A Message to My White Followers

By: Nicole Bates

Instagram: @nicolebates_

Over these past couple of days, I have been grappling with how to express my anguish about the state of our country right now. My heart is broken and I am sick to my stomach.

It is easy to get caught up in the fight for a cause, but it is also extremely important to remember that individual human lives have been lost to police brutality (a brother, a father, a son, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a spouse, a friend).

With all that in mind, this is my message as a white woman to my other white followers:

When I was younger, I used to daydream about how peaceful it would be to escape to an island where there was no technology and no contact with the outside world. At the time, these idealistic dreams of escape were my way of coping with not knowing how to handle all the news of the evil, hate, pain and suffering of people in the world every single day. But this way of thinking is not going to help anyone or change the suffering.

AS YOUNG PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY RIGHT NOW WE CANNOT BE APOLITCAL. We have to vote, we have to be active in politics, we have to put in the work to make a better, safer world for our future and our children’s future.

You, yourself, escaping and avoiding the evils of this world is not going to stop the pain and suffering of others, specifically the millions of black Americans who have to live in fear everyday of being killed by the cops, who are meant to protect us and have disgustingly failed to do so over and over and over again. As a white woman in America, I have the privilege of choice to consume this news and then move on. However, it doesn’t really seem like much of a choice to me anymore. How could I move on knowing that such injustices continue to occur to fellow Americans? It is sickening. It is absolutely appalling.

You may feel burdened with a sense of “white guilt” for your position of privilege in society, but feeling this guilt is not close to enough to not be racist. Nothing will ever change if we don’t unite and take legitimate action against these injustices.

My frustration lies in the way social media functions in these situations. Though sharing information on social media is a successful way to spread the word about petitions, organizations to donate to, literature to read to educate yourself about racial issues in America, there are algorithms in place that make it difficult for us to reach people on social media who have radically different views than our own. So, though we can communicate with others who likely already share our views, in order to reach the people who, NEED to unlearn their racist ways, we need to do more than social media posts.

For some, social media may even be too toxic right now to engage with. It can be sickening to go on your phone and constantly see violent images of black men and women being beaten and killed. It is possible to express solidarity and take action without sharing these violent videos and images.

From my experience on social media, it’s quite jolting to see beautiful artwork honoring the lives lost to police brutality: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, the list goes on, side by side with images of people enjoying a pool party with their friends. This emphasizes the fact that as a white person in this country you can move on from the violence going on across our nation. This emphasizes that because of your white privilege you are able to enjoy a pool party with your friends. It is simply not enough to post a story and then just go on to hang out with your friends as if nothing is going on. This country is literally on fire.

I am not saying that we cannot allow ourselves to take time to take care of ourselves and be gentle with ourselves during this time. But we have to acknowledge that posting an Instagram story or tweeting is never going to be enough to make change in this country. If we want to be anti-racist, we need to be active in the fight against racism now and ALWAYS.

And, even if you feel as though your morals and beliefs align with anti-racist rhetoric, you still need to listen and understand how as a white person in this country you benefit from institutional racism. It is an uncomfortable conversation, but it needs to be had, and it needs to start with facing the racism you see in your family, your friends and in yourself. To be anti-racist means that you are committed to actively fighting against racism in your day-to-day life even if that means you have to question some of your actions or positions and those of your family/friends.

First, we need to educate ourselves. It is our job to read about these issues; our job is to know and to understand these issues as they exist in our society today and their complex history. But it is not even enough to know, whilst we educate ourselves we must use the knowledge we learn and apply it to make institutional change. You can’t rely on others to educate you on this. You can’t rely the on public education system, that only considers history from the eyes of the white man, to educate you on this, you have to take action and educate yourself.

At a protest I attended in Worcester, MA on May 30th, a speaker on behalf of the independent socialist group said that, “We can’t just react, we have to be proactive too.”

I certainly have a lot more thoughts on the matter, but I am going to leave it at this for now as not to overwhelm with words. If anyone would like to reach out and further discuss any of these issues please feel free!

If you are in position where you are able to donate money to help the cause, below are some organizations you can donate to:

Massachusetts Bail Fund

https://www.massbailfund.org/donate.html

George Floyd Memorial Fund

https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

 I Run with Maud

https://www.gofundme.com/f/i-run-with-maud

Louisville Community Bail Fund

https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/louisville-community-bail-fund/

Black Visions Collective

https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/

Minnesota ACLU fund

https://aclu-mn.org/en/donate

Minnesota Freedom Fund

https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/donate

 Color of Change Fund

https://act.colorofchange.org/sign/justiceforfloyd_george_floyd_minneapolis

Even if you are not in a position to donate money there are still many things you can do to take action:

Petitions

Justice for Breonna

https://justiceforbreonna.org/

Text Floyd to 55156

Books

I am also beginning on the journey to educate myself on these issues, starting with the books I have accessible to me in my home (I am trying to avoid feeding the giant by ordering books from Amazon), if you want to join these are some of the books I have:

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The Autobiography of Malcom X as told by Alex Haley

Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent and Reform by Tommie Shelby

Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

Black Prophetic Fire by Cornel West

“And don’t call me a racist!”: A treasury of quotes on the past, present, and future of the color line in America

Selected and arranged by Ella Mazel

Google Doc on Anti-Racism Resources:

bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES

Upcoming protests in Massachusetts (please remember to be safe at all protests!):

Worcester

https://www.facebook.com/events/2380591582239060n

Boston

https://www.facebook.com/events/1539887756189818

You can google more protests in your area as well as they will likely continue until all four cops responsible for George Floyd’s death are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

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NNNN Episode #26 With Journalist Matt Berg

Follow Matt on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/mattberg33?s=20

I’ve been sitting on this episode for a while now for no particular reason other than sheer laziness (and reading a couple books in the meantime)  but I’m so excited to finally release this interview with UMass Journalism’s boy wonder- Matt Berg.

Matt has an extremely bright future ahead wherever it takes him but he has already had his work featured for The Boston Globe and UMass Daily Collegian amongst others. It was so awesome to finally get the chance to sit down with him.

I don’t think it will disappoint:

Spotify:

Apple Podcasts:

https://anchor.fm/s/9f00fb0/podcast/rss

Intro song:

Slippery Slope by Yaw Amp

Outro Song:

Demise by Fellz & Cubie

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College is Hard…Period!

By: Kate Devine Twitter: @katiedevinee Instagram: @katedevinee

VERA
*Editor’s Note: Only the real will remember

Let’s take a trip back in time to my first day of junior year of high school.

I am sitting in Mrs. Kelly’s classroom, ready to flaunt my new Vera Bradley pencil case for the world to see*. (Yes- I was one of those girls.) After helping pass out all of the unnecessary forms, I saunter back to my desk to check out my schedule that was just passed out. Double-checking to see that everything is correct, I immediately start to stress out over the course load I picked out. 3 APs and all Honors? (Weird brag, much?) I look over to my friend sitting next to me and say something to the effect of, “Wow, it’s going to be a rough year.”

Hoping to find some reassurance from my friend, I instead get slapped in the face with, “You’re not taking AP Chem, so don’t even complain.”

Don’t even complain? My mind started to wander a mile a minute. Am I not taking hard enough classes? Do people think I’m stupid for taking AP Bio over AP Chem?

If I could tell my Junior year self anything, it would be two things:

  1. Vera Bradley ain’t it.
  2. You are smart enough!

I, for one, thought that this toxic competition of classes had ended in high school, but unfortunately, it only gets worse in college.

As a Biology major, I constantly hear my peers complaining about our major and how they wish it was easier, like the Criminal Justice major. Meanwhile, my friend, a CJ major, service learns 30 hours a week for one of her courses and takes intense research classes each semester.

Newsflash: It doesn’t matter what major you are, college is hard for everyone! 

Am I always 100% understanding of this concept? Absolutely not! If you scroll through my Twitter likes, you are most certainly going to find some hilarious content mocking nursing majors or business majors.

As finals season has unfortunately come around the corner once again, here are a few handy reminders.

The fact of the matter is we all have challenging, time-consuming homework. We all have crazy professors. College is hard, because it is supposed to be!

College is meant to challenge you. If you think college is difficult, then you are on the right track! If you hate college and truly believe you aren’t getting anything beneficial from it, it might be time to think more on what you are passionate about and if your current course load reflects that.

Some of my friends tell me how they can’t imagine having two three-hour labs each week, but, I couldn’t imagine college without it. On the other hand, the idea of writing multiple essays a week like my English major friends do, makes my skin crawl. College reels out our skills and strengthens them. Not all of us have the same skills, and that is normal.

Why do we find it normal to compete with each other about who has it worse?

Being proud of being more stressed or ‘having it worse’ isn’t just something that applies to school. Unfortunately, we see this twisted ideology all throughout our society. We find it cool to be sadder than others, broker than others, lonelier than others. When are we going to stop competing with each other’s struggles and instead acknowledge the fact that we all have them and should help each other get through theirs?

Maybe one day we can stop being Negative Nancies and Debby Downers and instead be normal college students, all trying to make it by, together. In the meantime, you can find me minding my own business and shading nursing majors.

Good luck on your finals and remember you always know more than you think you know.

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Watch: High School (1968)

Trailer:

WATCH FILM HERE

There were a lot of things that interested me freshman year that I never got around to writing about- but better late than never right?

I’m very interested in film because I look at them as a way to learn. The best films in my opinion are the ones that cause you to reflect on things in your real life. I hope to provide plenty of recommendations going forward but there is one in particular that has been stuck in my head recently because I find that some of the major themes in it are more relevant than ever today.

I agree that there’s bigger things to talk about then films but I also don’t think it’s a bad place to start so…

The film:

High School by Frederick Wiseman

The genre:

Cinéma vérité (nerd word) documentary

The context:

Wiseman serves as a fly on the wall inside Northeast High School in Philadelphia during a time when the United States was involved in the Vietnam war.

Things to consider when watching:

-Is it always best to comply with authority?

-What is truly honorable?

-Who pays the price of war?

-Were the students back then different than they are now?

-If it seems like a bad system how do we fix it? If it’s good- why?

Pat you don’t really think I’m going to get anything out of some old ass black and white film do you?

Maybe not but if you put the phone down for an hour and fifteen minutes- you just might (these kids and them damn phones!).

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P.S- #EmbraceDebate

 

 

 

 

Impeachment; Facts and Opinions

By: Colin Messinger Twitter: @ColinMessinger Instagram: @colin_messinger

Impeachment is the elephant in the room (no pun intended).  I’ll try to lay out the facts in chronological order as best I can.  But before I get started I have something to say that is arguably as important as the facts or my opinion.

I am very liberal.

In fact, I have described myself as a socialist more than once, although, I think Democratic socialist would be more accurate.  Everything I’ve written should be read with that in mind. I can’t get rid of my biases, so the best I can do is to state them clearly and let them be taken into account.  Of course, citing my sources helps as well. I’m not going to do some janky MLA shit though, I’ll just link articles to the concrete details I use.

With that aside, let’s get into it.

The basics:

The current hearings are being done by the House Intelligence Committee.  The chairman of this Committee is Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff of California’s 28th district.  The ranking Republican member is Devin Nunes of California’s 22nd district.  Generally, the impeachment process is misunderstood.  “Impeachment” happens in the House of Representatives, but it is nothing more than a formal recognition of misconduct.  Once an official has been impeached in the House, the Senate holds a trial. If the official who was impeached is convicted in that trial, they are removed from office.  If they are acquitted, they go back to their job. Multiple Presidents have been impeached; none have been removed from office.

A timeline:

In 2016, Hunter Biden, the son of then American Vice President Joe Biden was appointed to the board of a Ukrainian company named Barisma.  Ukraine has an endemic corruption problem. Ukraine’s top prosecutor at the time was Viktor Shokin and he was investigating Barisma for corruption.  Joe Biden conditioned foreign aid from the United States to Ukraine on Shokin being fired, and he was.  This is regular practice that foreign aid comes with conditions. It is also true however, that the EU, the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) were calling for Shokin to be fired.  It was official United States Policy that Ukraine replace him as prosecutor.

In April of 2019, Ukraine elected Volodymyr Zelensky to be their President.  He ran on a largely anti-corruption platform. He requested that Vice President Pence come to his inauguration.  Pence said he would go if his schedule allowed it. In the end, according to sworn testimony in front of the Intelligence Committee, President Trump decided that Pence would not go to the Inauguration in Ukraine.

The United States gives out Billions in foreign aid to a number of nations.  That includes Ukraine. I said earlier that it is standard practice for foreign aid to come with conditions.  The aid going to Ukraine had anti-corruption stipulations. Ukraine met those conditions according to a Defense Department statement on June 18, and the aid was scheduled to be released.  Later, a hold was placed on that aid by the executive branch.  When exactly the Trump administration decided to withhold the aid is disputed.  Jim Jordan, a Republican Senator from Ohio, stated in Ambassador Sondland’s hearing that the aid was held up on July 18th.  However, Lt. Colonel Vindman testified to the House committee that he was “concretely made aware of the fact that there was a hold” on the funds by July 3rd.

On July 25th President Trump had a phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.  (This is where any liberal bias I have is likely to come through, read this critically and read the call transcript yourself.)  In the call, right after President Zelensky brings up the aid that the U.S. is giving to Ukraine, he was not yet aware that there was a hold on the funds, President Trump says “I would like you to do us a favor though.”  He then asks the Ukrainian President to investigate Crowdstrike.  Crowdstrike is a theory that Russian interference in the 2016 election was fabricated and that there are DNC servers to prove it hidden in Ukraine.  It has been widely discredited, and the Associated Press called it a conspiracy theory. Later in the call, Trump asks the Ukrainian President to speak to Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, and the U.S. Attorney General, William Barr about Joe Biden’s role in firing Ukrainian Prosecutor Shokin.  Trump says “I would like you to get to the bottom of it.” At the time, Joe Biden was leading the polls for the Democratic Primary.

Next comes the whistleblower. 

On August 12th, the whistleblower, whose identity is unknown, submitted a complaint to the Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.  On September 9th a letter from Atkinson reached congress that said that the whistleblower’s concerns were urgent, and being ignored.   On that day, September 9th, Rep. Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, demanded that the whistleblower’s complaint be released and sent to his committee.  The Whistleblower Statute outlines this as proper procedure.

On September 11th the aid to Ukraine was released.

The aid to Ukraine was vitally important because Ukraine is currently at war with Russia.  Not only would the aid help their defense efforts, but the optics of the United States backing them against Russia is certainly a deterrent to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s dictator.  Multiple witnesses in the hearings testified to this, among them were Bill Taylor and George Kent.

Now comes my opinion:

President Donald Trump, asked a foreign government to investigate his domestic political rival.  In other words, he asked Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 Presidential election. This was an official phone call between our President and Ukraine’s.  And our president used it to further his personal, political goals. For that- he should be impeached. To me, trying to get a foreign country to interfere in our elections is treason.  If I were the Speaker of the House, I would include treason as an article of impeachment. But that’s just me, and to be honest I’m really not sure if this would fall under the legal definition of treason.

If you’ve followed the impeachment inquiry even a little, you’ve probably heard the terms “quid pro quo,” “extortion,” and “bribery.” In this context though, they essentially mean the same thing, that the President made a deal, using his power as President, to help himself in the 2020 election.  Bribery, however, is the Democrats’ best bet for an impeachment article, because the Constitution specifically mentions it. Article II, Section Four of the constitution is only one sentence long. It says; “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Because the deal between Trump and Ukraine is clear, bribery is a relatively easy case to make. Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, testified that the aid was contingent on an investigation or an announcement of an investigation into the Bidens.

The Public hearings have not gone well for republicans.  Tim Morrison and Kurt Volker were included in the Republicans’ list of witnesses they’d like to see called.  They testified on November 19th and at one-point Republican Rep. Nunes referred to them as Schiff’s witnesses. Clearly they didn’t testify the way he had hoped they would.  During the proceedings the Representatives from both parties have asked the witnesses if they thought there was a quid pro quo. The question is an irrelevant one.  They are not legal witnesses, in Congress to testify whether Trump committed a crime. So far, they have all been fact witnesses called to give Congress a clearer picture of how things unfolded so that the Committee, and eventually the house as a whole can decide if a crime was committed.

One of many Republican arguments at the moment is that there was no quid pro quo because the aid was released and no investigation was announced or started into the Bidens.  The thing is though that the aid wasn’t released until after Congress found out about the whistleblower complaint. On September 9th, Congress caught the Trump administration with its pants down.  Releasing the aid two days later was just them pulling their pants back up.  In Ambassador Sondland’s testimony, a quote from Trump saying he wanted “no quid pro quo” came out.  The thing is though that he said that on September 9th after Congress announced they’d be looking into the whistleblower complaint and any potential quid pro quo.

Of course he denied it- it’s a fucking impeachable crime.

Next up is Rudy Giuliani who has acted as a back channel between Trump and Ukrainian officials.  Time and time again, in the impeachment hearings it was stated that investigating the Biden’s was not official U.S. policy.  But according to witnesses, that was what Giuliani was advocating for. That means that Giuliani, a private citizen, was undermining U.S. Foreign Policy.  That is treason and he should be tried for it.

I have no idea if the senate will vote to remove President Trump from office.  Reason and logic (remember again that this is my opinion section) suggest they would.  But the realist in me thinks they’ll fall perfectly in line with their party.

If you can, watch the hearings because this is history unfolding. I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll be impeached.  And I hope to every God there is, that this will be the last time a President needs to be removed from office.

Notes about this:

A decent amount of the facts included in here are not cited or included in the articles I’ve linked.  I just know the information from watching the hearings, and following the story for the past two months.  So, if something doesn’t sound right to you, please don’t take my word for it.

Look it up yourself. (You won’t find the whole story on CNN or Fox News btw)*

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Editor’s Note:

You never truly can- nice work Colin.