Category: Politics

Photo Courtesy of Bradley Davison (CC ’17)

I’ve seen a lot of uproar on Facebook the past few days in response to an article recently published in the Columbia Daily Spectator. The intent of the article, as it seems to me, is to cast a light on the many different points of view held by our peers that feel “privileged, and therefore ineligible to speak” on issues surrounding race relations. Furthermore, the author posits that we, the Columbia community, have failed to realize the “colorblind society envisioned by Dr. King.” I believe the Martin Luther King Jr.  quotes have been discussed thoroughly. I want to dig at a more personal issue.

The grand “zenith” of this failure for MLK’s Dream is an exchange about attractiveness on a Facebook page. Let’s just start with that. [A: Is he cute? B: No, he’s white]

Consider this: “You’re really cute for a black girl.”

This is something that I have heard over and over again in the course of my life. In almost all of my classrooms before starting college, I was the only student with my hair in an unruly puff on the back of my head – the only one that was brown. As I grew older, was placed in advanced classes, achieved great success, I would remain the only one.

Having little exposure to people of color beyond those of my own family, I began to focus on how I could be similar to the white people around me and distance myself from the non-erudite image of “being black”. You know – the “black as a state of mind” thing – dress “like you’re black” – talk “like you’re black”. I observed that my academic pursuits aligned with the career paths of the white side of my family. My appearance, however, would never be similar. I spent hours each day making sure my hair was pin-straight, I spent hours wishing my thighs would be smaller so I wouldn’t look “ghetto”. I did anything and everything I could think of to shake that qualifier: “for a black girl.”

So, here’s the take-away: that anonymous person who made a remark about an unidentifiable white man’s attractiveness should not affect him personally – because the white man has not been made to believe his whole life that he is a sub-class of something better. Moreover, these qualified appraisals of beauty are most often obliviously meant as compliments!

Yet….

“I don’t know why he’d want to see a black girl. She’s not a pretty blonde girl like me.”

This comment has stuck with me for three years and is a reminder that these insecurities that I’d struggled with weren’t merely of my mind’s own creation.

I whole-heartedly agree with the article’s position that a transparent picture of the ugliness in this country and prejudices within ourselves is the only way to actually change anything. I disagree with her assertion that there is a color-coded right to speak.

Open discourse is essential for progress! WHEN A POC* RESPONDS TO SOMETHING YOU SAID, JUST LISTEN AND DON’T BE SO DEFENSIVE. This isn’t about taking away anybody’s right to speak; it’s about giving some other marginalized voices a chance to JOIN THE CONVERSATION.

I can’t speak for other people that look like me any more than I can speak for any other human, but I think we all just want to be happy and show who we are – the “content of our character” – rather than having our lives reduced to proving to the world what we’re not (pushing back against the judgment based on skin color).

* Person of color

Jacie Goudy is a third year student in Columbia College (2018) double majoring in History and Political Science. She is especially interested in the comparative study of social factors on the political economy between Eastern and Western societies.

 The Lion is the only campus publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this op-ed or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

College is expensive, Columbia ridiculously so. Columbia is the most expensive school in the Ivy League and amongst the most expensive in the nation. Now, Columbia is very generous with financial aid, meeting 100% need for all students and not packaging student debt in its financial aid offering. However, student debt is still an option. In 2013, the WSJ reported that the average student loan at time of repayment was $12,500. If you end up like the 4.2% of college graduates unemployed as late as September of 2016, that’s a difficult debt to pay down, still so if you consider yourself underemployed at Starbucks.

Hillary Clinton, urged by a primary challenge by Bernie Sanders, wants to change this. The Democratic Platform wants to make public college debt-free, community college totally free, and current debt re-financeable. If accomplished, her plan theoretically would free up money for the consumer economy that otherwise would go to paying down interest, and it would make college as accessible as high school is today. Too bad she won’t get to enact this entire plan. Major legislation needs to get through Congress before it gets to the president’s desk, and for a variety of reasons, the House is probably going to stay Republican. She could change the executive’s interpretation of the law, a power often used by President Obama and widely criticized by anyone who believes the president should not have too much power. For that very reason, she probably couldn’t get away with too much without alerting the House. She could also, as she suggests, pressure states to cough up some of the funding necessary to make community college free and fund other parts of her agenda, but that was the same system the Affordable Care Act used, and Republican governors by-in-large revolted.

It doesn’t sound like this affects Columbia much if successful, given Columbia isn’t a public university nor does it host community colleges. But competition can play a role. With free and debt-free options available, many students that Columbia would otherwise recruit might prefer to use those free local options instead of expensive private schools which may not have an accurate picture of what 100% need means for them. Columbia would probably reach into its endowment and rest on its prestige to give more full scholarships, which also sounds like it shouldn’t be a problem, but of all the Ivy League universities, only Yale experienced positive endowment growth last year. A significant increase in financial aid to remain competitive may add to that concern, though not as much as it would for smaller private colleges.

This is the part where I describe the nominal Republican alternative, where the government gets out of the debt business and leaves student loans in the hands of the private sector. For people with good credit, this would be good news. Your interest rates wouldn’t be as low as an auto loan or mortgage, but because the banks trust you, they’ll feel safe loaning money at lower interest rates. People with no credit history, however, get stuck with the higher interest rates, and people with bad credit might not get a loan in the private sector at all. But, Donald Trump complicates everything, as he promised to cap presumably federal loan payments at 12.5% of income and forgive the rest after 15 years. That’s more generous than the current Democratic plan to cap payments at 10% but only forgive after 20 years. That also means it’s more expensive and doesn’t fit into the economic conservatism that normally characterizes the Republican Party and such a plan would have a hard time passing Congress, but Donald Trump would also have the executive branch and the same power of interpretation Obama enjoys today. In case you thought endowments would be safe here, though, Donald Trump also threatened to revoke tax-exempt status for endowments, which certainly isn’t winning him any fans in the administration.

Those are your options. No pressure.

This Op-Ed was written in response to Daniella Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak” published in the Columbia Daily Spectator.

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance.” – Martin Luther King

To respond to Daniella Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak,” I want to first address the idea of a ‘colorblind’ society and then directly respond to her other two points, the first about the perceived racism of black women who are apprehensive about dating white men, and the second about the perceived racism of black students apprehensive about learning the foundations of slavery from white teachers.

Ms. Greenbaum’s “A color-coded right to speak” represents her fundamental misunderstanding of the quotation she includes in her article since, first and foremost, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never argued for a colorblind society. To judge someone “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” means, quite literally, to not be racist. Dr. King was responding to anti-blackness in America. He was responding to a society that held one race superior and another inferior; a society in which the dominant status group – white Americans – ostracized and exploited black Americans. We still live in this society. The philosophy by which the dominant white power maintains its authority, and which Greenbaum espouses, has not faded. The concept of color-blindness existed long before Dr. King was born – color-blindness is simply the devaluation and minimization of racial identity, and the ascription of the reality and struggle of being a racial minority not to racism but to another cause. Throughout history, various parts of the white power structure have decided that this cause is cultural pathology – the idea that black Americans are on average poorer than white Americans, arrested more often, and commit ‘more’ crimes not because they face profound social exclusion and the burdens of discrimination in the labor-market, a stigma of criminality, and have historically been excluded from social welfare agencies and other public services, or because low-level criminality is a function of social strain, but rather because black Americans are inherently inferior and that black culture is inherently linked to criminality and poverty.

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Several days before the Nobel Prize Committee awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the current Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, a referendum took place in Colombia that rejected the peace deal made by Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This result put the Nobel Prize Committee in an awkward position, as the committee awarded Santos “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end,” yet the millstone on the peace journey was just rejected by Colombia’s population. Though people rejected the peace deal mostly because they were unsatisfied with the conditions set in the peace deal, such as releasing FARC officers who are currently in custody, the rejection still reveals the immaturity of peace in Colombia and poses questions on Santos’ legitimacy of the award.

Besides the awkwardness from the referendum rejection, people also question whether Santos’ contribution is significant enough to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The conflict between Colombia government and FARC could be traced back to 1960s, when the left-wing revolutionary force was established in the wave of communism in Latin America. The conflict was brutal and inhumane, and claimed the lives of more than twelve percent of Colombia population. However, due to the relieved tension between United States and Latin America countries, as well as the diminishing power of FARC that could no longer stand for more aggression, a peace deal seems to be inevitable to resolve the conflict that both parties could no longer support.

The Nobel Peace Prize endorses those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” yet it has been criticized for being too political. Some critics believe that the reasons for awarding is based on the contemporary significance, which makes the prize lack eternality. Current president Barack Obama has been awarded “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples” only nine months after his presidency, and it is doubtful how the committee could examine the effectiveness of his international diplomacy in such a short period of time, as the increasing tension in Syria and the rise of ISIS raise more questions of the legitimacy of his award.

A political Nobel Peace Prize does not endorse its original purpose, as it is supposed to endorse some higher stakes that go beyond contemporary politics. It should be more humanitarian, more cosmopolitan, and more inclusive. In terms of this year, the Syrian Civil Defense organization, which was nominated but not awarded, may have been a better choice, as the group continues humanitarian rescues in the most dangerous country with no assistance from other political groups. Getting rid of influences from politics and political norms is hard for the Nobel Peace Prize, but it is necessary to keep the prize’s eternal significance.

Perspectives of a Math Major runs alternate Wednesdays. To contact the author to submit a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

Photo Courtesy of Alixx Lucas

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you

sometimes I have to thank you
for bringing them down
because you expose those who also wish to
bring them down

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you
for dismissing our pain
for laughing our pain
for stabbing our pain
because you expose those
who wish to do the same

Dear Donald,
your hands are far too small

far too small to carry the weight
of this country
far too small to hold the hand of a mother
whose son’s been shot in cold blood in the street

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you for reminding me
of this country’s ailment
constantly making natives feel like foreigners
consistently fighting to keep foreigners out

Dear Donald,
who are you protecting?
what are you protecting?

Are you protecting America?

“Make America Great Again”
When was America great?

Were we great when we defiled eachother?
Were we great when we persecuted eachother?
Were we great when we enslaved eachother?
Were we great when we fought eachother?
Were we great when we killed eachother?

“Make America Great Again”
you say

I’m not interested in that America

But
Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you for reminding me of what America is
who it protects
what it protects
and all that needs to change

Alixx is a junior in Columbia College studying Neuroscience.

The Lion is Columbia’s only publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com