Our biweekly lists lay out notable issues in the news and tell you what you can do about them.
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Hey Teen Resisters!
First off, happy Pride month!!! This year commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots against anti-LGBTQ police violence in June 1969, one of the most important events in the queer liberation movement.
Before we dive in, we want to highlight a few smaller happenings/resources that you should note:
what went down
This act has been the centerpiece of immigrant-youth led advocacy on policy for a long time, and its passage is an incredible milestone in the fight to make the US a place of welcome for all immigrants.
However, the act hasn’t passed the Senate yet, where it faces opposition from G.O.P. lawmakers. The Trump administration continues to facilitate the deportation and detention of thousands of immigrants. The next and equally as important fight is to push back against further funding for the institutions responsible for this damage to immigrant communities and families. Congress is currently working to pass an appropriations (budget) bill for the next part of the year. We need to make sure the budget doesn’t support, among other things, ICE and CBP.
What you can do:
President Trump, unsurprisingly, has taken gross advantage of this ability to declare a national emergency in the past, unlike other U.S. presidents (Remember this?). The clear abuse of power that would take place if Trump were to declare the emergency (he hasn’t yet), as well as the economically destructive nature of this tariff, has decreased Republican support for the policy—even Ted Cruz expressed his skepticism. If Trump were to actually declare the national emergency, Congress could override it by enacting a resolution under the National Emergencies Act of 1976. Since Trump announced the plan, Mexico has negotiated with the United States to avoid the tariff, agreeing to actively work to decrease illegal immigration between Mexico and the United States. Mexico has stated that they will increase the amount of military personnel on the border, increase arrests of migrants, and turn away a majority of people seeking asylum from various countries in the region.
So why is this important? These new policies on immigration make an already violent and difficult system even more dangerous, as many prospective migrants will either be arrested or turned away. Additionally, turning away asylum seekers, people who are seeking protection in the United States, leaves many in inhumane and dangerous situations.
What you can do:
So: call your representatives!! This act is vital and fundamental; it’s 2019, and it should already exist, but it doesn’t. So here’s a perfect opportunity to use our basic script template to practice creating your own :)))
Teen Resisters-- we've been wanting to do this list for a while, and in the midst of the crazy news coming out of places like Alabama and Ohio, this seemed as good a time as any. We hope this list is informative, clarifying, and helpful. It was written by Stephanie Ulloa, Tali Natter, Kate Griem, and Sonia Chajet Wides.
Reproductive Rights Glossary:
Here are some key terms you might hear mentioned a lot, and what they mean:
A History of Repro Rights in the US:
The fight for reproductive rights has been a key part of the Women’s Liberation Movement for a long, long time. Inequalities throughout history are largely driven by the same stereotypes and double standards that permeate our society today—from the beginning of human society, men have been rewarded for being sexually active, while women are often shamed and degraded. That historical misogyny affects anyone with a uterus, whether they be women or not-- some trans men, non-binary people, and intersex people can get pregnant (and get abortions) too. Those consequences for people with uteri exist not just in terms of perceptions but also in terms of tangible outcomes: people with uteri, not people without, are the ones who get pregnant, and so they are often responsible for providing birth control. Strangely, in law, it works the other way: people without uteri are often responsible for regulating birth control and abortion. And as the pregnancy progresses, it is physically much easier for the other partner to walk away than the pregnant person. Reproductive rights is an issue that disproportionately affects poor people, because pregnancy and parenthood, as well as abortions and birth control, can be expensive and hard to access.
Abortion in the U.S.: A Brief History
According to the National Abortion Federation, abortion has been performed for thousands of years in every society that we have studied. In the U.S. specifically, abortion didn’t start as a moral, religious, or ethical issue. Before the mid-to-late 1800s, when states began passing laws that made it illegal, it was simply a part of life. Drugs to induce abortion were common and public; if those didn’t work, people could visit practitioners for instrumental procedures.
Abortion began to be politicized around 1860-1880 for a number of reasons. One was a widespread fear that the population would come to be dominated by the children of newly arriving immigrants, whose birth rates were higher than those of “native” Anglo-Saxon women (xenophobia, loud and clear!). Interestingly, this argument has switched to an equally disturbing side now: banning abortion is serviceable to systems that benefit from people being trapped in cycles of poverty and the population of the for-profit prison system. The other key reason was that the medical establishment wanted to eliminate their competition: the midwives, apothecaries, and homeopaths who often performed at-home abortions (and who took away patients and patient fees). The most effective way they saw of doing this was to make the procedure illegal, except in cases where the doctor determined that the woman’s life was threatened. This criminalization of abortion did not in any way diminish the number of people who sought it—although exact figures are unclear, the yearly number of illegal abortions in the years leading up to Roe v. Wade was over a million, and thousands of women died as a result of unsafe procedures.
In 1973, Roe v. Wade established a woman’s fundamental right to choose whether or not to have an abortion; the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment establishes a “right to privacy” that protects a person’s right to abortion. Since then, restrictions on abortion have only increased. The first came soon after the Roe v. Wade decision. In 1976, the Hyde Amendment, named for its main sponsor Representative Henry Hyde, barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except when the pregnancy threatened the pregnant person’s life or if the pregnancy came from incest or rape. The Hyde Amendment has been instrumental in the justification of cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions among many other vital procedures like cancer screenings and pap smears. The exceptions for rape and incest are a difficult road to go down too-- we don’t have to remind you that the process of reporting a rape can be traumatic and lengthy, and it seems cruel to make people prove they were raped in order to get an abortion they might need (read more about this in this op-ed- TW: sexual assault). In 2017, Paul Ryan tried to push a bill that would make the Hyde Amendment permanent, but it didn’t pass the Senate.
In 1992, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey weakened constitutional protection of abortion, establishing that state regulations are constitutional so long as they do not place a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” In 2007, in Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court upheld President George W. Bush’s Federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, the first federal law banning the “dilation and extraction” procedure, emboldening other states to pass more restrictive abortion laws as well. One other key case to be aware of is Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: in 2016, in a victory for abortion rights activists the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law designed to shut down most of the state’s abortion clinics with medically unnecessary restrictions.
Understanding a little bit about the legal history of the fight for abortion rights in the United States is key to understanding what the new Georgia and Alabama laws are trying to do right now. We only scratched the surface, so if you want to learn more about the legal history of abortion in the U.S., check out this article and this one. Also check out this article from NBC News for an important and less-told story.
Birth Control: A Brief History
The fight for universally accessible contraception originated during the Progressive Era, during the early 1900s specifically. Margaret Sanger,** a sex educator, writer, and nurse who coined the term “birth control,” fought for it for decades; her belief was that the ability to control family size was crucial to ending the cycle of women’s poverty. At the time, it was illegal to distribute birth control information, but she created her own publication (The Woman Rebel) to advocate for it nonetheless. She also opened the first birth control clinic in the United States (in Brownsville, Brooklyn), created the American Birth Control League (the organization that has evolved into what is Planned Parenthood today), and lobbied the government tirelessly until it became legal for doctors to prescribe birth control in 1936. In 1960, 6 years before her death, the birth control pill was invented, finally starting to separate sexuality from childbearing for a large number of women (and their partners). In 1965, Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut established that laws prohibiting the sale of contraceptives violated the right to privacy and were therefore unconstitutional. This ban of prohibitive laws was extended to unmarried couples in Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972, and a federal judge gave unmarried minors the right to purchase contraceptives in 1974 (yay safe teen sex!).
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans cover birth control. But, as we’re sure you can all guess, the Trump administration has attacked women’s access to birth control time and time again, way too many for us to talk about here (if you want to learn more about it, check out timelines of the attacks created by the National Women’s Law Center here and by Planned Parenthood here).
**Setting aside the fact that she was a vital figure in the repro rights movement, it’s also important to recognize how problematic of a person she was. She was involved in the eugenics movement, which advocated for a process of selective breeding to weed out “undesirable” populations, including the mentally and physically disabled. Read more about it here.**
So What's Happening Right Now?
This recent Alabama law is the most severe, yet six other Republican-led states have passed the “heartbeat bill:” Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa, and North Dakota. (Missouri?)
Heartbeat bills refer to a ban on abortions once a heartbeat can be detected at six weeks. Currently, the legal threshold for abortions is when the fetus is viable outside the womb, around 24 weeks. The heartbeat bills prohibit nearly all abortions because six weeks is often not enough time to confirm you are actually pregnant, decide what to do, find the funds, and set up an appointment to have the procedure done. Some women do not even know they are pregnant at six weeks (it’s just two weeks late for your period, as AOC pointed out). The bills are extremely restrictive and often don’t include exceptions for rape and incest, which, as we discussed earlier, aren’t even always that helpful anyway.
More than 60 bills like this have been introduced across the country in states such as Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, and West Virginia. Even in states considered safe havens for abortion rights, such as New York, anti-abortion lawmakers have introduced bills as a kind of protest, though they have not gotten far.
These laws have not yet been enacted and abortion after six weeks is still legal. They have either not taken effect yet or have been blocked by a judge. Still, abortion providers are taking the threat seriously and are planning to use their funding to shuttle women across state lines to obtain abortions. These laws across the country are part of a larger effort to eventually overturn Roe V. Wade at the level of the Supreme Court.
These restrictions are clearly unconstitutional and are used to pressure the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade or severely restrict how it is interpreted. Civil rights groups such as the ACLU are now tasked with the challenge to argue these laws in court to stop their implementation before they reach the highest court. And it's worth noting that the majority of Americans remain pro-choice and the majority of Americans oppose the Alabama laws.
But for now, unless and until the supreme court speaks on one of these cases, abortion remains legal to the point a fetus can survive outside the womb in the US, 24 weeks. Even if states do not succeed in making abortion illegal, the pile-on of restrictions has already made its impact. There are fewer abortion providers with less funding, and thus the procedure is becoming more expensive and harder to find, making it ever more difficult for pregnant people to exercise their rights.
Alabama: Set to take effect six months after becoming law, sued by ACLU and PP
Georgia: Set to take effect January 2020, but sued by the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights
Ohio: Set to take effect July 2019, but sued by the ACLU
Mississippi: Set to take effect July 2019, but sued by the Center for Reproductive Rights
Kentucky: Temporarily blocked by Judge David J. Hale after challenged in court by ACLU
Iowa: Blocked permanently by Judge Michael Huppert
North Dakota: Blocked permanently when the Supreme Court refused to review the ruling of a lower court
Missouri: Signed by Governor
What You Can Do:
Specific to right now (May 2019):
- Keep your eye out for marches and demonstrations. This summer will probably be chock-full of those opportunities!
- Sign this ACLU petition. Head to aclu.org/action for lots of action tips customized to how much time you have available.
- If you have the means, donate to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama right now- they're all doing imperative work to block these bans.
- Check this NY Times graphic to see if your state has had an abortion ban or fetal heartbeat bill proposed. If it does, head here to find your state legislators and call them with this script:
Hi, my name is ____and I live in ______. I'm calling to demand that you do everything you can to block abortion bans and fetal heartbeat bills proposed in our state. These bans and bills are unconstitutional, invasive, and cruel. (If you have a personal story, insert here.) Please keep in mind the millions of women and others who will be affected by these bans. Thank you for your time.
- It's all about the courts-- stay updated on SCOTUS news.
Repro Rights Constants:
And lastly, a puppy video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MnrWO-0f-Y
Sending love and light!
Hey Teen Resisters:
This has, again, been a super heavy few weeks. Hopefully taking action will be a good way to help express your emotions, but remember it's okay to take time to process them as well!
Before you dive in, here's a quick piece of better news: House Democrats will vote on the biggest health care bill of the year--which will lower drug prices and shore up Obamacare--next week. Since parts of the bill are bipartisan, it (cleverly) forces Republican legislators to choose between their constituents' priorities regarding prescription drug prices and their own partisan opposition to Obamacare.
what went down
In the same week, Alabama proposed an even more severe bill, which has yet to be signed into law (the vote was postponed until next week after a shouting match broke out on the Senate floor, when some Republicans attempted to propose a version of the bill that did not include exemptions in cases of rape and incest). The proposed bill would prevent doctors from performing abortions once a fetus is “in utero.” Translated: the proposed bill is, essentially, an all-out ban on abortion. As written and argued, the bill would not criminalize women for receiving abortions, and rather would punish doctors who perform them with up to 99 years in prison. The same Alabama bill would also make false rape allegations a felony, punishable with up to 10 years in prison. Although false rape allegations are wrong, many individuals’ allegations are considered false without actual evidence — this bill could lead to the abuse of these cases.
So why does this all matter, in the grand scheme of things? Roe v. Wade set a precedent for a woman’s right to choose, and the Alabama bill clearly infringes upon that right (a variety of organizations, including the A.C.L.U., have said that they will challenge the bill in court if it gets passed). That, in fact, is the point of the bill. These lawmakers know that this law is unconstitutional and know that it will most likely get overturned in a lower court when it is challenged. However, they hope that by continuing to appeal the case, they can eventually bring it to the Supreme Court, where they are hoping that the justices will uphold the law, reversing Roe v. Wade. For them, that outcome is the ultimate end goal.
What can you do?
It’s a lot, for just two weeks. It’s too much, for a week or a month or a year. With such a volume of bad news it is easy - no, hard not to - become desentized to this violence. You may have noticed circulating on social media tributes to two young men who sacrificed their lives to stop the massacres at USC and Highlands Ranch - Riley Howell and Kendrick Castillo. They deserve every bit of that recognition and praise. But we don’t want to live in a time when we treat shootings as inevitable - and take the small miracles and instances of heroism within a constant cycle. We have to change that cycle.
At the same time, though: all of this is hard to hear and hard to handle. When we say we can’t become numb, we don’t mean you should dive into news cycles like this week’s without the resources to take care of yourself. Give yourself time and space to process, reach out to people, indulge in our weekly puppy videos. And then - let’s channel our anger; let’s all take action to change what’s going on out there. That means…
What you can do?
CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. Demand that they make common-sense gun control legislation a priority. Make it clear that this is a matter of life and death, very literally, and that you are beyond tired of these cycles of hatred, fear, and violence. Some concrete reforms that you can demand:
What can you do?
On March 27th, Mueller wrote a letter to Barr expressing concern for the way his report had been construed: he felt his findings had been misrepresented, and that the American public would do better to have read the summaries his own team had prepared. He wrote that Barr’s summary letter “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the probe.
On April 18th, following demands by activists and Democrats in Congress that the full report be released, Barr released a redacted version of the full report to the public.
On April 19th, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler issued a subpoena to the Department of Justice demanding an unredacted version of the report, in addition to the underlying grand jury evidence and testimony, with a deadline of May 1st.
On May 1st, Barr testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Many felt that his testimony showed his allegiance to Trump and not to the country. Senate Democrats grilled Barr with questions which exposed what many believed to be hypocrisy and foul play—he seemed to be protecting Trump, not the integrity of America.
On May 8th, in response to a pending vote in the House Judiciary Committee to hold Barr in contempt over his refusal to respond to Nadler’s subpoena, Trump invoked executive privilege over the entirety of the report.
Later that day, the Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress (concretely, it didn’t do much, but it escalated tensions even further and exemplified Democrats’ intense frustration).
Most important takeaway: both sides are angry, and neither one is backing down—Nadler and House Speaker Pelosi have declared a “constitutional crisis” and impeachment buzz is on the rise, while Barr struck back just today, appointing a prosecutor to examine the origins of the Russia probe.
Hello, Teen Resisters! There has been a lot going on. Let's all take a deep breath and try to cover it all.
It's unfortunately been a week plagued with violence and hatred. We're taking a moment to remember the 253 people who were killed in Sri Lanka in the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday. The attacks were carried out in churches and hotels across the country. Hate-based terrorism is a gut-punch to everything we believe in, and we wanted to acknowledge the attacks before launching into our more US-based coverage.
What Went Down:
All right, everyone. This has been a heavy, heavy list. It's not the best news and we know the action items have been more help-oriented than advocacy. Just know we're here with you and sending you love and support. xoxo.
Hey Teen Resisters!
We hope that you've all had the chance to bask in the first few weeks of spring! Here are a few quick things you should be aware of before diving in:
- The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota--one of the nation's poorest areas--has recently been the victim of heavy snow and severe, debilitating flooding. Read more about the situation here.
- Update on the Mueller report: Attorney General William Barr has promised to release the redacted version of the report to the public, and said in today in testimony before Congress that he hoped to release it next week. He also said that he would investigate spying on the Trump campaign.
- Kirstjen Nielsen submitted her resignation as Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary on April 7th. CALL YOUR SENATOR now and tell them that the next DHS Secretary must end family separation and indefinite detention.
what went down
While CBP cited an overwhelming number of migrants as cause for having to place certain asylum seekers under the El Paso Bridge, the agency already has greatly expanded funding and personnel; it’s clear that more money is the last thing the agency ought to get.
El Paso is far from the only location that migrant families and children are being held. More than 1,700 migrants from the ages of 13-17 are being held at the Homestead Detention Center, in Homestead, Florida. These are children our age. Most have escaped poverty and violence in their places of birth and are now being put through yet another long ordeal at the hands of our government.
What can you do?
Don’t Separate Families
c/o Margaret Seiler
248 12th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Letters have to arrive at this address by April 19th, so act fast!
The bill received a great deal of opposition while in the process of being voted on, including some from members of the Hollywood film industry who say that they will refuse to work on sets in Georgia if the legislation is passed. It has also experienced pushback due to the current obstetrician shortage in Georgia, which would most likely worsen as a result of this legislation. Additional criticisms include that the bill would endanger women’s health specifically because of an increase in dangerous at-home abortions. This bill is particularly frightening, for it represents a larger anti-abortion, pro-life movement that could eventually lead to Roe v. Wade’s being overturned. This case, which established a woman’s right to choose on a federal level, could be reversed, especially with new justices such as Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh backing pro-life legislation.
So what is going to happen with this bill? This bill was approved by state legislators, meaning that it will now pass on to Republican governor Brian Kemp. Kemp must sign the bill in the following months in order to enact it, and he is expected to do so, based on his continual support for anti-abortion legislation and this bill in particular.
What you can do:
Here are some articles for a more in-depth look at the topic:
What can you do to help improve the safety of LGBTQ+ Brunei citizens?
Hello Teen Resisters!
We hope you've had a good week. There's lots to cover this week. A couple things that you should be aware of:
- The results of the Mueller probe into Trump/Russia relations came in this week and the report was summarized in a 4-page letter by Trump's Attorney General, William Barr. Barr's summary reported that Mueller charged Trump with no crimes but also did not "exonerate" him from possible obstruction of justice. Trump has been shouting victory since, while Congress has demanded that the entire report be released to at least Congress, and ultimately the American public, by April 2nd.
- News also came in today that the Trump admin is cutting funds to numerous programs, including that DeVos wants to defund Special Olympics programs and Trump is once again cutting aid to Puerto Rico. The news came in too late for us to cover it in this week's list, but we'll cover it next time. Also coming up: a full-length feature about understanding the White Nationalist movement and what it means.
Sending you lots of light in these first wonderful weeks of Spring!
What Went Down
Background Check Expansion Act: In late February, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would require background checks for almost all private gun sales. Representatives voted 240-190 to extend the background checks requirement to sales made at gun shows or over the internet. If passed in the Senate, the law will become one of the most significant gun safety measures to go through Congress in decades - and a long-past-overdue national legislative response to the rampant gun violence in the U.S.’ schools and streets.
While eight Republicans in the House voted to pass the bill - and popular opinion on universal background checks is positive across the board, at 97% - Republican Senators refuse to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. While passage of the bill, even if brought to the floor, is unlikely, floor votes are important - they set precedent for future debate and action, and they force our representatives to go on record for supporting or opposing an issue, allowing us to hold them accountable at the ballot box. We need to fight for a vote on this bill.
What You Can Do:
NYC School Segregation: Last week, as thousands of New York City 8th graders received letters regarding which high schools they were accepted into, the New York Times reported that only 7 Black students were accepted into Stuyvesant High School, an elite public school in Manhattan. This means that although Black and Hispanic students make up 67 percent of the NYC public school population, they only make up 10 percent of the specialized school population. NYC's public schools are the most segregated in the nation.
Stuyvesant High School along with seven other specialized high schools require the SHSAT, an annual standardized test to be taken in the fall of students’ eighth-grade year, as the sole means of admission. This is not the first time the test and its biased results have come into question. In 2013, Mayor Bill De Blasio's campaign platform included scrapping the SHSAT, but it wasn’t until June of 2018 that he proposed an alternative to the test. His proposal consisted of two main parts: to expand the Discovery program, as well as to eventually replace the test with a program that offers seats in specialized high schools to the top seven percent of every middle school. The expansion of the Discovery program would aim to reserve 20% of seats in specialized schools to low-income students whose scores were just below the cutoff for admission. This proposal would need to pass in Albany and has already received pushback from many specialized high school alumni. This issue of systemic racial segregation in schools is far bigger than this test and the eight associated schools. So despite what many politicians would hope, it’s not an issue that can be solved with one bill or in a year. As representative Ocasio-Cortez pointed out during an education town hall a few weeks ago, “why isn’t every public school in New York City a Brooklyn Tech-caliber school?”
If this issue interests you, here are a few ways to get involved.
See you soon!
Peace and Power,
Hey Teen Resisters!
We are back on our cycle of lists after a quick break for our Black History Month List (which you should all go read!)--we know that the past few weeks have been beyond crazy, and so we tried to boil everything down to what we believe are some of the key happenings. Get ready to dive into a list full of youth protest, Trump trying to attack women's repro rights (again.), net neutrality, vaccines, and more!! (Also, happy late International Women's Day and current Women's History Month <33; more on that soon.) Sending all our love!
what went (&is going) down
This Friday, March 15th, students across the world will be walking out of school and protesting climate change inaction in their local communities. Goals and logistics vary depending on the school/community, but most strikes advocate for the support of the Green New Deal in Congress, a bill pushed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (among others), which aims to stimulate the U.S. economy in an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable way—an emphasis is placed on communities of color and low income communities that are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.
That means that those served by Title X rely on the government for access to birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and even simple women’s health exams. Planned Parenthood serves approximately 41 percent of those benefited by Title X funding; although 4,000 other Title X-funded health care providers across the country also provide abortion, if Planned Parenthood specifically were to be defunded, other providers would have to increase their caseloads by an average of 70 percent to service PP’s patients.
So what do all of those numbers mean? The domestic gag rule would take away funding from thousands of health care providers who service millions--many in poverty and without insurance—preventing them from accessing not only abortion but also basic, vital reproductive health care services.
The second key component of the gag rule is that it would prevent doctors and service providers from referring patients who want or need an abortion to a place where they can get one. If a woman found out she was pregnant after being diagnosed with cancer, for example, her doctor would not be allowed to inform her that abortion was even an option. What the gag rule does is just what its name suggests: forcibly prevents service providers from giving women the comprehensive, accurate information about their health care options that they deserve.
It’s clear that this rule is unethical, irrational, dangerous, and unconstitutional.
So: what can you do?
Recently, House and Senate Democrats proposed legislation–– the Save the Internet Act–– which would combat the impact of the Restoring Internet Freedom bill. It would establish guidelines that reflect what net neutrality served to protect. According to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, “The Save the Internet Act enacts the three legacy net neutrality principles – no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization – and empowers the FCC to prohibit unjust, unreasonable and discriminatory practices.”
What can you do?
What can you do?
Arizona is going in the opposite direction, advancing three anti-vaccine bills. H.B. 2470 would legalize religious exemptions for vaccines, as well as allow parents to exempt their kids without having to fill out a form informing them of the risks of not vaccinating (which would make the exemption process even easier and faster). HB.. 2471 requires medical providers to explain all the ingredients and risks of vaccines, which doctors say could confuse or overwhelm patients and make them less likely to get vaccinated. H.B. 2472 allows doctors to give an antibody titer test to patients to see if they are already immune to a disease that the vaccine would prevent. Doctors point out that the antibody titer test is sometimes unreliable—it can say that someone is immune to a disease when they really aren’t. The test is also expensive.
While many states like Washington are focusing on eliminating vaccine exemptions, enough states are focusing on expanding these exemptions to concern the federal government. Head of the FDA Scott Gottlieb has not released any specific plans, but said in an interview with CNN that “certain states” could “force the hand of federal health agencies” to act.
What You Can Do:
Hello Teen Resisters! Happy Black History Month! We've been working on this list to highlight what we should be thinking about and doing this Black History Month. Some of this list is written by our regular staff writers, plus a contribution from Maya Brady-Ngugi. The longer and more historical Part One is written by Tirzah Thomas. We hope this list is empowering and educational. We are deeply committed to the fight for racial justice and are proud to be a part of a generation that is passionate and seeking education.
There are many different proposed ways to fix to the undeniable institutional racism in this country, and while we can clearly say that there must be concrete solutions, we know that people in our community have a variety of views. We try to address that, and provide the best actions we can that we believe will aid in the fight against racism and white supremacy.
Celebrating Black history and fighting for racial justice goes far beyond February, and we urge non-Black readers in particular to continue to stay updated with our actions against racial injustice throughout the year. Please feel free to look at our Index by Issue page to see each list where we have covered institutional racism.
A note: In our last list, we covered the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett. Since then, more information has come out that points to claims that the attack was staged. It’s hard to tell what really happened right now, and you can certainly find information about it online. There is an ongoing process and investigation involving the FBI and the Chicago Police Dept., and the truth is not so clear at the moment. We apologize for any confusion our reporting may have caused. We do not regret our initial reaction of belief when someone told a seemingly credible and certainly feasible story of suffering. We also know that, if this attack did not really happen, it will not deter us from acknowledging and fighting against the numerous hate crimes that do happen, particularly to trans women of color. Thank you for your understanding.
Without further ado:
Part One: The Diaspora Doesn't Fall Short
written by Tirzah Thomas
To many in America, February is simply the second month of the year, significant only in that it has a short number of days and represents the beginning of the end of deep winter. But for me, February means more. February is a month that celebrates Black achievement, Black excellence, and Black history. February is Black History Month. What does Black History Month mean? To me, this month is when I not only recognize my history, but I push myself to recognize others’ Black history.
You see, this month is not called African-American History Month or Caribbean Descent History Month or even Afro-Latinx History Month. This month, we recognize all those histories and many more. We unite as Black people and we reflect on how far we have come and how much farther we need to go. As we examine our history, we also enable ourselves to create a blueprint for our future.
It is clear that African Americans have come a long way, but we have a long way to go in terms of fighting against racism and for equity in addition to equality (more on that later). African Americans descend from people who were originally kidnapped in Africa from the 1400s to the 1800s, put on unsanitary and often deadly ships, and sent to the Americas to be used for slave labor. This practice—commonly known as the transatlantic slave trade—continued for centuries, and slavery persisted in America long after the slave trade itself was discontinued. Slavery is what the United States was founded and built upon and with. Many enslaved people found ways to escape through the Underground Railroad, and many more could not find freedom. As all of this happened, a lot of these people lost their connection to African culture. Thus, African Americans started to create their own culture. That culture developed into the unique Black culture thrives today in the United States.
The Difference Between Equality and Equity (and why it matters)
Although slavery in its traditional form was abolished with the ratification of the 13th amendment in 1865, the oppression of Blacks in the United States did not even come close to ceasing. Black people continue to suffer in America; white supremacy has prevented Black people from gaining political, social, and economic power and equality. But that has not stopped them. Instead, it has pushed them to fight harder, each battle bringing us closer and closer to finally establishing racial justice in this country. In 2019, according to law, it seems as though a Black person has essentially the same rights as any other American citizen.
Sounds great, right? Yes! It’s great! But it does not mean that we are done with fighting. Our fight no longer focuses its energy mostly on achieving equality, but rather on achieving equity. The difference between the two ideas is key—while equality happens when everyone is given the same resources and rights, equity happens when these resources and rights are given specifically and intentionally with the mission of getting everyone to the same level. This cartoon explains the difference well:
The equality/equity disparity is epitomized in what the modern racial justice movement fights for. Despite the fact that equal rights are usually written into law, there is so much racist history embedded in our nation—yet to be confronted—that these laws rarely bring Black people and white people to the same levels. Our supposedly fair governing code contains innumerable loopholes: a white cop can get away with killing a Black kid, Black people are put in jail for the same petty crimes that white people can walk away from, and implicit bias is used as a valid justification for the murder of a black person, to name just a few. What we need now is explicit legislation to combat those loopholes and achieve equity. We still have many battles to fight, and we will not stop until we get the equity that we deserve.
A Few Different Black Histories
While some slave ships were taken to the United States, some were taken to the Caribbean. In one instance, a man named Papa York, who lived in Ghana, was forced to move to Grenada as an enslaved person. There, he had children, who ultimately branched into a whole family line. They call themselves the Quashie people. Some Black people are able to trace their history and figure out where they came from, like in this example, which is a wonderful blessing. Those who can do so are able to get a sense of where and how their ancestors lived originally, something that many Black people are unable to do.
The French also brought ships full of Africans to the Caribbean in the 1600s and 1700s. Some of those Africans ended up on the island of St. Vincent. In St. Vincent, African people lived peacefully amongst the French settlers (despite having been taken away from their native land against their will), and as they intermingled with the French and the natives of St. Vincent, they created the new Garifuna community. The Garifuna community created its own language, comprised of languages from different parts of members’ identities.
In 1796, the British arrived on the island and exiled the Garifuna people. The Garifuna were never enslaved by the British, but they were shipped off to the Honduran bay island of Roatan. From there, Garifunas spread to Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Belize, and Honduras. Eventually, the Spanish took over all of these countries except for Belize. This pushed the Garifunas to learn Spanish in order to communicate with the new people. The Spanish discriminated against the Garifunas because of their dark skin color and forced them to live in horrible conditions. Countless Garifunas overcame this oppression and continue to live in these countries today, but their culture is rapidly being forgotten. In each of the countries where Garifunas live, they continue to fight for recognition.
These are only a few examples of the Black history that resulted from the transatlantic slave trade—there is so much more to be covered. Not every Black person has the same history. Not all Black people face the same discrimination. Black people who also identify with other marginalized identities- queer, woman, a religious minority, etc.- face intertwined discriminations in their daily lives. We all have different experiences, but instead of dividing us, our differences push us to unite as one and fight for the same thing: equity in whatever country we live in, because there are Black people all around the world, and there is racism all around the world. As a race, we have come so far, and we continue to fight battle after battle; our resilience and perseverance highlight our strength and beauty. All across the globe, Black people were told that we should be ashamed of what we are. But as we look back to our history, we know that our Blackness is strong. Our Blackness is unique. Our Blackness is beautiful.
Part Two: Modern Racial Justice in the United States
What is Mass Incarceration?
The united states incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world, so while the US contains 5% of the world’s population, it contains 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. But the staggering statistics associated with present day mass incarceration in the US didn't arrive overnight. During the 1980s, while Reagan was in office, the prison population doubled from 329,000 to 627,000 due to the ‘war on drugs’ that Nixon started perpetuating in the ‘70s. The roots of mass incarceration, and the racism associated with it, can also be traced back to slavery and systemic white supremacy. African Americans are six times more likely to be sentenced to prison for the same crime as a White person.
There are 536,000 people in the United States who are detained before being tried. This is due to the fact that in most states, a cash bail must be paid in order to return home before your trial. Although its original purpose was to ensure individuals would show up to their trial, the effects of the bail system have disproportionately impacted low income individuals. Often times, individuals who can’t pay bail are arrested due to minor offenses (like petty theft or marijuana charges). In conjunction with individuals’ inability to pay bail, the for profit bail bond industry feeds off of their inability to pay. Instead of a family/individual paying a refundable sum of bail money to the courts, they could choose to pay a nonrefundable fraction of the money to a private bail bondsman in order for them to front the money. The rest of the bail bond would be paid back in installments, typically with high interests and with significant collateral, such as houses, at state. The bail bond industry makes about $2 billion annually.
For-profit prisons, run by private corporations, are yet another unjust part of the US system of Mass Incarceration. Although the corporations claim to be saving money for the state, it is unclear whether that is the case. Additionally, they create a dynamic in which incarcerating individuals is more profitable and therefore incentivizing mass incarceration. There are other aspects of the system that are deeply problematic, including horrible prison conditions and a justice system that often persecutes innocent people.
People have many different perspectives- even in our own TR community- on how to deal with this issue. Some feel that grasping the problem at the root requires abolition of prisons. Others feel that the system just needs to be reformed. And there are a variety of positions in between. We’re providing the realistic action you can take depending on what you feel is the best way to address this. While we can’t give you realistic small actions to take to fully abolish prisons, we highly recommend checking out Close Rikers, which is attempting to close Rikers Island, the highly abusive New York City prison. What we can all agree on is that it will take a lot of work to rid a system of its inequities when the system was built upon the backs of the oppressed using the most glaring example of inequality. But that work must be done.
As a multifaceted issue, there are many implementable solutions that address small parts of the much larger system. Below are a few:
Washington Post graphics showing racial disparity in marijuana arrests:
Nonviolent De-Escalation Tactics
guest written by Maya Brady-Ngugi
In altercations between law enforcement and citizens, nonviolent de-escalation tactics help to reduce the level of intensity and the risk of violence. Central to de-escalation tactics is communication, creating space, and slowing down in order to defuse potentially dangerous situations. In instances where nonviolent de-escalation is used, officers are able to rely on peaceful and functional tactics to de-escalate the situation rather than immediately turning to the violent power of a gunshot. Training police in nonviolent strategies like these could be a major step in improving relationships between police and people of color. In most states, nonviolent training is not required, and in the states where it is required, it is not mandated. Every year around 1,000 people are shot and killed by the police. Police are trained to have very few options in nonviolent handling of a situation. Instead, they are trained to taze, shoot, and arrest people when situations seem out of control (or even in control).
Nonviolent tactics save lives, and there needs to be a greater push to implement policies where officers are trained in nonviolent de-escalation. Police departments in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Ferguson, MI have begun nonviolent de-escalation training and all saw a reduction in the use of force in situations between police and citizens. Dallas, for example, saw an 18% drop in use of force a year after nonviolent de-escalation training was instituted. While other solutions are necessary to address the systemic and deeply embedded white supremacy at the root of the issue of police brutality in the US, this policy would decrease the risk of violence as we discuss more radical solutions to the problem. Mandated nonviolent de-escalation for police will allow for safer communities and better relations with police.
What You Can Do:
Push for nonviolent de-escalation tactics in your area! You can always push for things in your city by leaving a comment on the city gov or police department’s website. Look out for anti-police brutality meetings in your area and remain vocal on social media. And read up! Concrete solutions like these are vital in the fight against racist police violence.
The End Racial Profiling Act
Across the centuries, the criminal justice system in the U.S. has rarely worked in favor of African Americans; in fact, it has more often worked against them. The examples are many and crushing: a decades-long history of police brutality, all-white juries, police violence against civil rights workers, and, of course, laws designed to allow brutal punishment of enslaved people without legal recourse.
During Black History Month, Teens Resist is returning to a bill we highlighted earlier, one designed to combat an issue that falls squarely within this pattern of injustice and discrimination at the hands of law enforcement: racial profiling.
The rate at which Black men and other people of color are targeted by police is hugely out of proportion to the rates of their white counterparts. Black men are more likely to be stopped on the street, stopped while driving, arrested, and incarcerated than whites: while one in thirteen white men spends time in jail in their lifetime, the rate is four times higher for black men, one in three of which are incarcerated at some point. These discrepancies don’t represent the actual crime rate among blacks and whites, especially when it comes to drug offenses, which has been especially present following the War on Drugs the greatest cause for incarceration nationally. While African Americans and whites use drugs, especially minor ones like marijuana, at comparable rates, Black men are far more likely to be arrested for using them. Racial profiling is not a concentrated, controlled issue; it is rampant all over the country, and often facilitated by local policies (New York readers, see Stop and Frisk).
Racial profiling—apart from being just plainly contradictory to the idea of an unbiased criminal justice system—has devastating effects on Black communities, both in terms of incarceration, as we discussed above, and the role it plays in wearing down trust between law enforcement and the people they serve. Not to mention, when police are spending all their time targeting a specific demographic, they can’t effectively do the job they’re tasked with—keeping communities safe. And as written in the ACLU article on the issue, “Racial profiling is not only hurtful and wrong, but it can have deadly consequences. Police are more likely to use excessive and lethal force against people of color, and these interactions often end in death.”
H.R. 1498—the End Racial Profiling Act—is a proposal reintroduced in this Congress that aims to eradicate these kinds of damaging practices in law enforcement. The law would officially prohibit racial profiling, giving victims the chance to bring complaints to court. It would authorize federal grants dedicated to collecting data about the practice, and importantly, require local law enforcement offices to “maintain policies and procedures to eliminate racial profiling, including training on racial profiling issues, the collection of data, and procedures for handling complaints.”
Of course, the End Racial Profiling Act is only a necessary first step. The anti-bias trainings that the law could mandate would have an important impact, but they cannot single-handedly or fully solve the problem that underlies all of this: many people’s baseline assumptions about who is “dangerous” or “threatening.” Always, and during this month especially, it is critical for all of us—but most especially white people—to recognize those assumptions, assess where they come from, understand their place in the historical narrative, and think about what role white people have in creating and perpetuating these biases.
We highly suggest reading some of the articles linked as sources above for more detail on this subject—and as a way to get thinking about these prejudices and biases.
Organizations We'd Suggest Supporting or Looking to for Action:
The Kalief Browder Foundation: www.kaliefbrowderfoundation.com/
The Trayvon Martin Foundation: www.trayvonmartinfoundation.org/
The Garifuna Heritage Foundation: www.garifunaheritagefoundation.org/
Equal Justice Initiative: www.eji.org
Black Women's Blueprint: www.blackwomensblueprint.org/
Close Rikers: www.closerikers.org/
Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity: boldorganizing.org
Southern Poverty Law Center: www.splcenter.org
Western States Center: www.westernstatescenter.org/
Youth Over Guns: www.youthovergunsny.org/
Happy Black History Month! Sending all our support and light.
Peace and Power,
Hey Teen Resisters!
It kinda seems like we say this every time, but it is always true: it has been a very busy two weeks. From record-breaking low temps in the Midwest to a humanitarian crisis at a Brooklyn prison to infinite tensions in Washington (and more!), we hope to make digesting everything a little easier for all of you. Before we start, we wanted to highlight a few key recent news items that we don't mention later on:
2) Updates on the Trump Investigation. In response to Trump's (threatening) declaration during his SOTU address that "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war" or "ridiculous partisan investigation," the House has continued to expand its Russia inquiry. Here are a few key happenings:
3) The Shutdown ended without any money for the wall! After 35 days, and over 800,000 government employees going home without pay
checks, President Trump signed a bill agreeing to reopen the government on Friday, January 25. Despite the government being open, more than half of the government employees still went home unpaid. Trump announced that he only intends for the government to remain open for three weeks unless border wall funding is secured
What Happens now?
- There will be lots of negotiations and debate over the security of the nation's border and the need for a wall.
- Democrats and Republicans will try to reach a consensus on a security plan. If a decision is not made, President Trump is threatening to shut down the government, or even declare a national emergency. It seems like Dems are not budging on the wall right now, but we'll see where things go.
what went down
After the public became informed and outraged, over a hundred supporters gathered on the steps of the jail to demand change. Some of the protesters stayed overnight, vowing to wait until power was restored. Hand warmers and hundreds of blankets were sent from the city and accepted by MDC, but were never given to inmates by the federal employees in the prison. Protesters communicated with inmates by asking questions on a speaker system and receiving replies through banging. Eventually, families of inmates began directly communicating with their loved ones through the speaker system as incarcerated men gripped window bars to see and speak to their girlfriends, wives, aunts, fathers, and mothers. After families stormed the prison demanding to see their loved ones, authorities used pepper spray and slapped phones out of protestors hands to try and keep people away. Additionally, social visits had been canceled and visitors have been unable to see their loved ones. After leadership from local and federal politicians as well as the fierce work of NYC Justice League and Federal Defenders, visitation rights were restored and so was heat and electricity, and multiple lawsuits and investigations are underway.
However, there are many unanswered questions about the situation, and it seems that some of the medical issues are worse than we had imagined. Since the heat has been turned back on, corrections officers have allegedly used high heat, hoses, and pepper spray against inmates. Here is an article detailing the intensity of the situation. In general, this situation highlights the intense injustice of our prison system. The refusal to address the situation is just one example of how much our prison system devalues the lives of poor Hispanic and Black people. Each small step towards justice brings us closer to running this antiquated system into the ground. Look out for a mass incarceration feature coming soon.
Click here to view our coverage of the protests outside MDC from our co-director Sonia who was at MDC on Saturday and Sunday.
What you can do:
What can you do?
Kansas is also expected to introduce two bills to legalize medical marijuana. One will be sponsored by Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, and it is partially the result of efforts on the part of Bleeding Kansas, an advocacy group working to get Kansans better health care.
Finney’s is expected to be more liberal than the other, sponsored by Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City. Holland says that his bill is “simpler” and therefore more likely to pass through Kansas’s conservative legislature.
Illinois is going even further: Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, plan to introduce a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. Illinois residents aged 21 or older would be able to purchase and possess up to 30 grams (or half that amount for nonresidents), and could grow up to five marijuana plants per household. Criminal records of low-level possession or dealing of cannabis would be erased, and tax money raised by a recreational-marijuana program would be used for development of lower-income neighborhoods.
What You Can Do:
Note: We covered marijuana legalization once before in Golden Fights, Moments, and Globes, and here is an article explaining marijuana legalization from a racial justice standpoint, in case you are interested or want to know more before deciding how/if to act on this topic. Reminder that we are not here to tell you what to do, but to give you the tools to impact the change you want to create!
Happy New Year Teen Resisters! After a brief break, we're back with our biweekly lists, and there's a lot to cover! If you don't know, the government is currently shut down. More on that later, but that's (partially) why everything's been so chaotic.
We wanted to point out two things before the list starts:
- We're sure you've seen the video of the MAGA boys and the indigenous elder. Please check out the Issues Affecting Indigenous Peoples section on our Index by the Issue page for all of the lists where we highlight issues of indigenous rights & actions.
- Just as an update: so far, here is who has officially announced candidacy for president in 2020 or an exploratory committee for a 2020 campaign. We've linked their campaign videos or websites:
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA)
Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (D, TX)
Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D, HI)
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY)
Senator Kamala Harris (D, CA)
John Delaney, former Rep for Maryland (D, MD)
Richard Ojeda, former State Senator from West Virginia (D, WV)
President Donald Trump (R)
Now let's jump in!
What Went Down:
*URGENT* The Government Shutdown, Explained:
Today, January 21, 2019, marks the 30th day of President Trump’s petulant government shutdown. This shutdown officially started on December 22 of last year, when President Trump refused to sign any appropriations bill (AKA a federal spending bill) that wouldn’t allocate $5.7 billion to the funding of his Mexico-United States border wall.
Already the longest in U.S. history, this shutdown has adversely affected millions -- 4 million government contractors have been laid off. 800,000 direct U.S. government workers have been furloughed, and of those, 420,000 are still being forced to work without pay. The maltreatment, including missing their first paycheck of the year, has brought some workers to the breaking point -- a number of government employees, including many TSA agents, have quit. Additionally, small businesses have been denied loans by the U.S. SBA, federal courts are running out of money, and private companies have refused to go public, leading to a significant decrease in 2019’s overall economic growth. According to the President of the U.S. Federal Reserve, this will likely lead to an overall 1% less of an increase in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which amounts to over a third of our annual economic growth lost because of Trump’s shutdown. Other problems include a lack of quality food testing, native reservations struggling due to a lack of government funds, and some government workers have been forced to ration medical necessities like insulin in the face of no pay.
The House of Representatives has already passed a spending bill that would end the shutdown and allow formal debate on immigration to reopen, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses to bring it to the floor. This is clearly only as a deterrent -- the exact same spending bill passed the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support just weeks before. Negotiations are still in full force -- just two days ago, President Trump offered a three year cessation in deportation attempts for DACA recipients (immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children) in return for his $5.7 billion in wall funding. Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-San Francisco) refused. There’s an important reason that Democratic Congressional leadership has refused to make any deals with President Trump during the shutdown -- if he sees that using millions of government workers as a bargaining chip works as a political strategy, the President is going to shut the government down every time he wants a policy change. Majority Leader McConnell needs to grow a spine and introduce the spending bill; our politicians need to stick to their guns and fight for what’s right -- ending this government shutdown as soon as humanly possible. As Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi have stated, debate on immigration should be happening in a government setting and should not require a shutdown or presidential temper tantrum where hardworking Americans are the collateral damage.
What You Can Do:
CALL! YOUR! SENATOR! This spending bill has to pass the Senate. Even if you don't think it matters because your senators are super liberal or super conservative, it really does. This thread explains why.
Hi, my name is ______, I’m from _____, and I'm calling to ask Senator ______ to vote to take up and pass the bills to reopen the government that passed the House last week, and to insist that the government be reopened before long-term negotiations on border security or immigration continue. The millions of furloughed employees and lack of funding for vital programs should be prioritized over politics. I urge you to use your conscience in making your decisions on this topic. Thank you.
Info on the 2020 Census Citizenship Status Question: Every 10 years the US government takes a census, a means of recording how many people live in the country and get a general understanding of their demographics. The Trump administration moved to add a question to the 2020 census about whether or not the resident in question is a legal citizen of the United States. Many believed this would discourage non-citizens from partaking in the census, therefore misrepresenting the number of minority members living in the US.
Earlier this week, Judge Jesse Furman, a Federal judge in New York prohibited the Commerce Department from making this addition to the 2020 census, writing that that "[Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross'] decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census -- even if it did not violate the Constitution itself -- was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside." The Trump administration then appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court, who, on January 18th, decided to drop the case. This implies that SCOTUS agrees with Judge Furman’s initial ruling, a major blow to the Trump administration and a major win for organizations like the ACLU and others supporters of undocumented immigrant rights.
Peace & Power,
These lists include featured organizations, scripts, numbers, news updates and inspirational activists.