Categories
Articles

The Hidden Victims of Incarceration

Our parents, or parent, are the very first people that we will ever know. They are the first people we learn to love as we grow from a newborn into a toddler, and eventually an adult. As a kid, they take us to school and pick us up. They might pack your lunch for you each day. They are there when you wake up from a nightmare and run to them for comfort and familiarity. They make each holiday special and chaperone your school field trips. They help you pick out your prom dress and teach you how to drive. And they are there when you graduate high school, crying in the audience as you walk across the stage.

But for some children, this is simply not the case.


The first time I saw my father arrested firsthand was when I was seven years old. By seven, there were already father-shaped gaps in my memory where my dad was simply gone. Years later, I would understand that he was in jail or prison, but as a young child, I was told lies. It is terrifying to watch someone you love, especially a parent, be forced into cuffs right in front of you.


In the United States, 2.7 million children currently have an incarcerated parent.

The National Institute of Corrections also reports that “Over half of those parents are serving time for non-violent offenses.”

Alarming Statistics:

92% of parents serving prison time are fathers (fatherhood.org).
In 2016, nearly half of people in state and federal prisons were parents of children under the age of 18 (sentencingproject.org).

Between 1980 and 2012, the number of parents in prison grew roughly five times.

How does this affect kids?

The incarceration of one or both parents has been linked to anxiety and depression in children. In one study, it was revealed that children of an incarcerated father, particularly those who witnessed the arrest, developed insecure attachments to their caregivers (NCBI). This anxious attachment may reveal itself through a child acting “clingy” or becoming anxious when separated from the parent. They may also struggle to calm themselves down once the parent returns.

Having a parent jailed or imprisoned also increases a child’s chance of having learning disabilities such as ADHD and developmental delays (prb.org).

A Dangerous Cycle…

Although statistics on the cycle of incarceration vary widely by source, there is no question that children of incarcerated parents face a set of unique challenges. The sudden removal of a parental figure frequently causes behavioral changes in children which has been found to lead to increased school suspensions and expulsions (National Institute of Justice). It has also been found that the incarceration of a parent may lead to increased risk for antisocial behavior and economic hardship for the child and their caregiver.

In 2017, a study found that “Both present and past parental incarceration was significantly associated with use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and prescription drugs, as well as substance abuse and dependence.” Many studies also demonstrate that children who witness a parent misuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to suffer from substance abuse. This puts them at higher risk of running into issues with the criminal justice system as adults.

Emotional Toll

"The incarceration of a parent can be especially scarring because of the shame that often surrounds it. Some children may be sensitive to the stigma of their parent's crime and imprisonment and feel embarrassed or resentful around their peers and other adults." 
- Human Rights Watch article on parental incarceration

This was certainly the case for me. In elementary and early middle school, I frequently found myself lying about my father. It was especially difficult each year when Father’s Day or the daddy-daughter dance would roll around. I would lie to my friends and teachers and explain that my dad simply worked late and couldn’t come to the dance. Or I’d make the Father’s Day card and throw it away when I got home. I was embarrassed and ashamed that my dad was locked up. This is a feeling that many, if not all children of inmates encounter.

The Physical Toll of Separation

Being separated as a child from your parent causes long-term stress to the body. Due to the stress of being separated from their caregiver, a child’s sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive. Studies show that this prolonged stress response negatively changes the structure of the child’s brain. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University reports that adverse childhood experiences, such as parental separation, increases the likelihood that a child will face physical health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Numerous studies also show that an over-active amygdala (often found in children who are separated from their parents), alters a child’s ability to assess risk and make informed decisions.

How you can support children of incarcerated parents

As someone who has experienced parental incarceration firsthand, here is some of my best advice to caregivers of children who has a parent incarcerated:

  • Help them write and send letters. If the child is very young, have them draw pictures and explain to them how they will send them to their parent.
  • If you are their caregiver, encourage them to talk about their parent and help them find words to describe their feelings.
  • Refrain from criticizing the incarcerated parent, especially in front of the child. Hearing offhand remarks about their parent only causes more confusion and stress for the kid. You can help the child learn from their parent’s situation by explaining the importance of making good decisions. But shaming the parent in front of the child only furthers the shame, embarrassment, and many conflicting emotions the child is already experiencing.
  • If possible, help arrange phone calls. Due to the limited call time, help the child determine what they want to say to their parent BEFORE they call. Help prepare them beforehand so they understand they only have a few minutes to speak to their loved one.
  • Allow the child to celebrate the parent on the parent’s birthday. You can aid them in making birthday cards or even bake a cake to honor the parent. The same can be done for other special events and holidays. Find ways you can allow the child to celebrate and hold space for their parent even when they cannot be together. Holidays and special events can be very painful for kids when their parent is incarcerated.
  • Discuss with the child’s teachers who report cards will be sent to, who will be attending parent-teacher conferences and other school events so they are not in the dark. This will also help the child feel they can be honest with the teacher and ensure there is no confusion in the classroom.

Written by Tiffany Leveille

Edited by Miriam Itzkowitz

Original Graphics by Tiffany Leveille


Sources

https://www.prisonfellowship.org/resources/support-friends-family-of-prisoners/coping-incarceration-loved-one/raising-children-with-a-parent-in-prison/

https://www.fatherhood.gov/for-programs/incarcerated-and-reentering-fathers#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20fathers%20in,prisons%2C%2092%20percent%20are%20fathers.

https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/6148/#:~:text=Welfare’s%20CW360%C2%B0.-,In%20the%20United%20States%20mothers%20and%20fathers%20go%20to%20prison,Health%20Measurement%20Initiative%2C%202016).

https://www.prb.org/resources/parents-imprisonment-linked-to-childrens-health-behavioral-problems/#:~:text=In%20particular%2C%20children%20with%20an,ADD%2FADHD%2C%20and%20anxiety.

https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/toxic-stress/

https://www.srcd.org/briefs-fact-sheets/the-science-is-clear

Categories
Articles

Aboriginal Australia

This history of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within Australia, is not one that is widely spoken about in international circles. Many people, including Australians, are unaware or ignorant to the injustices that the indigenous inhabitants of what is now known as Australia had to, and still have to, endure as a result of a violent, destructive colonization. As neither one of us (Miriam nor Lucy) are Indigenous Australian, we consulted heavily with Jaida Conway. Jaida is an Arts Law student, studying at The University of Sydney and majoring in Indigenous Studies. She also topped the state in Aboriginal Studies for her Higher School Certificate in 2020, and is, herself, Aboriginal, being a Gamilaroi woman from North West New South Wales. She has a wealth of knowledge on this topic, both from personal experience and from an academic perspective, and we are so grateful for her help.


The Colonization of Aboriginal Peoples

Aboriginal peoples have been living in Australia for over sixty thousand years, making them the oldest culture in the world. Their culture revolves around Country, including the lands, skies, and waters, and their role in taking care of it. “We had intricate systems of land management, ceremonies, languages that were continual and based [off] an oral system of passing down [which varied from place to place]” says Jaida. However, many of these incredibly rich and diverse cultures were destroyed and irreparable after the British arrived in Australia in 1770, followed by colonization beginning in 1788. In school, we were always taught “Captain Cook discovered Australia.” While we were also taught about the Aboriginal people, a lot of what we were taught was quite superficial, focusing mainly on Dreamtime, the Aboriginal religio-cultural worldview and beliefs. But this really painted all Aboriginal people under one brush, and failed to acknowledge the hundreds of Aboriginal groups within Australia, and the differences and discrepancies between them. We were also taught about the Stolen Generation (which we will focus on later in this article), so we were aware of the oppression that the Aboriginal peoples faced, but not to the extent of the systemic ethnic cleansing and mass destruction of culture that took place. The British began to inhabit Australia in 1783 as a penal colony to send convicts on the First Fleet. While many of the Indigenous population were killed from the introduction of unfamiliar diseases to which they had no immunity, many were also massacred by the British colonists. The aim was to exterminate Aboriginal cultures and assimilate the indigenous peoples into what the British deemed to be their more “civil” culture. In fact, Anthony Forster, one of the South Australian colonists said, “The native would be sooner civilized if their language was extinct.” This history continues to impact Aboriginal people to this day.

Assimilation

One of the most evil decisions made by the government was removing lighter skinned Aboriginal children from their homes as a means of assimilation to “make Aboriginal peoples white.” These children were taken either to white families or boys and girls homes. This has since caused many Aboriginal people to be either unaware of their ancestry or just never seeing their families again. This has caused an immense amount of intergenerational trauma.

Statistically, according to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey from 2010, thirty-one percent of respondents above the age of fifteen experience high or very high psychological distress. This is two and a half times that of non-Indigenous Australians. These rates are undoubtedly linked with the trauma associated with the Stolen Generation, which resulted from colonization, and caused a further loss of culture and language. Barngarla man, Howard Richards, who was taken from Port Lincoln to Adelaide, described his experience as a victim of the Stolen Generations in an interview with Ghil’ad Zuckermann by saying:“I’ve gone through all that, and come out through the other way, I see that as part of my life, since I’ve survived that and lived through that, and I looked at it in a positive way, so even for my children, they’ll say ‘that’s my life, and that did happen.” Howard’s description demonstrates not only an immense resilience, but also shows that this trauma has been something unfortunately accepted as part of his story. He continued by talking about his experiences as a lighter-skinned Aboriginal man, which is a contributing factor to why he was selected to be taken away. He said: “I’m first-generation from Traditional [full-blooded Aboriginal people]. My mum and my grandparents and my aunties and all of them [are black], and so when I see myself, I see myself as a black man.” This touches on the white-passing issue which many Aboriginal people face today, which we will explore later on in this article.

In recognition of the extreme damage caused by the colonization of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, two national weeks in Australia have been established: NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week. While well-intentioned, these two weeks can come across as tokenistic due the fact that we are being told to focus on Indigenous Australians and celebrate their communities for only two weeks out of the year. Proper acknowledgement should actively occur every day. However, given that these weeks are organized by Indigenous communities, it is a time to also listen to these communities. It is also a time to focus on the issues affecting Aboriginal peoples and how to move forward.

Reconciliation Week, on the other hand, founded in 1996 is both a time to celebrate Aboriginal culture, as well as a time to find ways to reconcile with the Aboriginal communities and offer support. It is a time to really listen to Aboriginal stories with empathy and understanding. This week in particular is extremely significant because since 1998, the day before Reconciliation Week starts, it is National Sorry Day, which is commemorated annually in honor of the victims of the Stolen Generations.

How has the government commemorated the loss of Aboriginal cultures and lives?

In recognition of the atrocities inflicted upon the Aboriginal peoples in Australia, the government has attempted to rectify the damage in some small and few ways, especially within the health and education systems. Even more recently, our national anthem changed from “for we are young and free” to “for we are one and free”, as a way to acknowledge the long-standing history of the Indigenous Australians. However, in a larger scope, the government has passed legislation such as Native Title and the Uluru Statement from the Heart. These are a means of attempted reparation, to make up for all the negative impacts colonization and the subsequent government has had on Aboriginal people. Native Title is essentially an act by the Australian Government which recognizes the Indigenous Australians’ rights as the original custodians of Australia. It is important to note that there is a difference between rights and ownership. They have rights to access and use the land, but not necessarily the ownership over it. So while it may seem like a step in the right direction, it is still denying the original custodians ownership of the land which was forcefully taken for them. The Uluru Statement from the Heart, however, is a different story. Upon consultation with over a thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives from across Australia, a statement was developed in acknowledgement of the original custodians of Australia, and was finalized and read in 2017. According to Jaida, “Amending legislation like the Native Title Act by listening to Aboriginal peoples, or implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was made by Aboriginal peoples is the best way forward.”

Some important general knowledge:

  • Australia is the only Commonwealth nation that does not have a treaty with its Indigenous people
  • The Indigenous flag is privately owned by a non-Aboriginal company (there are currently funds being raised to have it fly on the harbour bridge alongside the Australian flag all year round as it is “too expensive” and so doesn’t have government funding.)
  • The Indigenous community is incredibly diverse there are over 500 different clan and nation groups across Australia.  
  • Amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples there are over 250 different languages, many of which are dying.
  • They make up nearly 3% of the population yet around 30% of the prison population 
  • Their culture is at least 50,000 years old and some argue closer to 65,000

Racial Ambiguity and Jaida’s Personal Experience…

Due to the forced assimilation, many Aboriginal people are white-passing or are ethnically ambiguous. Jaida says, “As a white-passing Aboriginal person, it is really important for me to acknowledge my privilege. I do not get seen as Aboriginal unless people ask or know my background, allowing me to escape a lot of negative stereotypes based on my looks.” She stresses that culture is “not defined by percentage of Aboriginality”, explaining the offensiveness in questioning purity, considering the nature of the Stolen Generations where there was categorization based on whether they were fullblood, half caste, quadroon, octoroon etc. Given the racist history of such a classification, as well as the forced assimilation, it is no surprise that asking someone “How Aborignal” they are is offensive, just as it is no surprise that there are “white-passing” Aboriginal people. Jaida continues, “For me personally, my identity as Aboriginal has mainly been invalidated by non-Aboriginal peoples who don’t understand what it means to be Aboriginal or the experiences of the Aboriginal peoples.”

Invasion Day vs. Australia Day

As we continue to acknowledge our country’s past, January 26th otherwise known as Australia Day and Invasion Day is something that always comes up. It was on the 26th of January in 1788 that the first fleet set foot on Australian soil, claiming its land through horrific violence for the British, despite it not being theirs to claim.    

“For me [Jaida] it is a day of mourning – the beginning of the end. It is important to remember what really happened and undergo an experience of truth telling.” There have been urges for a date change for many years since its official standing as a public holiday in 1994, protests have been held annually for many years and have increased in numbers, expressing great need for a change to our national day‘s date to no avail. Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, a Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman described the date as a day when “A war was declared on the first people of this land… that war has not ended.”

“How are we gonna come together as a nation and reconcile if the day of our nation is the beginning of our genocide?”

It is evident that while Australia has come a long way, there is still an even longer way to go in recognising and supporting our First Nations people. Better acknowledgement of and active listening to Indigenous Australians is key in making these necessary changes. We hope that we have shed some much needed light on the issues that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have faced and continue to face in today’s society, and we would also like to thank Jaida, especially, for her overwhelming amount of help in developing this article.

Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.


Written on stolen Gadigal, Darug, and Gundungurra land.

Jaida Conway is a first-year Arts-Law student at The University of Sydney, majoring in Indigenous Studies. She topped the subject, Aboriginal Studies, in the completion of her Higher School Certificate last year, and is a Gamilaroi woman from North West New South Wales.

By Miriam Itzkowitz and Lucy Burrell.

This article was edited by Tiffany Leveille and shortened for clarification.

Categories
Personal Stories

Societal Standards & the complexity of teen life

Every society has a set of standards to which it is expected that its members will conform. A common occurrence in my life is having that fear inside about what they will think if I am unable to accomplish those standards. This crippling anxiety inside occurs when I sit down and try to relax or when I’m watching a series or a movie. It escalates to the point where nothing makes sense and I have the feeling that whatever I do, it is not going to amount to anything. 

It is common in Indian society for people to have certain expectations and the worst part is that it is always gender related. My mistake in this process is being a progressive-thinking person. I was very open-minded in every aspect, which was not liked by some people. The question which always ran in my mind was, “Why are these few people affecting my mental process?” If I had the answer to that question, everything would have been better, right? Or what if we lived in a society where people just accepted everyone for who they are? Wouldn’t all of us be living in a less toxic, safer and a more inclusive environment by now?

Some quick background: I am going to pursue law, and to do that, one must enroll themselves into CLAT (common law admission test). I applied for CLAT, and another private law college, and during that time, everyone used to say that I would surely get into the private school. That was the first time I felt pressure to show society that I had accomplished something.

The day of the interview came and I became so nervous that my mind went pitch black. I did not answer any of the questions properly. I just shut my laptop and cried. I could not breathe. When I told my parents, my father told me there were so many other options, but the only thing going around my mind was: “How am I supposed to tell people that I did not get into the university?”

As every teenager can relate, it is very hard carrying that burden in the family, especially in my case.

I come from a family where my cousins are either much older than me or way younger, so it only makes sense that I am kind of like the middle child there. I never felt I fit in with either side of the family because I cannot act like my older cousins or my younger ones. But I always wanted to fit into my family somehow. The main reason I was so desperate to fit in was because in school I genuinely did not know if anyone liked me. I only had a handful of people whom I was comfortable with. When the lockdown was imposed, I wanted to reconnect with my peers, but after a while I stopped trying.

I used to envy when my other batch mates would hang out with their groups, and sometimes I even felt lonely and ashamed to tell other people I didn’t have that. I had a complicated high school experience. Although I can’t deny there were happy moments, incidents of bullying always made me feel a hole inside. I thought the feelings I felt were normal, and I never reached out to someone.

I could not move on from the fact that I got rejected from the university and at times I was completely burnt out. I would either sleep, binge watch a series, or have a breakdown about the fact that I did not want to move forward and prepare for my next objective (CLAT). There were sleepless nights where I would have anxiety and stress about what would happen if I did not get into any college. I had to endure all of this just because I put the expectations of society in front of me. I put the unrealistic standards of society (which is pretty normal and generalized to other students as well) in front of me, and it resulted in me having a negative mindset.

There are so many other things as well, starting from how you look to what you wear. Everything is always questioned by people. Especially by your family members. For example, I am a person who strongly believes that makeup is not a necessity for myself. All I want is to feel comfortable in my own skin, but spoiler alert- the others will make sure you don’t. From constantly wearing makeup every time I go out, to eating less than what is necessary to make sure I reduce my weight, this lockdown has been an eye opener to so many things around me. I just realized that at the end of the day, people are always going to judge you for every action and step you take. But it is completely up to you whether you put yourself first, or the expectations of a judgmental society.  

This is my complicated teenage era that I went through and am still going through. But everything to me was a learning process. I feel that because of this I changed myself for the better every day. Now it feels that everything around me is clearer: I have my family and my handful of friends. Numbers do not matter anymore. There were times when I felt like giving up. Times when pushing people away was normal. But one of the biggest mistakes I made was not reaching out to anyone about it. So, if you are reading this, I encourage you to reach out to a person whom you trust and love. Whatever the situation, feelings are yours, you have the right to feel that certain way, and there is nothing stopping you from reaching out.

Written by Ann.

Edited by Miriam Itzkowitz and Tiffany Leveille.

Graphics by Tiffany Leveille.

Categories
Articles

How the Ocean Set Fire

As we scan through our social media feeds, it is clear that environmental issues are becoming an inevitable crisis. Every day, our environment faces many problems, many of which appear to be posing more risk over time, bringing us closer to a real emergency. As the current generation, it is becoming increasingly vital to promote awareness of these issues and reduce their negative impacts.

If you are caught up on what’s been happening around the world, you would know that on Friday, July 2nd, the ocean was literally “ablaze” in the Gulf of Mexico. A gas leak broke out from an underwater pipeline, managed by Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, causing a ring of fire to churn on the ocean’s surface at 5:15 am local time. This pipeline connects to a platform at Pemex’s flagship, Ku Maloob Zaap oil development, which is the country’s most important. Images of the bright orange flames, resembling molten lava, quickly filled up all social media feeds, along with pictures of ships trying to put out the fire with water and nitrogen. People also called out its resemblance to the Eye of Sauron, known from the ever so popular The Lord of the Rings. Dubbed as the “Eye of Fire” due to its circular shape, the fire took more than a whopping five hours to put out, finally ending at 10:30 am local time.

Pemex has stated that there was “no oil spill and the immediate action taken to control the surface fire avoided environmental damage.” Having said so, the company is investigating the cause of this leak. This incident comes as an inevitability, resulting from relying on underwater fossil fuel pipelines inherently, jeopardizing ocean life and everything else that depends on it.

Why are pipelines present underwater in the first place?

Natural gas and crude oil can be found in deposits under the sea bed, and because the fossil fuel deposits can be found offshore, deep under the ocean floor, there are offshore drilling rigs. Pipelines funnel fossil fuels from drilling platforms to onshore facilities on land, where the crude material is refined and shipped. This industrial exploitation began in 1897, but in the 21st century, drilling has moved further into the ocean, threatening different kinds of marine wildlife. The drilling discharges affect ocean biodiversity, and the pipelines pose a threat to the survival of coral reefs. 

This “Eye of Fire” has gained local and international criticism. Greenpeace Mexico, a branch of the non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over 55 countries, accused Pemex of causing “ecocide” in the Gulf of Mexico, citing the toxic properties and climate impact of methane gas. It blamed the rupture on aging, poorly maintained infrastructure and raised concerns about the harm leaked methane could have caused to marine life.

Can we ethically claim this incident as a freak accident?

There is no possibility that this type of incident cannot occur again. Gas leaks are something that has happened innumerable times in the past. Especially if you take the case of Pemex, this isn’t the only accident. They have a long history of terrible and deadly accidents. Greta Thunberg wrote on her Twitter, “Meanwhile, the people in power call themselves ‘climate leaders’ as they open up new oilfields, pipelines, and coal power plants – granting new oil licenses exploring future oil drilling sites. This is the world they are leaving for us.” Voices of discontent and negative comments come from supporters of a tightening global effort to save the environment. While community action alone couldn’t have stopped the fire in the Gulf of Mexico, this should be a sign for our governments and authority bodies to be working alongside our communities, not against them. 

Pemex said the fire took more than five hours to extinguish. Angel Carrizales – the head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA – wrote on Twitter that the incident “did not generate any spill.” However, he did not explain what was burning on the water’s surface.

There is reason to be fearful of such events since we are not sure as to what the company was trying to do, the unmistakable sign that, as humans, we do not care enough about our planet. We have to understand that the disaster is not natural; a corporation and its greed caused it. 

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez called it, ‘the eye of fire’ wasn’t the first time the ocean was on fire, and it most certainly will not be the last. Oil and gas leaks have occurred numerous times in the past 50 years, often related to oil tankers catching on fire and releasing crude oil into the ocean. Perhaps the most famous oil spill also happened in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater crisis in 2010, after an explosion on British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil drill.

Corporations are significant entities globally, and we have to acknowledge their enormous impact (negative and positive) on all our lives. The concerns of overly corporate-led globalization and its contribution to environmental issues increase, especially since the climate crisis has received much more media coverage. There are countless examples where corporate involvement in various issues could contribute to environmental problems. Therefore, we must hold corporations accountable for the problems caused by them. 

Unfettered capitalism is an issue that has been long affecting the lives of everyone on this planet. The world’s top firms cause approximately two trillion in environmental damages, according to a census done in 2010. These companies estimate that around one-third of their profits would be lost if they were made to pay for the damages they have caused. This is a significant reason why companies are not made to pay reparations.

What we can do as Gen Z :

We were made to believe that recycling a little and not using plastic straws can save the world. Even though that is a part of cleaning up the planet, it plays a minimal role if you compare it to the damage giant corporations have caused in the name of profit. As the future generation, we have to take charge of the movement.

Multiple organizations are taking a step to raise awareness about climate issues. The Sunrise Movement, Earth Guardians, and Zero Hour are examples of organizations of young people taking a stand for the better. Many Gen Z organizations all over the world are taking action. This goes beyond posting about it on social media. For example, The Green New Deal proposal would play a significant role in reducing the effects of climate change. Many politicians have been trying to push it ahead and need support, which Gen Z can provide. 

Raising awareness and self-educating is one of the first steps we can take as the youth of today. From protests and petitions to putting pressure on the government to take action, Gen Z is ready to fight for their planet’s future. Gen Z has the power to change the fate of our dying planet, and we must take it. If you wish to take action now, some links to websites to visit and petitions to sign are given below:

https://act.nrdc.org/sign/global-climate-action-190906

https://www.sunrisemovement.org

https://www.wwf.org.uk/fight-climate-change

https://instagram.com/ourrevolution?utm_medium=copy_link

This article was written by Rakshitha Raghunandan and Akanksha Pai

Edited by Amirah Khan

Graphics by Rachel

Sources:

https://www.inverse.com/science/ocean-on-fire-pipeline-burst

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/fire-offshore-pemex-platform-gulf-mexico-under-control-2021-07-02/

https://www.climatechangenews.com/2021/07/07/ocean-fire-exposes-weak-regulation-mexicos-oil-gas-sector/

https://newrepublic.com/article/162909/gulf-pemex-fire-pipeline-community-action

https://screenrant.com/lord-rings-sauron-eye-reason/

https://www.rechargenews.com/transition/greenpeace-slams-mexican-climate-climb-down-under-amlo/2-1-565866

https://futurism.com/oil-company-ocean-fire-history-death-accidents

https://www.ucsusa.org/take-action/climate-accountability

https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/blog/on-the-climate-crisis-more-of-the-same-wont-work-we-need-a-revolution/

https://www.globalissues.org/article/55/corporations-and-the-environment

Categories
Deaf & Sign

Deaf Perspective: A Quiet Place

This post may contain spoilers.

‘A Quiet Place’ from writer and director John Krasinski, was released in 2018 with its much-anticipated sequel ‘A Quiet Place Part II” released in May 2021. Both films follow Deaf protagonist Regan Abbott and her family’s attempt to survive alien creatures that hunt by sound. Many in the Deaf Community praised the movie for its portrayal of deafness and the casting of Millicent Simmonds, a Deaf teen actress.

In the Write interviewed three Deaf people to learn more about their perspectives on ‘A Quiet Place’ film, and the importance of Deaf representation in the media.

We interviewed Kellina, Elisa Prell (38), and Kelly Acevedo (23). Here are their perspectives:

Kellina
Kelly Acevedo

What did the movie A Quiet Place mean to you as a Deaf person? Why do you think it was so important to the Deaf community? 

Kelly: “It was significant to me as a deaf person since it was representation and more importantly, acknowledgment. I believe the Deaf Community can agree for the most part that it is nice to accurately see a deaf person depicted in a movie. Lately, there has been a rise in representation of ethnicities, genders, and religions, but disabilities have still yet to be more represented. ‘A Quiet Place’ was a step in the positive direction.”

Elisa: “As a deaf person this movie meant to me that we were finally being seen and acknowledged. I think it was so important for my Deaf Community because we felt supported and portrayed in a good light where we could feel more comfortable to show our deafness.”

Regan, the movie’s protagonist, is played by Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds. Do you find it important for Deaf characters to be portrayed by Deaf actors and if so, why is it so important for Deaf actors to play these roles?

Elisa: “I find it very important that she was Deaf in real life because it gave us credibility that we could be taken seriously, and that we too can act with a lead role just like anyone else. Also as a Deaf person, I could relate to her on a deeper, more genuine level.”

Kelly: “I love the fact that the deaf protagonist was actually played by Millicent Simmonds, a young deaf actress. She was able to embody her character perfectly. While a hearing person can learn sign language for a role, it does not compare to the authenticity of a deaf person’s use of sign language or speech. This is why it is very important for deaf actors to play these roles, since they understand and are actually part of the Deaf culture.”

There are very few major films with Deaf actors, but A Quiet Place made a Deaf person the main character. What was this like for you as a Deaf person? Did you feel represented or proud that the Deaf community was being showcased in the film?

Image courtesy of imbd.com

Kelly: “As a deaf person seeing a deaf protagonist, it was surreal for me since I grew up very mainstream with no Deaf culture. I did not have access to sign language as a child. There were many scenes within the movie where I greatly empathized with Regan and felt her struggles. I used to feel alone in this ‘hearing world’.”

Elisa: “I felt emotional about it in a good way. At times I feel the need to hide my deafness, but when I see a major film lead with a Deaf actor, it gives me hope and bravery to showcase my deafness without feeling ashamed.”

Regan’s cochlear implant in the movie plays a large role in the film and is actually used to deter the ‘creatures’. Some have interpreted this as Regan’s deafness and cochlear implant being her superpower. What are your thoughts on this? Did you appreciate that Regan’s cochlear implant was so integral to the plot and symbolic for those in the Deaf community who have cochlear implants?

Image courtesy of reddit.com

Elisa: “I could see the cochlear implant being her superpower. I know not the entire Deaf community uses a cochlear implant and some may look down on it, but in the movie when they showed her using it and not using it, I think it portrayed it as a powerful tool you could use if you wanted to but didn’t have to. I love how it showed her using sign language as well with her family when she couldn’t use the cochlear implant. I think so many people misinterpret the cochlear implant as a hearing aid but when you get to see it closely you see it’s more than that, which it is.”

Kelly: “While I am a cochlear implant user, I cannot speak for the validity of Regan’s cochlear implants deterring the creatures (they are fake creatures after all), I do appreciate the directors making her cochlear implant an integral part of their survival in the end. It was symbolic to me because you can visually see Regan’s moods throughout the movie change for the better. You see how her self esteem and confidence grows. In the early scenes, she dislikes putting her implant on and blames herself for her little brother’s death. It was beautiful to watch how Regan discovers her implants actually save not only her life but the ones of her mother and brothers, and proudly use them to save her family after the death of her father.”

What was your favorite part of the film’s portrayal of Deafness? Do you think they presented Deafness and the Deaf community in an authentic way?

Kelly: “My favorite part of how they portrayed deafness was by actually muting the movie during certain scenes in order for viewers to see Regan’s side. In all honesty, I at first thought there was something wrong with my implants because I couldn’t hear a thing! It was also an eye opener for my family who watched the movie with me.”

Some people in the Deaf community mentioned that they enjoyed that the American Sign Language parts of the film provided captions, because everyone in the theatre had to rely on reading the captions, not just Deaf individuals. This is also why certain films like Parasite were received well by the Deaf community. Do you wish more content creators and films provided adequate closed captions?

Image courtesy of deseret.com

Elisa: “Yes I definitely feel all content creators should provide closed captions everywhere. We still have trouble seeing closed captions on social media like Instagram. On Youtube, you have to choose closed captions to create your videos and at times many creators don’t because they don’t realize how much it is needed for Deaf viewers. During the pandemic, closed captions were a great need in conference calls like Zoom. Even calls from your cell phone I believe should have automatic closed captions.”

Kelly: “I really appreciated the use of captions in the movie since I rely on them heavily. I believe captions should be included in all movies and videos in order for all audiences, both deaf and hearing, to enjoy them to the fullest. Captions are necessary for deaf people as well as people learning a language. I never watch YouTube videos and do not follow content creators since they fail to provide adequate captions for the most part. In my household, nothing gets viewed without captions, and it’s not just because of me. My parents are Mexican immigrants who learned English after coming to the United States 25 years ago. Up to this day, they like learning new words and understanding the script. Due to all of this, I never go to movie theaters and I wish they could provide captions on the screen instead of handheld devices that never work.

To further discuss the importance of Deaf representation in TV and film, we talked with Kellina, a young Deaf woman, to learn about her perspective on Deaf U and Switched at Birth.

When thinking of TV shows or movies that include or aim to represent the Deaf community, what shows or films come to mind?

Kellina: I think of Switched at Birth and Deaf U.

Out of these shows and films, did you feel that they accurately portrayed the Deaf community or provided an authentic portrayal?

Kellina: On Deaf U, one intersection that felt abandoned by this series was race. There wasn’t diversity [in the students’ backgrounds].

A common issue is TV shows and movies casting hearing actors as Deaf characters. What is your opinion on this?

Kellina: This is something that needs to change in the film industry. I notice that a lot of actors can’t act well for deaf characters.

What would you like to see filmmakers do better in films/TV shows that include Deaf characters?

Kellina: I want them to do more reality TV shows and become more involved in the Deaf community instead of making it up. I want filmmakers to go out there and find someone new in the film instead of finding the same actor. I get tired of seeing the same actor in multiple movies.

What are some ways that hearing people could make films and shows more accessible for the Deaf community and better represent the Deaf community in media?

Kellina: I am not an actor but I know eye contact and touching are important for accurate Deaf representation and making sure that the filmmakers are educated enough to create a show about the Deaf community. I highly suggested the filmmaker be part of the Deaf community and ask a lot of questions.

You can learn more about Kellina and her mental health business she is launching in the fall of 2021, at her website kellinaempowerment.com.

This article and interview was written and conducted by Tiffany Leveille.

Graphics by Rakshitha Raghunandan.

Share your thoughts on ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ with us on Instagram @inthewriteblog.

Categories
Articles

Performative Activism and social media’s role in it

What is performative activism?

Performative activism refers to feel-good measures in support of a cause that have little practical effect other than to give the ‘activist’ a feeling of satisfaction that they have contributed to the cause.

It thereby requires minimal personal effort from the ‘slacktivist’. It includes things such as liking posts or pages on social media, reposting pre-existing content on stories or a charity organization’s request for support, signing internet petitions, wearing a ribbon, or even joining an organization but not actively contributing. It is also referred to as slacktivism – a combination of the words ‘slacking’ and ‘activism’. This was initially coined in 1995 by Fred Clark to refer to small activities by young people to affect society on a small personal scale. However, the term has developed a negative connotation to criticize online activism that lacks real commitment to a cause.

How social media plays a role in performative activism…

There are approximately 3.96 billion social media users worldwide, nearly double the number of social media users in 2015. The average person has 8.6 accounts on various social networking sites.

Recently, social media sites have taken up a more political and social context, revealing a rise in conversations about social and political issues such as MeToo, BLM, LGBTQIA+, StopAsianHate, climate change, gun violence, march outs, and more. Social media has become the forefront of so many movements even in countries that do not have freedom of speech. Thereby helping to create extensive communities to fight injustice. Social media has revolutionized activism in ways previously unthought of and given rise to a greater facilitation of civic engagement and collective action. It is a great platform for spreading a wider range of ideas, perspectives, and experiences. However, this has also led to a considerable amount of performative activism.

It’s trendy to go to protests…

Online ‘activism’ has now become a part of mainstream culture. It is considered being “woke” to go to protests and marches and to post pictures of oneself and their sign. It is now expected of every person to post or repost infographics on their stories or like several posts speaking about each specific issue. However, a mere hashtag or story repost is not a movement and frequently does not facilitate true change. The obligation to either “use your platform” or get “cancelled” leads to an abundance of performative posts. However, many times this dilutes the message instead of benefiting the cause by transforming it into a “disingenuous and passive protest that is usually limited to reposting digestive quotes and viral videos.”

So, is slacktivism causing more harm than we realize?

Pros of Performative Activism

The most evident benefit is that performative activism is the easiest way to spread and access information. An increasing number of people are becoming more progressive since the access to information and the ability to spread information has increased exponentially. Regardless of the size of one’s platform, everyone can participate in sharing information. It serves as a call for action and to show social solidarity for oppressed groups. A study published in 2015 studied how social media is a critical periphery in the growth of social protests.

Cons of Performative Activism

It is clearly discernible that performative activism is composed of inadequate efforts which tend to substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplement them. It is now possible for people to seem concerned over issues merely by liking a post which requires minimum effort and support. This gives rise to the question of whether this actually accomplishes anything or if the person has even actually read and understood the cause. Engaging in online activities that seem to support a cause but not being educated about the issue or carrying out actual productive actions in addition to reading the posts is insufficient.

With so many people posting on social media, a lot of the support for issues ends up feeling impersonal and ingenuine. It is far too easy to post or re-share something and then look away from the problem. As social media activism has grown, it has diffused individual responsibility to take action, leaving the real work to committed individuals who are personally affected. It also desensitizes us to brutal violence through the viral videos that are spread, sometimes without trigger warnings. 

A novel occurrence is the creation and circulation of Instagram infographics. These make use of strategies borrowed from consumer marketing with aesthetically pleasing colors and graphics, while providing information in a concise manner. They serve as an important tool to introduce people to social justice issues and in a way humanize serious matters without triggering anyone. However, this also leads to a further set of issues regarding whether people actually read them and go ahead to educate themselves beyond. It also leads to the question of whether such serious and tragic issues should be produced in an “aesthetic” package.

What role do corporations and influencers play?

Another important thing to address is the phenomenon of “influencers” and corporations faking activism. Over the last year, we saw several influencers setting up “impromptu” photoshoots in the middle of protests and rallies. Such actions come across as attention-seeking and shallow. It is disheartening to reduce such significant civil rights and humanitarian issues to an opportunity to get content and likes on Instagram. With corporations, it is not uncommon to find corporations making limited-edition merchandise or to change their social media handles in support of different causes. While it is obvious that these are essentially money-making businesses, it is definitely disheartening to see movement taglines written alongside other sponsorships, raising the question of “what are the intentions of these businesses?”

A study about the nature of slacktivism conducted by Kristofferson, Kirk, et al. studied the effect of the social observability of an initial act of token support on subsequent prosocial action. Researchers asked people to either join a Facebook group, accept a pin, or sign a petition for a charitable organization. They were then asked if they would like to donate or volunteer. It was inferred that the more public the initial depiction of support was, the less likely they were to offer their money or time. The ones who confidentially signed a petition were more likely to contribute than those who joined the Facebook group. This can be attributed to our tendency to be liked by others to be seen as inherently good. To our brains, others seeing us support a cause is essentially the same as actually supporting a cause. This plays into a rather interesting phenomenon called symbolic self-completion.

How can one turn slacktivism into activism?

When engaging in online activism, it is easy to pass on real opportunities to help, and settle for easier options. Performative activism is a complex issue that is harmful and dismissive of serious issues, but activism online has the potential to create change if done properly.

  • Online activism can be used to initiate important and difficult conversations surrounding social issues.
  • We can use social media to advertise or spread news of campaigns or charities which can increase civic engagement.
  • Instead of talking about how much you don’t like social evil, talk about why you care about the cause and why others should too.
  • Social and political issues are bigger than any of us and sharing your perspective and contributing to the conversation is a lot more beneficial than spewing or reproducing the same random information for the sake of seeming woke.
  • To avoid spreading misinformation on social media, ensure any infographic or content that you share has been reviewed and is from reliable sources 
  • To go further, one can join or start an organization that supports your cause. Really put yourself out there and volunteer your time and money selflessly to see long-lasting improvement.
  • The most important step one can take is to self-educate. Read books or articles, listen to podcasts, watch video essays, take classes about the cause, and listen to the people who are most affected, to get more informed about the issue you care about. Then, take action.
  • Consider your own personal beliefs and values and self-evaluate your stance on important issues to tackle any internalized bias we may hold. 
  • Even taking small steps and allowing ourselves to participate, learn and be held accountable is beneficial and these are the attitudes that we must bring into social situations.

To conclude, while online activism is a powerful tool, it becomes an issue when people post to appease their conscience and then relapse into a state of “I’ve done my part.” It is important to not stop here and continue to educate ourselves and be mindful of the little things in our everyday lives that go against our morals. All these things are capable of greater change than a single post or phase on your social media.


Written by Madhumitha K.

Edited by Tiffany Leveille

Graphics by Rachel

Sources:

https://blog.thegovlab.org/post/a-new-vocabulary-for-the-21st-century-slacktivism

https://nonprofithub.org/social-media/what-is-slacktivism-does-it-help/

https://zora.medium.com/why-your-instagram-story-is-not-enough-f41af495e99f

https://firstmonday.org/article/view/3336/2767

https://livewire.thewire.in/politics/performative-activism-online-black-squares/

https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/12614/10947

https://dailybruin.com/2020/06/10/second-take-performative-activism-fails-to-prompt-meaningful-long-term-systemic-change

https://callhub.io/slacktivism-to-activism/

Further reading about corporate activism: 

Further reading about symbolic self-completion:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/674137?seq=1

Study- “The Critical Periphery in the growth of Social Protests”

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143611

Categories
Articles

Alone in ‘the Hole’

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people worldwide have been left with no choice but to take refuge in their homes and self-isolate. For some, this meant months of online school or teleworking- detached from friends, teachers, and co-workers. For others, quarantine meant months without seeing their families. Across the globe, physically isolated from each other, many teens and adults have experienced increased feelings of anxiety and depression. One thing is sure: the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the dangerous impacts of isolation. It has shown us how quickly the world becomes dark when we’re separated from all sources of light: friends, family, and significant others. Separated from the world that sits directly outside your door, depression, and anxiety can easily creep in.  

This is the harsh reality that those living in solitary confinement must face every day.   

If it was hard for you to sit in your house, where you most likely had access to a television, phones, a kitchen, a comfortable bed, and even a backyard, imagine the struggle of sitting inside a box for twenty-two to twenty-four hours a day. You can’t see the people in the box next to you or touch them. The only person you may notice is the prison guard delivering your meals. You may not see the sun for days, potentially longer. Rats, mice, and other varmints crawl across the floor and sometimes over your own body when you sleep. This is life for an estimated 80,000 men, women, and children living in the American prison system. 

The History of Solitary Confinement in America

Solitary confinement in the United States was introduced in the late 1700s by the Quakers as an attempt to improve prison conditions. They inaugurated this experiment in hopes that it would increase the rate of successful rehabilitations. They thought that confining a person in solitude would allow them to break free from the evil environmental influences that caused them to commit their crimes. Of course, this was not the case, and instead, it introduced solitary confinement to a country that would later hold the most inmates in solitary confinement in the world.

Graphics by Rachel H.

The Health Impacts of Solitary Confinement 

Research regarding the long-term health effects of solitary confinement is still ongoing, but numerous studies have found that solitary confinement causes psychological distress.

Mental Health Impacts:

  • Anxiety and depression  
  • Panic attacks  
  • Hypersensitivity to light and sounds 
  • Increased rates of self-harm and suicide  

Physical Health Impacts:  

  • Fatigue  
  • Insomnia 
  • Muscle and joint pain due to inactivity 
  • Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight 

So, does solitary confinement prevent recidivism?  

If solitary confinement has such drastic adverse health and psychological impacts, is it at least successful? Success is often measured by the former convict’s ability to find and keep a job and not commit the same (or any offense) again. But data from numerous sources illuminate the alarming truth: 

A majority of those released from solitary confinement are reincarcerated.  

According to a PBS article from 2017, 61% of solitary confinement inmates were rearrested, compared to 49% of general population inmates who were rearrested.

A more recent study conducted in 2019 found a shockingly similar result. Of the 229,274 people released from incarceration in North Carolina between 2000 to 2015, those who were placed in solitary confinement were more likely to die within the first year of release from an opioid overdose, suicide, or homicide death. The study concluded that “Restrictive housing is associated with a higher likelihood of reincarceration and all-cause mortality, including deaths related to opioid overdose, suicide, and homicide.” 

These statistics illustrate the ineffectiveness of solitary confinement. The same program that supporters claim “scare” inmates into reform increases their risk of becoming reincarcerated.  

Building solitary confinement units is also two to three times more expensive than building conventional prison cells.  

Why is this?  

Being rereleased into the world comes with many challenges for those who have lived in solitary confinement for years. Some offenders released from solitary have stated they could not recognize people’s faces, while others were frightened by humans. The truth is, solitary confinement makes living anywhere else nearly impossible. After living in a box for years where sunlight, fresh air, and human interaction are nonexistent, convicts lose all ability to function in any other environment.  

Alternatives to Solitary Confinement 

Twenty-nine states have now introduced laws to ban or restrict solitary confinement, while some have reformed the “prison segregation” system. In 2007, in Parchman, Mississippi, state officials reformed their system to allow inmates outside their units a couple of hours a day. Inmates, through rehabilitation programs, were allowed to work their way up to greater privileges, such as using the basketball courts installed for this reform program. The result: out of more than a thousand inmates in solitary units, only 300 remained after the reform. Eventually, so many inmates were removed from solitary confinement units that Unit 32 was officially closed in 2010. This saved the state of Mississippi more than five million dollars.  

Illinois, Maine, and Colorado have also taken action to acquire successful solitary confinement reform. What these states prove is that safety does not have to be compromised in order to reform solitary confinement practices in America and that there are safer, cheaper, more effective alternatives to solitary confinement.

Read more about solitary confinement from Solitary Watch and the ACLU, or check out our sources below and let us know what you think about solitary confinement by filling out the poll below.

Written and researched by Tiffany Leveille

Edited by Amirah Khan


Sources:

Alone, in ‘the hole’

Association of Restrictive Housing During Incarceration With Mortality After Release

Does Solitary Confinement Make Inmates More Likely to Reoffend?

EFFECTS OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ON THE WELL BEING OF PRISONS INMATES

END THE OVERUSE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT              

How the US Became the World Leader in Solitary Confinement

Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity

STOP SOLITARY – RECENT STATE REFORMS TO LIMIT THE USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

The Effects of Solitary Confinement on the Brain

The risks of social isolation

What are the effects of solitary confinement on health?