Saturday, May 3, 2008

Are we racist?

Race is an issue that many of us find hard to talk about. Talking about racism is taboo, and as a society we don’t seem to want to break it because we feel it is a problem that perhaps doesn’t affect us anymore. I mean, wasn’t it over when the bill of rights came about and colored people were given equal rights? Well, I am afraid it was not and it still haunts us today. We see it through depictions in the media, through segregation within our communities and more often than not through the way our politics are defined. I mean, if there has been such equality in our society since the 14th Amendment was passed in 1968, then how come it is not until 2008 that we are seeing a colored man run for president? And if there is such equality, as people think, then why were people at awe when Obama announced he was running for presidency? and even more at awe when rumors of what his religious preferences may be were exposed? I can’t help but wonder if people would have been just as concerned those religious rumors were those of McCain?

I think this is a very good time to discuss the race issue due to the fact that for once it is a topic discussed within the political sector. Racial equality is an issue almost omitted through out the media and from our daily conversations; perhaps we see the issue from the eyes of black as white and white as black but is this really the way all people think? In such places as California most people see race as just another matter on the platter but in places like Mississippi, were racial equality is hardly existent, the race issue comes greatly into play. Many people who belong to states where racism is still very prominent, which is not a secret to any which states those are, determine whether a candidate is qualified to run for president depending on the color of the skin. This is a huge concern of mine and it should certainly be one of yours. If we are a country that proclaims freedom and equality from the top of our lungs, then why don’t we take action in trying to protect those rights that we are so proud of? We should not only protect them but also actually try to inculcate them in our children and future generations so that perhaps one day we can see our nation as one-big California.

Although some parents are very good at educating their children against racism, I wonder if all parents take that interest? We have to remember that racism is not something that is inculcated to children at their homes, or at least one would hope so, but rather something children learn or pick up from their surroundings, such as school. Therefore, children are prompt to becoming racist without even knowing it and unless their parents take an interest to talk to them about their perceptions of race, they might never know that what they have learned is perhaps very negative. Our surroundings are full of prejudice and unless we un-due in our children those negative connotations of race that they might of picked up from their friends or the media, we will never get rid of racism.

“I was five years old when my older sister and I started saying, ‘Eeny meanie miny moe. Catch a nigger by his toe. If he hollers let him go. Eeny meanie miny moe.’ We didn't know what "nigger" meant. As far as we knew, the word was just a small part of a rhyme that we heard other kids saying.” This personal story really illustrates how racism can be manifested in someone’s life and it can become part of his or her development in an unconscious manner. Many people don’t even realize that they are racist or prejudice. If you think you are one of those please take this survey
where you will find out if you have any prejudices or not. This is the kind of thing that we have to watch out for. If the race issue has been ignored for so long it’s only because people are not talking about it. Let’s take the opportunity that this competitive presidential election has provided us with to start the race conversation that is so needed. If we talk about it, just like our
presidential candidates do,or at least one of them, perhaps we can one day really get rid of the problem rather than just buried as if was only part of our past.

If you wish to take the first step take part of the conversation by checking out what some influential peoplehave been saying about the only presidential speech that has raised the race issue.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pay attention to our legislations...

Social injustice is not confined to particular individuals or groups of people within our society. We are all prompt to be victims of social injustice if we don’t fight for what we believe is just. Although our government representatives are suppose to help us in the fight, sometimes they take whichever side is more beneficial to them.

Why don't we look at what defines our government-structure so that we can better evaluate if our representatives are doing a good job. The fundamental structure of our government is based on a representative democracy that calls for government action on behalf of the people’s interest. As a constitutional republic, our government is responsible for making its decisions base on what the majority rules while keeping in mind the minority rights. So, if the government makes decisions that benefit the majority while providing resources to help those in the minority, I would say they are doing a good job. However, are they? Our government often stops acting on behalf of the people’s interest and starts acting on behalf of interests groups, which I like to call "money providers". Many of these interests groups form part of massive conglomerates that have large amounts of money to spend in lobbying and influencing our government’s decisions. Everyday our congress passes legislations that greatly affect our daily lives but that many times we are not aware of. Although some of these legislations may be beneficial to some, it is more certainly that they are not beneficial to many. Since all legislations don’t apply to everyone, we fail to pay attention to those that really affect us all. Such is the case when we talk about the net neutrality legislation.

Net neutrality refers to “the understanding that telecommunications providers should not control how consumers use the Internet by discriminating against content providers who can not or will not pay the additional cost of a premium connection which allows their content to be viewed more quickly by consumers” (U.S. Congress. 2007). Net neutrality is something that affects each and every one of us; as we all know we are entering an "electronic era" that will outgrow other media sources. We should also be concern because it violates our freedom of speech and our freedom to choose what we can access or not access online. Internet providers want the power to favor the highest bidder therefore not giving the consumer the choice to access content from the regular you and me who may have no money to bid. Also, with instances such as AT&T wiretapping our conversations, Comcast blocking us from uploading and downloading files, yahoo scanning through our e-mails, the time has come to make our voices heard and show the corporate giants that we the people have the power over the net; afterall, it is a public service.

Net neutrality initiatives have been arising for a long time and it is time for people to know about them and start getting involved. We need to let our congress know in which side of the issue we stand. It is obvious that when it comes to public issues such as net neutrality, different groups see it from a different viewpoint depending on their personal interest. To companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, net neutrality means that they “can charge more for high-bandwidth services and get a return on networks that cost them billions of dollars to build” (Rash 2006). While to other companies such as Goggle and Amazon, who play the role of “content providers,” net neutrality means that “telecommunications providers need to treat all traffic equally, whether from a small nonprofit agency or from a large, established company" (Rash 2006). In simple terms Internet providers want more money and content providers don’t want to pay more. But the question that remains is which side is fighting for the interest of the common people?

People who are pro net neutrality legislation feel that the Internet doe not need to be regulated. They feel that the Internet was created under the ideology of “free for all.” It functions under a free-market where anyone can use as much bandwidth as they want with no restrictions or regulations. They argue that we would loose the true essence of the Internet if we loose its social aspects; the common person would no longer be able to share his or her stories, provide a service to the community and would not be stimulated to create new and creative content. They feel that the corporate giants have enough power as it is, and that we cannot trust them with more; they have previously betrayed the people and favored the government and their corporate means. A net neutrality legislation supporter points out that the gain of power by these corporate giants has only contributed to America dropping to 16th place on a list of broadband penetration. He argues that “if these companies would spend more money on infrastructure and services and less money on corporate take-overs and lobbying Congress, we could have fiber-optic connections in every home" (Baumann 2006).

Big corporations, argue that “it's in their best interests to keep all Internet traffic flowing at an equal speed” (Hart 2006). Other opponents of net neutrality feel that if we don’t allow Internet providers to make money, they will have no incentive to invest money into new technology. Proponents argue that innovation would be at stake if Congress doesn’t intervene because lots of creative minds like me and you can get shut down. We would not have sites like you tube and my space or any social networking sites that would allow for technology to develop on its own. They believe that if Congress does not get involve America will fall even farther behind in Internet penetration.
If you want to know more about net neutrality check out this video Net Neutrality


Baumann, M. 2006. Net neutrality: The Internet’s world war. Information Today, vol. 23 no.8. (accessed March 28, 2007).

Hart, K. Kehaulani, Sara. 2006. Tech Faceoff: Net Neutrality, In the Eye of the Beholder. Washington Post.

Rash, W. 2006. Four faces of net neutrality., August 6.,1895,1999848,00.asp (accessed March 28, 2007).

U.S. Congress. 2007. Net neutrality overview: Issues for debate. Congressional Digest, Februrary.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just because Bush says so...

How often do people walking down the street, especially those listening to their I-pod, take a moment and say hello to a stranger? Never. Nowadays everyone is scared of one another. We hear of so many atrocities in the news that we can’t even trust our own shadows and people live in a state of anxiety and anger. As I walk down the streets, I notice people with their long faces carrying their bad moods with them everywhere they go. I can’t help to wonder... are we becoming a society full of angry and unhappy people? It seems as if more people everyday are adapting to these new societal norms and nothing good can come out of adapting to a more violent society. Violence is producing its final and most lethal effect. It has become such the normality that we are no longer greatly impacted by it and have therefore lost our ability to recognize its presence.

Violence seems to be very prominent in every aspect of our lives. We are exposed to it both in our everyday reality and through the media. Although the media attempts to portray our daily reality, it is no a secret that it rather presents an inaccurate and incomplete representation. When we turn to the news, we hear about homicides, sexual abuse assaults, robberies, and many other typical representations of violence. But, do we ever hear about the violence provoked and committed by and within our own system? We hear about violence in the streets and violence in other countries, but our most deathly assault, is always unspoken of; the assault of killing someone against their will and taking pride on their suffering. Yes, I speak of the death penalty. How can we allow our government to spend more than $2.16 million to kill a human being?

How can President Bush demand people in other countries to stop killing each other, when he is responsible for so much of the killing happening within our own nation? He proclaims an ideology of peace to other countries, but he acts upon the ideology of “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” on his own nation. Have we forgotten that it is not through revenge that people learn their lesson? Have we given up on the idea of forgive and forget? What about the valuable lesson of putting up the second cheek after someone hits your first one? He claims to be a religious person, but I often ask my self if a religious person would use war as a the vehicle for their ulterior motives. I certainly don't think that the leader of a nation should set the example of violence as the right answer. Now, just as he did in Texas, he is driving people to think that since the leader of our nation believes in death penalty, as it is now a societal norm, perhaps it is the right thing to do. People are getting convinced that violent means are the solution to many problems.

I will never forget what I heard on the radio the day after the Virginia Tech shooting. A lady said “if kids were able to bring a gun to school, less children would die in the case of a school shooting, because someone would shoot the aggressor before he can possibly hurt more people.” I was shocked. It seems as if people have become oblivious to the sad reality of this violent world. How can we get rid of violence if society teaches us that violence is the answer? We need to look beyond the easy way out and realize that fighting back with violence will bring nothing less but more violence.

Any attempt to physically hurt a human life is a violent crime, regardless if it comes from the aggressor, the victim, or any person who wants to take revenge. Violence is never the answer. Perhaps I have a bias opinion because of my background. In Colombia we do not have “pena de muerte,” death penalty. We are not worthy of deciding whether someone’s life is worth living or not. We have no right to judge what makes someone’s life more worthy to live than that of someone else’s. We all commit mistakes, and therefore we all should have an equal chance to redeem our selves and our actions. No one should be deprived of that chance just because our president feels like it.

Please watch this wonderful film called The Life of David Gale that will make you think differently about the death penalty. It is not worth to carry under our belts the weight of revenge just because our government wants us to. We have the right to say no.

If you like to know more about the Death Penalty and its abolition please check out this organization. They fight for human rights and take particular interest in cases of people who are on death row. Please read about the particular story of Troy Anthony Davis, who is an innocent victim of our flawed system.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Innocent Victims of Violence. Part II

The bigotry of violence has been haunting us all through out history. We have lived it in its extremist measures through wars and genocides, but at its core, we still live it in our everyday lives. Violence has become like an epidemic that has our society grieving. It is like a plague that is afflicting our homes, our communities, and especially our children. Because this is something hat really concerns me, I decided to do some research on the topic and today I will like to share my findings with you.

Today I won’t be talking about the Iraq war but rather about a war that we have been fighting for much longer; the violence within our own communities. According to Osofsky (1997, p. 9), there is plenty of evidence to indicate that many children are exposed to considerable amounts of life-threatening violence in their homes and communities. His research shows, that “homicide is the second leading cause of death among all 15-24-year-olds and is now the third leading cause of death among elementary school children, ages 5-14”(Herbert, 1996, as cited in Osofsky, 1997, p. 3). It is not rare for a child from an urban neighborhood to witness a severe act of violence by the time they reach the age of 10. This is the cruel reality that has become an everyday fact of life. In this post I hope to give you enough facts for you to make up your own opinion about the magnitude of this problem and decide for your self whether or not it is time to do something about it.

For some of us whose reality does not include exposure to cruel acts of violence on daily basis, it is easy to think that such a problem does not exist. Well, I wish I could tell you that this is the case. “Each day, ten children in the United States are murdered by gunfire, approximately one [child] every two-and-a-half hours” (Mcalister, 2002, p. 21). These statistics provide only a partial picture of the problem of violence in the lives of American children, because aside from murder there remains a very high level of non-lethal assaults. In a recent study of inner-city elementary school children, “80 percent of the sample reported witnessed violence; 60 percent had seen weapons and 40 percent had seen a dead body” (Osofsky 1992, as cited in Chiland & Young, 1994, p.111). In many parts of the country, it is normal for children to hear the sound of gunfire outside the windows of their home. Some children are constant spectators or involuntary participants of actions that they perceive as dangerous or harmful. They are exposed to domestic abuse, robberies, stabbings, shootings, and many other situations in which they, or the people around them can get hurt. Violence knows no class or ethnicity. Although levels of exposure may be higher in urban communities, children in the suburbs are also unquestionable subjects of violent incidents, such as school shootings. In a study on elementary school children in the suburbs shows that “40 percent reported being witness of at least one violent crime in the past year and a high percent of them show fear of a possible violent act happening at their school. (Osofsky 1992, as cited in Chiland & Young, 1994, p.111).

Children who are exposed to severe acts of violence present problems in their psychological, emotional, social and cognitive development. Being exposed to such a world causes for children to fear for their lives and for that of their family members. They don’t feel safe at home, school or anywhere. This insecurity causes stress on the child and therefore contributes to the malnourishment of their emotional stability, social relationships and ability to learn. Research shows evidence of the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in elementary school children and adolescents who are exposed to violence (Chiland & Young, 1994, p. 110). PTSD occurs in response to some recognizable, extreme stressor, and it is characterized by specific behaviors that fall into the categories of re-experiencing the event, avoidance of reminders, psychic numbing, and increased arousal (Osofsky, 1997, p.15). It manifest it self through disrupted patterns of eating, sleeping, fearfulness and as well as the lack of ability to pay attention or relate to others. Unfortunately, if a child does not present symptoms of trauma immediately after the incident, it does not mean they do not suffer of PTSD. Symptoms can take months, and up to years to develop, or they may only surface once the child is mature enough to comprehend and understand the implications of the incident.

Children shape their perception of the world base on what they experiment and perceive from their environment regardless if it is positive or negative. Consequently, children who are exposed to on-going violence perceive the world as a violent place and may see violence as a societal norm. According to Mcalister (2002, p. 31) “Exposure to violence changes the emotional landscape for children by distorting their emerging view of the world and their place in it…It lays the foundation for later behavioral and emotional problems.” Because children many times are not taught that violence is bad, they tend to adapt it as well as other behaviors that they feel are useful to assimilate to the world they live in. “Too often, they learn that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict” (Osofsky, 1997, p. 2). If the world in which children have to survive is hostile, they will then be hostile. Children who are exposed to violence at a young age, are forced to grasp a reality that they should not have to understand and are too young to bear. They are awakened to the sad and cruel fact that they are responsible for their own survival; and at a young age they are forced to adapt violence as a defense mechanism and a way of life. Therefore, as children start gaining understanding of their surroundings and need for survival, ‘the terrorized infant become the terrorizing adolescent’” (Mcalister, 2002, p. 38). Research shows that this is the devastating reality. Many adolescents who first become delinquent and later develop into criminals, show sings of exposure to much violence earlier in their lives (Osofsky, 1997, p. 5). Consequently, children exposed to violence, as adults, are subjected to a psychological, emotional and social imbalance.

When we talk about cognitive effects, we are talking about those that take part in the child’s brain. According to Dr. Bruce Perry (as cited in Tortoricy, 2002, p. 25), a chief of psychiatry a Children’s Hospital and faculty member of the Child Trauma Academy, a child who is subject to cruelty, brutality and abuse, presents profound and perhaps permanent changes on the chemistry of his or her brain. He explains that the brain changes in response to how it is used. Therefore, if a child overuses the primitive, life-preserving parts of the brain, they become overly developed, at the expense of the cognitive and social learning areas. The child’s lack of development in the cognitive area of the brain, affects the child’s ability to acquire knowledge and process information. When a children’s brains are constantly thinking and acting on the basis of survival, children become less receptive to learning the lessons being taught in the classroom and more receptive to any sings of danger. Their defensive mechanism is always on the look out and can be easily trigger by any unexpected sound or movement. “Children who grow up exposed to violence, may spend all their time in the classroom either in a state of anxiety or dissociation- a defense against extreme stress. They may never achieve the relaxed alertness that makes a child receptive to learning” (Tortorici, 2002, p.25). Children who are expose to on-going violence, cannot be children. They are unable to enjoy life because the thread of violence is always roaming on the back of their minds; and they unable to explore their full potential because of their difficulty to achieve academic success.

Well, now that you are aware of the horrific reality that our children are living, there is only one question left. What can we do about it? Well, the first step is to educate people who are not aware of the problem. People need to know far beyond what the news tells them. It is not enough to know what is happening on the streets of our neighborhoods. It is far more important to find out who are the people affected by what is happening and how can we help them. A way to get involve could be through non-profits who are fighting towards better resources for children who have been victims of violence. A great organization is Save: Students Against Violence Everywhere

The second step is to become better listeners and to seek those voices that are never heard, the voices of the innocent victims of violence. Children who are expose to violence need tell the world their powerful and impacting stories. People can see violence through their eyes so that they can understand the cruel reality that we are allowing to take over the innocence of our children. A great organization that provides a forum for these voices to be heard is Listen to these voices and share with others what they have to say.

The third step is to get involve in our policy making. We need to fight for better gun control reforms. Although this is not the solution to the problem, I am a firm believer that “less guns equals less violence”. This is proven by looking at other countries that have adapted stricter gun reforms and consequently have presented a lower rate on homicides. How can a child be an incidental victim of a gun shooting if there are no guns? We need to explore why our government does not fight for something that can only be beneficial to our society. They would not want to get their most important supporters angry, now would they?

And the last and most important thing is to never loose hope. We must have faith. If we all take responsibility for what is happening, collectively we have the power to change the course our society is taking. We need to spread the love and fight violence with peaceful acts not with more violence. I will like to share this memorable story of how others are doing it.


Chiland, C., & Young, J. (Eds.). (1994). Children and Violence. New Jersey: Jason Aronson, Inc.

McAlister Groves, B. (2002). Children Who See Too Much. Boston: Beacon Press.

Osofsky, J. D. (Ed.). (1997). Children in a Violent Society. New York: The Guilford Press.

Payne, R. K. (2001). Thinking in a culture of Poverty. In Costa, A. L. (Ed.), Developing Minds: Resource Book for Teaching
(229-232). Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Penn, H. (2005). Understanding Early Childhood. New York: Open University Press.

Tortorici, L. J. (2002). Helping Children Learn: The Legacy of Violence. Leadership, 24-27.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What are we teaching our kids?

Today, I would like to talk about a social issue that is detrimental to all; a problem that has unleashed within us and has been hunting our society since the 60s, school shootings. I would like to look at some of the school shootings committed in the United States in the hope to find an explanation to what is it that we are doing wrong. My biggest concerns are why and how kids have access to guns as well as how propaganda and gun reforms play a role in this issue. Check out the gun politics in the United States so that you can better understand the issue.

People who own a gun are providing an opportunity for someone to have access to that gun. It doesn’t matter how well the gun is protected; if someone knows that you have it, and they wanted, they will find a way to get it; specialy kids who are not only fill with curiosity but also are persistent in getting what they want. If a child is taught since a young age that it is okay to have guns and gets acquainted with using them, what security do we have that the child will only use his knowledge of guns for hunting? If the child has not been taught to see the cruelty in killing animals, what warrantees, then, do we have, that he would see the cruelty in killing a human being?

There has been one too many school shootings in U.S and we can no longer ignore the issue. The first school shooting committed by a student was at the University of Texas, The Austin Massacre, in August 1, 1966. Since then, there was not another massacre committed by a student until 1976. Now days the lapse in between shootings is only a couple of months or a year. I am wondering, what changed in between then and now? Well, one thing that for sure changed was the coverage given to the shootings. Nowadays, school shootings are sensationalized, almost as propaganda for television stations to gain credibility through their choice of coverage and sensibility to the subject.

Some people are talking about making guns more accessible. Some believe that if Virginia Tech victims would of had guns, the number of victims would have been greatly reduced. To me this is crazy talk…I can’t not possibly understand how a person cannot see that more guns would just cause more violence. Since when have we adapted the law of eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth? People could not possibly think that the best solution to the problem of school shootings is to kill the shooter. Shouldn’t we first try to prevent the shooter from even thinking about killing?

Children view having a gun or a rifle as cool. They see that cops have one, people in the media, who are perceived as powerful and respected members of society, have one, a great majority of our congressmen, have one and wonder what is wrong with having a gun? Then, reinforced by the parent who glorifies guns, having a shelf in the living room for his gun collection, there is nothing left but for the child to deduce other that guns are cool. Our society teaches kids that the cruel act of hunting for pleasure is cool. I can understand hunting for necessity, but how can one get pleasure of a sport that consists of killing animals? Do you think that a child, who grows to think that killing a living thing is a something to be proud of, can develop to be a mentally healthy individual being? We need to unite against the people of power who seem to think that guns are a “gadget” for protection or sport, and don’t see the detrimental effects of them in our society. We need to fight for stricter gun reforms that can help us prevent tragedies like this to keep occurring.

Listen to this debate see what others think on this issue and also watch this clip to see the way the issue has been portraid through different documetnaries such as Bowling for Columbine.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Innocent Victims of Violence

A severe act of violence is something that most people would not want to witness in their lifetime. Unfortunately there are people who are subject to violent crimes in their neighborhoods on regular basis. The Bayview/Hunters Point district has the highest rate of violence in the city of San Francisco. Children who reside in this district are victims to violence or witness a violent crime by the age of 10. They can’t freely play outside without the fear that at any given moment they may have to run for their lives. More often than not they hear gunshots, they are exposed to drive by shootings or they witness a violent crime against a love one.
Malcolm X Academy is an elementary school located in the heart of the Bayview/Hunters Point. As any other school it has a red alert system, except that it is use as a “danger alarm” rather than a fire alarm. More than often teachers yell over the intercom “red alert” indicating that all the children need to leave the courtyard and run into their classrooms immediately. Windows in the classrooms are locked as well as the doors f the hallways, and children are not aloud to even go to the bathroom. The children at the school are use to the procedure because unfortunately it occurs rather frequently.
According to Joanne Tortorici Luna, and educational psychologist (Read Victims of violence fascinating article) “children who are affected by ongoing violence may spend all their time in a classroom in a state of anxiety and they may never achieve the ‘relaxed alertness’ that makes a child receptive to learning.” The circumstances presented at this school are by no means the standards under which any child can possibly concentrate, learn and explore their full potential. Children are careless about the teachings in the classroom as well as whether they get their homework done or not. During lectures, their minds are always roaming somewhere else. Survival is a higher priority to them than school, and how can you blame them.

I worked with the fifth graders at Malcolm X and it is not difficult to see how disturbed and affected these children are by the ongoing violence around them. They would tell me impressive stories that would make my eyes water but to them it was just another day in the hood. Some of them had become immune to their violent surroundings and had adapted by using it against their peers. They would fight one another yelling words that by no means a 10 year old should know. All of them were always on the defense and one little incident would trigger their anger. I would never forget when I asked one of the girls, Alicia an 11 year old, why would you hit your fellow peer? She would say” My mama told me not to let anyone make fun of me and to fight them so that they will leave me alone.” According to Bruce Perry a chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, children who grow up to be violent in the streets are likely to be products of violent communities. It seems logical that as these uneducated children develop in a violent surrounding, they are left with no option but to adapt violence, the only thing they know, as a defense mechanism. In Bayview/Hunters Point district the crime epidemic is in great part due to violence committed by juveniles and this violence is the result of a vicious cycle caused by uneducated parents and children who think they can take justice into their own hands. So I as my self, if these children can’t even manage to get through elementary education, how can we expect them to become a productive human being when they grow up?

This is a problem that affects us all because these are the children of the future and if they keep going down this path, what hope do we have for our future society? Unless they get educated in how not to fall into the vicious cycle, the violence will continue and be sure that it won’t be confined to the walls of the Bayview/Hunters Point district.

I plan to make a short documentary about the topic. My target audience is going to be both children and adults from diverse racial backgrounds whom belong to communities where is typically to find low income. As a former volunteer at Malcolm X Academy, I realize that all ethnic groups are in this together. The kids who I worked with were not of a specific background and they all had been victims of violence. I worked with Latinos, African-American, Asians and Caucasians. Unfortunately being victims of poverty is one thing that all of these kids had in common. They told me about kids who will quit school and start selling drugs to make money and how the first thing they had to do to was to get a gun to defend themselves. Although this may seem like a hasty generalization, it is unfortunate but many of the kids that join gangs and drop out of school do it to produce income for their families. Violence becomes the tool they use to achieve their economical ambitions. I want to bring this issue upon the attention of children who grow in the surrounds of poverty and crime as well as to their parents whom need to understand that they have to take a stand. They need to become activist of peace within their own communities and to educate their children from an early stage so that they may have an opportunity to break the vicious cycle.

Please read 'Lockdown' a familiar word at Malcolm X: Gunfire prompts teachers to turn all the bolts -- again and Getting out of harm's way, two great articles written about Malcom X Academy at SF Gate.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What is social justice?

The theory of social justice is arbitrary. Everyone has their own belief system about what is and isn’t just. One aspect of the Socialist Theory is that everyone has the right to equal pay and amount of material goods while the Democrats see it as the right to vote and freedom of speech. Social justice is defined by the values and beliefs of each individual based on their own personal interest for collective good. To me, social justice means a constant fight for those who don’t have the power to defend themselves; a fight for those who are victims of oppression and are doomed to poverty and injustice. Check out this definition of it Social Justice.Today I like to talk about the struggle of the indigenous people of Guatemala, the Mayans, by looking at their development as a society.

The Mayan civilization contains one of the richest cultures of the Ancient World recognized by its knowledgeable discoveries in philosophy, mathematics, art and architecture, which flourished throughout Central America since 2600 B.C. However, it has been a civilization that has suffered from brutal oppression ever since the invasion of the Spanish Conquistadors in the early 1500s. To this day, the Mayan community lives in a constant struggle fighting against the government and the people of power (landowners); who for centuries have deprived them from their natural rights, social and political representation and have made them slaves in their own homeland. However, although those in reign have tried to diminish the Mayan culture in Guatemala by racist oppression, the indigenous people have managed to preserve their cultural heritage. Throughout generations rebellious groups have risen from the Mayan community to fight for the rights of their people but unfortunately with only machetes and rocks to aid their fight they have been crushed by the militia; and rebellious Mayan leaders have mysteriously disappeared. Although Guatemala’s independence from Spain was gained in 1821, that was by no means the end of the struggle. The country has been struggling against the corruption of different governmental dictatorships whom have made legislative rulings against the indigenous people; forcing labor upon them of a minimum of 150 days a year. All corrupt legislative decisions have continued to be in favor of coffee planters and landowners who exploit the indigenous people. Neglect of the Mayan culture has resulted in detrimental effects; for example the malnutrition rate is at 80% as well as illiteracy and the Mayans have the highest mortality rate second to people in Haiti. This is just a short summaryThe Mayan civilization contains one of the richest cultures of the Ancient World recognized by its knowledgeable discoveries in philosophy, mathematics, art and architecture, which flourished throughout Central America since 2600 B.C. However, it has been a civilization that has suffered from brutal oppression ever since the invasion of the Spanish Conquistadors in the early 1500s. To this day, the Mayan community lives in a constant struggle fighting against the government and the people of power (landowners); who for centuries have deprived them from their natural rights, social and political representation and have made them slaves in their own homeland. However, although those in reign have tried to diminish the Mayan culture in Guatemala by racist oppression, the indigenous people have managed to preserve their cultural heritage. Throughout generations rebellious groups have risen from the Mayan community to fight for the rights of their people but unfortunately with only machetes and rocks to aid their of the present controversial conflict that affects the daily living of the indigenous people of Guatemala who live in extremely poor conditions. To find a more detailed history of the development of this country and the Mayan struggle visit Guatemala: A Brief History and also to read a personal account from a member of the indigenous tribe who has experienced the atrocities committed within her own homeland visit Activist Rigoberta Menchu She continues to contribute in the spreading of awareness about the Mayan struggle on an international level.Rigoberta Manchu Biography