Op-Ed: Female Incarceration: the Real War on Families

By Audra Brulc

Introduction

Female incarceration is an issue that I became particularly interested in after attending a presentation on the “war on drugs” at OU’s Sooner Mosaic Social Justice Symposium last year. (Shameless plug: register here for this year’s symposium!) In August, after attending a presentation on women in prison at Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Summer Policy Institute, I became armed with the stark facts about female incarceration in Oklahoma. I’ll list these resources, and others, at the end of this post. As awareness about the issue of female incarceration and US drug policy spreads (thanks, Orange is the New Black), I hope that these facts will be enlightening and useful to our readers.

The Facts

There’s a lot to be said about the reality of female incarceration, especially in Oklahoma, but the facts really do speak for themselves. Let’s take a look at the statistics so that we’ll be equipped to break down their implications:

  • According to the 2010 documentary War on the Family: Mothers in Prison and the Children They Leave Behind:
    • 90% of female inmates are non-violent offenders
    • 80% are mothers
    • 75% have lived below the poverty line
    • 60% have been physically and/or sexually abused in their lifetimes
    • 50% did not finish high school
  • Oklahoma consistently leads the nation in female incarceration.
    • As of 2009, the average rate of female incarceration was 68 per 100,000 women in the general population. In Oklahoma, that number rose to 132.
    • In Oklahoma, “14 counties incarcerate females at 300 percent above the national average” (Source: OK DOC)
    • Around 80% of female inmates in Oklahoma are non-violent offenders
    • Over half of incarcerated women in the state are mothers (Source: The University of Oklahoma)
    • The majority have experienced domestic violence and a family history of “dysfunction and instability”
    • 64% of female inmates received in FY 2010 needed substance abuse treatment. Less than 30% of these women were likely to actually receive it, based on previous years’ statistics (Source: OK DOC)

Incarceration as a Social Justice Issue

So what does female incarceration mean for social justice activists? I could write pages and pages on this topic, but for brevity’s sake I’ll focus on our skewed perceptions of drug charges, mothers in prison, and what happens to women once they are released.

One of the key issues at play is the nature of the crimes for which women in Oklahoma are being incarcerated. We already know that most female offenders are serving time for non-violent crimes. Furthermore, according to statistics presented by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, about 24% of sentences in FY 2010 were for possession of controlled substances, and about 19% were for distribution. These statistics continue to remain steady because of US drug laws and mandatory minimum sentencing. As both inmates and academics have pointed out, the current US criminal justice system is primarily focused on treating drug abuse as criminal activity. The alternative would be a public health approach, which would focus much more heavily on rehabilitation. Instead, as many of the women interviewed in War on the Family observed, the system seems intent on maintaining a cycle of recidivism and re-incarceration. If we cannot help liberate women from oppression based on class, race, and gender, circumstances which help incentivize the abuse and sale of illegal drugs, we are perpetuating an incredibly oppressive cycle. As long as we accept the current state of our justice system, we are accepting this cycle of poverty, abuse, and incarceration.

As the statistics show, many female inmates are also mothers. They are separated from their children, resulting in tremendous stress—sometimes even PTSD—for their children, who often must care for themselves and their younger siblings while coping with feelings of anger and betrayal. Women who give birth in prison are often shackled during the process and are separated from their infants after hours or days (ACLUWar on the Family). This psychological turmoil reinforces the cycle of drug abuse and incarceration for inmates and their children (ACLU).

After women leave prison, they are left with little resources and support. Thankfully, programs like Women in Recovery now exist to help female inmates reintegrate into society. However, former inmates have a hard time finding employment, reconnecting with their families, and getting care for their battles with addiction and mood disorders (War on the Family). And remember in Orange is the New Black when Taystee got out of prison, only to return because she couldn’t find a job and was still indebted to the prison system? Yeah, that actually happens.

My Take

When I first learned about our discriminatory drug laws and the numbers behind female incarceration, I was shocked. Like many other social justice issues, this is a reality that forces us to challenge our deeply socialized beliefs and assumptions about criminal justice and, at a much more basic level, right and wrong. It’s easy for us to make the surface level diagnosis that breaking the law is wrong and criminals should go to jail. However, there’s a lot to parse in that statement. First, it assumes that a society’s laws are inherently just. Second, it reinforces the idea that drug addiction is a criminal act, rather than a public health issue. Finally, it relies on the notion that retributive justice is the best way to deal with criminal acts. However, when we approach drug addiction as a health concern that requires rehabilitation and social oppression as a factor that continually subjugates certain social groups, we realize that we must transcend the notions of retributive justice with which we have been raised and act with compassion, empathy, and a true dedication to social justice.

Resources

Like I said, I could spend years researching and writing on this topic. If this is something you’re interested in, I would encourage you to do some digging (try starting with The Sentencing Project) and explore the web of interconnected issues that has created this pervasive injustice.

These are some of the sources that I used, as well as a few additional places to find information on this topic:

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Meet Our Members: Cara Alizadeh-Fard

Once in kindergarten I tried telling one of my African American friends that he wasn’t black: he was brown. I pointed at the box of crayons and said his skin matched the Crayola brown, not the black. Five year old Cara didn’t realize the implications of telling my friends that they were wrong about what they were calling themselves. Little Cara didn’t understand why they were upset but decided that if they said they were black, then they were black, regardless of what I thought.

I grew up in the OKC/Edmond area, was raised Baptist, and am the middle child of a family that was the result of the marriage between a first generation Iranian immigrant and an immigration attorney. I am white but hold my non-European heritage dear (I do jokingly refer to myself as beige sometimes) and recognize the many privileges granted to me. Diversity and tolerance are important to me and I believe that the exploration, understanding, and acceptance of other cultures is essential to being a decent contributing member of society.

I study Letters and Art History, as well as am a feminist and an advocate for autism awareness, body positivity, LGBTIQAP rights, increased minority representation, and more.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

-Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller

Change has to start somewhere–so why not with us?

Meet Our Members: Aly Clarkson

Hi, hello, my name is Aly Clarkson.

I’m your standard white female from Rural, Oklahoma. Being from a rural Oklahoma town, I’ve always been fascinated by the need to “fit in.” Rather, the need to ostracize those who have any difference from the majority – no matter how marginal or irrelevant. For me, this was primarily emphasized by my socioeconomic status, as I was “less blessed” than others around me.  However, as time went by and adolescents chose to be more cutting and hurtful, the insults and alienation became more focused on the idea of self and personal identity.  In my experience, these pubescent tactics were employed in making jokes out of my not-so-conventional beauty or personal style.

This issue, failing to die the instant I graduated high school, persists even today.  Because I have shorter hair, or have (on occasion) refused to wear makeup, or even because I do not regularly sexualize myself, I am a “dyke.”  A younger me felt humiliated by the lack of positive attention I received.  I, though somewhat ashamed to admit it now, was horrified by the fact that I was called a lesbian.  Now I understand that I was most directly upset by the fact that others chose to label me as whatever they saw as being the most humorous, or would alienate me most from my peers.  I was broken by the fact that I was wholly unable to define myself or create a persona that didn’t get ridiculed in school hallways.  There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, but in Rural, OK there is something wrong with sinning against God.  Barefaced in baggy clothes I embraced a religion that shamed me for something that I thought to be untrue, because I desired so much to be a part of the majority.  At least, I hoped to find a sense of identity in something that would be accepted by the community of which I was a part.  I desired so much to be accepted by others that I poured myself into the Church and let it become my identity.  I was not myself, I was part of something bigger and I failed to see that I was belittling my experiences or hardships by claiming they were all part of God’s plan and would ultimately bring him glory.  I allowed others to tell me that tragedies and trauma were not significant, because God would take care of me.  I rationalized crimes committed against me, the bullying I faced, and my own inner battles as being something that had nothing to do with me – that I was not my own.

Why did I try so hard to be like everybody else and be a part of their culture? Why is it that people have to know that you’re not the same? Why does there need to be an individual or separate entity for the majority to bond over hating? I wasn’t alone in my high school – others were mocked more ferociously than I could’ve handled.  Two girls were banned from a Valentine’s competition and sent home to tell their parents that they were “sinning together.”  At the time, I faced nothing so severe as the school’s administration shaming me in that way.  At most I was questioned “why don’t you wear makeup?” – “don’t you know that boys like long hair on girls?” – “wouldn’t a skirt be more appropriate?”

Coming from a family that calls Norman the “liberal shit-stain of Oklahoma,” I didn’t find much solace at home.  Being surrounded by people who refused to cease use of the N word and hung a black Santa Claus by a yarn noose on our Christmas tree (accidentally purchased by my horrified grandmother at Cracker Barrel), I didn’t dare venture into conversations about equality with my family.  This was, and continues to be, excruciatingly painful for me.  In fact, it wasn’t until I arrived at the University of Oklahoma that I felt comfortable voicing any interest in women’s rights, racial issues, or even my own identity.

As a “dyke” everything is more difficult than it should be.  Post a picture with your best friend on Instagram: she’s your “lesbian girlfriend.” Talk to a cool-looking girl at a party: you’re hitting on her.  Voice that issues of social justice are important: another “queer” looking for attention.  Things like good old fashioned heterosexual sex aren’t even safe! While re-dressing myself, a man once asked me, “so are you straight?” Being more frustrated than I can express in the remaining portion of this post, I clung to my Christian upbringing and the bigoted morals of my family and avoided answering directly.  “Your dick was just in me, wasn’t it?”

Sleeping with men and eyeliner weren’t even enough to rid me of my dykey aura.  I tried so hard to convince people that I was straight – and maybe to convince myself that I was straight.  I became frustrated when the guys I dated weren’t bothered when I made out with girls at parties. “It’s not the same,” they’d say.  It IS the same.  Because the insolent men I allowed in my life didn’t value same-sex relationships, they failed to feel threatened by my affection toward women.  The biggest issue is that I feel compelled to hide aspects of myself or even lie about them outright due to a continued fear of being alienated or ridiculed by the society that I’m a part of.  Some of the most integral parts of who a person is can be terrifying to reveal, because conformity is still so widely embraced.  For me, becoming comfortable with my attraction to multiple genders was hard to do, because it had been tattooed on my thoughts as being something that was sinful or wrong.  In the state of Oklahoma it is heavy to carry the weight of being a non-Christian, non-heterosexual person or being any race other than white.

I dream of the day that it isn’t scary for us to claim our identities.

I love you for who you are,

Aly

Current Events: AP U.S. History

By Brittany Plange

On Tuesday Oklahoma lawmakers voted almost unanimously to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History classes in high schools. Why, you might ask? Because that class allegedly only teaches “what is bad about America.” The bill in question, HB 1380 sponsored by state Rep. Dan Fisher (R), would defund the current curriculum. The state would also end funds geared toward preparing students for the AP exam. When the news broke of this event the community in Oklahoma was outraged, much like the rest of the country. Within a few days petitions focused on ending the bill were created. One in particular now has 19,241 signatures and the numbers still rise every day. In light of the massive backlash Republican lawmakers made revisions to the bill that would change the framework of the class to what lawmakers consider more “pro-American.” This translates into students being required to read 3 Reagan speeches and a speech by George W. Bush. The curriculum does not include any speeches from a democratic press after Lyndon Johnson. Ultimately the revisions have not helped ease the opposition to the bill. Fisher is not the only person opposed to AP History courses. According to Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern (R), “…AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools.” Sally Kern has asked the Oklahoma Attorney General to issue a ruling on the matter. Many students and members of the Oklahoma community are outraged and should continue to be.  We can hope that our representatives will be forced to note this.

Figure In History: Angela Davis

By Brittany Plange

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Angela Yvonne Davis was born on January 26, 1944 in Birmingham, AL and is one of the most important female figures in African-American history. She is best known as an activist for civil rights, education, and prison abolition. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University where she studied under Frankfurt school philosopher Hebert Marcuse. In an interview she stated, “Herbert Marcuse taught me that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar, and a revolutionary.” In 1965 she graduated magna cum laude and went on to do her graduate studies at the University of California-San Diego. Towards the end of the 1960s she joined several groups, including the Black Panthers and the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-black branch of the Communist Party. During 1969-1970 she taught at the University of California-Los Angeles until then Governor Ronald Reagan urged the Board of Regents to fire her due to her ties to the Communist Party. In August 1970 an escapee attempt was made in a courtroom and several people were killed. The three prisoners associated with the attempt were inmates of the Soledad Prison and were thus given the name The Soledad Brothers. Because of this and Davis’s social stance during the time she was brought up on several charges including murder. The justification for this was that the guns used were in her name and that she was allegedly in love with one of the prisoners. She fled California and the FBI director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover, put her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. In October 1970 she was found and apprehended and spent roughly 18 months in jail before she was acquitted of all charges. Since then she has written many books including Women, Race, and Class (1980) and Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003). She now teaches at the University of California-Santa Cruz on the history of consciousness and gives lectures at many different colleges, continuing to spread her wisdom to the next generation.

Discussion Recap: 2/15/15

By Alice Barrett

This week we read and discussed an essay on Black Girl Dangerous by Martina “Mick” Powell entitled “Hold Up: A Lovingly Disgusted Note to Hip Hop.”  The discussion started out slow, which is such an organic, interesting element of almost all academic discussions I’ve taken part in, but the difference for this one was that most of us found the reading logical and anticipated.  We’ve all heard that rap and hip hop often employs sexist, homophobic, and oppressive positions.  “Kids and their dang rap music!” or something.

Powell’s piece, we agreed, seemed personal in ways that criticism of rap often can’t be.  She paints her history with rap music (seemingly a universal history for other black people, too) with intimate, detail-oriented phrases: “everything—every beat against bass, every drip of spray paint, every time your body contorts itself into a new shape—has a purpose.”  Powell is a black queer woman discussing the problems she has with rap and hip hop’s discussion of black and/or queer women.  Her complaints are the most valid complaints one could lodge; she experiences the way hip hop and rap have previously validated her experience, and she notes importantly that they still erase her.

“I want so much to love you endlessly but sometimes, it gets hard walking into a brick wall day after day, never being fully able to escape. As much as you confirm my existence and my struggles, you also erase me, ignore me, defile me. Sometimes you hate me so much that you keep repeating yourself over and over again and sometimes you want me so much that you can’t control yourself.”

Her writing is poetic and personal, and therefore effective.  Perhaps someone who has noted oppression in hip hop and rap–and noted it only negatively, only to reinforce racist concepts, only to cement ideas of black men being violent and savage–will read this work and see the many facets of the hip hop and rap experience.

Some problems several members had with the piece was that it focuses solely on the sexism and homophobia in hip hop and rap, which could suggest if taken out of context that the only problematic parts of popular culture involve an art that has typically been associated with black males.  Powell’s essay doesn’t seem to look at all of the forces that combine to create this homophobia and sexism in rap and hip hop.  It focuses specifically on hip hop–which makes sense because of her own biography–but in doing this it fails to comment on society’s ingrained discriminatory practices.  It does not comment on the appallingly oppressive lyrics in rock, in country, in alternative music.  It comments only on hip hop and rap, which could certainly be virtuous in that the conversation is specific and more likely to be effective but is also race-specific.  This seems to be a problem in lots of social justice work–how can we discuss specific injustices without scaling out to look at the patriarchal, white-washed society we constantly participate in?

We additionally discussed the opposite phenomenon, where specifically Macklemore was apotheosized for declaring–for setting the record straight, for deciding perhaps–that (!) it’s okay to be gay (!) in his song Same Love.  He’s a white straight guy who confirmed that queerness is natural–and he’s a white straight guy who was worshipped for doing so.  In this case, Macklemore wrote something super positive, criticizing the homophobia in some rap music and supporting the struggles of queer people.  This should be valued, absolutely!  He’s using his privilege to positively affect popular culture.  How people received this, how he was described as the first person to talk about Actual Important Things in rap, as opposed to money and hoes, how he seemed to some to save and justify rap–these are the problems we should have with his work.  We should find it problematic and disgusting that popular culture will ignore the beautiful, authentic work of past queer, black rappers to champion the commercialized, bastardized work of a white guy.  We should be so, so sad that an artist like Kendrick Lamar was overlooked and erased in the Grammy’s for this song of Macklemore’s.

Finally, we discussed attempts to reconcile problematicism of things we love so, so much.  Can I listen to Kanye even though he says fucked up things about women and queer people?  Can I ignore Azalea Bank’s negative slurs in her attempts to point out problematic aspects of other artists’ work?  How can one enjoy popular culture when racism, sexism, classism, homophobia stain so many aspects of it?  We don’t know.  We think pointing out problems is the most feasible way to be productive in the face of oppression.  Perhaps we could use our commercial power to send messages, by boycotting the work of artists who enforce oppressive power structures, and perhaps we can be vocal about the problems we have with their work.  We don’t know.  It does not appear that one cannot enjoy culture that participates in discrimination and oppression; instead, maybe, we need to realize why artists are reinforcing oppressive ideas, especially when they’re reacting against other power structures they’ve experienced.  We need to demand more.  We need to reject any ideas of Macklemore’s superiority in rap (and especially the race-tinged aspects of this).  We need to look at valuable essays that note the multifaceted aspects of love and culture.

Op Ed: The Scarcity of Female Programmers

By Reagan McCreary

margaret
Margaret Hamilton

A flaw in the Apollo 11 Lunar lander’s radar system began sending loads of false data to its onboard computer three minutes before the lander reached the moon’s surface. Fortunately, NASA programmer Margaret Hamilton designed a system “smart enough to recognize that it was being asked to perform more tasks than it should be performing.” Without her work, we would not remember the Apollo 11 mission as the first to place human beings on the moon (alive).

Katherine Johnson calculated the flight trajectories for the Apollo 11 mission. Ada Lovelace wrote what we now recognize as the very first computer program. Grace Hopper wrote the first compiler, which is the software that turns raw code into a set of instructions understandable by a computer. Barbara H. Liskov’s research enabled the design and implementation of object-oriented programming languages, which are the most widely used languages today. While recuperating from childbirth, Erna Schneider Hoover came up with a computerized telephone system which revolutionized telecommunication in the 1950’s.

These are a small number of the many women whose work in the early days of computing showed that the Y-chromosome has nothing to do with the potential to succeed in the field. From the advent of the modern computer until around 1984, the ratio of female to male computer scientists increased steadily:

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Source: National Science Foundation, American Bar Association, American Association of Medical Colleges; Credit: Quoctrung Bui/NPR

But what happened in 1984?

A bunch of white dudes happened.

Early personal computers required much more hands-on coding than today’s, and they were primarily marketed toward men as a tool and toward boys as a toy. As sad and hilarious as this advertisement appears to us now, the culture of the 1980’s was effective in encouraging boys lucky enough to have access to a Commodore 64 to play games and learn how to code. The same culture taught girls to attract men and become homemakers with their Tinkerbell Makeup and Barbie Dreamhouses.

Because the first commercial computers required complex knowledge for effective use, the first few who truly understood them typically preferred time spent learning alone above interpersonal interaction. Gradually, the stereotype of the socially awkward programmer geek took flight, pushing more women away from the field. Not only is programming for boys; it’s for “weird,” arrogant boys with bad hygiene and no fashion sense who love to creep people out.

This is especially problematic now that computer science is so vital in our society. The ever-increasing human dependency on thinking machines places certain people in an elite class of knowledge. Our economy values technical skill and rewards it with higher pay. Discouraging women from entering highly technical and challenging fields can only serve to widen the existing gender gap.

The idea that select people can enter these fields belies the nature of computer programming. Too many people fail to meet the challenge of learning math or programming because they’re “not good at it” or it’s “not intuitive” to them. I take every opportunity to correct people who say things like this. In reality, if you can understand this sentence, then you can understand the pure logic of programming. It’s just too easy to give up early when you believe, consciously or not, that you inherently lack the ability to do something. Our culture produces an environment which allows budding female professionals to believe that their efforts toward learning math and science will ultimately fall short to those of males, that somehow their gender dictates a limit on their ability. Beyond that, women who manage to overcome the barriers preventing them from learning the necessary skills face even greater barriers once employed. Feelings of isolation in a sea of men, constant (often unintentional) acts of microaggression, and environments which treat women as foreign objects can turn even the most capable female programmer away from doing what she loves.

“You can do anything you put your mind to.” I remember hearing phrases like this from the moment I could understand them. Now that I’m older it rings true, at least in my case. I question its validity in general. I decided to study computers in college, and now I can make software. My status as a white, suburban male opened all of the avenues for me, and I felt no pressure to stifle my love for math or science because it would be unbecoming of someone of my gender, race, or socioeconomic class. I cannot say with certainty that I would have made the same decision had I been born anything other than a white male. I definitely would not have made the decision had it been unavailable to me, as it is to many.

Meet Our Members: Armeen Namjou

When asked to write a “Meet Our Members” piece, I was hesitant, and I only exacerbated my uncertainty by writing this piece past the deadline I was given (for some reason I can just feel Amanda glaring at me while I write this). But, when contemplating writing this piece, this little anecdote from two years ago crept in my mind, and both heightened my reluctance in writing for this blog and oddly enough also heightened my desire to write for it, too.

There was this art walk on Main St. that my friends and I were loitering at, when this man approached us, asking us to sign this petition which would allow openly gay men and women to donate blood. I think that whenever I remember that night, I can’t help but internally let out a sigh—really? That is so fucking sad. Did I need another reason to ever so slightly hate myself? Were we not even human? We signed the petition, this petition asking for most basic rights, but a petition that was necessary anyway. We knew that it was countering the ridiculous piece of legislation that was still in place. It should have been a sign—along with a million others throughout my life—that said, “Hey, times are changing!”  But why am I literally sweating while I’m writing this? Why is it that I—often without realizing it initially—act and behave slightly differently when I’m around my male straight friends?

Now a lot of this is just how I am. I’m introverted and I tend to keep to myself by nature: Binge-watching Game of Thrones while eating junk food in my bed will forever remain an all time highlight as far as weekend shenanigans go. I sometimes take for granted the lovely people in my life.  But I don’t think that my worries are totally unwarranted either.

By growing up in Oklahoma (or just hearing the name Oklahoma), you quickly realize it is not the most open-minded place in the world—though I will say growing up in Norman was a nice benefit. Being Iranian didn’t help much either. Not that I don’t love my culture, but whenever I think of Iranian culture, especially in Oklahoma I can’t help but think of The Sopranos. Though Iranian men are too short and hairy to be a really intimidating mafia, they are oftentimes just as homophobic. And as (maybe not so) shocking as this may seem, being gay and growing up, you quickly realize being gay or being called a women is the worst thing ever—that tends to hurt one’s self-esteem, especially if it was already a tad too low to begin with. And then I got introduced to feminine gay men, and hyper-masculine gay men, and continually heard sob stories, and read books about the horrors of growing up gay.

But what life seemingly failed to show, or what I failed to see, was relatable gay people—no extremities, no caricatures.  But I do now. I know now I don’t have an obligation to come out to people or feel I have to unless I feel it necessary. I know now I don’t have an obligation to allow what people will think affect me so badly that I unhealthily internalize it for my entire adolescence. But it’s unfortunate that I know that only now. So here’s hoping that this post will let people know now. Here’s hoping this organization will help people know now, and especially when they are young, because I’m tired of seeing and hearing sob stories that really just amount to stories of self-hate. So ultimately I write this post for two reasons. I need to remind myself that, firstly, what I’m going through isn’t some personal fable. Many of the themes and issues I’m dealing with countless others have and will continue to face, and so I would like to remind others they aren’t alone (as cliché as that may sound). But I think most importantly I would like to think that if you allow yourself to be vulnerable, the world in turn (for the most part) will reciprocate your feelings. So please, love you. I’m still working on it.

Cheers,

Armeen Namjou

Current Events: Chapel Hill Shooting

By Brittany Plange

On Tuesday Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu Salha were gunned down and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Police have arrested and charged Craig Hicks with the murder of the three college students.  The police, Hicks attorneys, and the majority of major news media outlets are saying that the motives behind this crime stem from a parking dispute. However, many people around the world including the victim’s family are not only calling this a hate crime but an act of domestic terrorism. It was not until a few days ago that this tragic murder reached national attention due to the media’s idleness on the matter. In the aftermath there have been a number of protests over the issue. President Obama weighed in on the event in a statement released Friday saying that the killings are “outrageous.” He also went on to state that “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.” That same day the FBI declared it would be starting an investigation on whether or not any federal laws were violated by the crime. Additionally, Palestinian officials have stated they would like to do their own investigation of the murders. The Palestinian foreign minister stated on Saturday, “We consider it a serious indication of the growth of racism and religious extremism which is a direct threat to the lives of hundreds of thousands of American citizens who follow the Islamic faith.” While officials seem to be doing their best to bring justice to the victims the rhetoric and behavior exhibited by the media has been disturbing to say the least. This hate crime is one of many that will happen this year to innocent civilians. Since September 11, 2001 there are around 500 hate crimes against Muslims every year. These crimes must be stopped. It is up to us as the next generation and future leaders of this nation to spark change. It is up to us to make sure their lives were not taken in vain.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

While these words have not been upheld fully in this country to every person, they hold truth and value in them. We must always continue the fight of freedom and equality.

R.I.P. Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu Salha.

Figure in History: Dauris Gwendolyn Jackson

By Alice Barrett

Dauris Gwendolyn Jackson

Dauris Gwendolyn Jackson (1933-1979) was the first African American woman elected to Wayne state University’s Board of Governors and the first ever elected to any Michigan university.  Jackson focused on civil rights and educational issues, believing “her primary mission on the board was as an advocate for change, for aggressive affirmative action, accessibility, and for helping the university become more reflective of and responsive to the surrounding community” (Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame).  She worked to create multiracial textbooks focusing on non-stereotypical depictions of African Americans.  She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000 and is recognized in Barbara Love’s book Feminists who Changed America, 1963-1975.