Friday, April 30, 2010

Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070

It is astounding to me how many people actually believe that our country is beyond racism. It is easy for whites, including me, to forget all the privileges we receive daily solely because of the color of our skin. It is much more difficult to recognize that our power and privilege comes at the detriment of others. People who do not discuss race relations and claim that our nation is now ‘colorblind’ are ignoring the facts. They say that liberals are racist for not jumping on the Pleasantville bandwagon. These political pundits are either under the misconception that ignoring racism will make it disappear, or they have a much more sinister plan at work. Maybe by convincing people that racism doesn’t exist, they can exploit the system while calling all of their critics crazy. After all, how can you exploit a system that doesn’t exist?

While I’d like to believe that these pundits are just misinformed, recent legislation has shown a much darker side. Arizona has passed Immigration Law SB 1070. This law proclaims that law enforcement officers, with “reasonable suspicion,” have the right to question individuals on their immigration status.

“For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.”

Since “reasonable suspicion” is so vaguely defined, this means that officers may stop anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant and ask them for their identification papers. What exactly does an illegal immigrant look like? Hispanic? Black? Asian? But certainly not white. So police officers have every right to pull over a Hispanic driver, solely based on his or her race, and demand to see identification. American citizens, on their way to work, school, or home can be stopped and questioned on a whim. These American citizens can have their daily lives disrupted repeatedly, causing them to be late to work or picking up their children from school. And god forbid accidently leaving your ID at home. I have a feeling that if the roles were reversed, if white middle aged men in suits were being stopped and interrogated on the streets, we would call this law a gross invasion of our privacy. What’s next? Houses searched in the middle of the night? Temporary aliens forced to sew yellow stars on their shirts so that we can keep close watch over them? The unbridled discretion of law enforcement officers resembles that of a totalitarian regime. They don’t even need warrants for arrests:

“A Law Enforcement Officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States”

Unchecked power goes directly against the principles of democracy we were founded on. We have both state and federal laws so that neither one gets to powerful. Separation of powers ensures that no one branch of the government is more dominant than the others. These officers in Arizona are not answering to anyone, which leaves ample room for corruption. This racist law cannot stand!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Merit Pay for Florida Teachers

Today, a grave injustice was committed. Today, we have turned our backs on thousands of children and their futures. Education in this country has always been far from equal. Minorities and women have had to fight hard for their right to an education. We falsely believe that Brown v. Board of Education has solved our problems. That this ruling has somehow equalized the playing field for everyone, and that those who fail must be doing so due to their own shortcomings. This could not be farther from the truth. Today educational discrimination isn’t blatant racism or sexism. It is a much more widespread and subtle injustice. It is discrimination based on socioeconomic status.

Florida bases the majority of school funding on property tax. Therefore, the property tax generated by a neighborhood is what is used to fund a public school in that neighborhood. This means that the property taxes collected in a very rich neighborhood would be allocated to a school in that area, so the school has plenty of money and resources to work with. It also means that the small amount of property taxes collected by a very poor neighborhood are all that a school gets in that area. As you can see, this allocation of funding is quite discriminatory and far from ‘equal.’ Poor children have far fewer resources to work with and yet they are expected to perform at the same levels as those with abundant funding.

Reading Jonathan Kozol’s book, “The Shame of the Nation,” made me realize the extent of this disparity between schools. In one school in New York, children were sent to school in a gutted roller rink. Black boards were used to create the illusion of rooms. There were not windows to be found. Air conditioning was luxury far out of reach. Yet a short drive away there was a school with a brand new library and models of the galaxy. You may be thinking that this is an exception and not the norm, but that is incorrect. This type of disparity exists everywhere. In your country. In your state. Even in your city.

I grew up in Tallahassee Florida and attended Lawton Chiles High School. My school had a giant marquee flashing upcoming events and student achievements. Digital clocks lined the hallways, and there were enough copies of our textbooks that we could each take one home and have enough left over for a classroom set so that we didn’t have to carry them back and forth. My sister went to Rickard’s high school across town. Their resources were scarce. Textbooks were limited and personal copies were unheard of. The building was old and not well taken care of. On her way to class one day, my sister noticed a student throw up outside a building. It wasn’t cleaned up for 2 weeks. I was floored when I heard this. It couldn’t be true. My denial was proof of the comfortable bubble I was living in. This information was so hard for me to take in because it meant that there was not, as I had learned, equal education for all.

Today, the Florida legislature passed a bill that teachers will now be paid based on merit pay. Schools that do not abide by this rule will have drastic cuts in their funding by the state. The legislature was under a lot of heat because of our broken educational system, and instead of admitting how their current method for allocating property tax dollars was the problem, they pointed their fingers at teachers. “Teachers are too comfortable,” they say. “This bill will get rid of the dead weight.” What the legislators have failed to do is to look at the root of the problems. Failing schools are NOT failing because of teachers. They are failing because they are poor schools in poor neighborhoods with scarce resources and a terrible learning environment. How can we expect these students to perform at the same level as those with top of the line technology in their classrooms, who don’t have to worry about the room temperature or the floor beneath their feet giving way at a moment’s notice? It is outrageous. These legislators have failed to see what the implications of this policy will surely be. Good teachers will all leave failing schools and join well performing schools in order to receive higher pay. My aunt who has taught kindergarten for over 20 years will have to decide whether to stay at her current school where many of her students come in knowing little English, or to move across town to a richer elementary school where most kids that start already know their ABC’s. The kids that already know their ABC’s are starting leaps and bounds ahead of those who don’t even speak English. To pay my aunt less for teaching these less fortunate students or to claim that she isn’t doing her job if her students don’t perform at the same level as those from richer schools is not only preposterous, but plain ignorance. Pulling all of the good teachers out of failing schools will only increase the already expanding education gap. This bill must be struck down. We should be providing more opportunities for our students, not taking their futures away.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Way I See It #2

It’s easy to be angry. To loathe the things that you cannot change. To hate what you do not understand. But anger won’t make things better. And Hate will only narrow your view. The only way to make a difference in this world is to love. You must be grateful for everything that you have, and spread that joy to others. Where hate blinds us and prevents us from moving forward, love opens our eyes to infinite possibilities and hope. So let go. Accept the world for all its wonders and its faults, and transform it through love.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


My last post discussed perspective and the importance of diversity. I’d like to make a clarification. I stand by my point that it is very important to embrace our differences and to always try and see things from another perspective. While this is important, it is also imperative that we do not become too comfortable. By too comfortable, I mean becoming so neutral that we do not question any actions or policies made by our peers or out government. In philosophy, this is called cultural relativism. This belief claims that nothing is empirically right or wrong. Something is right or wrong based solely on if a society deems it as such. Therefore, one society has no right to pass judgment on another society.

I strongly disagree with this philosophy. It is very important to be tolerant and understanding of other people’s cultural practices. For example, if one culture eats ants, we shouldn't label them as morally inferior. If they don’t wear shirts or don’t bathe every day, we shouldn't judge them as wrong. If, however, a society believes it is a just practice to take children into the back yard and burn them alive for fun, I feel it is our moral obligation to say that that practice is wrong. Simply staying neutral and saying that burning children isn’t wrong because that society doesn’t deem it so is a cop out in my opinion. It is silently aiding in an evil act. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Neutrality is cowardly support for the status quo.” He was referring to all of the people who saw racial discrimination, and yet did nothing to stop it. It is possible to become too neutral. Complacent, if you will. It is important to be understanding of others, but never stop questioning. And when you see an injustice, stand up to it, because by not doing so, you are contributing to it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Way I See It #1

This post is to explain the title of my blog, as well as introduce a segment that will reoccur from time to time in my posts. I am a shift supervisor at Starbucks, and have been working there for over three and a half years now. Every time I hand a customer a hot beverage, I am also handing them a perspective. Each cup is printed with a section titled, "The Way I See It," where customers write in and offer words of wisdom based off of their own experiences. Many people grab their drinks and rush off to work, school, or to pick up their kids. They hastily consume their caffeine and discard their empty cups in the trash somewhere without giving it a second thought. Next time you order a drink from Starbucks, I implore you to take a minute to stop and read what your cup says. You may not always agree with it, or even understand where it is coming from, but it offers you a unique perspective on the world that you would otherwise not see. This blog is my opportunity to share with you the world as I see it, but I encourage you to leave comments so that I may also see the world the way you see it.

The first entry is my favorite quote from a Starbucks cup. The following entries, starting with #1 will be my own thoughts.

The Way I see it #61
Imagine we are all the same. Imagine we all agree about politics, religion and morality. Imagine we like the same types of music, food and coffee. Sound boring? Differences need not divide us. Embrace diversity. Dignity is everyone's human right. ~Bill Brummel

The Way I See it #1
True Leadership is not telling others what to do, but setting your pride aside and having the courage to listen. It is not looking inward, but taking every opportunity you have to inspire and cultivate others. Leadership is a subtle, humble quality that has the capability to change the world. ~Kirby Thomas

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Those of you that know me are aware by now that technologically savvy would not be one of the top 5 adjectives I would use to describe myself. Not even in the top 500. So I apologize upfront for any blaring issues that may arise during this new adventure. That being said, welcome! I'm so glad that you are taking time out of your day to hear about mine! Many people create cooking blogs, or blogs to discuss their political ideas, or blogs to just ramble on about various issues. Though I will incorporate all of these things, it will probably tend toward the rambling thing. So if you're interested, sit back, and enjoy viewing the world the way I see it :)