Monday, October 27, 2008


Hi all, as a part of a small class assignment to do something for the elections, I decided to compile a quick and short voter information guide to dispel misconceptions and rumors about the upcoming election day.

*Please* pass this around (email, blogging, facebook notes, myspace bulletins, etc). I did not author it, I just found information online and assembled it into a brief outline of important points to share with others. So it is free for everyone to use. In fact, if you have additional important tips to share, please, let me know! I know some of these might sound obvious to you, but it's always good to share in case it's not so obvious to others. Peace.

Make Sure You’re Registered and Check Your Polling Location
Check That You Are Registered to Vote:

Check Your Polling Place: Even if you've voted in the same place for 30 years, polling places can change, so make sure you know where to go on Election Day.

Bring Your ID and Vote Early
Bring Your ID Just in Case: While not all states require government-issued ID at the polls, it’s always a good idea to bring a photo ID such as a driver’s license if you have one. Even if your state requires an ID and your forget to bring one, you are still entitled to vote. Ask to cast a provisional ballot.

Vote Early
: Record turnout is expected this year, so avoid long lines and alleviate the strain on local election officials by going earlier. Voting lines are shortest in the mid-morning or early afternoon.

Be Aware of Your Rights on Election Day

First and Foremost: Law enforcement authorities will not be screening those who show up to vote.

Wearing Campaign Gear
: In some states, wearing campaign gear in a polling place (like shirts, a buttons, etc) is against the law. But no matter what, your vote cannot be taken away from you. At most, you will have to take off a button or put a jacket over a T-shirt. You will still be allowed to vote. Cover up your campaign materials to ensure a smooth voting experience.

Unpaid Bills/Fines and Home Foreclosures: Eligible registered voters cannot be denied the right to vote because their homes have been foreclosed upon, they are late on child support payments, and have outstanding parking tickets, bills, or fines. Even if you have been forced to move somewhere else, most states give you a grace period in which you can vote at your old polling location. You do not have to pay any of the above tickets, bills, or fines in order to vote.

There Won’t Be Immigration Officers at the Polls
: While you must of course be a U.S. citizen in order to vote, immigration officers and law enforcement officers cannot and do not check immigration status of voters at the polls. If you’re lawfully registered to vote in your area, no one can stop you from voting.

Those Convicted of a Felony
: Many states allow people who have been convicted of a felony and completed their sentence to vote. Know your state laws and don't be intimidated by misinformation.

Look Out for Voting Problems and Help Others Vote
Report Any Voting Problems: Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or You can also send Election Protection an update through its Twitter Report Your Vote page

Bring Family, Friends and Neighbors
: Help elderly voters, disabled Americans, and people without transportation get to the polls.


KSDK Election Protection: by a nonpartisan voter protection coalition.

Voter Protection Center
: by the Barack Obama Campaign.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This Year's Nobel Prize Winner In Economic Sciences Is Truly Worth Reading Up On

Sitting comfortably in my little (and heated) studio apartment, I browse the internet on my Sony laptop while watching episodes of House on Hulu (sorry, it's my guilty pleasure!) in a small window while chatting as well. Amidst these tokens of privilege that make up my Thursday evening, I find myself reading an article about a very interesting Ph.D. who has lived in housing projects...on purpose.

Thus, here I write. Partially in reflection of my own moderately comfortable situation despite the economic hardships at the moment, but mostly in admiration for this astounding human being I never knew until now.

The article, from UC Berkeley news, is about this year's Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences who has gone out and lived in poverty on purpose--not to "study" our poor per se, but rather, to embrace them and for once learn from them for a change.

He is Martín Sánchez-Jankowski, Ph.D. But here's the real kicker--the man grew up in poverty in rural Mexico. He's come out of poverty, achieved great educational feats, and now he's a true warrior on a mission to not just give a damn, but also do something monumental. And he's packed with all his knowledge, all his cultural capital, and all his dutiful fury.

This man is my hero. He is actively, passionately, and usefully rolling up his sleeves and putting his academic butt to work. I mean that with all due respect. Here is a little from the article, but the entire thing is more than worth reading, it is necessary. There is so much to learn...

"Cracking The Chronic Poverty Code"
He spent most of the 1990s living in housing projects in five chronically poor neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles, documenting what he calls the “subculture of scarcity” for the recently published Cracks in the Pavement: Social Change and Resilience in Poor Neighborhoods (UC Press).

What he discovered was that the poor, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, are different — albeit not in the ways that other sociologists (and many political conservatives) have argued for decades. Impoverished neighborhoods, Sánchez-Jankowski learned, exhibit a fierce sense of self-preservation, constantly reinforcing values that serve to maintain the status quo while protecting against those that threaten their local culture, whether the source is state agencies seeking to impose order or foreign immigrants who bring their alien cultures into public-housing projects.

It’s not that the poor don’t aspire to status and material wealth, in his view. But due to the perception that they’re less likely to achieve them in the ways that middle-class people do — via well-paying jobs, for example — residents of poor neighborhoods are more apt to embrace, or at least tolerate, the underground economy. Similarly, absent the level of social services on which middle-class people regularly depend, gangs and other local institutions often step up to play a constructive role in low-income communities.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whiteness Isn't Bad, What's Bad Is When People Don't Recognize It As A Degree of Privilege

Stop for a second and just read these images.

Recognize the privilege in your bottled water

Recognize the privilege in your produce

And recognize the privilege in U.S. conceptions of "terror"

The privileges involved include whiteness, although they are much broader. They expand into notions of Western privilege, first world privilege, capitalism, and U.S. national sovereignty.

So I got a hate comment on an old post, "Consciousness of White Privilege Has Great Potential" today.

It always turns out that people who send me hate mail/comments always misread (or probably don't even bother to read) my writing. They see a few words here and there and immediately react. To me, that is not only a mistake, it perpetuates ignorance. Why? Because it's NOT READING. To me, reading is an active pursuit to discover; it necessitates that you recognize your uncertainty. You don't know it all, therefore you read...but I digress.

From the hater's comment:

"You have obviously never been a white person in the middle of a black bus or community."

Um, actually I have. Why are you telling me what I have or have not experienced? If we are to get technical, well, I am what is technically referred to as a "White Hispanic." I have volunteered substantially in a local continuation school for "at risk" youth here in the Berkeley area...and I have been in a classroom full of black youth. Like it or not, people with any degree of whiteness need to be conscious. I'm not saying they're not, but I'm saying that many aren't conscious enough. I'm not a black man, nor am I an indigenous Chicana...I'm a light skinned Argentine-American. I have to come to terms with my identity so that I can better understand the problems of this world.

And in the past, I know, I have thought of myself as a person of color. What is wrong with this? Just as I have degrees of whiteness, I have degrees of color. I am sick and tired of the misconception of race that is tied to exclusive notions of categories. I am both white and of color. I am both Latina and European. I am American and Argentine. But never one more than the other...they are layers of me.

To continue on this hater's comment... here's another snippet:

There are just some things we ice people are better at.

Why is that so upsetting? Because its been abused in the past?

Privilege? Look at S.A. Its the most violent place on Earth since the change to black power. Look at Katrina. Look at Nigeria. I mean when black folks run things, people die in large numbers.

[...]But I do ask you no matter what your ethnicity, to consider giving up crossing the gaps that can't be crossed and let's work out our problems together.

First, there are not some things "ice" people are better at because they are white. The only reason I can see why someone would come to this conclusion is because they see the effects of privilege without seeing their causes. You got the majority of doctors and academics in power who are white...well, did you ever stop to think that this can be traced back to them being toddlers who receive kindergarten education (at higher rates than blacks and Latinos by far), thus beginning with far more advanced cognitive skills? AP classes in high school, SAT's, community service...these are all great determinants of one's competitive college applications--and too many urban youth of color are denied these resources in their under-funded schools, they can't afford SAT prep classes because they are poor, and they can't afford to volunteer because they have to work part time aside from school. And their parents come from similar circumstances--they are consumed by hard labor and low wages, overall lack of higher education, and a lack of political leverage and cultural capital. PEOPLE ARE NOT ALL BORN UNDER EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES. And your comment about black, I can't begin to address that.

Second, the examples given are full of fallacies. Lots of people have had advanced societies in this world...but your conception of "advanced" is loaded with Western conceptions of capitalism and imperialism. Africa, Asia, and Mesoamerica have all had advanced civilizations, but for a variety of reasons collapsed. Katrina? What are you talking about? That was a natural disaster exacerbated by the Bush administration. Black people in power? Look, I'm not denying there are "bad" black people in power, but there are FAR MORE bad white people in power. Throughout history...I mean, do I have to spell this out? I'm tempted to, but to say Hitler is obvious and cliché and to say Reagan depends on one's level of enlightenment...

So, rather than building bridges of understanding between communities, we should try to "work out" our problems by yelling across the wide expanses between us? I'm sorry, but that's not right.

Also, you mentioned reverse racism in your comment...I have a real problem with the words "reverse racism." Not because I don't think there is racism against white people, but because you can't "reverse" the racism experienced by people of color. Every racism is unique and carries heavy historical and political meanings that can't be transferred in meaning to other racial groups.

In the end, this person doesn't even get it. White people need to become conscious of the privileges that their whiteness is rooted in (historically and institutionally). This way, they become powerful tools for social change. I'm not hating on them.

My problem is not only when they fail to pursue this potential, but also when they refuse to acknowledge that they even have it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I Have Overcome The LSAT And It Feels Good!

I have overcome a major obstacle in my path towards fighting for justice. Today I took the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). After months of preparation, I did the best I could possibly have done and I feel good!

As strange as this might come off, the one thought I had in my mind as I walked to my testing site was, dear Lord, I am so lucky to be taking this test today. I mean it still. What profound fortune and great privilege. As a senior at UC Berkeley, who could put her part time job on hold, who could rely on support from her loved ones, and who could afford the time and prep classes necessary to do her best.

Not to be cheesy, but the LSAT isn't to be taken lightly. It's an expensive, time consuming monster that you have to tame--and the prep classes are necessary if you want to even try to be competitive, unless you are a natural genius I guess.

So now as I reflect, I realize that I have to remain conscious of my unique position to pursue law school. I will now proceed to apply to law school in this upcoming month, and I know that I'm doing it for a cause much greater than myself.

What better reason to pursue something great than to do it for a worthy cause? Disintegrated families, single mothers, poor individuals, immigrants, silenced youth, people of all kinds of backgrounds who don't have the opportunities that I do.

I am elated and unstable. I feel strange and unsure of my life. No more LSAT class, no more practice tests, no more hours of studying. It consumed my life to the point where I feel like a huge piece of me was taken away by the test proctor today...weird.