Tag Archives: politics

How DACA affected the mental health of undocumented young adults

A rally in support of DACA outside of the White House.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Elizabeth Aranda, University of South Florida and Elizabeth Vaquera, George Washington University

“I am getting this wonderful education. I have a job. I fit in. At the same time, I feel at any moment that can change. I don’t think that most Americans live with that thought that anything can change [in] just one minute… My biggest fear is me getting deported or DACA being terminated and I go back to being here illegally.” –“Leticia”

“Leticia,” a pseudonym, is now 21. She came to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of eight. She is just one of the many undocumented young adults we have met in the course of our research.

With President Donald Trump’s reversal of an Obama-era executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Leticia’s worst fears seem to be coming true. It is now up to Congress to pass legislation that would grant “Dreamers” legal status. In the meantime, these youths’ dreams and aspirations are once again stalled, with another deadline and six more months of uncertainty, and thus, fear and anxiety.

Together, we have been researching the lives of immigrants for 26 years. Up until 2012, undocumented youth like Leticia found themselves with few options for making their aspirations a reality as they became adults.

This changed with DACA. The program granted certain undocumented youth temporary reprieve from deportation that could be renewed every two years, and identity papers such as driver’s licenses and social security cards. This gave recipients the ability to legally apply for a job or admission into institutions of higher education.

Since DACA passed, youth like Leticia have been able to further their education and obtain jobs and health insurance along with being granted many other rights. Our research demonstrates that DACA has enabled youth and young adults not just to work toward building their own futures, but also to find peace of mind – something that, until then, was unfamiliar to them.

Personal trauma and emotional well-being

Participants in our studies commonly discussed chronic feelings of sadness and worry. Their mental health statuses were precarious prior to DACA. Most did not know they were undocumented until a caregiver told them, usually in late adolescence. To them, finding out about their undocumented status proved to be a source of personal trauma. Their status disrupted their dreams and eroded the trust they had placed in their families, friends and social institutions.

Some participants admitted that, prior to DACA, they had thought about suicide. Feeling hopelessness because of their undocumented status, a few had harmed themselves or even attempted suicide. According to news reports, at least one young Dreamer ended his own life as a result of this anguish.

We found that one way that undocumented youth coped with feelings of isolation was to join immigrant organizations and to volunteer in immigrant advocacy activities. The social connections they developed in these groups fostered relationships that supported them in times of despair.

Then, DACA brought relief and improved their mental health. These youth shared with us that they were more motivated and happy after Obama’s executive order. As Kate, one of our participants, told us, DACA “has gone a long way to give me some sense of security and stability that I haven’t had in a very long time.” Even with DACA, these youth maintained their involvement in organizations to help “give back” to their communities.

Almost 800,000 youth trusted the government with their “fingerprints” and other personal information when they applied for DACA. In return, the two-year reprieve from deportation lifted the constant, everyday fear of existence that characterized their lives. These mental health gains, in addition to the fruits of all of their hard work over the past five years, are now threatened.

The road ahead

These young adults are thoroughly vetted and are either well on their way to or already contributing in significant ways to their communities and the country. Alonso Guillen, to cite just one recent example, lost his life while rescuing victims of Hurricane Harvey. Many have contributed to the U.S. economy – 5.5 percent of DACA recipients have started their own businesses and 87 percent are employed.

With the demise of DACA, these youth may feel that the trust they placed in government has been betrayed. In our research, before Donald Trump was a presidential candidate, we often heard participants expressing fear that DACA may be temporary – but it was always hypothetical. One of our participants, “Mariposa,” said she was “on the list,” and worried that the U.S. government would know exactly where to find her if DACA should end.

If our research and the history of social activism of Dreamers tells us one thing, it is that these youth are resilient. The U.S. is their home, the only place they consider home, and where they want to stay and contribute.

The ConversationOur work shows that being part of organizations that support immigrants is crucial to promoting a sense of social and emotional well-being. These organizations, at least, may continue to provide spaces where youth can come together and feel like they belong. Meanwhile, Dreamers can only hope Congress can find a solution that will help them trust once again in America’s institutions.

Elizabeth Aranda, Professor of Sociology, University of South Florida and Elizabeth Vaquera, Director of Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, George Washington University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Gun violence in the US kills more black people and urban dwellers

A man changes a flag to half-staff near the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Molly Pahn, Boston University; Anita Knopov, Boston University, and Michael Siegel, Boston University

On Nov. 5, just 35 days after the deadly Las Vegas shooting, a man walked into a church in a small Texas town and murdered 26 people with an assault rifle. The coverage dominated the news.

But the day before, even more people – 43 – were shot to death in cities and towns around the country. And nobody really seemed to notice.

Shootings kill more than 36,000 Americans each year. Every day, 90 deaths and 200 injuries are caused by gun violence. Unlike terrorist acts, the everyday gun violence that impacts our communities is accepted as a way of life.

Of all firearm homicides in the world, 82 percent occurs in the United States. An American is 25 times more likely to be fatally shot than a resident of other high-income nations.

As public health scholars who study firearm violence, we believe that our country is unique in its acceptance of gun violence. Although death by firearms in America is a public health crisis, it is a crisis that legislators accept as a societal norm. Some have suggested it is due to the fact that it is blacks and not whites who are the predominant victims, and our data support this striking disparity.

Urban and racial disparities

Within the United States, the odds of dying from firearm homicide are much higher for Americans who reside in cities. Twenty percent of all firearm homicides in the U.S. occur in the country’s 25 largest cities, even though they contain just over one-tenth of the U.S. population. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that of the 12,979 firearm homicides in 2015, 81 percent occurred in urban areas.

There is even more to the story: CDC data also show that within our nation’s cities, black Americans are, on average, eight times more likely to be killed by firearms than those who are white. The rate of death by gun homicide for black people exceeds those among whites in all 50 states, but there is tremendous variation in the magnitude of this disparity. In 2015, a black person living in Wisconsin was 26 times more likely to be fatally shot than a white person in that state. At the same time, a black person in Arizona was “only” 3.2 times more likely than a white person to be killed by a gun. The combination of being black and living in an urban area is even more deadly. In 2015, the black homicide rate for urban areas in Missouri was higher than the total death rate from any cause in New York state.

These differences across states occur primarily because the gap between levels of disadvantage among white and black Americans differs sharply by state. For example, Wisconsin – the state with the highest disparity between black and white firearm homicide rates – has the second-highest gap of any state between black and white incarceration rates, and the second-highest gap between black and white unemployment rates. Racial disparities in advantage translate into racial disparities in firearm violence victimization.

Americans are 128 times more likely to be killed in everyday gun violence than by any act of international terrorism. And a black person living in an urban area is almost 500 times more likely to be killed by everyday gun violence than by terrorism. From a public health perspective, efforts to combat firearm violence need to be every bit as strong as those to fight terrorism.

The ConversationThe first step in treating the epidemic of firearm violence is declaring that the everyday gun violence that is devastating the nation is unacceptable. Mass shootings and terrorist attacks should not be the only incidents of violence that awaken Americans to the threats to our freedom and spur politicians to action.

Molly Pahn, Research Manager, Boston University; Anita Knopov, Research fellow, Boston University, and Michael Siegel, Professor of Community Health Sciences, Boston University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

George Romero’s zombies will make Americans reflect on racial violence long after his death

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Annual 2010 zombie march in Madrid, an homage to George A. Romero.
AP Photo/Paul White

Erin C. Cassese, West Virginia University

“What’s your zombie apocalypse survival plan?”

The question invites the liveliest discussions of the semester. I teach a course on social movements in fiction and film at West Virginia University, where I also conduct research on race and gender politics in the United States.

George Romero’s first film, “Night of the Living Dead,” is on the syllabus. The film was groundbreaking in its use of horror as political critique. Half a century later, Romero’s films are still in conversation with racial politics in the United States, and Romero’s recent death calls for reflection on his legacy as a filmmaker.

Disquieted times

Newark, N.J. Rioting erupted in the predominantly black area of Newark’s central ward in July 1967.
AP Photo

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, an English professor and monster theorist at George Washington University, notes that “Like all monsters, zombies are metaphors for that which disquiets their generative times.”

Romero shot “Night of the Living Dead” in 1967, when Americans’ attention was focused on powerful televised images of race riots in cities like Newark and Detroit, and on the Vietnam War, the likes of which were new to broadcast news. Romero reimagined scores of bleeding faces, twisted in rage or vacant from trauma, as the zombie hoard. He filtered public anger and anxieties through the hoard, reflecting what many viewed as liberals’ rage and disappointment over a lack of real social change and others saw as conservatives’ fear over disruptions in race relations and traditional family structures. This is the utility of the zombie as a political metaphor – it’s flexible; there is room enough for all our fears.

In “Night of the Living Dead,” an unlikely cross-section of people are cornered in a farmhouse by a zombie hoard. They struggle with each other and against the zombies to survive the night. At the end of the film, black protagonist Ben Huss is the sole survivor. He emerges from the basement at daybreak, only to be mistaken for a zombie and shot by an all-white militia. The militiamen congratulate each other and remark that Huss is “another one for the fire.” They never realize their terrible error. Perhaps they are inclined to see Huss as a threat to begin with, because he is black.

At the start of Romero’s next film, “Dawn of the Dead,” in which another unlikely bunch faces off against zombies in a shopping mall, police surround a public housing building. One officer remarks on the unfairness of putting blacks and Hispanics in these “big-ass fancy hotels” and proceeds to shoot residents indiscriminately, not distinguishing between the living and the undead.

The officers are shooting to restore the “natural order” in which the dead stay dead. But their actions also restore the prevailing social order and the institutions that create and reinforce racial inequality.

Zombie revival

In my class, I connect these scenes of dehumanization to contemporary racial politics, using them as a springboard for conversations about racially motivated police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. These discussions focus on the zombie as a dehumanized creature.

In returning from the dead, zombies lose their human essence – their agency, critical reasoning capacities, empathy and language. As Cohen writes, “Zombies are a collective, a swarm. They do not own individualizing stories. They do not have personalities. They eat. They kill. They shamble. They suffer and they cause suffering. They are dirty, stinking, and poorly dressed. They are indifferent to their own decay.” Zombies retain a human form, but lose their individuality and are dehumanized in their reanimation.

Film director George A. Romero in Mexico City in 2011.
AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Minority victims of police shootings are often portrayed in the media as dangerous, animalistic and even monstrous – meaning they too are stripped of their basic humanity. Social psychologists argue that perceptions of humanity are a critical part of social cognition – the way we process or think about other people and social settings. When we see people or groups as less than human, predictable consequences arise. Romero’s films tune us in to our own potential for dehumanization.

Zombie psychology

Dehumanization relaxes our moral restrictions on doing harm to others and ultimately facilitates violence against them. When people see members of a group as an undifferentiated “hoard,” they’re susceptible to the same error as the militiamen in “Night of the Living Dead.” When they couple dehumanization with hatred, resentment or fear, they become like the resentful police officer in “Dawn of the Dead.” Dehumanization of black Americans underpins the violence perpetrated against them in Romero’s films and in America today.

Dehumanization isn’t confined to police violence. New research shows that dehumanization of Muslims and Hispanics underlies support for restrictive immigration policies and a border wall. It also undercuts support for aid to refugees.

In my own research, I show that political candidates are often dehumanized in political discourse and campaign imagery. This work suggests that monsters plague our elections and governance processes more broadly.

The ConversationRomero will be best remembered for giving the zombie a place in mainstream American culture, but he also gave us a warning about human psychology and critical insights into racial politics in the U.S. For this reason, his work will continue to have a revered place on my syllabus.

Erin C. Cassese, Associate Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

President Obama on DACA ending: “It’s wrong” and “cruel”

It’s been a sad Tuesday for many around the country: Donald Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, putting 800,000 immigrants at risk for deportation. There is a 6-month delay on the ban, but regardless of a delay, this puts thousands of lives in jeopardy and thousands of families are left wondering what will happen to them under this administration.

Everyone’s reacted to the news, from celebrities to congresspeople and Dreamers–people who, as kids, arrived into the U.S. and were protected by DACA–themselves. Among the loudest voices was former President Barack Obama, who authored the law and signed it into action.

Obama took to his Facebook page to express his outrage over yet another horrifying and racist action taken by the Trump administration.

“Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules,” he said. “But that is not what the action that the White House took today is about.

“This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.”

Obama wrote that a “shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again.”

“To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel,” he said. “What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?”

He wrote the action of the Trump administration is “contrary” to the values America holds dear as a welcome land for immigrants. He called on Congress to step up to the plate and protect Dreamers. One bill that could do that is the DREAM Act, which has been floating around Congress since 2001.  The bill, if passed into law, would grant minors conditional residency and eventually permanent residency.

“Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question,” wrote Obama. “Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”

Here’s his full statement:

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Op-ed: JUST ADD COLOR in the time of Donald Trump

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Recently, I put out a podcast airing out some of my raw thoughts about this impending Donald Trump presidency. One of the biggest issues I’ve been dealing with, aside from how everything Trump might do could basically end life as we know it (only being half-sarcastic about this) is how I was going to continue the work I’m doing here on my corner of the internet, JUST ADD COLOR.

After doing a lot of thinking, soul-searching, talking, and a little “HOW AM I GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS?!”-based crying, I decided I’ve got to do what I’ve been doing, which is talk about representation in entertainment. That’s what this site is founded upon. A lot of what happens in the entertainment sphere echoes what happens in society. In fact, I just learned that in Ava DuVernay’s The 13th states that the KKK’s penchant for cross burning only happened after D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation came out. If that’s not a direct correlation between life imitating art, then I don’t know what is. So talking about entertainment’s influence on regular life is something that is going to continue and something that has to continue.

However, we all need some levity, so please think of JUST ADD COLOR as a safe space for discussion about popular TV, movies, games, comics, etc. I’m working with a lot of POC geek outlets to utilize some of their content to help fill in the gaps I might have in my entertainment coverage (because I don’t play all of the games or read all of the comics on  daily basis). I’ll also make sure to post some more articles concerning some of the recent comics and books I’ve bought recently. And, since looking back at happier times is something we all need to do from time to time, I’ll definitely pull from happier moments in history, such as analyzing the surprising pro-black woman anthem that is Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back (yeah, I know, I talked about my hatred of the aught’s obssession with big butts, but Sir Mix-a-Lot takes the butt obsession from a different perspective than today’s love of butts, I think).

I’ll also preach more about unity here. In these times, we need to deal more in unity and less in division. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll sugarcoat any intra-race racism, for instance, calling out non black POC discrimination or fetishizing of black people, or when black people express discriminatory/fetish thoughts against other non black POC. But on the whole, I’ll focus on how we as the marginalized can and should work together to preserve our quality of life under this new regime.

This is the current plan for JUST ADD COLOR going forward. I’m hoping you can help me flesh out my plan and coverage; if you have anything you’d want covered, let me know either via Twitter, Facebook, or by emailing me at monique@colorwebmag.com

Fireside Chat #1: Monique figures out how to address the Trump election

Photo by zehhhra (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Photo by zehhhra (Flickr/Creative Commons)

In this very off-the-cuff podcast episode, I decide to use the podcast app on my phone to get out some of my feelings about the election of Donald Trump.

There’s a lot to discuss about the ramifications of a Donald Trump presidency, so take a seat and listen to my ramblings. Please keep in mind that I currently don’t have professional podcasting equipment and I have a very loud, very old computer; if you hear a lot of noise, my computer is what’s creating it. As I state in my podcast, this is a very raw podcast and I just wanted to get my points across in as real of a way as possible.

As I state in the podcast, if you have any suggestions about what you want to read or how I can best serve you during this Trump season we’re in, let me know on Twitter, Facebook, or by emailing me at monique@colorwebmag.com

How “Saturday Night Live” Mocked Latino Anger Toward Trump

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Donald Trump" Episode 1687 -- Pictured: Donald Trump during the monologue on November 7, 2015 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Donald Trump” Episode 1687 — Pictured: Donald Trump during the monologue on November 7, 2015 — (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)

It goes without saying that Donald Trump being anywhere near a highly popular show like Saturday Night Live would cause friction, particularly after his horrifying statements on Mexicans during the early part of his campaign. The statements caused him to get fired from NBC. But NBC basically recanted on their stance against racist and discriminatory speech by allowing him to come back to host Saturday Night Live. But that’s not the only way the show mocked the anger many Latinos have towards Trump for his prior statements.