and numerous other miscellaneous objects.