Tag Archives: Opinion

Beyond platitudes, Ocasio-Cortez

By Aleina Dume

Richmond Hill, NY

When I first heard about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic candidate for New York’s 14th Congressional District, I was excited. She has advocated for issues I care about, like abolishing the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, reforming the prison system, and providing tuition-free public college nationwide. Like me, Ocasio-Cortez is a Latina who grew up in New York City. She embodies the demographics of my community. She looks more like a neighbor than a politician. Although I live in the 5th district, many of my family members live in the 14th. I was excited my community could vote for one of our own. 

With all of the media coverage surrounding her campaign, I tried to get more information on the specifics of her platform. On her website, Ocasio-Cortez advocates for things like a “Peace Economy,” and a national free public college tuition system. These are interesting ideas, but her website is light on details for how to finance or carry out these plans. 

In her proposal for higher education reform, for example, she references a “national education system,” which does not exist. She cites the University of California system as an example, but the system has struggled to remain affordable for many of its low-income students. The example also belies a broader problem with her plan, which is that tuition costs at public colleges are controlled by the state. She makes no explanation for how she would nationalize the system, which may not even be possible.

Similarly, she plans to turn America into a “Peace Economy” by bringing home our troops from engagements in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Though she is right to tap into America’s exhaustion with foreign wars, she does not lay out a plan for how to remove troops in a way that will maintain stability in the region.

A former community organizer and educator with real ties to her community, Ocasio-Cortez is qualified. But she is living in the world of ideas without providing specifics. It’s important that people feel demographically represented, however identity politics can only take a candidate so far. Their specific plans to address the issues on their platform is what should take them to Congress. 

Affirmative action debate requires nuance

By Jessica Fan

Oakland, CA

This fall, millions of seniors across the country will decide which colleges to apply to and await the letters that will decide their fate. However, for some students, college-related stress goes beyond just SAT scores and GPA. 

One of the biggest stories this application season is the affirmative action controversy at Harvard College over Asian-American students. The college has been accused in a lawsuit of incorporating anti-Asian policies, and court proceedings are due to begin in October. In response to the accusations, Harvard has accused the organizers of the lawsuit, the Students for Fair Admissions, of being complicit in an effort to repeal affirmative action altogether. 

Whether or not the allegations against Harvard are true, Asian-American students are right to be concerned about admissions policies. As an Asian-American who comes from a low-income background, I believe that affirmative action policies are important. But when it comes to college admissions, we need to treat racial categories with greater nuance.

Affirmative action policies that benefit students of color facilitate more diverse educational experiences for everyone and ensure that voices that have long been buried by elitist admission processes can finally be seen and heard. Higher education is the foundation of a successful career, and communities of color—especially Black and Latino communities —have historically been denied that opportunity. Affirmative action provides people of color with a fair chance at education. 

One of the biggest problems with affirmative action policies, though, is the broad grouping of Asian-Americans. Within the Asian diaspora, there are different cultures and ethnicities that lead to very distinct experiences. You can’t compare the experiences of a third-generation Japanese-American whose family lived through internment camps to a first-generation Filipino immigrant who graduated almost illiterate in an underfunded school.

Disappointingly, the focus of the affirmative action debate has been dominated by the voices of wealthy Asian-Americans. Groups like The Orange Club, which was founded in Irvine, Calif., by a group of Chinese-Americans, rally the support of their community behind one single goal: to end affirmative action. The often-fractured community is banding together for the chance to support local Republican candidates who vow to overturn affirmative action. They fail to recognize the obstacles faced by non-Asian minority groups, and they fail at addressing the systemic problems within other parts of the Asian community—such as the extremely low graduation rate among low-income Filipino high school students or the large number of under-resourced schools in California with high populations of Asian students. 

But wealthy Asians are not the only ones at fault in this situation. Institutional supporters of affirmative action need to take into account a broad range of diversity, and devise new ways to ensure that their policies are upheld within the Asian community, perhaps going so far as to dissolve the “Asian” category altogether in favor for a more complex breakdown of what it means to be Asian.

With #MeToo, we find our voices

By Magda Abdi

Minneapolis, MN.

As the #MeToo accusations against prominent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein stacked up, Weinstein stayed mostly silent. Big Hollywood names like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow accused him of inappropriate behavior. He lost his job. He checked into rehab. But he didn’t specifically respond to their claims. 

Then Lupita Nyong’o penned an op-ed in the New York Times describing how Weinstein sexually harassed her and told her if she wanted to be a famous actress, she would have to sleep with him. This time, Weinstein responded specifically to her. Through a spokesperson, he told E! News that Weinstein has a “different recollection of events.” 

Although the #MeToo movement has empowered women and men to speak out about their own instances of sexual harassment, assault and mistreatment, the reactions to some of the victims have not been compassionate. When an accuser has not fit into the mold of what society thinks a victim should be, their stories have been more readily dismissed—and that’s unacceptable. 

Megan Fox and Corey Feldman are two people who have spoken up about their #MeToo experiences for years. Prominent director Michael Bay has dismissed Fox’s claims, calling her a “porn star” and “dumb as a rock.” 

After the #MeToo movement gained steam, a clip from ‘The View’ resurfaced of Corey Feldman. For years, he said, he was abused by older men in the film industry. In the interview, he said that the people who abused him and another former child star, Corey Haim, are “still working” and are still powerful. 

“You’re damaging an entire industry,” Barbara Walters told him.

When Brendan Fraser accused Philip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, of groping him, Berk admitted he had touched Fraser, but dismissed it as only a joke. The action star, remembered for his roles in ‘George of the Jungle’ and ‘The Mummy,’ was seen as a masculine figure. Fraser said the experience led him to retreat from public life. 

Terry Crews, the former NFL star now known for his role on ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ also opened up about his own #MeToo experience. He said he was groped at a party in 2016 by a top Hollywood agent. 

Crews told People Magazine that he faced “blowback” for sharing his story and blamed it on “toxic masculinity.” 

As a society, we need to use the #MeToo movement as a way to empower people, and pay attention to the responses of the accused.

Meeting a Trump voter

By Maliyah Lanier 

Philadelphia, PA

“He spoke for the working man.”

“Hillary could have won if she appealed to the everyday American.”

“He was the only candidate that advocated for the blue-collar worker.”

During my first ever experience in political interviewing, I was faced with the task of being introduced to the unimaginable. Since the 2016 presidential election, the stereotypical image of a Trump supporter has fit simple characteristics that are often accompanied by irresponsible pre-judgment. Racism, misogyny and xenophobia are associated with individuals who support Trump. To me, as a 17-year-old African American, and an aspiring political journalist from inner-city Philadelphia, these assumptions seemed logical. Until last week, when I learned that being a Trump voter and being completely irrational were not synonymous.

While roaming the streets of Princeton, New Jersey, a mostly liberal community, I asked strangers their political stance on President Trump. I led with two questions: “What do you like about Trump?” and “What do you hate about Trump?” Most of the responses included reasonable dislike for the president, recalling some of his more destructive policies such as the travel ban and the separation of immigrant families at the US-Mexico border. When I asked what people liked about the president, I mostly received answers like “nothing” and a few jokes, until I proceeded to interview a family sitting at a table outside a restaurant.

A white woman, dressed casually with short blonde hair, greeted me with welcoming eyes—excited because she herself had studied journalism in college. She sat with her 93-year-old father and kindly included him in the conversation. Claudia George, a 59-year-old from West Virginia, was the nicest person I met that evening. When asked about her political party, she proudly presented herself as an independent. Because of her warm, welcoming manner, I wasn’t expecting the answers she gave to my questions. She explained that she had “struggled with her vote” and that her moral identity ultimately determined her decision. Trump was her only option. He had been the only candidate, she said, that advocated for working-class America. While this reason isn’t uncommon within the pro-Trump community, her position didn’t offend me or threaten me like I expected.

When asked about the Trump administration’s recent immigration policies, she stated, “I’m not for families being separated. I am a human being.” When discussing immigrants, she explained, “Many of them are hard working.” When discussing education, she exclaimed, “Build more schools, not walls.” My first encounter with a Trump supporter wasn’t expected. Nor was it distasteful.

As politics has become a conversation in hell and Trump has become the poster child of prejudice, the idea of productive conversation has been lost. Conversation free of logical fallacies and dismissal seemed impossible to me. We indulge ourselves in false premises as we go into defensive mode while trying to make people understand the struggles we face. Therefore, we become lost in justification and the slightest disagreement causes extreme uproar. While there is no excuse for the constant discrimination and ignorance displayed by President Trump, we should be open to listening to his supporters. Everyone’s story is different.

It is time to do away with the SAT

By Aurora Rivera

Los Angeles, CA

I am a rising senior at an under-resourced charter school in Los Angeles. Our school currently offers an SAT-prep course that all students are required to take. Unfortunately, the teachers in this course were inexperienced and didn’t prepare us sufficiently for the exam. I understood at the time that SAT and ACT scores were a major factor in college admissions, so as a result I became extremely stressed and worried after the class. I was scared about not being able to compete with other students who were better prepared and had higher test scores. My “college preparatory” school made me feel as if I didn’t have a chance in the battle for college admissions. 

Bates College conducted a 20-year study about whether making SAT scores optional in college admissions affected the quality of admitted students. William C. Hiss, Bates’ former vice president of admissions, asked, “Does standardized testing narrow access to higher education, significantly reducing the pool of students who would succeed if admitted?” The study found that the difference in graduation rates between applicants who did and did not submit test scores was 0.1 percent. and the difference in GPAs was 0.05 on a four-point scale.