The War on Drugs is a War on Us

The War on Drugs is a failure and has not achieved anything.

Since the 1970s, constant smear campaigns against psychedelics and marijuana have plagued our televisions and our public schools while alcohol and tobacco are normalized, though they are more damaging.

This 40-year campaign has brought a stigma onto people who have addictions, people who are recovering from addictions and people who consciously decide to take drugs for recreation or therapeutic purposes.

After 40 years of this, I demand to say no more.

Despite being legalized for medical use in more than half the country, marijuana is still illegal and a Schedule I drug, which claims the drug has no medical properties and is highly addictive.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has consistently pushed back rescheduling the drug to a lower class, which is not only delaying further research that should be done, but is also preventing people from being able to receive a medical treatment that–proven by the minimal science there is–that works for them.

Psychedelics have also been used for therapeutic purposes; there’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to studying this. The furthest along in this medical study is MDMA-assisted therapy assisting those who have severe traumas or post-traumatic stress disorder that has been immune to other treatments. It is in its final trials before going to the Food and Drug Administration.

The Drug War in the United States also began the sharp spiking of mass incarceration, with black and brown bodies being put in jail at disproportionately higher rates than those of their white counterparts. The Drug War has been used to promote racism through a “colorblind concept” lens, leading people to ignore the underlying intersections of how institutional racism has played a role in the racial profiling that happens because of the War on Drugs.

I tell you these things because for too long people have been bought into the idea that drug use or drug addiction are a criminal issue; people believing that people who use them should be locked in jail. But it is more than just taking people to jail and making sure they don’t have their addiction. Addiction is no longer seen as a behavioral problem, but actually a disease that disorders the brain.

Not only do we have to combat the social stigmas surrounding drug use, addiction and policies, but we also need to reform current policies in order to make sure drug use is treated differently. We must focus more on education and harm reduction than on incarcerations and punishments.

We cannot be complacent about what happens to our drug laws with the Trump Administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been an opponent of marijuana and a supporter of the Drug War since its beginning.

“Reefer madness” is a myth. The D.A.R.E. program is outdated and no longer serves a purpose in a society where marijuana is used medically.

Now is the time to change the way we handle this.

This column was edited and republished by the original author.

This column was originally published in the independent student publication, the BG News,on March 20, 2017 which can be found here.

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In Response to Tuesday’s “On Interracial Relationships”

The fetishization of people of color in this country has been an issue since before the colonization of the Western world itself. While diversity in the United States is indeed on the rise, the growing political climate has also made white supremacy braver as it infiltrates our executive branch and hate crimes in the U.S. begin to rise.

I am a product of an interracial relationship. My father, for as little as I know about him, was a black and Native American man. My mother is Irish, German and Hungarian with red hair and blue eyes to match. So imagine my surprise, and disgust, when I opened The BG News and read that “interracial couples can make beautiful babies. Interracial relationships have so many benefits, can even be a fun ‘fetish’ for many.”

To avoid getting into semantics, the definition of interracial is actually “of, involving, or designed for members of different races.” The definition itself does not include anything about the interaction of those different races, be it platonic or romantic.

Also, an interracial relationship does not have to involve a white individual to be considered interracial as the column used in its examples. Interracial couples can also involve someone who is Latinx and someone who is Black; or someone who is Asian and someone who is Latinx; or someone who is Black and someone who is Asian.

While it is in the author’s opinion that “interracial relationships have the power to completely end racism,” it is fact that this is not ever going to be the case. Despite popular belief, people who are racist have the capability to be in interracial relationships. Historically, white supremacists have slept with women of color in an attempt to “dilute” the skin color of future U.S. citizens and to “dilute” the people and their culture.

How do white supremacists and racists in interracial relationships have the power “to completely end racism,” when their entire ideology sees black bodies as just a capitalist commodity and want to eliminate those people?

In 2016, there were 60.25 million married couples in the United States. As of 2014, 35 percent of all marriages were interracial and interracial marriage is still projected to rise as the demographics of the United States begin to change. Does this mean that interracial marriage is still the minority? Yes. But that does not mean people aren’t “embracing” interracial dating. In fact, it means quite the opposite.

Of course people are still going to think interracial dating and marriages are “taboo.” In 2016, we saw the case of Loving v. Virginia come to life on the silver screen, the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in 1968.

A movie screen cap of
Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving from the 2016 movie, “Loving.” The movie made $7.8 million at the box office.
It is going to take more than “beautiful mixed babies,” tolerance and embracing to end racism in U.S. society. It is going to take action, unlearning racist and white supremacist behaviors, and dismantling our institutions of racism before we can even think about it being completely over.

As an active member of the BDSM community, I found it to be incredibly racist and offensive to my community that interracial dating could be seen as a “fun fetish.” People of color have been fetishized for decades and to promote this through interracial dating promotes white supremacy. “Race play” is a very real thing in the community which is where participants take on the roles/stereotypes of different races to enact a power dynamic. A common scene is a submissive taking on the role of a slave and the dominant taking the role of a plantation owner; white submissives will go as far as putting themselves in blackface.

I agree interracial relationships are to be celebrated and embraced. Without interracial love, I don’t know who I would be as a person. I am a tri-racial woman because of interracial dating. But please refrain from fetishization when celebrating these relationships.

This column was written in response to “On Interracial Relationships.”
This column was originally published in the independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.

The Redskins name debate

With the beginning of fall and Halloween quickly approaching there is one thing also happening that makes people either excited or nauseated and it’s not pumpkin spice. 

It’s sports. 

It’s also that wonderful time of the year when you will hear sports fans and activists alike talk about one thing: mascots and names involving Native Americans. 

I would like to think that most people can recall that one time The Washington Post said 9 of 10 Native Americans did not find the term “redskin” offensive. This is something that has been widely debated by not only sports fans, but activists and Native Americans themselves. 

Owner Daniel Snyder has also taken a stand to the point where he has written emotional letters about how Native Americans face more dire issues than the name of a football team. These condition include the poverty rate on reservations, diabetes, substance abuse, lack of infrastructure, transportation and lack of water resources. At the end of a letter he even announces the start of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. 

In the summer the NFL asked the U.S. Supreme Court to look over their revocation of the Redskins trademark registration. 

Already, I am seeing reporters say Snyder has already said no this season to changing the name. Which is a shame—he didn’t even wait for the Supreme Court to decide on the revocation. 

“Why not,” people ask me, “talk about Blackhawks, the Indians, the Braves, the Chiefs?” 

But they are, and we will…but not in this column. 

In my time here at BGSU, I’ve taken every Native American Studies class. In my second Native American Studies class, I learned that the term “redskin” comes from collecting Native American scalps for bounty. 

A column by Esquire shows a picture of the Phips Proclamation written in 1755 saying, stating, “The State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for very red-skin sent to Purgatory.”

A picture of an excerpt from the 18th century Phips Proclalmation.
A section of the Phips Proclamation which gives the prices for how much every Native American bounty is worth. It lists the prices of both whole bodies and scalps.

An advertisement appearing in Minnesota newspaper, The Daily Republican, prices dead Native Americans at $200, citing that the amount is “more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.

An advertisement from the Minnesota newspaper, The Daily Republican, which advertises the price of Native American scalps to be $200.
An advertisement showing the price of a Native American scalp from a 19th century newspaper

Native Americans were scalped and had their heads sold as if they were pelts

To a lot of Native Americans, the terms is seen as offensive and it is something they do not wish to have as a name for the Washington football team. However, cannot ignore that there indeed may be some Native Americans who are completely okay with the name. With all topics, it is a fact of life that there will always be a divide in opinions. 

Daniel Snyder is right. There are indeed these problems he listed in his letter on Native American reservations. Post World War II Germany was treated better than Native Americans have been. 

A protest has been going on in the Dakotas over an oil pipeline that is being built on Native American land. The pipeline would stretch over four states and could potentially affect the drinking water of 18 million people with just one accident. 

I have yet to see the NFL, nor the Redskins, do anything to either help Native American communities or lend a hand to the protesters who are up against an oil company invading their land, and defacing burial sites and sacred places. 

The Original Americans Foundation has also been inactive since 2015. Their website isn’t even updated or functioning. 

There are definitely other teams who need to step up for Native American communities and the Redskins, and while they have done so in the past, they have not done so to my knowledge in the present.

CORRECTION: The original column cited the advertisement to be an excerpt of the proclamation. This turned out to be incorrect and was changed.
The original version of this column was published in the independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.

Speaker at Black Issues Conference highlights role of activism in shaping politics

A picture of activist Rosa Clemente speaking to an audience at a podium at Bowling Green State University.

More than 300 people attended the 17th annual Black Issues Conference keynote luncheon to hear hip-hop activist and 2008 Green Party vice presidential candidate Rosa Clemente speak on Saturday.

Clemente spoke at the University this weekend as part of her “If I Was President” Tour.

Before stepping onstage, student Ashli Ericka Hunter introduced her.

“Rosa has spent her life dedicated to scholarly activism,” Hunter said.

In 2001, she published an article in the Chicago newspaper, Final Call, called “Who is Black?” which sparked discussion about cultural identity, political identity and racial identity.

Both Clemente and Hunter identify as Afro-Latino, a term used to describe people who identify with both African and Latino heritages.

“’I am so tired of having to prove to others that I am black,’” Hunter quoted from Clemente’s article.

Following her introduction, Rosa Clemente took the podium and read the article in its entirety.

“Being Latino is not a cultural identity, but … a political one,” she said to the audience. “Being Puerto Rican is not a racial identity, but … a cultural and national one … Being black is my racial identity.”

Clemente brought up a lot of issues affecting both Latino and black communities, including education.

She discussed how power of protest helped in getting people of color into colleges and universities in order to have the same educational opportunities as their white peers.

“We changed these institutions,” she said. “Why did we get in here? Because of protest. Not because of Civil Rights legislation, because of the Black Power Movement.”

She also called out the public education system for only having students focus on standardized testing and not helping them prepare for college.

“No Child Left Behind Act destroyed public education and critical thinking,” she said.

She connected this with the School-to-Prison Pipeline, which refers to policies that push schoolchildren (often of color) into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

“We have young people graduating with records. Ninety percent are African-American and Latino students,” she said.

Clemente also shared her story of going to college and being open to new information about both her identities.

“When I went through school, I was going through moments of a lot anger,” she said. “Like, wait a minute — why was all this kept from me? Why didn’t my parents tell me this?”

She said it was through her studies that she became an activist.

“It’s usually something that sparks you to become an organizer, an activist. I became an activist and a scholar through my college experience. I became an organizer when I moved back to New York, started teaching, left … and I joined the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.”

Clemente closed her speech by encouraging the audience to be aware of who they’re voting for when they go into the booths.

“Be radical in this movement around black lives,” she said. “We don’t have time anymore for games.”

The article has been updated by the original author.

This article was originally printed on March 1, 2015 in the independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.

Dinner celebrates Black History Month

The Office of Residence Life Students of Color Mentoring, Aiding, Retaining and Teaching, or SMART, program hosted its annual Taste of February event Friday night in 101 Olscamp Hall.

The theme this year was “Our Untold Stories,” which touched on different and less discussed aspects of Black History.

Diversity and Retention Initiatives Coordinator Ana Brown welcomed attendees at the start of the event before releasing them to dinner, provided by Dining Services’ catering.

The dinner was inspired by the mix of cultures and people found in the southern city of New Orleans, including crab beignets, hush puppies and shrimp and grits.

Following dinner, students who are part of the SMART program presented five separate presentations, highlighting various parts of Black History.

“Untold Stories of Black Hollywood” highlighted black actors, writers and directors.

The next group played a trivia game with the attendees in their presentation titled “The Evolution of Black Women,” which included prominent black women from the 60s to the present day.

“Untold Stories of Political Activists” highlighted important people and places in black activism such as speakeasies and Black Wall Street.

To keep with the importance of representation, a presentation called “Afro-Latinos” talked about people who are of both African and Latino heritages. They discussed the black populations of Latin America and the issues they face having a dual identity.

“History in Music” featured various songs from over the years that expressed the trials and tribulations that the black community has faced. Artists mentioned included Marvin Gaye, James Brown, N.W.A. and Kendrick Lamar.

Brown closed the ceremony with a thank you to both attendees and to students, who she said had been working since October on the presentations featured.

For SMART Team Leader Jessica Wells, this was her third year participating in Taste of February.

“It took us months to get it together,” Wells said. “We wanted to make sure every identity was represented. There’s so many times in our classes and the world where underrepresented people are often tossed to the side.”

She called the importance of representing other identities in the presentation “pivotal” to make sure that it was part of the program.

As a senior, this is her last year participating in the event and she called the feeling of it being her last one, “surreal.”

“I really am proud of the staff that I was able to be a part of and it was just a real nice event,” Wells said.

The article has been updated by the original author.
This article was originally published on Feb. 9, 2016 in the independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.

Parsing out complexities of intersectionality

A column published in Tuesday’s paper titled “LGBT Community’s unseen racism problem,” caught my attention, and I immediately began to read. But what I found when I was reading this column was an emotional response that left me raising my eyebrows.

While the column did open the conversation about racism in the LGBT community, the columnist missed the opportunity to address the things that make the LGBT less inclusive: the conversation on intersectionality and the conversation of preference versus racism.

First, let me just say that there is no “fine line” between preference and racism. Having a preference is not only racist but sexist as well.

As an afro-indigenous ally to the LGBT community, I will be the first to tell you that I do not know what it is like to have the experiences an LGBT individual does. But I do experience racism and sexism and those are both things I can speak about.

A woman of color can tell you that sometimes the racism she experiences can be sexist and the sexism she experiences is racist, so it is no surprise that the same can happen to LGBT people of color.

An Australian study published in the summer of 2015 looks at sexual racism, which the abstract describes as “a specific form of racial prejudice enacted in the context of sex or romance.”

In that same summer, a UK charity publication FS magazine surveyed 850 gay men of color.

Eighty percent of the black men who responded to the survey said they had experienced some sort of racism while on Britain’s gay scene. Even worse, 63 percent of black and South Asian men reported racism within the community being a worse issue than homophobia.

“Intersectionality” is a word that I’ve heard often, mostly with the feminist movement.

“Intersectionality” is the idea that describes ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another.

Instead of using myself as another example, I will use my sister who identifies as lesbian, but like myself, is of mixed races. Since her identity as a woman and a member of the LGBT community are both a part of her. They cannot be separated. As goes for LGBT black men. One hour, they could be getting followed around a store in fear of stealing something; the next hour, they could be having an experience similar to the one(s) described in the previous column.

The only way to get past sexual racism in the LGBT community is to converse. It is important to have these conversations about sexual racism so can grow as a community.

I agree with the column that the LGBT community is becoming strong. However, I think the column is being too hard on the LGBT community for not knowing about things that haven’t been brought up in conversation or discussion yet. The LGBT community is not perfect, like any other community. It will have its flaws at the start. But the bigger it grows and the more people talk to each other about issues, the stronger it will be.

This is in response to the column “LGBT community’s unseen racism problem” originally published February 2. 2016, which can be found here.
This response column has been updated for the internet by the original writer.
This response column first appeared in the independent student publication, The BG News on Feb. 4, 2015. You can find their web edition here.

Not In Our Town examines Islamophobia on campus, nation

Not in Our Town hosted a discussion on Islamophobia in the Union’s theatre Wednesday night to start a conversation on the growing intolerance of Muslims and people who are perceived as Muslim.

NIOT is an initiative that invites the community to stand against acts of discrimination and prejudice against minorities and other marginalized groups.

The event started with a panel of six participants talking for 10 minutes each, followed by a question and answer segment.

The six participants included a representative from the Islamic Center of Greater Toldeo; members of the Muslim Student Association at the University; and the owner of Bowling Green carry out, South Side Six.

The representative from the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo said the mosque (located in Perrysburg) works continuously, as it is their job to educate not only others in the Islamic community, but also the larger community.

Dale Waltz and Eva Davis, the chairs of the Canton Response to Hate Crime Coalition from Canton, Michigan addressed the importance of engagement and relationship building between marginalized communities and groups and law enforcement.

According to Waltz, who is also the Sargent of Canton Towship’s police department, they’ve only had one hate crime reported since the coalition was founded in 2008.

“We take these things seriously,” he said. They do get incident reports, and they are addressed and taken care of.

Eva Davis, who has been the director of Canton’s public library for eight years, said she has changed the library into a “neutral third place” for others to meet people in their community.

Muslim Student Association president Adnan Shareefi was also on the panel and said that a problem is how other people “see” Muslims and that the role of the Muslim Student Association is to engage, educate and encounter bias.

During the Q&A segment of the discussion, one student asked what future educators and researchers could do in order to expand their classrooms or research.

The panelists encouraged the use of class speakers in the classrooms. Not just of adults, but speakers that were also students that they could connect to.

Coalition co-chair Dale Waltz encouraged non-Muslim community members to reach out, connect and think outside of the box when helping minority and marginalized communities.

Not in Our Town will be having another discussion on Islamophobia on Feb. 9 at the Wood County Public Library in Bowling Green.

This posted has been edited and updated by the original author.

This article was originally printed in the independent student publication, The BG News on January 28, 2016. You can find the web edition here.

Appropriation obscures history

Culture: the behaviors, beliefs, values and symbols a group of people accept that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generating to the next.

Appropriate: to take or use (a thing) specifically in a way that is illegal or unfair.

Cultural appropriation: a power dynamic where members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people that has been systematically oppressed by said dominant group.

This is a concept you will hear a lot online for the rest of September and until the end of October now that Halloween stores are popping up all over Northwest Ohio and Starbucks has brought back their pumpkin spice latte.

But on the topic of cultural appropriation, I don’t want to discuss Halloween costumes—not this time at least.

Recently, I expressed my dislike of non-indigenous people having dream catcher tattoos. And to say the least, I was met with a lot of upset.

Before I got into what the upsets were about my claim, allow me to give you some background on the dream catcher.

The dream catcher is a small hoop containing a horsehair mesh, or a similar construction of string or yarn, decorated with feathers and beads.

The dream catcher was first made by the Chippewas. According to legend, the “Spider Woman” took care of the children and the people on land. But when the Chippewa Nation stated spreading, it became harder for the Spider Woman to reel all of the people. So mothers and grandmothers began weaving magical webs for the kids.

Dream catchers are meant to trap your bad dreams in the “web” at the center of the dream catcher circle. Then good dreams are supposed to filter down from the beads and feathers. When morning light hits, the bad dream in the web is supposed to disappear.

Dream catchers were adopted from intermarriage and trading with other tribes. Then tribes who were involved with the Pan-Indian Movement of the 60s and 70s started using the dream catcher.

The dream catcher is seen as three things: First, it is seen as a symbol of unity between the different Native Nations, second, it is seen as a general, identifiable symbol of Native American cultures and thirdly, it is seen as overly commercialized and offensively misappropriated.

Which brings us full circle back to the concept of cultural appropriation.

As I said earlier, I verbalized how I felt non-native people were misappropriating the dream catcher, saying that I was tired of seeing symbols important to other cultures being used by people who didn’t belong to those cultures. I verbalized that I didn’t believe something of a different culture should be taken from it only on the basis that it is cool or beautiful.

And this seemed to bother people.

I was told one didn’t have to be part of the culture to appreciate how beautiful something is. A non-Native who decides to have a symbol such as a dream catcher put on them so permanently as in the form of a tattoo must have some sort of personal connotation attached to it, therefore making it valid of them to have the tattoo in the first place. To them, one does not have to be Native American to enjoy something. A lot of people believed the melding of cultures is important for a culture to survive.

I could feel myself growing increasingly frustrated with my friends. I just couldn’t understand why they would think it would be okay to take something that doesn’t belong to their people and put it on themselves as if they owned it.

And then I realized that my peers were actively using cultural appropriation in our discussion.

By saying they felt valid to have a tattoo such as a dream catcher because it meant something to them as an individual, they were putting their feelings as the ones in the dominant culture above the necessary justices of the marginalized Native Americans.

In the Native American Studies classes I’ve taken here at the University, I’ve learned about what America as a country and as a society does and has done to the Natives. Do we really need to continue this brutal history with them by using symbols that do not belong to us?

But do not take my opinion on the matter as a solid truth. Cultural appropriation is an extensive topic and I doubt it will be going away in discussions any time soon.

You should have the right to express yourself however you want to—and as an American citizen, you do. Nobody can force you to stop taking things from other cultures.

And this is in no way saying that you, the individual of the dominant culture, are a bad person if you appropriate someone else’s culture.

But claiming you, as an individual of the dominant culture, have a right to take freely from groups because it holds a personal meaning to you is unfair.

This column was originally published on Sept. 16, 2015 by independent student run newspaper, The BG News, which can be found here.