When social justice pages and forums discuss issues in pop culture, one response always pops up: “Why are you discussing this when children are starving in Africa? This is not important. First world problems!” These comments might be well-intended, but ultimately they perpetuate different forms of oppression.
When I do Q&A sessions with young people, a White young person will usually ask, “How do you feel about Affirmative Action? It’s not fair that I will have less of a chance of getting into college because of what happened in the past!” Ask any White person how they feel about Affirmative Action, and you’ll probably hear that it is “unfair.” This is just not true.
About one year ago, I lost my job. The 6 months it took me to find a new position changed me, and maybe more importantly, it informed my feminism. It also brought me face-to-face with my own privilege. Having a “career” instead of a “job” is a privilege. Benefits, health insurance, and a living wage are all privileges, too – and I no longer take them for granted.
Recently I got an angry e-mail from someone who knows my parents pretty well, and had read something I had written about privilege. “How disrespectful can you be!? You’re spitting in the face of everything your parents have worked for.” I explained that acknowledging privilege doesn’t discredit any of my dad’s hard work. It simply puts that hard work in context.
The topic of raising the minimum wage within the US has been on everyone’s mind, from politicians to low wage workers. The controversy around wage politics are complicated, to say the least. Author and videoblogger John Green weighs the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage in a non-biased, reality-based manner.
They harvest the food that we eat, and yet they are one of the most hidden and underrepresented population subgroups in the nation. So how come we never hear about them? Who are these farmworkers exactly? I believe that we should all be aware of how our food is getting to us – and who is being hurt along the way. It’s not easy to forget once you learn the truth.
At some point in our lives, most people will need to take off an extended period of time to deal with a family or medical issue. Despite this, only 12% of workers in America receive paid family leave through their jobs. And the lucky ones that do are disproportionately well-educated, high-earning, and male. But what about the rest of us? What happens if we fall ill or have a child?
Kids are, allegedly, getting fatter. But not a single study shows that weight loss works for more than 5% of people, and, by the way, despite fears about obesity, U.S. life expectancy continues to rise. So why are people continuing to fixate on childhood obesity? I think maybe because it’s obscuring a much bigger, scarier issue. This issue being childhood poverty.
Some people may not be discriminatory at heart, but old habits die hard. Unfortunately, offensive language and implications are cultural habits most people acquire without realizing it. Some of these scenarios are what I like to call Accidental ‘-isms.’ But you have the power to shape your conversations. So here are some of my ideas for confronting your next Accidental ‘-ism:’
A lot of Americans are still struggling with extreme poverty – and women are getting the short end of the stick on pretty much all fronts. This year, the Census data revealed that one in seven women live in poverty. These crazy-high numbers of poor American women are nothing new. But they’re still unacceptable. Now go out there and do something about this inequality.