Fire in North Chicago sheds light on American’s views of “illegals”

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A fire broke out in a strip mall in West Rogers Park in Chicago on Friday. After investigation, it has been said that the fire was started by a blow torch being used by roofers. The roofers allegedly left the scene and did not return once the fire broke out. An extremely unfortunate situation that put many in danger and led to vast destruction of local businesses. A mistake, indeed, to not stay at the scene of a fire if actions taken by the roofers were the cause (intentional or not). Certainly, we can all agree.

But what I can’t agree with are the comments that readers of articles covering this story were saying.

I’ll bet $1,000 they’re illegal immigrants and will never be found or come forward.- iuriggs6

 

I agree. My guess, and I think it’s a damn good one, they were indeed illegal aliens. Maybe they were hired to torch this place, maybe not. In any case they need to be tracked down like the mad dogs they are and arrested. -CamelPaw357

 

Those roofers are already back in Guadalajara by now…. – fefifo2466

In my last post, I discussed the idea of viewing through particularities and not generalities. The readers (which by the way, these comments were on an article written by the Huffington Post) of this story demonstrated that they view the world through generalities. No where in the news story does it mention the race of the roofing crew that were working on the American Matress Store. Readers jumped to his extremely racist conclusion. Even so, if the roofers are Mexican, readers also jumped to the conclusion that they are “illegal” and deserve to be arrested. I find it both fascinating and sad how quickly Americans jump to judgmental conclusions regarding  scenario they, quite frankly, know nothing about.

In a country where we are battling immigration reform, Americans are so incredibly misinformed about the reality of immigrants in this country. Sweeping numbers — 11 million illegal aliens — are often cited when talking about immigration reform. Through media representation of this issue and commentary by readers, immigrants (illegal or not) are quickly categorized as undeserving, lazy, and criminal. But what Americans refuse to admit is that these “illegal aliens” are taking jobs American’s do not want. A large majority of Mexican immigrants in this country are working the fields growing, picking, harvesting, and distributing food to dinner tables across America. Indeed, slavery in America never ended, it just shifted to a different race. Many immigrants are working in the back of restaurants ensuring your meal is brought to you fresh, warm, and on clean dishes.  Many of these workers are struggling to support their families because our welfare system is built to only support those who aren’t working. For those that are, their benefits are cut and still their wages are not enough to feed their families.

The readers who made these ignorant, offensive comments likely won’t give up the food they eat, the clothes they wear, or the products they use because they were made by “illegals” — because of course, these readers are far more deserving of life’s necessities than these workers, right? Give me a break.

Until readers of these sorts of articles can read it with a empathetic heart, a critical lens, and a moral compass that isn’t pointed only at the well-being of themselves, we are never going to achieve equality and humanity will never witness ultimate dignity and respect.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/15/chicago-strip-mall-fire_n_4284974.html

Ms. Gloria

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A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men. – Gloria Steinem

I had the most amazing pleasure of meeting Gloria Steinem on Wednesday at an event to benefit the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and the Women’s Media Center (for which Gloria is a co-founder). As a feminist and an advocate for human rights, this was not only a dream come true but an inspirational moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. I will tell my daughter about it one day. I will share it with my granddaughters. I will remember the words of wisdom she dispelled on that night cold night in Chicago in a lovely family’s home amongst 125 women and girls.

It has taken me a few days to write this post because a) I was on travel for work and b) it’s taken me a little while to come down from cloud 9 and process everything she said. I’m still processing, but I am ready to share my thoughts and feelings around the night.

First, I have to mention that Gloria Steinem is so incredibly kind, genuine, and such a kindred spirit. When introduced to her, I expected to shake her hand, smile, pose for a picture, and be on my way so the other 124 women could get their photo opp. But instead, she shook my hand, asked what I did, looked me in the eye, smiled, and then told me I was an inspiration. Yes, Gloria Steinem said I was an inspiration. I just about died. I know what you’re thinking — she probably says that to all the young women she meets. And you’re probably right, I am sure she said it so several of the women and girls she met throughout her 3-part event on Wednesday. But what matters is the genuine way in which she said it. The thing about Gloria is she truly does find inspiration in young women and girls who are using their voices, speaking out, impacting change, and pushing forward.

I got my photo and had a permanent smile plastered across my face for the rest of the evening… heck, the rest of the week.

ImageAnd then, we were all hushed and began to gather in the living room for Gloria to share her words of courage and wisdom with us. The coolest part was that there were 25 or so 13-17 year old girls who were invited to have a small “fire side” chat with Gloria. I will say with 100% honesty, I’m not sure what was more inspiring: Gloria or the young group of girls. The poise and intelligence these girls demonstrated was fantastic. They asked questions like “How can we utilize all of the political capital that women and girls have?” and “How can we make sure these conversations are not being led by just white women but rather a diverse group of women.” I remember looking at my friend and saying “Gosh, I was not even thinking about these things at 15, 16 years old. Heck, I’m not saying “political capital” now.” It truly was amazing to watch the conversation unfold with Gloria Steinem, the mother of feminism, a hero who paved the way for women and girls, and a group of our future. It was refreshing. Inspirational. and brilliant.

Gloria said something that truly struck me even though it seems so simple and common sensical. She said something to the effect of “we shouldn’t focus on generalities but instead particularities.” So many arguments are made in sweeping manners. “Everyone on welfare is lazy,” “feminists are man-haters.” These are the arguments and the radical points that attempt to silence the rational thinking of complex issues facing society. Generalities are isolating, suffocating, and can be ignorant. Instead, we must focus on the particularities. The “Why’s” and the “whats” It’s unpacking an issue and not seeing it face value. I also think this can be related to how we view ourselves, our goals, our passions, our dreams. My mentor, Rebecca Sive once said to me “It’s not about how big the dream is, but how possible.” Sometimes we think if we aren’t on the path to being the next Gloria Steinem, then what’s the point. But there is so much we can be doing to achieve our dreams.

Which leads me to a conversation I had last night while speaking at a panel on human trafficking for the World Affairs Counsel in Jacksonville, IL. At a pre-panel dinner, an older gentleman in his late 60’s early 70’s looked at myself and two students who were also at the table and said, “What’s wrong with the world and how are you going to fix it?” We chuckled and looked at each other wondering who was going to answer that loaded question at which point the gentleman followed up and said, “No but seriously. My generation, we were angry. Really angry. And we marched. But yours, I don’t think you’re angry.” I smiled and said “Oh don’t worry, we are angry. It just looks different. You had your voice and your feet, we have our voice and technology. We use social media to express our anger. We write letters to representatives. We create documentaries and videos.”

And then after the panel discussion on human trafficking, an audience member asked “well what can we do?” I knew exactly what to say and who to quote. I said:

Organize. It sounds simple. But look around, there are 120 people in this auditorium. If you organized and told others about this issue, it could be extremely powerful and impact change. The way Gloria Steinem organized perhaps looks different than how you and I might because of the tools we have available today. But make a Facebook status, Tweet this event, write a blog article. Do it together. Do what you’re not supposed to. Challenge yourself and others to think creatively about how to combat human trafficking.

I believe we will all look back on our lives when we’re older and remember a few moments and a few people. I know that when I look back, my moment will be in the living room and a person I will remember is Ms. Gloria.

Every Day Heroes

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In case you haven’t checked your Facebook newsfeed today, it’s Veteran’s Day.

A day set aside in pure remembrance and recognition of the men and women who sacrifice more than I can ever imagine to fight for our country’s freedom. It is no small feat. It’s no small day. And I, indeed, tip my hat off to soldiers past and present. But I’m not going to write a full blog post sharing my admiration, gratitude, or support for our troops. I do want to preface with the fact that I do in fact support our country’s military.

And because of that, I think it’s crucial to continue the conversation about how to improve the rapport within the military, the safety of our soldier’s, and the transition back into “mainstream” life on our own soil. Because despite the outpouring of support for soldiers today — we can’t give ourselves a pass for the 364 other days in the year.

Sexual assault

A report was just released unveiling shocking numbers that reported sexual assaults in the military increased by 50% from last year. 50 percent. These are stats being spewed by a women’s group, by a rape crisis center, by “radical feminists” as they’ve been called. These numbers come straight from the horses mouth: the Department of Defense.

The numbers are high — really high. Over the past few years, the military has been a target in the media as reports of sexual assault were brought to light. The documentary, Invisible War, brought a lot of much needed attention to the issue. It called out the military and specifically leaders within the U.S. military who had essentially turned a check, high-fived the perpetrators with a promotion, and went about their way moving up the chain of command. It is this blunt discussion that perhaps has led to more victims coming forward. Although Major General Gary Patton predicts this means more healthcare and treatment for victims, I am skeptical. The stories you read about or see on Kirby DIck’s compelling and devastating documentary tell a different story. Even when victims do come forward, the services, respect, and justice are not reciprocated.

I want to have faith that the pressure on DoD and the U.S. military to do better will protect victims, prosecute perpetrators, and ultimately eliminate sexual violence among the heroes we honor today. . . but I struggle. I think we need harsher laws, stricter punishments, more committed leaders who are willing to protect the men and women they lead instead of hiding behind their badges of honor. We aren’t free if the soldiers who fight for our country can’t freely do so without the fear of being assaulted while on active duty.

So even though we stand behind our troops, we honor them, we respect them. We can’t ignore the violence some of them inflict just because they’re “our heroes.” Just like we cannot and should not ignore rape when a football player is the assailant, a local respected community member, or a pastor. The role we play professionally does not get to negate the actions we take.

 

 

Deal with it.

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I miss writing. I miss challenging myself and others to think about the world differently — more openly. I haven’t written since April and though I probably didn’t realize it then, I walked away from the blog because everything else in my life was turned upside down.

On April 24th, 2013 I lost my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and my #1 support. My mom lost her year long battle to cancer but she put up a damn good fight. My life since her passing has been nothing short of chaotic, emotional, difficult, and yet inspiring. I’m still “dealing with” her death. Heck, I’m not sure I’ve fully “dealt with it” or come to terms with it — does anyone ever fully come to terms with losing a parent or a loved one? A large part of me has repressed it and put on a smile to face the world despite the ache in my heart. I push a lot of the grief down and opt “not to deal with it,” I suppose. I drown myself in work and hide behind the professional person I have to be 50-60 hours a week.

Which is interesting because I started this blog to write about things society, the media, politicians, etc. were choosing not to deal with. Rape is plaguing our country, but we choose to ignore it as seen by low convictions for rapists and pervasive victim blaming on college campuses and in the U.S. military. Women are still second class citizens in the United States — home of the free — which was built on values of equality. Our government representatives can’t be in the same room with each other without filibustering, bickering, and delaying change. Instead, our government chooses “not to deal with it,” and instead shut down. Or perhaps, that is how they dealt with it.

My point is: Life gets tough. Life doesn’t slow down when it turns upside down. Life is full of opportunity and it is bleeding with desperation for change makers, peace keepers, and heroes. I am going to “deal with” my mother’s death for the rest of my life but I cannot and should not let that stop me from living my life. Indeed, my mom always pushed me to live life, enjoy life, and be the person I want to be on my own terms.

It took 7 months — but these are my terms. I am back and ready to do what I love: write, argue, challenge, and inspire. Life is too short to stay silent. So deal with it.