United We Stood, Divided We Are: Abortion, SCOTUS, and the Polarization of the Country

By: Valerie Hinkle

Protest

 

  As we come off the heels of the Fourth of July weekend, let us think about what exactly we are celebrating. Independence Day is meant to celebrate the United States, but can we really feel patriotic given the current state of this country? This year we’ve seen an incredible reversal of human rights enacted by our supposed “representatives.” We must sober up to the reality of our situation.

  When the Supreme Court’s draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked at the beginning of May, the people of the US were outraged by this rights-infringing decision. Two months later, it was officially overturned, leaving the legality of abortion to each state. On June 30th, six days after the decision, Politico published an article with a map of the US depicting abortion laws by state. So far, nine states have officially made abortion illegal with four more soon to follow. Many other states are in between, but fortunately, there are 23 states where abortion is still entirely legal, a reflection of the country’s majority opinion.

  But the court’s world-rocking decisions aren’t finished. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade comes speculation about what’s next on the hit list, with Justice Clarence Thomas saying that the court “should reconsider” Griswold v. Connecticut which gave people the right to use contraceptives, Lawrence v. Texas which decriminalized same-sex intimacy, and Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized and protected same-sex marriage, calling them “demonstrably erroneous decisions.” Texas Senator John Cornyn responded by saying, “Now do Plessy vs Ferguson/Brown vs Board of Education.” Both overturned racial segregation. 

   The abortion ruling is a gateway to undo decades of progress and an exercise in solidifying the “state’s rights argument” that was used to fight for the continuation of slavery. This morphing of a human rights issue into a state’s rights issue is a startlingly clear indicator of what could be coming next.  The Pew Research Center published a survey on June 13th stating that more than half of all citizens in the country did not want Roe v. Wade overturned, with 63% of all women and 58% of all men surveyed saying that abortion should be legal in most, if not all, cases. This past weekend was supposed to be a celebration of our country and its founding principles, notably our systems of democracy. However, the Supreme Court, an institution that is supposed to be the last stand for Justice, failed to represent its people and directly ruled against what the majority of its citizens wanted.

    Abortion has been debated for a long time, with people strongly pro-choice, pro-life, and many in the middle, but the conversation has been focused on morality as opposed to women’s health and rights. We have already seen many states banning all abortion, regardless of circumstance, even if carrying the baby to term presents a health risk for the mother.

  We cannot ignore that there are circumstances other than the death of the mother where abortion is a necessary choice to make. In cases of rape or incest, ectopic pregnancies, drug abuse, etc. the danger to the health of the mother and child is too great to justify carrying the fetus to term. Even in cases of minors getting pregnant, like the 10-year-old girl from Ohio who was denied an abortion and forced to travel to Indiana, states aren’t making exceptions.

  Women aren’t simply baby incubators whose only meaning in life is to birth children. The SCOTUS ruling is directly controlling women by taking away their bodily autonomy. Why should any woman be forced to go through extreme bodily trauma and be expected to birth and raise a child, sometimes on her own, shouldering that physical, emotional, and mental toll against her will? On top of that, this ruling will disproportionately affect women of color, whose healthcare is not prioritized or taken seriously. Yet another example of civil liberties being taken away from minorities.

  The current political climate of the country is also directly responsible for other civil safety issues. There have been over 300 mass shootings in 2022, including Highland Park, Tulsa, Uvalde, and Buffalo, and we are only in July. And yet, the NRA-bribed politicians have done nothing to legislate regulations that will work to eliminate this atrocious gun violence.

  We are in a time of extreme political and social unrest, and it is worrying to see our leaders actively dividing us and demanding we pick a side on a lot of these nuanced, hot-button issues. It has become a fight to decide who is right instead of a conversation about how to best protect everyone. This fiercely polarizing environment has encouraged racially motivated hate crimes, mass murder, and social regression that could inevitably change the dynamic of our culture. At the end of the day, choosing abortion is a woman’s right and a medical issue. This SCOTUS decision is a gateway to overturning those that the court deems “substantive due process precedents” as Justice Thomas wrote in his concurrence on this decision citing Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.

  It is not too late to turn back this ruling and work to put in place appropriate rules and laws to preserve everyone’s health and wellbeing. It is not too late to fight for our rights. We have to work towards a positive future and strengthen the democratic foundations this country represents. If you don’t celebrate what you want it to be, you lose sight of what it can be. We have to remember what we’re fighting for.

Continue reading “United We Stood, Divided We Are: Abortion, SCOTUS, and the Polarization of the Country”

Hip-Hop Influencing English Language

As a black male English major, I pride myself on speaking properly and clearly in my schoolwork and my everyday life. When I tell people just how big of a hip-hop fan I am, most people are surprised since hip-hop is known to push the envelope when it comes to English, in terms of words and pronunciation of those words. Hip Hop has done an amazing job of influencing how we all speak, and in my opinion, it has changed it for the better. Below are some examples of how hip-hop has influenced and changed the English language.

                 Eminem-

Eminem

 Eminem is one of the greatest rappers in the music industry. In his interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s 60 minutes, he said that changing how you pronounce orange, would make different things rhyme with an orange although it is a challenging word to rhyme. Eminem later continued to rap, “I put my orange four-inch door hinge in storage and ate porridge with George”. Pronouncing the words differently, made them rhyme. His fans argued that he is not pronouncing the words correctly, however, there’s no law stating that you can’t pronounce words differently. English has made it difficult to know exactly how to say something. For instance, the words potato, tomato, and salmon, all have different pronunciations from people, depending on where you come from.

  Lil Wayne-

Lil Wayne

 Lil Wayne is also one of the most recognizable rappers in the industry. His wordplay and lyrics have been top-notch for his entire career. Lil Wayne’s music has gotten extremely popular and impactful that a Tampa middle school teacher tried to teach her students using one of Lil Wayne’s most popular songs, 6ft 7ft. The teacher wanted her students to look at the lyrics and analyze it for homework. Unfortunately, many parents were outraged and got this teacher suspended. Nonetheless, Lil Wayne has given out massive creative and expressive lyrics over his career that even teachers recognize, although he doesn’t use “proper” English. Rap music has impacted our education. Rappers like Lil Wayne and Eminem are two of the best to do this, and I believe it’s a great thing for the future.

Words created from Hip-Hop

Hip hop has created slang words that have now passed that term and have been accepted by the majority of America within our culture.
Check the examples below:

  1. Wifey- Girlfriend/Girlfriends
  2. Big Face- $100 Bill
  3. Diss- to disrespect and insult someone heavily
  4. Baller- Someone who is keen on making money
  5. Kicks- shoes/basketball shoes specifically Jordans

Sources-

  1. https://www.biography.com/musician/eminem
  2. https://www.dreadpen.com/hip-hop-slang-dictionary/
  3. https://soundcloud.com/hiphop
  4. https://time.com/4545/middle-school-teacher-suspended-for-assigning-lil-wayne-lyrics-as-homework/
  5. https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2020/10/lil-wayne-donald-trump-endorsement-rappers-ice-cube-50-cent-lil-pump

Fiction Inspires Reality

“Reading is an act of civilization; it’s one of the greatest acts of civilization because it takes the free raw material of the mind and builds castles of possibilities.” –Ben Okri 
 

Fiction can be more illuminating than our own historical texts. Imagination can be more powerful than reality. Literature gives us the freedom to question the values on which our society is built and imagine new realities to better our own. We read to understand the past so we can learn from it and impact our future in a positive way, to look at our current systems without the clouded lens of inherent biases, and to explore the questions of who we are and where we fit in the universe. 

The two main types of fiction, literary and general, support these reasons. Literary fiction focuses on character and the human condition, whereas general fiction focuses on plot and storyline. Under both of these categories are many subgenres of fiction: sci-fi, historical, mystery thriller, crime, fantasy, contemporary, horror, romance, young adult, etc. The books I read are mostly historical, fantasy, and science fiction. 

Historical fiction lets us explore the past through the what-if possibilities of stories. Authors use first-hand accounts to construct a narrative that allows readers to interpret the past while staying truthful to the evidence. Historical fiction often allows us to understand the ideologies of the time, and gives us a forum to explore how we can improve the present by learning from that past. Two notable examples of this are Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, both of which give harrowing perspectives of the Vietnam War and WW2 respectively, and the lasting traumatic effects they had on young soldiers. 

Fantasy allows us to dive into imaginary worlds and explore our ideologies through clear eyes. The idea that anything is possible gives us space for self-reflection without internalized biases. Some good examples of this are the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, which give us the ability to critique social discrimination and prejudice without the judgement-clouding context specific to our world, and the series An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, which presents a clear commentary on the power dynamic of a society in which the military is the main controlling power. Both stories allow the audiences to examine social and leadership systems free from our cultural context. 

Science fiction causes us to imagine what society would look like in a futuristic setting or present-day parallel universe, and how new advancements would change the social order of our world. Two of the most prevalent themes in sci-fi literature are futuristic technology and philosophical questions about humanity. Both types of exploration help us think about our place in the universe and our individual value systems. Many sci-fi novels ask what separates humans from artificial intelligence, to what extreme can society change based on how advanced our technology is, and what are the ethical dilemmas that accompany those questions. Two examples from this genre are Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, which brings up many questions about what it means to be human and have a soul, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which discusses the themes of conformity, oppression of individualism, and technological consumerism. 

Fictional stories make us examine the moral basis of our societies and cultures. We look with a side eye at the foundations on which they were built, like capitalism, consumerism, and greed. The stories compel us to come together and make lasting changes in our world. They connect us to each other and give us the vocabulary and understanding to more effectively communicate our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We can find guidance from fictitious heroes and leaders when the real world divides us. Reading fiction inspires and motivates us to believe that positive change is always possible. 

Hidden Gym

Pexels.com

   By Torianne Schiff

Feb 02 2022

          

When most people think about college, they probably imagine students in a dorm studying for midterms or partying. However, UB’s campus experience is a bit different than the traditional university. Being a commuter school means that most of our students have demanding lives outside of the classroom, which doesn’t allow much time for getting involved in extracurriculars. This leads to many of the University’s resources going under-utilized.

       One of those valuable resources was the Gym, which is now reserved exclusively for the Baltimore City Police Department training academy. One of UB’s best-kept secrets, nestled on the second floor of the academic center is a fully equipped and operational gym featuring a full-length basketball court and bleachers along with several rooms for weight lighting, aerobics, cycling, dance, and even handball.

       Unfortunately, not many students utilized this resource before the Lease was signed with the Police Academy. In a recent survey, 68% of students said they never used the UB gym, which makes sense why they wouldn’t miss it or be affected by the lease agreement. Still, as UB receives over 1.3 Million dollars each year in the 5 year Lease agreement, surely students should be compensated for the loss of access to one of our most valuable resources.

(something about online shift because of the pandemic)

While 80% of the students we polled said that they already knew the Police academy is training on our campus, 18% had no idea this was happening. Of those same respondents, 83% said they did not know that UB was receiving so much money and 54% did not know that the gym is now exclusively reserved for Police training.

       This lack of transparency and communication, unfortunately, seems to be a signature of UB’s decision-making processes, and the elephant in the room is the alleged debt that sucks away any profit the University receives. Students should not have to read a 31-page document to find out how many millions of dollars UB will be profiting from this Lease Agreement. More, the University should be cultivating conversation around and with the Police Academy and UB Community to make this a partnership that truly reflects our values.

       While the University may argue that the lease agreement is purely financial, I believe the board and administration would be remiss to ignore the political implications in partnering with the same Police force that was found to have violated the civil rights of Baltimore citizens on a regular basis. The University of Baltimore has an opportunity to transform the training that future Officers receive. Mention conflict resolution program & hopeful meeting with administrators.

Make sure to check back for the next part of our Hidden Gem series in which we help shed light and share valuable resources within the UB Community.

Senate approves bill aimed at combating hate crimes against Asian Americans

By JALEN WADE Capital News Service Washington Bureau


On a nearly unanimous vote, the Senate Thursday passed legislation aimed at speeding federal investigations of hate crimes against Asian Americans related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Passing the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act sends a clear and unmistakable message of solidarity to the (Asian American-Pacific Islander) community,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who introduced the bill last month. “This moment would not be possible without the collective efforts of so many people including my Republican colleagues.” 

The Senate vote to pass the hate crimes bill was 94-1, with Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley the lone opponent. The legislation now goes to the House for a final vote, which is likely next month, according to Rep. Grace Meng, D-New York, sponsor of an identical House bill. 

President Joe Biden supports the legislation.

“Today, the Senate said enough is enough, and underscored loud and clear that there is no place for hate anywhere in our society,” Meng said in a statement after the Senate vote. “More reporting of hate crimes will provide us with increased data and a more accurate picture of the attacks that have been occurring against those of Asian descent, and a more centralized and unified way of reviewing these crimes would help to address the problem in a more effective manner.”

In addition to speeding federal probes of hate crimes against Asian Americans, the measure directs the Department of Justice to provide state and local law enforcement agencies with guidelines for establishing hate crimes reporting systems in multiple languages. The Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services also would work with community groups to eliminate discriminatory language in materials related to the pandemic. 

Within the past few months, the country has seen a startling rise in the number of cases of violence against Asian Americans, including the March 16 shooting of six Asian American women in Atlanta. 

Research released by Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit group, revealed nearly 3,800 incidents were reported over the course of roughly a year during the pandemic.

Verbal harassment and shunning were the most common types of discrimination, making up 68.1 percent and 20.5 percent of the reports, respectively, the group found. The third category, physical assault, made up 11.1 percent of the total incidents. More than a third of incidents occurred at businesses, while a quarter took place in public streets.

Despite Congress, human rights groups, the press and social media taking notice of these hate crimes now, this is not a recent phenomenon, said author William Ming Liu.

Liu compared the situation to how the frequent video recording of police violence on Blacks caused people to think it’s a recent phenomenon. 

“People are much smarter and more willing to record these things, but in terms of overall violence and abuse, that’s always been there,” Liu said in an interview with Capital News Service.

Tiffany Chang, director of community engagement for Asians Advancing Justice, said an annual increase of 150 percent in hate crimes is an incredibly shocking number considering that the country has been in a pandemic. She said that many of the victims were likely people simply going out for supplies or were essential workers.

The anti-Asian rhetoric used by former President Donald Trump as the pandemic intensified was a key factor in encouraging hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans, Chang and other researchers said.

“There was a press conference with footage of him crossing out the word ‘coronavirus’ on his talking points and writing in ‘China virus,’ as if to deliberately stoke animosity against Asians and Asian Americans, Chinese Americans in particular,” Chang said.

This scapegoating gives people who are angry at the state of affairs created by the pandemic an outlet, she added. 

It doesn’t help that there are so few Asian Americans in the higher levels of government, said Jonathan Law, an organizer for Baltimore Asian American Resistance, which seeks to address systemic problems facing Asian-Americans.

According to Chang, Asian Americans have been trying to protect themselves by sticking closely together. Families have been telling their grandparents and parents not to go out alone or to ask someone to run their errands for them. 

Chang’s Asians Advancing Justice have been working with another activist group to provide free, online bystander intervention training to anyone who wishes to learn practical techniques to help someone being attacked or harassed in public. 

Chang said that of the 30,000 people trained, nearly 100 percent have said they were confident that they could do something if they saw harassment occurring.

Although Liu is glad to see so many Asian Americans come together on this, he said he wishes he saw more of a multicultural coalition against hate crimes and discrimination.

“There’s nothing worse for someone who believes in white supremacy to see a multi-racial coalition protecting themselves,” Liu said.

University System of Maryland to mandate Covid-19 vaccination for students, faculty and staff

University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman issued a mandate Friday morning that would require students, faculty and staff of any USM institution to receive the Covid-19 vaccine before returning to campus in the fall.

Perman, who was a pediatrician prior to being appointed USM Chancellor last year, noted that for him it was a “risk/benefit analysis.”

“If we examine the data—and there is an extraordinary accumulation of data—we see that the risk of vaccines is very low, whereas the risk of COVID is very high. And that risk is increasingly falling on young people,” Perman said.

The move doesn’t come without some notice. In remarks to the USM Board earlier this month, Perman said “I do believe that mandating a Covid vaccine is a reasonable and necessary means of preventing spread of the disease and protecting community safety. I believe the unique nature of our campuses requires it.”

Data suggests that because of the recent prevalence of the “UK variant” of the virus, young people are becoming infected at a much more alarming rate. Perman believes the vaccine mandate will counteract that.

Perman also notes that there will be exceptions to the mandate, whether they be medical or religious.

“This mandate was not undertaken lightly. It was based on the recommendation of a USM workgroup I convened this semester—one that includes university-based experts in public health, infectious disease, and emergency management,” Perman said. “It was based on advice from the USM presidents—all 12 System presidents—and their cabinets.”

In addition to the vaccine mandate, other protocols will remain in place, such as Covid-19 testing, symptom monitoring, masking and physical distancing.

As of April 19, all adults in the United States are eligible to receive the vaccine.

More information about getting a Covid-19 vaccine in Maryland can be found here. You can also pre-register for vaccination at a mass vaccination site.

Tony Sheaffer is editor-in-chief for The Sting.