Unequal and Separate: What’s Wrong With The Educational System?

aaron-burden-6jYoil2GhVk-unsplash

Betsy DeVos just commented on the recent 2019 Nation’s Report Card, which found that reading and math scores registered lower between 2017 and 2019 except in the category of math for fourth-grade students. Because of this, the Secretary of Education wants to implement a plan to introduce more funding for school choice. The reality is that a system that was designed decades ago is no longer working for today and no one has really addressed it and tackled the issue. Instead, people move their kids into the ‘right’ neighborhoods, bus their kids to the ‘good’ schools, and opt for charter schools. What this does is dilute funding for public schooling and aids in the failure of the kids who are left behind. However, I can’t blame these parents in wanting a better education because what they are currently offered right now is not good enough. What we need is an entire overhaul of the system so no one needs to attend a specialized school.

How do we do this? First of all, we must change how our schools are funded. Currently, schools draw their budgets from their surrounding neighborhoods, causing an imbalance where richer neighborhoods are able to fund better schools, which in turn makes parents want to send their children there. How likely is this going to change? Not likely unless there is more social uproar about it and until then, schools will continue to be imbalanced. When I attended high school, the only televisions we had were old, boxy ones rolled in on a cart, whereas the school in the neighboring district had a tv installed in every room. While a t.v. may not be crucial to a child’s education, it goes to show what resources are available to that school and what excesses there are. Is it fair that one school should have so much and another less? Are children entitled to the same education? Is it fair that a district may pay $100 per day for one child’s education and only $15.00 for another’s? The real question is why have we allowed this problem to fester? Who profits from this illogical and outdated system?

A big issue in schools that has been brought up by teachers is the attitude and outbursts of students, which disrupt classes and even endanger the lives of other students. Have children become more disruptive or have we just kept doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same result when our society, our children, and everything we know has changed? The times have changed and whether we can blame parents, students, society, social media, or teachers is not really the issue. The issue is that the climate has changed and we have not kept up with it. The issue is not localized to a few schools, but a nation-wide problem. When the issue is that prevalent, there must be ways that can be developed to help. We can look at schools which have been successful in dealing with these issues that have implemented programs such as meditation, yoga, and also monitored mentoring for those children who are on the periphery. Solutions are already out there, but the system as a whole refuses to acknowledge them and look for them, instead of just trudging on with the same rules in place.

I find that the largest impediment to education remains a child’s home life, but what can really be done about that? If you look at successful schools such as LeBron James’s I Promise School, students are allowed a safe space to voice their concerns about their daily struggles and something as insignificant as that can really make a difference in the day of a child who is not heard at home or is experience hardships such as poverty or hunger. We need to have more avenues for helping our students emotionally through social workers, understanding about bullying, and actually teaching our children how to react emotionally. If our children don’t learn emotional skills at home, we need to teach them at school so that they may function and actually be able to learn. If we can curb outbursts or disruptions at a young age because children don’t know how to cope, why wouldn’t we want to make the lives of these children and the teachers that serve them better?

Even with charter schools, ‘rich’ districts, and select ‘gifted’ schools, there are still children who are left out of this equation that no one is talking about. These children are left languishing in what is left of our public education system and are not receiving what they need to succeed. Public education is a right and as of right now, it is unequal and separate. Change is often politicized and criticized whether it is good or bad and in that time, millions of children will be left behind. We may not always agree on how change should happen, but we should all agree that it is needed. Ultimately, we are failing our children and the future of our country by not addressing these issues and implementing any sort of change. And with each year, the scores of our children will become lower and lower and we’ll grasp at what could be the problem and play the blame game. This is an wide-spread, epidemic problem that affects the whole nation, and yet, we don’t really care unless it affects our kid.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

How a Con Man Ran a Mental Institution and Became a Patient

In a true story stranger than fiction, a man named William Boerum ran the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but was actually Raymond Matzker, a man who would go on to be convicted of 7 counts of sexual offenses against very young boys in Wisconsin and Illinois.  The question everyone wants to ask is how was this allowed to happen as the state needed to verify his education, his prior work history, and pass a test .  He was one of 30 candidates and after the first candidate turned it down, he accepted the offer.   The incident also begs the question, ‘Who can run a mental institution?’  If a delusional man who preyed on young boys could do it and have the support of the community and a few of his superiors before he was outed, who else would be able to fill the role?  Some may ask what would lead such a deranged man to falsify records for the position, but I think this story speaks more about who we are in the aftermath of his outing.  Many people involved in his hiring at several positions refused to take responsibility for their parts in this story after being duped by Matzker, and it is this act of passing the blame that enables such a system to continue on.

At one point in time, Raymond Matzker and the real William Boerum attended Manhattan College together in the late 1960’s, with the real Boerum going on to obtain a master’s in business administration from Cornell in 1968.  After befriending Boerum and standing as an usher in his wedding, perhaps Matzker had been infatuated with this man who would go on to become the vice-president of Crocker National Bank and decided he would take on his identity.  Perhaps in taking on his identity, he shed his and was able to lie to himself that he was worthy and not someone who solicited young boys.  Whatever his reasons, he assumed the identity of Boerum and moved to Illinois, where he obtained jobs as a mental health and nursing administrator in Rocky County and medical services director for the Lake County Health Department in Waukegan, Ill.  He left the director position in 1979 to accept the position of director at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in 1979, being paid $42,000 a year for supervising 340 mentally-ill patients.  He was able to run the institution without incident until January of 1981 and even made it past the obligatory 1-year probationary period.

After his 1-year probationary period, there were a few who questioned if Matzker should be kept on, but support from the local Winnebago area, Sen. Gary Goyke, Rep. Michael Ellis, Rep. Richard Flintrop, and even the Winnebago Mental Health Association helped to secure his position.  It wasn’t until January 6th that the truth first came to light when authorities charged him with sex-related offences that his true identity was even found.  A man masquerading as someone else was able to fool the community, a senator, state representatives, and a mental health association into believing he was competent enough to take care of patients while using resources to travel to neighboring cities with the intention of harming boys.  Rep. Ellis later was quoted to say that he was not going to apologize for what happened in October, deflecting blame, while others played politics to reach their agendas, never really grasping the situation that they were conned and let this man run a mental institution.  Even before Wisconsin, others deflected blame, allowing this predator to keep harming boys.

When Matzker was a director in Rock county in 1977, he employed a secretary that he instructed to send out applications with misleading information, including positions and degrees.  Mrs. Klipstein, his secretary, eventually told county personnel director Susan Steininger and the executive administrator, Kenyon Kies, but no one believed her that he was acting erratically.  She saw him changing locks on his doors, taking trips to Milwaukee and Chicago with county cars, and keeping an answering service in Illinois for no apparent reason.  When this story surfaced, Kies said that he thought her story was ‘misleading’ and thought she was complaining because she was a disgruntled employee, but took no responsibility for not assigning any importance to Mrs. Klipstein’s allegations.  Once again, the blame was passed and those involved absolved themselves of any guilt relating to this man.  None of these people knew the true nature of Matzker, a fraud who was charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor and kidnapping on March 1, 1980 and other charges in Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, Wisconsin and Lyons and Libertyville, Illinois.

After the authorities took Matzker into custody, he was the first person convicted under a new sexual predator law in Wisconsin that stated that if someone is viewed as a sexually violent person who may potentially commit more crimes, they can be subjected to be held indeterminately in a secure, mental health facility after serving their sentences.  As such, the man who once ran a mental institution became a patient after experts that he once loosely worked with took the stand and testified as experts that he was a paranoid schizophrenic suffering from delusions.  In this strange twist of fate, Matzker was remanded to the Wisconsin Resource Center, a mental health institution, as a patient, where Thomas Michlowski, the medical director, deemed him as still psychotic.  Although this humiliating and preposterous chapter of Wisconsin’s history has been buried in the archives for ages, it still reads like an episode of American Horror Story and allows us see what happens when there is a breakdown in communication, the interview process, and trusting one’s own gut instincts.

https://journaltimes.com/news/local/defiant-matzker-held-for-trial/article_31917e11-4bf8-5052-a4bb-e2dd3ff1630e.html

https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-jan-15-1981-p-1/

https://madison.newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal/1981-01-22/page-4/

https://newspaperarchive.com/madison-wisconsin-state-journal-jan-16-1981-p-1/

Why People Hate Greta Thunberg

16-year-old Swedish Climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S.

Greta Thunberg gave an impassioned speech at the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City and the animosity has been swift and fast for this 16-year-old from Sweden.  A guest on a Fox news program The Story with Martha MacCallum called her ‘disgraceful’ and a ‘mentally ill Swedish child’ because she has Asperger’s syndrome.  Laura Ingraham continued the hatred by equating her to murderous, zombie-like children from Stephen King’s Children of the Corn.  Most unsettling is how regular citizens speak about her and discredit her desire to protect the environment.  When David Hogg spoke out against gun violence, the very same people said the most vile things about this high school kid by threatening him and calling him all sorts of names.  At least with David Hogg, I could understand why because these people perceived that he was ‘taking away their guns,’ but what exactly is Greta Thunberg taking away from them that they feel they must undermine her?

People have chosen to discredit her with her age, her Asperger’s condition, her nationality, and more.  I’ve noticed that anytime high-school or middle-school children protest, people question if these children really grasp the concept of what they’re doing and say that they are simply doing it for fun.  When athletes protest police brutality, they ask why they are being paid so much money.  When women speak out about sexual violence, their authenticity is questioned.  Let’s look at the inverse?  Are old people ever wrong?  Does anyone ever question why the owners of athletic teams make so much money?  Are men held to the same standards as women in regards to their believability?  The truth is, we use easy arguments against those we don’t agree with because it’s easier to attack these things than the real argument at hand.  If we can discredit a part of who they are, then we can discredit their ideas as well.

What exactly is it about Greta Thunberg that makes so many want to discredit her?  She is not trying to take anything away from anyone, but what she is showing is power and when someone gains power that we don’t feel they should have, we go after them to make ourselves feel better.  As such, we must ask who has the most power?  It is the latter examples in the last paragraph: older people, the owners, and men.  However, we have already ascribed power to these people, so when they make a show of it, we don’t bat an eye, but when those we perceive as lower than us do it, we immediately try to take them down because they threaten who we are.  They threaten our status quo and what we believe the power dynamic should be.  When our perceptions are threatened, we are scared and as such, lash out at children that are innocent of any crime.  Power is a tricky thing, but even more tricky is our perception of it.

The Art of Reading Another Human

Woman reading in the park under a tree.

We like to think that we are all good judges of character and imagine we’re able to see through to the heart of a liar, but the truth is, we rely too much on our own personal prejudices and experiences to really understand the differences.  A new movie out on Netflix, Unbelievable showcases the true story of a young woman named Marie who was brutally raped and tied up in her own home by a masked intruder.  When she reported the crime, her world turned upside down because she wasn’t believed, resulting in the police charging her with a crime.  Marie grew up in foster homes and had been molested before in her past, and when she reached out to one of her former foster mothers, the foster mother said she didn’t believe Marie because she didn’t sound upset.  Her foster mother said she had also been raped at one point and saw that Marie’s experience didn’t match up to hers.  She told the lead detective this and he agreed with her when he would see her laughing and joking after the incident as if it didn’t bother her.  Because of how they perceived what a rape victim should appear like, they concluded that she made up the whole thing for attention.

Another Netflix movie concerning Amanda Knox really underscores this point as well when she recounts what happened after the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher.  She is first suspected of murder because she is not acting as a normal friend of a victim should act as the police viewed her calmly talking to her boyfriend and not being emotional.  What I realized from watching the documentary was that Amanda Knox is a logical thinker and as such, she does not react emotionally to events, which the police mistook for clues of being a sociopath killer.  If you tell an emotional thinker that you are having a bad day, they may commiserate with you and tell you to cheer up.  If you tell a logical thinker the same thing, they may give you solutions instead, which some may view as cold because they didn’t react in the same way as the emotional thinker.  Logical thinkers are not looking to emotionally support you, but want to provide actual solutions because that’s how they think.  Because Amanda could not perform as a ‘normal’ person emotionally, many people to this day still believe that she had a hand in the murder of her roommate because they know they wouldn’t act in such a way during a murder investigation.

In 1988, Martin Tankleff woke up to find his father profusely bleeding and near death and his mother dead in their bedroom.  When he summoned the police, he told them that he thought his father’s friend committed the crime, but all the police saw was that he was oddly unemotional about the deaths, leading them to believe that he wasn’t normal.  And if wasn’t normal, he could commit a crime that no normal person could, assuming he murdered his parents for their great wealth.  The police tricked him into an oral confession, telling him that his father miraculously awoke and told them his son committed the crime when he actually died at the hospital.  As Martin was raised to trust the police knew his father never lied, he initially agreed, but refused to sign the confession.  Because of his oral confession, the jury sentenced him to 50 years and he fought for 17 years to prove his innocence to finally be freed.  Later on, Martin would say that he didn’t have a reaction because he was in shock, but it was too late as the police already thought they had their culprit.  They just needed a confession and never pursued his father’s friend, who most likely orchestrated the murders.

Why do we think we can read people and think that we can parse the truth from other’s actions, but not their words?  We want to believe that we are all masters of understanding how humans work and we will not retract our statements if confronted with the truth.  Why?  Because you must be a master to know humans if you know yourself.  We think that everyone else thinks like us and therein lies the fault, for many people do not think and react like us.  When we use our own emotional history and personal background to judge and condemn others, especially those in precarious situations, it ends with disastrous results.  Marie didn’t act like an average rape victim perhaps because of her rocky childhood and how she had been molested previously.  Amanda Knox didn’t think as an emotional thinker, so she didn’t understand that she was on display at the moment and needed to convey those motions.  Martin Tankleff was too stunned to react and the police took this a sign that he was emotionally cold and capable of murder.  However, it is those who are sociopaths who really understand this concept of playacting and feign emotions so they can trick us, but we don’t care to discuss them because we want to feel as if we are the ones who saw through someone, so we concentrate on those we think are trying to fool us.

The truth is, we are not good at reading humans.  We don’t understand how an average rape victim is supposed to react.  We want to think we are clever and as such, we deny those that we think are guilty because we have already assumed they are trying to pull the wool over our eyes.  And in cases where the truth comes out, such as the Central Park 5, we do not back down because to admit that we were wrong is to admit that perhaps we can’t read humans after all and as such, we don’t know who we are.  Instead of trying to read others in our own image, we should try to ascertain who they are and what their reasoning is.  We may find that not everyone is like us and we shouldn’t fear the ones that can’t pretend to emote, but rather, we should be wary of the ones that do know how.  Except, we can’t read them.

http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahshow/the-son-wrongfully-accused-of-murdering-his-parents#ixzz5znlAw05y

https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3675

 

Mile of Murder

Part 1

Day Street is a residential street that is synonymous with murder to many of the people who live in Green Bay.  It is a street that is steeped in horror, legend, and fear, but also one that resembles any other street in downtown Green Bay.  Located on the city’s near east side, it measures approximately 1 mile in length and includes many lower to mid-level income families in a mix of rental units and owner-occupied housing.  You can see children playing in front yards, teenagers riding their bicycles on the sidewalks, and families out for a stroll on an average warm, summer day.  However, you would’ve also seen multiple condemned properties in the past and the occasional police car stopped near the curb.  Day Street is an aging street that has seen a wave of demographic changes over the years, but continues to remain a source of anxiety for residents because of the events that unfolded there and the stories surrounding them.  It’s not that the concentration of crimes pertaining to that specific street are more numerous than any other part of the city, but rather the ones committed there have been extremely heinous, leading to this view.

The most heinous of all the murders that occurred on Day Street was the murder of a five-year-old Hmong girl named Nancy Thao, who attended a nearby elementary school.  No one could have imagined that Johnson Greybuffalo, a young Native man with a child of his own, would be so cruel as to kill a small child that simply woke up to interrupt him stealing into their apartment in the middle of the night.  If she were alive, she would be a few years younger than me today, but she never got the chance to live out her life.  The most well-known murder that became national news was that of Tom Monfils, which took place at the James River Paper Mill at the start of Day Street.  5 of the 6 men who the courts convicted of the crime have been released or are just now being released after serving their time, but there are still numerous people who believe that all the men were innocent and continue to espouse the theory that the victim actually took his own life.  From 1988 to today, the string of murders and crimes that have plagued this particular street continue to haunt its inhabitants.

The following murders occurred on Day Street: Clinton Cardish was beaten to death by his former cellmate on May 13, 1995, Lorenzo Ayalla was shot and killed by an acquaintance on January 28, 1995, who later left the country and was never caught, Nancy Thao was stabbed to death by Johnson Greybuffalo in the attempt of a burglary on July 22, 1994, Tom Monfils was beaten, bound, and thrown into a paper pulp vat by disgruntled co-workers on November 21, 1992, Eugene McIntosh was stabbed to death by his wife on April 30, 1988, Ouida Wright was killed by her boyfriend on May 3, 2013, and Ricardo Gomez was shot by Richard Arrington on April 2, 2016.  It is hard to believe that such misery and crime could happen in the stretch of only one mile, but these murders now define the street and how people view it.

According to the United States Census, the population for Green Bay was 104,879 persons in July of 2018.  In 2010, that number stood at 103,911 and 102,313 in 2000 respectively.  Green Bay has not grown as exponentially as Madison throughout the years, but the suburbs surrounding the city such as De Pere and Howard have thrived.  This was very apparent when we first moved to Day Street in the late 1990’s, when droves of families who previously lived there escaped to the suburbs and subsequently were replaced with a more multi-cultural landscape.  Along with a more multicultural population, Green Bay also saw an influx of workers who always lived on farms or traveled long distances to reach work in the city due to a scarcity of work in their towns and villages.  Although the population size has not increased much, the demographics of the inner city have changed over the years with different groups of people moving in.  This has led to tensions in a small town that always identified itself as a small-town, all-American city.

I’ve lived on Day Street three times in three different houses in my life.  The first time was when my parents bought a house, which was not an easy feat for an immigrant family that struggled to speak the language and understand the societal norms.  I recall my mother saying that she heard terrible rumors about the street and wasn’t eager to move there, but with the low price of the house and how close it was situated to everything else, my parents changed their minds and closed the deal.  We moved in after the murder of Nancy Thao and I would get chills every time we passed the former residence.  At that time when we first moved, I distinctly recall many for sale signs planted in lawns all around our neighborhood.  It was very apparent that families who had lived there for years had decided it was time to move due in part to the crime in the 90’s.  The neighborhood was definitely changing and our family and others like ours were part of that change.

Green Bay has added multi-cultural events celebrating all this diversity to the city through picnics, town talks, and more.  However, this doesn’t change the fact that more minorities and low-income families are affected by crime because of the lack of affordable housing and job advancement.  The median income of a household in 2017 was $45,473 as opposed to the 2017 national median income of $61,372.  While the official national poverty stats of 2017 was at 12.3%, Green Bay had 17% of its residents living in poverty.  A majority of those living in poverty either live downtown or in certain areas that provide more affordable housing.  These groups of people then experience more hardships because of where they live, making it tougher to rise out of poverty and where they are.  Race also plays into how victims and perpetrators are treated in a town that is overwhelmingly white.  In the trial of Johnson Greybuffalo, a juror expressed fears that she might not be partial enough because she thought poorly of both Hmong people and Native Americans.  This casual racism is usually unspoken, but is always there as people fear a foreign race who they assume are taking over their lands and rights, leading to apathy for a little girl that was murdered and for those that continued to inhabit the space of those who discarded it.

My life has been intertwined with this particular street and with that, some of the crimes that have happened on it.  My parents moved from Illinois to the city when I was barely one and I have spent the majority of my life here.  While living on Day Street, I have actually heard a gunshot that killed someone, knew one of the murderers as a young teenager, and attended the funeral of one of the victims.  Since Green Bay is a relatively smaller city, some residents have a connection to one or more the crimes that have occurred on the street, and some even have knowledge of the actual crimes that took place.  Currently, I work at a correctional center that some of these same murderers have either lived in or moved through.  Having worked in a maximum-security prison, I have seen all sorts of offenders from those who trafficked drugs to those who committed homicide.  There are various misconceptions about what happens to inmates once they are incarcerated and what goes on behind the locked gates, but the truth is that although the whole prison system nation-wide could be reformed, it is not what some make it out to be.

Despite these things, I’m proud to call this city my home and am excited for the changes that have occurred so far.  Although wages in the city are not as high as Madison or Milwaukee, the cost-of-living is very accommodating to growing families.  Rents are relatively lower than the more populous cities and crime occurs at a much considerably lower rate here than Madison or Milwaukee.  When I attended UW-Madison, I remember a body being dragged from the water the first few weeks I was there and it didn’t even make front page news.  Many residents of Green Bay will claim that the city is becoming more and more crime-ridden, but the data shows that crime overall has been down over the decades.  In 1993, the national murder rate was 9.5 murders for every 100,000 while it was 5.3 for every 100,000 in 2017.  The reason it may appear as if crime is occurring more is that specifically for Green Bay, it doesn’t happen regularly, so when it happens, it becomes front page news, whereas it is barely a mention for larger cities.  The more we hear about crimes, the more we think it is happening.  However, it could easily be attributed to the fact that we are getting the information at a faster rate than we ever have before and that is why it feels as if there is more crime when there isn’t.

With social media, the spread of harrowing news such as kidnapping and lost children are rapidly fed into our Facebooks and Twitter accounts and continuously shared, with almost no lag time in between the incident and the post.  If a child goes missing in a small city, even those in cities two states over will know and share the posts by the end of the day.  Technology has allowed for information to proliferate like never before, allowing it reach people that may have never known previously.  However, it also added an inflated sense of fear as people think that crime is getting worse, when in actuality, they are just hearing about it more.  We thrive on fear because it is an innate, primal instinct that has kept us alive through the centuries.  Fear is ingrained into our DNA whether we like it or not, and although we like to believe we are move evolved than that, we simply are not.  We seek out fear.  We court fear and we can influence people through fear.  The more we deny this small truth, the more those who understand the power of fear can use it to control us.  What is at the root of fear is the desire to stay alive.  Those who spread fear are seen as heralders of safety even if they are wrong.

We don’t fault someone for spreading misinformation because we feel as if they did it in the hopes of keeping us safe.  We also continue to spread misinformation even if it’s been proven wrong because we feel it’s our duty to keep others safe.  To understand fear, we must understand how the instinct has worked for so long. We as a race have used fear to survive and thrive, and because of it, we seek out fear to keep us alive.  We want to be scared to within an inch of our lives on roller coasters, haunted houses, and paint ball games.  We want to know fear, but a controlled fear because it is exhilarating.  I saw a post on Facebook on a community policing page where someone reported a group of men for trying to kidnap children into sex slavery.  Some commenters stated that the police already investigated the situation and found that it was merely a bible group who was aggressively trying to recruit, but this did not stop people from sharing after the fact.  We live for fear because it keeps us alive and we excuse those that rile up the fear in us because we thrive on it. Real crime does happen every day, but the perception of crime is what we hold on, for we have been conditioned to do so.

There is a difference between reporting accurately on crimes that occurred and willingly spreading false information that others debunked.  With the first, one is simply relaying information about a crime that has occurred, but the latter helps spread an unfounded story that further causes more misinformation and fear in the community.  With this book, I hope to accurately inform the readers of the crimes that took place on Day Street, but it is in no way a recrimination of the street or the people that live there.  Oftentimes, we will indict a whole race based off of the crime of one individual or in this case, a whole street.  Day Street is a street that I grew up on and holds many misconceptions about it due to these crimes, but it is still one that families have decided to live on.  It is not always in the best of conditions and does not always house the best of tenants, but it still deserves the truth.  For those who have chosen to escape it and those who have chosen to stay, the truth still remains.

 

 

 

 

 

Razor Blades & Civil War Monuments

front

Anytime change is introduced, people, regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender misconstrue this as an attack on themselves.  The reality is that everyone believes that they are good people and to suggest otherwise forces them to look introspectively at themselves, which is the real issue.  Most people in general don’t change unless they are forced to change.  Most people tend to change after someone breaks up with them, their health is threatened, or if they experience a traumatic experience.  To change means we have been doing something wrong, so if we are confronted with change, we will vehemently deny it because it allows us to not think about who we are.

This has nothing to do with masculinity or race, but happens to be more pronounced in those who are privileged.  Those who are privileged tend to have their voices heard more often over those who are minorities and not the norm.  Just because we are confronted with change does not necessarily mean we have been doing something wrong, but sometimes it does.  When statues of southern generals from the Civil War were taken down, people were upset because they did not believe they were wrong and to take them down indicated that they perhaps were wrong in erecting the statues in the first place.  It allows people to believe that they were right and to threaten that threatens their core beliefs and so, people will fight tooth and nail to retain their ‘culture.’

With the Gillette ads that admonish unsavory tendencies of men, many men who do not commit these tendencies are deeply offended simply by the suggestion that they are lumped into the same category of these men without acknowledging that this category of men exist.  Then there are a few men who have done these things and they vehemently deny that these things are issues because once again, to do so would mean they have been wrong this entire time and need to change.  As such, we get an ‘over-reaction’ of defending oneself, which leads to defining oneself by their past and not being able to change because of it.

If we don’t have the ability to change, we will always remain stagnant, never learning or growing beyond who we were.  Change is difficult and hard and that in of itself needs to be acknowledged.  Change will never come easy socially and individually, but simply realizing that we all approach change the same way should tell who we are.

The Year of Sexual Misconduct

person-of-year-2017-time-magazine-cover1

It has been quite the year for highlighting the issues of sexual misconduct in the workplace and how we as a society have dealt with it.  As quickly as empires are built, we have found they can crumble just as fast.  Many powerful men have lost their positions as society is no longer accepting the behavior of those who abuse.  The balance of power is shifting and there will be those who will be uncomfortable with it.  As with change, it is either swift or slow, and in this case, it has been a swift blow to many industries, especially the movie industry.  It is a great feat for us to see that change is possible simply by changing attitudes and mindsets and not through the imagined upheaval of the earth. We sometimes do not court change because we have seen no change in so long, but change is here.  However, it is also disheartening to know that it has taken this long for the shoe to drop.  Sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse by any other name has existed for this long because we have let it exist.

Why is it that attitudes are now changing this year when more than 40 women came out to identify Cosby as a rapist just a few years ago?  These were the same allegations we are hearing now, but these women’s stories were dissected and belittled everywhere until a veritable voice spoke up and enabled their right to fight for their cases to come to light.  And still, the shoe didn’t drop.  Sexual abuse was business as usual even in light of this high-profile case.  Women have faced sexual abuse for centuries, but why was it finally important now?  One of the reasons, unfortunately, is that the women’s voices were corroborated.  As with Cosby, Hannibal Burress cemented Cosby’s fate with a joke on stage when many people in the industry already knew about what was happening.  With Weinstein, his downfall came in the form of a New York Times article.  It is not enough that women speak up, but they must also be corroborated to be believed.  It is disturbing that it takes this level to bring to light the atrocities that these women have endured when their own voices meant nothing.  All of a sudden, sexual misconduct was legitimatized and people were allowed to speak about it.  It was no longer a secret shame they were forced to carry.

What this speaks to is a system that is failing these women.  We live in a society that does not speak about sexual assault.  We talk about the prevention of it, but nothing about what to do in the aftermath.  It is an unsavory subject, and as such, we sweep it under the rug in hopes that it will not come up again.  What this does is creates an air of secrecy around sexual assault, causing the victims to be shamed because they are breaking the unspoken rules of society.  Sexual assault is the odd cousin we never talk about at family gatherings because we don’t want to think about it.  When we don’t think about it, we have no idea how to manage it when it does happens.  The ideas we are living with are arcane and out of date, for they are not helping us in the current climate that we live in.  If we can change how sexual assault is viewed, we can change how we deal with those who serve up these charges.  Instead of dismissing them, we can learn to listen to them and not be ashamed of what has happened.  There is no shame in being raped.  The only shame that exists is when the society that you live in decides that you should not talk about being raped.

The balance of power is shifting and those who are losing power are those who have held it for a very long time. People like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly were relieved of their jobs, but with great payouts.  They felt no shame in their dismissals and didn’t even acknowledge their sexual misconduct in the workplace.  To them, it was business as usual and they didn’t understand why they were forced to leave.  When Fox gave them a hefty severance package, Fox was also saying that the sexual misconduct meant very little to them. Sheryl Sandberg warned of a blowback about the #MeToo campaign, and it may not be as pervasive as you’d think it would be, but it will come  For those losing power, they may try to regain it by reasserting themselves in other ways.  Power is a very powerful motivation and when someone tries to take it away, there will be unintended consequences.  As when the government enacted new laws to protect Black Americans, some White Americans saw this as a blow to their power.  What happened was the White protest in America that protested Black children attending their schools, Black college kids sitting at their counters, and marrying into their race, with miscegenation laws still on the books into the late 60’s.

Power is a tricky thing to deal with, but more tricky is how systematic race, sex, and sexual-orientation issues are in our society.  As with race, we ask if there is still racism if we elect a Black president?  Then with sex, do we then equate the same thing; that there is no more sexual abuse of power if we hire more women into higher positions?  The answer to all of these is no.  Abuse of power does not stop simply because we hire people of color or women.  The problem is the entire system.  If you do not overhaul the system, the abuse will still occur.  Yet, even more problematic is how we view the problem.  We view the problems as someone else’s problem: an issue that is touchy and not to bring up.  Sexual abuse if everyone’s problem and not to be hidden away.  When you can talk about it casually, when you can see bold demonstrations of protecting victims in your workplace, and when you can feel confident in opening up about your sexual abuse, then  you will know the issues are being dealt with.  Sexual abuse, racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes will always happen.  The more we are on board with the idea that these things are here to stay, the more we will know that we must develop effective ways to deal with these issues rather than denying their existence.