The Young Leader

Change only comes to those who fight for it.

Mr. President, My Mother Is Not A “Welfare Queen”

Over the course of American history, politicians have adopted a clever, yet nefarious way of using racial stereotypes as a tool for political gain.

From the War on Drugs that frames black men as “criminals” to the emergence of the so called “welfare queen,” history has shown us that framing particularly disadvantaged groups as “dangerous” or “unworthy” enables politicians to gain political support from the public, particularly white middle and low-class Americans.

If I had to sum up, in two words, the United States’ racial marginalization of the poor and financially dependent, “welfare queen” is as good and as bad as it gets.

The myth of the welfare queen is still a prominent weapon used today in U.S politics that tends to go unnoticed.

The U.S political system has maintained these false ideas about marginalized people in our society by reducing them to a second class citizen status and enacting discriminatory policies that perpetuate durable systems of injustice within our democracy.

The legacy of legal discrimination persists in our society today as low-income mother’s struggle to gain and maintain financial benefits from the government.

The burden of the welfare queen has become one of the most cutting stereotypes that plagues families across the United States.

It hurts because it has worked in changing policy.

The birth of this political myth emerged after the criminalization of Linda Taylor, an African American woman, who quickly became the embodiment of a pernicious stereotype after being sentenced to prison for welfare fraud in 1977.

Ronald Reagan gave a speech in his unsuccessful 1976 campaign for president that managed to frame poor African American and Latina mothers as “users of the system” without any concrete evidence other than the act of a single woman.

“She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

One woman who cheated the system evidently became the face of all welfare recipients, despite the fact that white families, typically, have been more likely to be on welfare.

Although it is not entirely clear all of which she fraudulated, Reagan’s intent became less about exposing the ways in which “liberal policies” had fractured the economy and more about turning the white American majority against minorities as a tool for political gain.

You can thank Reagan. Photo Credit: kate gabrielle

Reagan’s attack on welfare suggested that programs such as these, paid by tax dollars, only aided irresponsible black people.

Using the story of Linda Taylor, Reagan labeled millions of America’s poorest people as “deceitful” and funneled the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be terminated.

This image of widespread and unbridled welfare fraud allowed Reagan to convince voters to support his cuts to public assistance spending.

This was not the first instance that an American politician used self serving tactics to turn the public against the poor and displaced.

Much like the coined term “American Negro” the welfare queen became a convenient target for hate by simply framing Linda Taylor as the stereotypical lazy, black con artist.

Despite the fact that Reagan gave Taylor the most critical identity, the welfare queen stemmed from a longer and much deeper racialized history of prejudice and animosity toward families receiving welfare benefits in the United States.

This inequitable idea of the “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor” became a political weapon that Reagan introduced into U.S politics that his forerunners would all sustain.

Today, over 20 years after the implementation of Bill Clinton era welfare reform, the unwarranted stigma against poor women of color remains.

This telling of the “welfare queen” as users of the system continues to influence public policy by distinguishing between those who are “deserving” of support and those who are not.

President Donald Trump’s administrative budget cuts are now putting Americans on edge, especially those who rely heavily on public assistance programs.

Trump’s budget will potentially force millions of poor people off of food stamps and benefit programs such as Medicaid.

A recent article from Time Magazine states:

Cuts include a whopping $193 billion from food stamps over the coming decade — a cut of more than 25 per cent — implemented by cutting back eligibility and imposing additional work requirements, according to talking points circulated by the White House. The program presently serves about 42 million people.

Among these 42 million people, is my own mother, a 59 year old, single Latina mother suffering from chronic kidney disease, who directly relies on welfare benefits.

Being raised by a single mother on public assistance has allotted me with a perspective that a majority of politicians and policy makers could never understand.

It is clear that public policy continues to reflect the interests of the elite rather than the needs of the poor.

Such conditions only further the economic and racial divide in the U.S and perpetuates existing stereotypes about families and women receiving government assistance.

Although my mother has been on welfare my whole life, she is not your stereotypical “welfare queen.”

She is not Linda Taylor nor is she a “user of the system.”

My mother is a woman who managed to raise six children on her own with the little help she did receive from programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Yet, our story will remain under the scrutiny of those who may have never had to step foot in a welfare office.

Ending the myth of the welfare queen within public policy means acknowledging how we manifest these stereotypes in our everyday lives.

It means recognizing that one person’s mistake cannot suddenly be the burden of others that look like them.

For far too long, our society has reduced people of color to a second class citizen status, resulting in the unremitting struggle to overcome the burden of such baseless conclusions.

We must overcome this myth by restructuring and developing policy around families as they are—not who society deems them to be.

Rather than stigmatizing recipients of public assistance programs, the government must strengthen the ways in which these programs respond to critical social and economic needs.

Even more so, we must acknowledge how failure to reconcile the racial discrimination of our nation’s past infringes our ability to ensure that all Americans have the dignity they deserve in the present.

We can fight against this stigma by advocating for the full participation of all Americans our society and the economy.

Instead of dwelling on individual failures or mistakes, we should be asking ourselves how we got here and how we can move towards a more equitable society.

RISE NEWS is a news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Watch More: 96 Year Old WWII Veteran Still Works At His North Miami Beach Barbershop

Cover photo credit: U.S. Army



Aside From Donald Trump’s Win, The GOP Is Still Dying

While the GOP holds a majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, Senators and Representatives alike have failed to unite themselves.

In fact, the Republicans were an opposition party for the better part of the last seven years.

While there was some skeleton of a plan to replace Obamacare, it was never given too much thought or reviewed by committees effectively.

When Donald Trump won the White House, although the Republican party became the majority, it was still an opposition party.

For Republicans to rally behind Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan seemed to be too much.

While Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer organized and filibustered, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell failed to unite behind one bill.

President Trump spent hours and hours on the phone from the early hours of the morning until late at night converting one senator after the other to his vision and plan for healthcare.

Key senators like Rand Paul also failed to unite behind the American Healthcare Act.

While the plan was flawed, in my opinion, it still improved upon the healthcare system that many found to be failing.

The GOP needs to transition from an opposing body and become a legislative and policy oriented body.

The Republicans no longer have an excuse.

They are now the majority party and must capitalize on the situations that are in front of them.

The Republicans now have the option to improve the Tax Code from millions of words into perhaps just thousands, which details what people owe their Government.

In fact, the Government owes us a system that works for and by the people.

The Republicans have the responsibility to get behind some of the bills and plans that the Trump Administration proposes even if they are mildly flawed, as most bills are.

Just because it isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it should be completely rejected.

Obamacare had flaws and it was still introduced.

Many American’s could not keep their doctors.

For many, the premiums or deductibles were too high.

For example, some were covered, but the deductible was too high and thus, they weren’t effectively covered.

The problems with Obamacare were real, but so was the solution that was put forth.

Sure, it had problems, but it was still better than Obamacare.

While Rand Paul and Paul Ryan had different visions of healthcare than Trump, they both believe that Obamacare is a disaster and should be repealed and replaced.

The question was never about if it should be replaced, but rather what should replace it.

If this failure to unite behind our President continues, the Republican party has a long four years ahead and will likely have a difficult time in the midterm elections.

Pelosi and Schumer need to capitalize on this opportunity if they want their party to succeed.

The Democratic party forgot to nominate Bernie Sanders and underwent some serious divisiveness during the presidential campaign.

The victory of the Republicans will be short lived if they can’t unite behind the man who won it all, President Donald Trump.

There is some great news though.

The Republican party can use the nuclear option to nominate Neil Gorsuch, who was unanimously nominated to be a judge back in 2006.

The Republicans have the ball in their court, it is up to Speaker Ryan and Mitch McConnell to not drop it.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Patrick Feller/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Trump’s Constant Lying Is What Autocrats Do

By Christopher F. Arndt

First there was the birther theory, which Trump continued to champion in 2011 even after President Obama’s long-form birth certificate was shown to the world.

Then we heard statements like “Nobody really knows if climate change is real;” and, more recently, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

These are, of course, but a few of the countless lies Trump has uttered over the years, over the course of this past election cycle and since entering the White House.

To these we can now add the claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign – one that smacks all the more clearly of dishonesty now that House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes has stated that he will not disclose his sources.

Our President’s unprecedented lying has many utterly baffled, as does the fact that Trump supporters often accept these lies.

For example,  74% of Republican voters think it’s at least “somewhat likely” that Donald Trump’s offices were wiretapped during the campaign.

Both the dishonesty and the continued belief by Trump supporters in “alternative facts” can be understood in the context of changes within the conservative movement that have come to the fore over the past fifteen years.

A scene from the Las Vegas skyline. Photo Credit: João Martinho/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Under normal conditions, a politician fibs to exaggerate the appeal of a program they support or to undermine an opponent’s position.

But they generally try to avoid obvious falsehoods.

Some of Trump’s lies follow this pattern, but most of his lies are different.

They are intentionally brazen.

In this way, they are a show of power, demonstrating the acquiescence of others to his will and the comparative impotence of those who stand by facts and against his word.

In short, Trump’s lies have an autocratic twist. Matt Steinglass, the current European editor for the Economist, captured this dynamic well in a 2009 piece on why Iran’s Ahmadinejad insisted on showing an implausibly large vote margin for his election victory.

This piece is dismayingly relevant now and worth quoting at length:

“[B]ullies often find it more effective to force people to acquiesce in an obvious lie than in a plausible fiction. Check out the ludicrous charges in the Stalin show trials: children’s book writers in Leningrad confessing to being Japanese spies, and so forth. When you make people accept a plausible fiction, you’re just winning that one issue. But when you make them accept a lie which everyone knows is a lie, you’re destroying their integrity, destroying their will to describe the world as they see it, rather than as you tell them it is. It’s the bully on the playground holding the weaker kid’s arm and slapping his cheek with it, saying “Why are you hitting yourself?” Like Vaclav Havel’s grocer hanging “Workers of the world, unite!” in his shop window, once a person has acquiesced to something they do not believe, and which everyone knows they do not believe, they become complicit in their own oppression.”

In essence, Trump is making Republican leaders – who know he is lying – complicit in their own oppression.

To be clear, we’ve seen some independence on the part of Republicans like John McCain.

But not a lot.

And, most recently, it appears that Devin Nunes is simply bending to Trump’s will.

This fealty to authority over facts runs directly against the beating heart of liberal democracy.

Why, then, does Trump get away with it?

The brief answer is that the American Right has been moving in this direction for more than a decade.

The movement has coalesced around an older, “monarchical” conservatism.

This movement is best understood as a temperament and a set of tendencies opposing change rather than a set of principles.

It runs counter to the enlightenment liberalism that forms the basis of our Constitution.

In my book, The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump, I map out characteristics of this “conservative temperament” including:

  • Viewing a leader’s personality and its force above process, institutions and the rule of law.
  • An ease with diminishing the value of facts to support the right leader.
  • A preference for absolute certainty regarding both policy and a leader’s style. This requires black and white simplicity in the way both are presented.

Understanding conservatism as such explains the appeal of Trump on the Right and the embrace of blatant falsehoods.

So far, the firing of Michael Flynn was an exception.

On the Right, there have been no real consequences to Trump’s blatant – and disgraceful – lying or that of his inner circle.

Which brings us back to autocracy, defined by Merriam Webster as “government in which one person possesses unlimited power.”

Christopher Arndt is author of The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound From Hayek to Trump.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Isabelle Blanchemain/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A Liberal Arts Education Has Never Been More Important

“Liberal arts.”

A term that I have heard since I was a child – but not in a positive way.

My mother and a few of her siblings received an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from a community college in New York City after I was born and have always said that it was a loss: “No haga eso porque es una pérdida de tiempo.”

They would have specialized in something specific, something that they were passionate about, rather than following a suggestion that was seen as appropriate for those who had just immigrated to the United States.

I remember Mami always helping me with my math homework well into high school and trying to figure out why she did not pursue something having to deal with numbers – turns out a dream of hers was to be an accountant.

Photo Credit: Ed Bierman/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

As I began the college application process (fun fact: I sent in my decision to Colgate University exactly 5 years ago today), my high school counselor as well as my program counselor both suggested that I focus on liberal arts colleges.

I wanted to say no immediately as I thought back to my mother’s college experience.

However, there must have been a reason why these experienced counselors made the suggestion.

As I began my research, I saw that these liberal arts colleges tended to be on the smaller side with an emphasis on taking classes across multiple departments and disciplines.

The size of these schools seemed like a dream come true since I was used to being in a class with about 38 other girls from the 7th grade until my last year of high school.

The notion of taking classes in a wide range of departments also stood out to me – I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do after college.

My career choices had consisted of the following: doctor, Miami Heat dancer, Olivia Benson from ‘SVU.’ sports agent, and the list goes on.

Being able to take classes with different professors regarding different subjects is exactly what I wanted.

I wanted college to be a time where the academia I was surrounded by would help me decide on a career path (along with the students I was surrounded by).

Thankfully, after convincing my mother that I was attending a liberal arts college and not getting a liberal arts degree, I decided on Colgate, and I do not regret the liberal arts experience whatsoever – it was exactly what I needed.

Although I was a sociology and Spanish double major, I  also took classes in the religion, economics, theater, English, political science, women’s studies, Caribbean, psychology, mathematics, philosophy, and geography departments.

So many of my classes crossed between departments, and I was able to meet other students and professors I probably would not have met had I gone to a school where you were obligated to have some sense of your future and enter with a specialized field in mind.

As I entered the work of employment, I realized how valuable my liberal arts education truly was: I learned how to be creative in my theater classes, how to communicate in my political science classes, how to think about others in my sociology classes, how to write efficiently in my English classes, and so much more that words simply could not do justice.

There is a need to know more than just technical skills once you reach that point in your life.

Colgate University, this may seem like a love letter to you, but thank you for allowing me to explore subjects that I never thought I would have the chance to.

Thank you for allowing me to get to meet students with a range of different interests.

Thank you for pushing me to love sociology and the Spanish culture.

Thank you for helping me to realize I want to be a lawyer and help those that do not have a voice.

Thank you liberal arts.

You do matter, especially in this new age we find ourselves in.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Roman Boed/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

No, Libertarians and Liberals Won’t Team Up To Overthrow Trump

There has been talk as of late about the possibility of libertarians and liberals uniting to ‘take down’ President Trump.

How this coup d’état occurs in the material world I’m not quite sure, but it is nonetheless an intriguing question.

Both sides have numerous qualms with the Trump agenda, some of which overlap.

The tightening of the immigration system, the travel ban, and a belief in the existence of authoritarian tendencies point to a teaming up of the administration’s foes.

However, the differences outweigh the similarities and I am far from convinced these two will form a successful resistance.

Libertarians pride themselves on individualism, abiding by the U.S. Constitution’s prescripts, and cherishing free market capitalism.

They support minimal taxation (if any) for all individuals and aim for a general disengagement between the government and the private lives of the people.

This includes very few economic regulations, a reduction to the welfare state, and a refrain from unnecessary international entanglements.

No limits to your speech and no antiquated social restraints.

Within Libertarianism is a codified system of beliefs, whether you agree with them or not, that aim to reduce the state apparatus and maximize the liberty of an individual to live as they wish, without inflicting harm on others.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is often considered one of the leading libertarian voices in the country. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

An ideological line can be drawn straight from principle to policy.

Liberals, on the other hand, fail to present a systematic worldview which applies to the plethora of modern questions.

The most vocal left-of-center Americans have turned all of their attention to protesting whatever Trump does.

And as Trump doesn’t adhere to a concrete vision of government’s role in society, liberals follow him deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole.

They were aroused by the zeal of Bernie-sized federal authority, but tremble in the streets now that it has fallen in the hands of he who shouldn’t be mentioned (‘Calexit’ is the type of irony satirists have a field day over, as highlighted by Edward Morrissey in his piece, “California Has Lost Its Mind”).

Instead of formulating a legislative response to fight Trump’s immigration orders they demand a ‘turn-the-other-cheek’ approach to the law.

Even though changing immigration law is a monumental task, proposing such a change would be a more respectable reaction than the emotional response to border walls and ICE raids.

Apply this to another area of the law and it unfolds quickly.

We all want police officers to follow the law when carrying out search warrants or routine traffic stops.

In what universe would it be suitable for them to neglect the law?

By suggesting that we only follow some laws, the law-abiding argument no longer holds up.

On the constitution, liberals love to cite it when fighting Trump but too often refuse to accept its other necessities.

Staging a sit-in is the first amendment at its finest but allowing a conservative speaker on campus is a bridge too far.

Perhaps the point of greatest separation from libertarians is the way the American left thinks in term of group identity.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is a leading American liberal. Photo Credit: Nick Fisher/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

This collectivist mindset erodes the focus on the individual which is essential in libertarianism.

Ask your average liberal – millennial or not – and they will most likely describe our current state as a battle between the marginalized and the majority, a society divided among the oppressed and the oppressors.

You are Black, White, Latinx, Muslim, Evangelical, Straight, Gay, Cis or non-Cis, etc.

It’s not you who matters, it’s the group that matters.

This way of thinking appoints all of its resources towards the ‘common good’, a utilitarian goal but one that can easily lead to a starvation for freedom.

The individual becomes relegated to serfdom, pleading for liberties to the group or the state.

I have a hard time believing libertarians and liberals can unite for a common purpose to stop Trump.

Their missions are polar opposites, at times antithetical to the very existence of the other.

It is commonly thought that liberals and libertarians are very similar in their political leanings, but libertarians are simply more frugal with money.

This is a complete understatement of the fundamental differences by which these sides view the world and societal order.

Even if, hypothetically, these two did join forces to take down the President, there aren’t many avenues go down.

Impeachment would lead to Vice President Mike Pence stepping in, someone who libertarians and liberals aren’t too fond of either, or a 2020 defeat, which leaves four years minus a few months left for Trump in the White House.

Some fantasized outcome other than these, as unimaginable as I think it is, would require a serious rebuilding period with the victors sharing the spoils.

As the famous axiom of former Secretary of State Colin Powell (And Pottery Barn) goes, “if you break it, you own it”.

Libertarians and liberals would have a nation-sized divorce on their hands.

As they would try to divide up the assets, their quarrels would become insurmountable.

Unless the Senate Republicans buy into the theory that Trump is a Russian puppet, the Donald is here to stay.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Does Cultural Appropriation Really Even Matter?

Asking whether cultural appropriation matters or not is like asking if a fat kid loves cake… Of course!

But it’s such a taboo subject to talk about that people usually keep quiet about it.

Let’s start with a definition of cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is the exploitation or oppressive cooption of elements of one culture by members of another culture without permission.

Now that we got a working definition, let’s ask this question again: does cultural appropriation matter?

Yes, and especially in America.

This question sparked an interesting debate with my sorority sisters and me.

Some of them actually believed that cultural appropriation shouldn’t matter since everyone takes from everyone to make their culture unique.

However, the rest us believed it to be a bad characteristic of society that needs to be addressed.

We live in a country that was built on the backs of the oppressed.

Because of this, the melting pot that we are said to live in comes with double standards.

Many of these ‘new’ trends that appear in mainstream come from someone else’s culture.

Let’s talk hair.

Braids have been a part of the African American culture as a protective style to protect our natural hair from harsh weather conditions.

When worn by us, we are negatively stereotyped and ostracized by society.

Photo Credit: Alvaro Sasaki/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Yet if someone like Kim Kardashian wears it, then it is accepted by those same people that called it ugly and ghetto.

For anything to be magically accepted by mainstream America, you have to be of a fair complexion.

Let’s talk dances.

Breaking out of her Disney barrier, Miley Cyrus decided to twerk as part of her on stage performances.

Before then, this was only heard of in the black community as a form of dancing.

She often kept black women in her videos and performances as pieces.

Usually having some sing and some dance but objectifying the dancers to those equivalent to a sex toy.

But she isn’t the only one.

Shall we go on?

Let’s talk appearance.

Society is a monster.

From a young age, we are taught to hate ourselves, especially young minority girls.

As a black girl, I was often teased for my full lips, milk chocolate complexion, and my naturally curvy body.

Now that I’m older, the same things that I was being teased for are the same things that are being praised on others.

Let’s use the lovely Kardashians as the example.

Kim altered her body to have curves and an ass which she didn’t have naturally; Khloe got ass injections that are not proportionate to her body; and Kylie got lip injections that she swore wore not lip injections.

It seems like the features that many minorities have are favored on other women who are not in the minority.

Not convinced yet?

Let’s give it one more shot.

Cultural appropriation matters because it is a form of oppression.

Typically, the ones that are being oppressed are usually the ones that have a problem with this.

This is just another example of how white privilege works.

White people take something, give no credit for it, and claim it as their own and repeat the process.

White privilege and accountability don’t go together at all hence why we have cultural appropriation issues.

Minorities have given the false hope of ‘all man is created equal’, forgetting the fact this quote wasn’t meant to include everyone at the time it was first said.

So in turn, the foundation of this country has been built on the unequal stature of those who take from those who are defenseless.

And in the end, cultural appropriation does matter and needs to be recognized.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Alannah Giannino/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Why Do We See Pop Culture As A Barometer For How The Country Is Doing?

Watching the Academy Awards a few weeks ago was a bit of a stressful experience.

I was obviously stressed about whether or not Emma Stone would finally win an Oscar, but the stakes were bigger than that.

From the very beginning of this awards season, the conversation was clouded by last year’s Oscar’s So White controversy, where the show’s 88th run was criticized for a lack of diversity among its nominees.

This year’s ceremony was definitely a test of the relevance and awareness of the Academy, but it represented something more.

The entire country watched this year’s Academy Awards with bated breath, with a sense the results of the ceremony said more about themselves than the actors.

Collectively, we tend to use pop culture as a barometer for how we’re doing as a country; is that really fair to either?

For the few (brief) moments La La Land was 2016’s Best Picture, I could almost see the furious typing of Buzzfeed opinion columnists, writing the think piece of the year about what La La Land’s defeat of Moonlight meant about race in America.

They appeared within minutes when Adele’s 25 beat Beyonce’s Lemonade for Album of the Year a few weeks earlier at another high-profile awards show.

It’s not an unfair criticism to make, it might even be a necessary one.

Commentary and discourse about the results of the biggest acknowledgement of excellence within the entertainment industry is what keeps it moving forward.

The problem occurs when we take it a step too far.

An interesting phenomenon has popped up in the discourse about Hollywood’s diversity: the application of that discussion for a wider purpose in the political sphere.

There looms a need to connect entertainment stories to more “important” stories, such as ones related to the political climate.

Everything that happens in the world of entertainment is played off to represent something bigger.

A perfect example of this was the inaccurate announcing of La La Land as Best Picture.

The unfortunate mistake saw Moonlight literally taking the most coveted award in the movie industry from La La Land’s hands.

The conflict between those two movies lasted all throughout awards season, and many saw it as a direct reflection of the political polarization taking place in America.

The trend of the underdog win has not gone unnoticed in the last several months, either.

From Donald Trump unexpectedly winning on election night to the Patriots’ fourth quarter comeback in the Super Bowl, many saw Moonlight as a reiteration of that same trend.

It provides an easy answer, and, in Moonlight’s case, it’s exactly the answer we want.

In a time of unprecedented political polarization, it feels good to think we can all be as accepting as Moonlight.

The reality is not that easy.

Pop culture isn’t really a direct reflection of our political climate.

In fact, it’s often the opposite.

One of the biggest reasons La La Land was so dominant this awards season was because of its sense of escapism – it was refreshing to see something so not important.

It wasn’t trying to reflect our current political climate, it wasn’t trying to teach the audience a lesson.

It was simply telling a story, which is what all pop culture really goes back to.

The age of Trump has turned everything on its head, however.

La La Land didn’t win Best Picture.

Moonlight did, and that’s whatever the opposite of what escapism is.

That detail may be indicative that people are looking for a more relevant pop culture.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s nothing more than wishful thinking.

Here’s what it comes down to: both entertainment and politics are a reflection of who we are.

Both take the struggles of real people and harness those emotions on a national stage.

There’s a fundamental difference between the two, however.

Politics is a direct reflection of who we are; politicians are elected by the people, after all.

On the other hand, entertainment is often a reflection of who we want to be.

The stories that are told, from Moonlight to La La Land and Lemonade to 25 represent where we want to be going, not necessarily where we are.

Using pop culture as a barometer is only somewhat effective.

Moonlight’s win at the Academy Awards does not mean racism in America is over, in fact it doesn’t even mean racism in Hollywood is over.

The Pop Culture Barometer as a construct is an oversimplification.

Hollywood’s failures are not America’s failures, their successes are not our successes, and vice versa.

Pop culture is a representation of everything we want to be, and it’s often a reflection of the very best of ourselves.

Using it to try to explain things like political polarization is where the comparison fails.

At the end of the day, understanding where we want to go is crucial to understanding ourselves, but it doesn’t do anything to describe where we are now.

So while it’s great to know we all want to be Emma Stone, it’s important to realize we’re not quite there yet.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

This is an opinion piece. It is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of RISE NEWS. 

Cover Photo Credit: La La Land/ Facebook


Should Everyone be Automatically Registered to Vote?

Voting was such a hot topic on campus this past fall.

Obviously from the Hillary v. Trump election but I think on a deeper level too.

Voting comes with a certain pride and a feeling of hope of being heard.

I know, I know!

It sounds ridiculous, but think about it.

I go to school at UNC Charlotte.

Currently UNC Charlotte is made up of 17% African-American students, 48% female students, and 41% who are considered low income students.

All are less than the majority on campus and throughout history, these groups have faced some time of oppression when it comes to voting.

It took time and a great amount of push-back to gain suffrage for all of these groups.

So now, for the pressing question: Should Everyone be Automatically Registered to Vote?

In my opinion, everyone should not be automatically registered to vote.

Voting is a guaranteed right for us now, but it was not always guaranteed and therefore should not be taken for granted.

I myself worked for a politician during his re-election and during a presidential election year and was not registered to vote.

Not to mention, I am a political science major.

I kept making excuses for why I was not registered yet.

For a while it worked but eventually I had to come to the reality of the matter.

The whole time I was convinced that I was making the executive decision to not register but really, it was that I clearly was not mature or responsible enough to vote for our leaders.

I am thankful I could not vote at that time, because I would not have made the most informed decision.

Yet, if I were automatically registered then someone as apathetic as I could still be able to cast my vote last-minute and without any thought.

Thankfully, because I was not wholly convinced on the importance of my vote, my laziness prevailed and I did not want to take the time to register.

Finally, I had an epiphany and realized what a difference voting vs not voting would mean personally for me personally.

Getting to register was the validation to myself that I was growing up and it symbolized a commitment to myself and society to become informed and cast a vote that counts.

Voting is our right, but we should have some initiative to receive this.

If those before us worked so tirelessly to gain suffrage then we can take a little time to fill out our personal information to register to exercise this right.

When you work, even just a little bit for it there is this pride in knowing your vote is unique to whatever you believe no matter what authorities or anyone else thinks and you earned it.

How freeing and liberating is that?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

This is an opinion piece. It is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of RISE NEWS. 

Cover Photo Credit: Joe Crawford/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Kylie Jenner Is A Role Model Whether She Likes It Or Not

Back in 2012 when I graduated high school our class song was Young, Wild, and Free by Snoop Dog and Wiz Khalifa.

For those of you who live under a rock, the song talks about smoking weed, drinking and living freely.

The artists in the song don’t really care what others say about their actions or lifestyle.

Recently Kylie Jenner posted a picture on Instagram of her smoking weed.

She is definitely living the carefree easy going life.

I really do not care if you post a picture of you drinking but drugs are another story.

“Come one it is one picture” you may say but if I posted one picture of me smoking weed my career as a nurse would be over before it even started.

Weed is still considered illegal and classified as a scheduled I drug by the DEA.

Let me go ahead and put this out there, I fully support cannabis in a medical setting to help people who really need it.

For example, that video on YouTube where the older gentleman has Parkinson’s disease but his tremors go away once he takes cannabis.

On other circumstances I am not totally against it but if you are going to blaze it up maybe don’t post it on Instagram.

My main concern with her post is young girls look up to her as a role model and as a kid we are taught not to do drugs…see where I am going on this?

I wish she would post images of her creating something new for Kylie cosmetics, videos of her cooking (I’ve heard she is a good cook), or her showing girls how to be successful.

I am sure Kylie Jenner is aware of the damage is done when you smoke weed but just in case she doesn’t, let me explain.

Have you ever heard of lung cancer?

Brain cells dying?


Also it can predispose people to schizophrenia.

I don’t know about you but I’ll pass.

Lastly, I will close with this final statement.

It is her life and she may do whatever she pleases but she is a role model to millions whether she likes it or not.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Kylie Jenner/ Instagram

I’m Stressed And Happy

When you ask a college student how their week is going you usually hear one answer and one answer only… “stressful.”

That is not to say that this is unmerited, rather, we take it in a negative form.

There’s a well-known meme that says “Social life, enough sleep, good grades. Pick two.”

The first time I saw it I laughed for a long time at how insanely accurate it was.

After further examination, I realized… there is so much more we have on our plates.

Doing the math, I think we could possibly have negative hours left in our days.

A typical week for me includes an anatomy lab quiz, a management quiz, at least two tests, tutoring, chapter, a student government meeting, and not to mention the studying that goes along with all of those things.

Now if you want to add a social life, that’s a completely different story.

In the end, it’s about maximizing yourself in the number of hours you have.

What time will you wake up?

When will you get out of the house?

What will you do with the time that you’ve been given?

Without a doubt, I would call myself a overcommitted person.

I get overwhelmed with school, the organizations I’m in, my family and with myself.

I mean, this is true. Photo Credit: rick/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There was a time in my life when I would say that I was genuinely not happy.

I would complain about the number of assignments I had that week.

But allow me to tell you how happy I am.

Let’s stop victimizing ourselves.

I love the stress.

How cool is it that we GET to learn the unimaginable workings of the world?

How great is it that we wake up every day and have the CHOICE to continue?

We have the opportunity to get together with the greatest student leaders to make a difference on our campus and in our community.

Read More: Why America Really Needs A New “West Wing”

How breathtaking is it that we are surrounded by intentional people who push us to be better than we previously were?

Do it all with happiness and see that we are not as crunched on time as we had thought before.

We spend so much time squandering around, explaining to other people how much we have to do that we end up not even doing it.

Make a graphic schedule for the week.

Map out your class time, your travel time, your meal times, your meeting times.

Decide when you’ll study and turn off your phone in that time.

Stay away from social media.

Call your parents.

Have 10 minutes of quiet time to yourself.

Read a few pages in your bible, or in a good book.

But most of all, enjoy it all.

These years are supposed to be the best four years of your life.

Make them be.

No matter how stressful they are.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Sodanie Chea/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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