Tag Archives: inequality

On When Things Hit Close to Home

by Heather Charles, B.A. ’10 + M.A. ’12

When I was an undergraduate I had several people tell me that I should just pretend that my family wasn’t poor, that I hadn’t gone to a bad school, that I didn’t grow up in a rough neighborhood, and that I hadn’t been abused. I was supposed to pass, which should have been even easier for me because I was white. I was deeply offended by this, I am not ashamed of where I come from, I have no reason to be. I went to Stanford, what do I have to apologize for? I am proud of my working class roots, because even though it was difficult it made me stronger, a better human being, a better teacher. I also found this advice to be terribly impractical. For one thing, I had an accent, and for another I could only reference what I knew and having never seen rich people before Stanford I really only had one truth to talk about. I couldn’t lie about my mom when it was visibly clear to everyone that she had had me as a teenager. I couldn’t make up stories to hide the fact that my summers were spent looking after my brothers and sisters and reading books. There were things I obviously didn’t know about, foods I had never seen, cultural references I didn’t get, and locations I had never heard of. I developed some close relationships with people more privileged than I was so that I would always have someone to call when I needed something explained to me, which was quite often.

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On Choosing Goodness

by Heather Charles, B.A. ’10 + M.A. ’12

I have two siblings serving in our nation’s armed forces. In my case, they both happen to be in the army. They are two radically different people with different personal motivations for why they joined, but ultimately what it came down to was that as working class white kids growing up in a community with an unemployment rate that hovers around 40-50% percent, it was the best option for them to support themselves and their current and future families. My family, like the families of many American families who have been working class for many generations has had a disproportionate number of people who served in the military. No one in my family is particularly keen on our actions abroad, including my late-Great Grandfather who lied about his age and became a Para-trooper in the Pacific Theater during World War Two, because it was best way to ensure that he got to eat. My family lineage on my maternal side is a long line of white folks who were the exception in that like many black share-croppers during the Dust Bowl, they were left out of FDR’s reforms. I have great-great aunts who were sterilized during the Eugenics movement. Continue reading

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Stanford Students on Marriage Memes

by Holly Fetter, ’13

You’ve undoubtedly seen an onslaught of red squares in your newsfeed this week as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national LGBT rights organization, has encouraged supporters of marriage equality to display their politics via their profile photos. A red and pink version of the ubiquitous HRC logo has been consuming Facebook alongside many creative reinterpretations, including my personal favorite — the Tilda Swinton one. (Is it a political commentary? Is it a meta meme? We may never know).

But what do all these symbols mean? And what’s the difference between = and > and Paula Deen? I asked several Stanford students to share their thoughts on what these images mean to them.

>I have the ‘greater than’ symbol, as a symbol of solidarity with all those whose relationships and models of community and care are excluded from the state’s recognition of marriages, and a statement that our queerness neither begins nor ends at assimilation.  Marriage is not a ‘first step’ that has the potential to launch more conversation; it is, right now, an eclipsing step, that has overdetermined LGB politics in the US and erased much of the history of queer resistance pioneered by people of color, low-income queers, and trans* people.
—Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

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10 Signs That Classism Exists

by Danny McKay, ’14

In CSRE 26SI, a student-led course about allyship, students were asked to come up with 10 pieces of evidence to prove that certain prejudices exist. Here are Danny’s 10 signs that classism exists:

1. I recently heard someone I know call someone else a “pleb.”

2. Andrew Mitchell, former Chief of the UK Conservative Party, resigned after calling a policeman a pleb.

3. The average income of the richest 10% of the world’s population is about 9 times that of the poorest 10%.

4. The cost of the Invasion/Occupation of Iraq (i.e., money, lives) falls on the poor, while the rich (i.e., CEOs, politicians) benefit.

5. During Hurricane Katrina, the rich were evacuated, while the poor stayed and suffered. Continue reading

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Our Challenge

by K. Blaqk, ’14

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The title of this piece is “Our Challenge.” Over fall quarter I discovered the “Nu Rainbow,” which replaces the traditional ROYGBIV spectrum with one representing the variety of colors  of human beings. This move felt especially important to me, as I was starting to see the urgency in queer politics taking on an explicitly anti-racist agenda as well. Lumped into queer issues and racism are also structural class inequality, problems of imperialism and militarism. So, “Our Challenge” is first to build a coalition of marginalized and oppressed peoples and then to channel that organization into a form of resistance and way of remaking the world around us. Continue reading

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The Earth is Not a Commodity: How Capitalism Perpetuates Global Warming

by Jovel Queirolo, ’14


Capitalism is designed to promote competition and social inequality (Parjis, 1995) which cannot accommodate a climate change movement meant to benefit the entire earth and its inhabitants with an even distribution. As an international leader, the United States government along with its citizens must shift from a mindset of social and economic capitalism toward a political framework that encourages collective equality. In the U.S., capitalism privileges wealthy, upper-class, white individuals who hold positions of power (Keister and Moller, 2000) over the rest of the country’s diverse constituency. This constituency must be invited into the climate change movement, and granted equal access to technology and research geared towards addressing dangerous levels of human-induced climate change.

Capitalism as an economic and social theory, as popularized by the United Sates, will not work as a tool for organizing the climate change movement because the environment is not a commodity, nor is the environment a human construct. Continue reading

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Our Twilight: Review of “Twilight of the Elites” by Christopher Hayes

by Lewis Marshall, PhD candidate in Chemical Engineering

America is not a Christian nation.

But America is a nation of faith.

In Twilight of the Elites, Chris Hayes (of Up With fame) explains that America has faith, more than anything else, in systems of meritocracy: systems in which people gain power, not due to birthright or personal connection, or appearance, but because of their skills. Are you good at your job? If so, you should be promoted. And if you stop working, if you stop improving, if you fall behind, someone hungrier and sharper and more skilled should take your place. We have built this idea into our educational system, our economic system, and our government. In American mythology, meritocracy is both salvation and moral obligation.

So when Twilight opens with the line, “America feels broken,” it’s disheartening. Hayes recounts the disappointments of the last dozen years: Enron, the Iraq war, the housing bubble, the great recession, pedophiles sheltered in the Catholic church and at Penn State, the failed response to hurricane Katrina. Has meritocracy failed? Have we failed to live up to our ideal?[1]

Twilight of the Elites doesn’t address the day-to-day politicking that led to these failures. Instead, Hayes creates a theory to encompass the whole broken decade: The Iron Law of Meritocracy. Continue reading

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Equality is not Justice

by members of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL)

We are the group of students responsible for the “equality is not justice” flyers last week. Because we are interested in both raising awareness and increasing understanding, we collaborated on a brief summary of each topic listed on the posters.

This article is meant to be shared! However, it is not meant to be the last word on any of the topics below: our foremost goal is to encourage discussion within the Stanford community.

Interested in continuing the conversation? Please consider submitting your ideas to STATIC!

Fear is not governance
Here, we are referring to the illusion that control is gained through fear or fear tactics and, furthermore, that legitimate government rule can be claimed when the majority of the population lives in a state of fear. Moreover, we are addressing the fact that fear is a tactic utilized by the United States, whether conscious or unconscious. Consider, for example, the reaction you have when you see a police officer. Are you afraid or comforted? Why? Also consider jails, which – though they seem to promise safety – are also an implicit threat by the state.

Apathy is not neutral
When we say that apathy is not neutral, we mean that – in many cases – apathy is a privilege. When we choose not to educate ourselves or to do nothing, it is with the knowledge that our lives will not be adversely affected – and not everybody is in such a position.
Another implication of apathy is the fact that, when there is apathy on the part of the state, entire groups of people may suffer. When legislators pay less attention to the well-being of groups such as trans* people of color, for example, this does not represent a simple oversight: it reflects a lack of commitment to the survival of a group that is consistently persecuted in this country.

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Stop the New Jail

by Raphael  Sperry, Instructor (CEE 136: Green Architecture)

Did you know that San Mateo County is planning to build a new jail? Stanford has a significant portion of its campus in San Mateo County, so what the county government does with local revenue is a significant issue. But this is also a basic issue of criminal justice and fairness that effects our neighbors, from East Palo Alto up to the San Francisco line. By investing tens of millions of dollars in the jail, San Mateo County is turning its back on crime prevention and rehabilitative services in the community… there won’t be enough money to fund everything.

In my class, I teach how to minimize the environmental impacts of buildings. I’ve also been involved with organizing other architects to oppose the construction of jails and prisons for almost ten years. This is an interesting collision of those issues for me, since San Mateo is proposing to build one of the first LEED-certified jails in the country. My short take on that is: if you build the jail, you might reduce emissions 30% from a typical building baseline, but if you don’t build it at all, you avoid 100% of the emissions – and that’s without taking the community impact into account. If you’d like to learn more about this issue, please come to the workshop below. Continue reading

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Why Should I Care About Trans* Awareness Week?

by Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

As a member of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, a queer activist group on campus, I’ve been organizing Beyond the Binaries: Transgender Awareness Week 2012 for the past few weeks and I want to contribute my thoughts on why you should care that Stanford is hosting Beyond the Binaries.

1. Chances are you know very little about transgender experience

You may  have several gay friends and resonate deeply with their struggles. You may identify as an ‘ally,’ and believe that all gay people should have the right to marry and serve in the military. Yet, I doubt that you know much about transgender identity, politics, and the experience of transgender people in our country It’s not your fault. Openly trans* people make up a very small percentage of our population. You don’t learn about trans* people in class. There are only a few out trans* students at our school.  This is why it’s important to have a Transgender Awareness Week. Most people (even in the ‘LGBT’ community) are blithely ignorant about transgender issues. In coordinating a week dedicated to trans* experiences we highlight narratives, issues, and perspectives that are often lost or neglected in our dominant culture. Continue reading

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